Old Patterns: Part 3

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

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

Anyway, here goes!:

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

How on earth can I be here again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So.… skip forward again.

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

I judge myself harshly enough already.

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

I need to change.

I know it’s going to be really hard.

I know I cannot do this on my own.

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

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

She was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 5th 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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Unexpected And Unsettling Change

Honestly, sometimes I wonder if things are ever just going to settle down and get on an even keel here. I know life is never straightforward for anyone but I wish, even for just a couple of years, that it would just be stable and run of the mill for me. I don’t crave excitement. I don’t want anything grand. I simply want boring (but amazing) stability and safety.

My whole life seems to have been punctuated by bloody stresses and traumas and frankly I’m getting a bit fed up about it all as I find myself drowning in another unexpected sea of disaster and worry.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am far from alone in life throwing shit at me but right now I am feeling a bit sorry for myself and sad and angry and … all sorts of feelings actually!

My therapist and I often joke (serious joke) about how hard I find change and uncertainty. Even this week, something as simple as her putting an I-pad on a tripod in the therapy room to do an EMDR type activity made waves inside me! The room was (slightly) different but we had discussed the change the session before and yet EEEK something was not the same – cue mild panic!…

I’m sure, based on this response you can imagine what happened the time she changed the client chair from an Ikea therapy chair to a pale blue sofa and put the sofa on the other side of the room from where I’d been used to sitting, as well as moving a bookcase, changing the curtains and the wall colour all in one week! The room looked so much better, but Gah! Change!! I need warning about these kind of things! haha.

I mean it’s funny tragic right?!

My childhood was a catalogue of uncertainty and instability and from the earliest times I lacked of a felt sense of safety and it’s carried on into my adult life, unfortunately. I really can’t remember a time when things felt ‘ok’ inside me or externally. I’ve always been on edge/high alert and there are so many factors involved in this.

I don’t suppose it helped that my mum had a terrible pregnancy and was hospitalised for the final two months because things were so crap for her with preeclampsia. I had to be induced in the end because I was in so much distress in the womb (!!) and after a two day labour where both mother and baby almost died I arrived 5 weeks ahead of schedule, tiny, and was put in an incubator for three days. My mum did not to recognise me as hers when they finally gave me to her.

Great start!

Things haven’t really ever improved from that point! I’m not really surprised given what she went through that my mum developed post-natal depression and struggled to be a mum to me. She’s always said she’s not maternal and has made a joke of it, but actually I think that’s a defence for knowing that things weren’t very good for either of us when I was small. It’s easier to joke than to acknowledge the varying degrees of failure that happened. I know what it’s like when your mental health is tanking and I know that looking after babies is no mean feat even when you’re on your A game and so I get that my early days weren’t exactly conducive to developing a sense of security. Bonding was never going to be straightforward.

Now I am on a roll with the moaning about instability I might as well let a bit more out and add that after the trauma of being born there multiple house moves growing up (16 ‘homes’ by the age of 16); several different schools; being ‘looked after’ by people that were not my parents (so many childminders!); being emotionally neglected and abused ‘I wish you’d never been born!’ by my mum when she was around but she wasn’t always around, in fact she was gone a lot!

From the age of four to eleven she was away five days/nights a week. I feel so sad for the little girl inside that just wanted to be loved, to be tucked up in bed at night and read a story by someone that loved her. The ache is huge. Every night when I put my children to bed and tell them stories, and remind them that I love them and tuck them in I feel that young part’s sadness and the little voice saying ‘why did no one love me enough to do this?’ 

I used to witness huge rows between my parents on the weekends when my mum was home before they finally separated when I was 11. You’d think things would have settled down somewhat after the separation but all that happened was an upscaling in the rage directed at me from my mum when there was no longer a husband to absorb it and that carried on til I left for university at 18. I’m not at all surprised that I turned all the hatred in on myself by self-harming, not eating, and generally neglecting and punishing myself.

If you are repeatedly undermined and attacked throughout your life by a caregiver it becomes your inner narrative. You are nothing. You don’t matter. It makes sense to deprive yourself because you are not worthy of anything good. I know my inner critical voice is modelled on my mother. I have left that childhood ‘home’ but that horrible, nasty, soul-destroying voice lives on in me. It’s painstaking work trying to free myself from it…or at least try and understand it better.

So basically because of this (and more…so much more!) I don’t feel safe in relationship but I also don’t feel safe in my wider environment.

I suspect the way I respond to change and upheaval isn’t exactly ‘normal’ (I mean come on, décor change in a therapy room freak out is not usual behaviour!!) because of my previous life experiences. It can feel like the end of the world when stressful stuff happens because I end up on my arse flailing about.

This feeling of doom and Armageddon gets worse with each new traumatic ‘event’. The sense that things are desperate and will never improve take root really quickly. It’s like the floor falls out from underneath me and I start plummeting into the abyss. To be fair to myself the more recent adult triggers haven’t been ‘light’. My dad dying abroad unexpectedly at 47 on a remote island wasn’t an easy thing to navigate even in a purely practical sense let alone emotionally and I am not surprised it still haunts me; getting a late stage cancer diagnosis six months after giving birth wasn’t ideal either and the treatment that followed was gruelling so my health anxieties are probably reasonable.

So, what’s the latest trigger for the zoom into doom? My wife lost her job out of nowhere two weeks ago. This has sent shock waves through my system. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a death. It’s not cancer. It’s not childhood neglect and abuse. BUT it has sent me through a loop. I don’t like injustice. I feel angry when people treat others badly. I hate that people with power can abuse it. And whilst I (adult) know things will work out in the end I have felt awful and panicked. All the younger parts have been sent plummeting down into a deep deep hole. I have felt scared and paralysed.

Turns out that, as well as death and cancer, financial insecurity is something that terrifies me. I think we all like to think that money isn’t the be all and end all…but you know what? In the society that we live in it really is quite important. If you can’t pay your bills, well… what happens? You’re totally fucked.

As an adult I have tried really hard to create a stable environment for me and my family because I know how ‘unsafe’ I feel just being alive. There have been horrible things happen, losses that I still can’t get over, but until now I have at least felt like I have my home and so a degree of physical safety – somewhere I can escape to when the world feels all a bit too much. I know, that it won’t be long before my wife finds some kind of employment again but I also know that agency work will not pay anywhere like as well as what she has been doing in recent years…and so it’s going to be a struggle. Our life is going to have to change.

She’s already been off two weeks unpaid and that’s two weeks where the mortgage is still running, the bills keep coming in, the cars need fuel, the kids need stuff…….and then there’s that other big bill…therapy.

What do I do about that? I was convinced in week one that I would have to give up my sessions. I was ready to go in and have that conversation – and I cried about it the night before. I guess that’s one plus point…I located where the tears are kept! After all if you have no money coming in and kids to feed and a roof to keep over your head then how can you justify £450/month on therapy? It’s simply not viable.

I still don’t know what is going to happen with this but I have decided not to make any panic moves. I’ve told Em what has happened but I didn’t quit therapy there and then because we are just about ok for a month or two with bills.  If things haven’t resolved with my wife’s job by September then there will have to be some serious decisions to be made. The idea of not having therapy right now terrifies me but at the end of the day as much as we might like to pretend it’s a relationship that will be there no matter what… if you can’t pay for it you can’t have it. End of.

Ugh.

Em and I are approaching the summer therapy break. This year she’s taking two blocks of two weeks – one at the start of the school holidays and another at the end. I am dreading it. I am crap with therapy breaks and this summer is going to be the most disrupted time we’ve had in the last three years. I always struggle in the summer break. However, I am trying hard to hang onto a slight positive here. I am trying to see the summer break as a respite from having a therapy bill – there is no therapy but I have not quit therapy… and hopefully this time will allow me and my wife to settle on some kind of financial even keel.

So, yeah, that’s my life right now x

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A Mixed (Mental!) Month

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I realised earlier today that it has been almost a month since my last post here where I wrote about the knackered house and renovation project metaphor for me in therapy… and I know that I also never followed up on what happened after I threw all my toys out the pram and terminated therapy via text only to send a desperate message back to Em less than an hour later to undo it!!

I don’t think I have ever gone more than 10 or 11 days without blogging but lately I haven’t had much time or much to say, or perhaps I have had too much to say and don’t know where to begin because I have had so little time? I dunno.

I guess if I am being completely honest, every time I have thought about writing here there is a part of me that has felt huge resistance to doing so. This is a weird feeling for me because usually I find it really cathartic letting stuff out on the page. I think there’s a bit of embarrassment or shame about the mess I have got myself in over the last month and I feel a bit of a moron and don’t want to publish what’s happening?

There’s a lot of internal conflict going on right now. The Inner Critic has been running free lately. It’s been agony. I guess part of my inability to write boils down to a concern that I simply can’t be doing with any additional external criticism at the moment in addition to the shit I am piling on myself – not that that is what happens here, most people are unbelievably supportive,  but I really don’t need to be told right now that perhaps my therapist isn’t right for me when there are enough of my own doubting parts shouting that! I don’t feel particularly resilient and so I think I’ve buried myself in a pit – it’s meant to be protective but actually is bloody miserable down here!

This blog has always been about me tracking/logging what’s going on in my therapy so that maybe one day I can (hopefully) look and go ‘wow look how far I’ve come!’ I don’t write here to entertain people. My hope is, perhaps, by writing about and sharing my experiences that it might help a few people who are feeling similar feelings to feel less alone but essentially this is my space to rant and moan, be bonkers and try and process the tangled mess that is my inner world… and so that’s what I am going to try and do…

So, rewind to the beginning of May and the meltdown. Yep. I went back to therapy. I mean of course I did. I felt embarrassed about my outburst but the world didn’t end. Em is still there (sitting in that chair that feels a million miles away), I am still in one piece (ok, maybe more of a mosaic of fragmented parts, but you know what I mean!) and the therapy is still ongoing…albeit limping along in a rather painful fashion.

I have been really struggling in my sessions lately. Everything has just felt so difficult.  Honestly – I could run a master class in dissociation! The sessions have been largely excruciating as I have been unable to let Em in and I have been feeling utterly distraught both inside and outside of the therapy room. I’ve been doing  a lot of writing and drawing in my therapy notebook. I have religiously been taking the book to the session and LEAVING IT IN MY BAG!!!

FFS!

It’s not even funny.

During the week, outside the sessions, and as I travel to session I am determined that I will mention that I want to share my writing with her and yet the moment I walk in the room something happens, a part steps up and says, ‘no fucking way!’ and instead I sit struggling to talk, feeling sick, and unable to connect with Em feeling the fifty minutes ebb away and feeling increasingly panicked that I am losing vital time.

I can barely look at her most of the time let alone make eye contact and it feels massively awkward and frustrating. I want to connect but am also terrified of letting her see me. It’s like one part of me is desperate to move forward and has a foot hard on the accelerator and another part has its foot to the floor on the brake. It’s not a pleasant sensation I can tell you … and I don’t think it can be doing the car much good either!

Still, because there are so many parts floating about right now it means I am experiencing a really mixed bag of feelings and I can feel like a hologram flitting sometimes. I know that this is the work and I need to ride it out but blooming heck, it’s not easy!

Despite barely looking at Em or talking to her, a few weeks ago I noticed that she wasn’t quite herself, she had a slight cough and looked really tired. She has never been ill/off sick in all the time I have been seeing her so I noticed even this subtle unwellness. I guess we have been programmed as kids to notice everything, subtle changes have, in the past, signalled danger I suppose.

As much as parts of me have been keeping her at arm’s length (giant monkey arms – that are really long) there are other parts that still want to be close and care deeply about this woman that has been sitting in that chair trying to help me get my shit together for the last few years. Ha.

I love her.

That’s no secret right?

So, one day after yet another painful session where I had failed to tell her that I was freaking out about being too much and worrying that I am ‘bombarding’ her I was in town after teaching my tutees and went into a crystal shop. I am a big fan of gem stones. I like the fact that they are beautiful in their own right but I also like that some people believe that certain gems perform particular roles or have certain healing properties. So far as I can work out it can’t do any harm to carry a few beautiful things around with you and perhaps them do a bit of good too even if it is all just in all in the mind? – lord knows I can do with some assistance with anxiety and communication!

I had gone to the shop with the idea of buying Em something. Gifts in therapy can be a complete minefield can’t they? Actually in all the years I have been seeing Em I have only given her one thing (aside from cards at Christmas and the therapy anniversary). Last year I gave her a small marble with a heart on which cost next to nothing. Similarly, the gem stones are not high value but rather meant to be symbolic, kind of, ‘I know it’s been complete dog shit lately but I care about you and hope these make you feel a bit better’.

Whenever I buy crystals for myself or for other people I choose them based on the colours I associate with them rather than reading all the information about what they are ‘meant to do’. Because Em lives by the sea and generally wears blues and pastel colours I tend to associate her with pale blues and turquoises. I saw these two stones, blue lace agate and amazonite and was instantly drawn to them:

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When I got home I looked up the meanings and they are meant to be helpful for communication (which has been a fucking great problem in our relationship lately!) and soothing physical ailments and emotional issues as well as stresses in the workplace.

Bingo!

So, the next session I went with them in my bag….where they stayed!

The session after that I wore dungarees and put them in the chest pocket…where they stayed! I did make a bit of a move towards giving her them, ‘can I give you something’ with ten minutes to go and then completely dissociated and sat in silence for ten minutes completely gone and didn’t hand them over. I got completely overcome with fear. I was terrified that giving her the stones would let her know that I care about her (which duh was the point, right?!)…which feels scary because it could end up in her rejecting me in some way and quite frankly everything has been so fragile I just couldn’t risk it…even though clearly part of me wanted to.

By the third session Em was completely better and in no need of the crystals at all- ha! I sat pondering what to do. She obviously knew I had wanted to give her something in the last session but didn’t push me to talk about it. This session hadn’t been a complete disaster and with about 5 minutes to go we seemed to finally connect. Man that’d been a long time coming! I felt brave enough to ask her if I could give her the gift with two minutes remaining. She asked me what it was. I was like, ‘I’m not going to tell you what it is before I give it to you, that’s not really how it works!’

She took the gift, unwrapped it, and said she liked them very much. I explained the meaning behind them and she seemed genuinely surprised that I had noticed that she hadn’t been well. Then she did the therapisty bit about saying she thought it would be useful it we could have a conversation about them next time because she thought it would be helpful. I agreed…but before I left she just had enough time to put her foot in it:

‘When people give me gifts it can be really useful to talk about the meaning behind them. Then when the therapy is finishing I get the gift out again (because I don’t throw things away) and we discuss it again. Then people might take it back away with them as a symbol of the work we have done.’

Now. Perhaps it’s me…BUT… this made me bristle hugely for lots of reasons. To start, we had just gone through a month of hell in the therapy and this was, in part, me trying to get reconnected and show that whilst I might be resistant and difficult at times she does really matter to me and that I care about her and think about her when I am not with her. To be reminded at this point of ‘other people who give her gifts’ felt shit.

I mean I know I am ‘one of many’ but at the moment I didn’t need to be reminded of the clinical nature of the relationship. I’m under no illusions that this is a therapeutic alliance but it is our relationship – I don’t particularly want to hear about what she does with other people!

Then for her to say she doesn’t throw things away…I mean it hadn’t occurred to me that something I might give her would end up in the bin and whilst she was saying she doesn’t do that it seemed an odd thing to say.

Then finally, and this is the big one…I cannot imagine when my therapy comes to an end Em getting the things I have given her out, talking them through again and then saying I can take them all away with me would feel therapeutic AT ALL. In fact, right now, I think it would send me back into therapy!!

The idea that the things I would give her that have meaning could be given back so easily feels really rejecting. I can’t really explain what I mean but it’s something about me wanting her to have something that symbolises our relationship when I am gone and it feels like what she is saying is at the end she can wipe the slate clean ready for the next person to take the Monday 10:30 slot and the Friday 9:30 slot. Maybe I am just being oversensitive but it felt crap.

I went home and wrote in my book how I was feeling about what she had said and my feelings about it…and the words are still sitting on the page and she hasn’t seen them! By the time it was the next session and she brought up the gift again I had shut down and didn’t want to talk about it at all. She said something about them being about care or something but I can’t even remember now. I just felt angry and hurt. I dunno, something I wanted to be connecting just felt totally crap.

(Remember, I did say it’s been a really bad time lately!)

Then there were a few more hard sessions and then I had a holiday! Hurrah.

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Tbh I was glad to get away. I really needed a break. It was glorious and I wish I was still there! I have been working really hard lately. Teaching loads of sessions (the joy of exam season and teaching both English Literature and English Language GCSE and A Level) which has meant six days a week and lots of late nights. No wonder I have been strung out and useless in therapy!

I have realised that therapy cannot be done effectively when running on empty. It just becomes an exercise in firefighting crisis feelings because my piddly letterbox of tolerance is wedged shut. I am sure that things have felt as bad as they have because my day-to-day life has left me exhausted and overwrought. I just haven’t had capacity to hold all my pieces together properly and so when I have got to my sessions the wheels have fallen off because it’s been the only safe place in the week for that to happen. Pushing Em away has felt like the only thing I can do because if I really say how things are I might actually completely disintegrate.

Anyway, a week in the sun was just what the doctor ordered….actually this is true. At my last cancer follow up it was discovered I am deficient in vitamin D so a bit of sun was perfect (alongside my supplements!).

But of course the holiday also meant THERAPY BREAK – boo hiss – and do you know what made it even worse? She was not on holiday at the same time this year. So parts of me felt really sad that I was missing out on my sessions.

Honestly, this attachment stuff is kicking me in the ass right now!

Whilst the holiday was absolutely fantastic the return to therapy didn’t go brilliantly. What a surprise. The first session back, as I have said a million times before, is rarely easy and this last week was no different. Knowing I had a lot to say but also knowing that I have sat on stuff for six weeks I made the fatal error of sending a text on Sunday night asking Em to go through my writing in the notebooks with me and explaining that she has suggested that maybe I need to take a leap of faith in therapy and that this felt really risky but I was willing to try. I was so desperate to move things forward.

When I arrived Em immediately said that she’d seen I had sent her a text but that she hadn’t read it. FFS. I hate this. Straight away it set the protector parts on guard and I felt instantly like she simply doesn’t give a fuck about me so why on earth would I make a leap towards her when she simply isn’t in the least bit interested in me? Em tried to help me back into the room but I was upset and shut down. I asked her to read the text. She acknowledged how breaks stir things up but that also things had been really hard even before the break blah blah blah.

Then, whoop whoop, another great moment.

A lecture about communications outside the room and how she doesn’t want me to text or email her but wants to get to understand what makes me want to communicate with her when she is not available to me because I can’t seem to let her in when she is there. She used a feeding analogy. She’s done this before. She likens me to a hungry baby that for whatever reason cannot feed when mother is there and available to me and yet when she’s gone I realise just how starving I am and start desperately trying to feed and get increasingly upset. I know why this happens but trying to explain this feels too hard when my adult is unavailable because when the youngest parts are active the words aren’t.

I had been sitting swimming in the room, struggling to stay present, unable to really talk…I could see Em was frustrated and I said, ‘I feel like you are really frustrated with me’. She owned her frustration and said that she’s aware that it’s been awful for me lately and that she wonders if I think what we are doing is ‘good enough’ for me and if ‘she can help me’.

FUCK.

We all know what I heard at that point: she’s given up; my silences and dissociation have finally pushed her away; she doesn’t want to work with me.

She said that she wasn’t saying that the work was over or that she didn’t want to work with me but that she sees how painful it’s been for me. Try telling my brain that! It can’t hear you!!

Ugh.

I did manage to talk a bit and let some stuff out at this point. I think it was a panicked response to feeling like I might get terminated if I didn’t get my start talking soon. I can’t remember what I said now, though! But whatever it was it was vulnerable and open enough that Em said something about how the frustration had gone and that we can work through this together. She said that she thinks we need to work very explicitly with the parts, especially the ones that are resistant and gagging all the others.

This is good.

I think this is what I think needs to happen too.

She suggested maybe when things feel really blocked in session that perhaps I could write or draw…I like this idea but often when I am in a really bad spot there simply aren’t any words or pictures I’m just in a black pit of hell. However, there are times when I am not away in dissociative hell but struggling to speak that I think it might work really well.

Despite all the positives once we connected, I left Monday’s session feeling rock bottom. Everything felt wrong inside. I know I have a tendency to latch onto the one ‘bad thing’ I hear and then fixate on it rather than notice all the evidence of what is good in a session. I felt so far away from Em that my default coping mechanisms kicked in this week…or rather the Inner Critic stepped up to try and get some kind of control over the shit that was consuming me. Step one – incessant self-attacking voice:

‘You’re fucking pathetic. Look at you. Even your therapist can’t fucking stand you. She’s been so patient but you’ve managed to wear her out too. I don’t know why you would think she cares about you – she doesn’t…you’re wasting your time.’

It never takes very long for that incessant nagging to turn its attention to my body and eating. This week saw a rapid descent into being super critical of my figure. I felt like wanted to cut fat off my body. I started restricting what I was eating and got my trainers out after a year and went on a six mile run and then started on the outdoor gym across the road three days on the bounce…and between Tuesday and Saturday lost 3lb.

It’s not brilliant.

I can feel how things have switched in my head.

I knew, on Friday, that I had to tell Em what’s happening.

This, in itself, is a sign of progress, I think. The thing with my eating disorder is that I have always kept it secret when it is active. I have never talked about it in therapy (and it’s been there for twenty years soooo!) until last year when things got really bad and I was barely functioning. It started off ok, talking, and then it turned into nightmare and resulted in Em giving me an ultimatum after a few sessions. One session I came in and she was stony faced and serious. She told me that she wanted me to see my GP or we’d have to work towards an ending. In fairness to her I can see she was acting out of care and worry about my physical health, I had lost heaps of weight really radpidly and it was having an impact on my ability to function but it felt like I had been run over by a bus hearing her tell me that we would be done if things continued as they are.

That session was painful and we did manage to have a really productive conversation in the end and things got much better with me and I got a handle on my ED….however, that threat of an ending has stayed with me and fills me with fear when I think about what might happen in the future if things get bad.

On Friday, therefore I took a bravery pill and towards the end of the session told her things were sliding and that as a result I was worried about ‘losing her’. She responded really well. There was no time left but we have put this discussion on the table for today and I hope that it’ll go ok. I hope she will see that I have brought it into the room (even though it feels dangerous to do so) because that’s what I promised last year. I said to her that if things started to slip I would let her know before it had chance to become a big problem.

I can’t say I am not nervous. I am. But actually, at this point, there is so much work that I have been avoiding since Easter that I just need to dive in and see what happens….like my out of control octopus in my notebook!

bb111138-b4c9-49ae-be62-b2ba317459a1Throughout all this, Em has tried to reach me. Parts of me can hear it….it’s just there’s a couple of really noisy parts that are screaming right now about not trusting her and undermining the therapy. Basically, the house renovation has encountered a few snags lately! But I’m in this for the long haul so I will get things sorted…eventually!

So…that’s about it…up to speed in a very very long post! There’s obviously been a lot more said than all of that but after nearly 4000 words I think I’ll stop.

 

 

 

One Small Step At A Time

Time seems to be motoring on doesn’t it?…Thank god! I am so over Winter now. I can’t even explain how much happier I feel since the sun came out this week and we’ve had a few solid days of blue skies here in the UK (well, where I am at least). January felt unending but honestly I don’t even know where March has gone?…

Today I received a text from a friend whom I had met for a coffee last Wednesday saying how nice it had been to catch up and sorry it’d taken a week for her to acknowledge that. My response was, ‘A week? Already?! I’m such a headless chicken right now! So lovely to see you and thank you for the lovely treat. See you soon!’…S and I usually meet up for coffee every couple of months but when we were chatting realised it had been well before Christmas that we had last got together.

I am usually pretty good at sending people messages after I’ve seen them to say how much I enjoyed spending time with them and yet somehow I have barely blinked, a week has passed, and there I am belatedly thanking someone for taking me out for my birthday! It’s not like me at all.

My blog is completely falling by the wayside, too. I can’t believe there was ever a time when I had space in my week to write one or two posts here each week. Now I hurriedly type something in order that I don’t forget where I am at. This is meant to be my mental health/therapy journal of sorts – but lately I feel I am missing a good deal of ‘content’ because I haven’t time to get it down on the page…and then when I do get a minute I forget what’s happened or how I felt when reflecting back – how much of that is dissociation and how much of that is goldfish memory is anyone’s guess!

I miss having a couple of quiet hours in an afternoon to sit at my laptop and write, drink coffee, and splurge my emotional stuff – pain pain pain ugh! Having said that, the one thing that has come of being so busy all the time (other than being perpetually tired!) is that there is much less time to fester on the attachment stuff during in the daytime AND THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS. Lately, before I even know it, it’s either Monday or Friday and it’s time to see Em again and I can’t get fully engulfed in the attachment pain.

Don’t get me wrong – the attachment stuff is still there BIG TIME bubbling under the surface (Still a long way to go to earned secure attachment!), and sometimes it is bloody agonising/debilitating …but because I have so much to cram in I can’t get swallowed up by my feelings in the way that I have done in the past. I used to mope about hanging on between my sessions literally counting down the days (minutes!) to when I could see Em and felt as though I would die from the pain of being away from her (not joking) – now I have to get on with my ‘professional’ life and hold the young feelings as best I can. Sometimes I am successful at it – sometimes I fall flat on my face/arse/both.

To be honest, what seems to happen is the days are largely ok, I’m aware of the parts feeling sad and can give that some space but put it to one side… and then when I get tired and it’s close to bedtime the younger more needy feelings come up to the surface and I feel really quite sad. I miss Em. I suspect that is quite common.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about – love the fact that I am saying how I have no time to write and then essentially write bog all for loads of paragraphs!

Soooo…..where am I?

Right now I feel upbeat-ish which I appreciate is a bit of a (huge) sea change from all the stuff I was talking about in my recent post. That either makes me properly fucking bonkers or clearly demonstrates how quickly feelings can move in and out for me. The other week I felt stuck fast in the pit of attachment pain and now… well… I don’t – not really- or certainly not in the same way as I did…and why is this?

Guess?

Because of a twenty minute conversation with my therapist!

I wish I was able to remember that when things feel bad talking about them with Em usually helps! Like duh -that’s what’s meant to happen. Unfortuantely, I seem to be hard-wired to protect myself from her – well – protect myself from being hurt by her and so we do this little dance back and forth every few months….almost like clockwork. Or, more realistically AROUND THE BLOODY THERAPY BREAKS!

The few months from January to March were pretty hard so far as painful attachment feelings went. One shit dream where Em was misattuned and seemingly abandoning sent me deep into my real life tortoise shell in my sessions. I was stuck in that place where I doubted Em, struggled to trust her, and felt disconnected which meant that sessions were ‘fine’ on the surface for a while whilst competent adult showed up and sent smoke signals to hide what was going on underneath. But before long, as things spiralled downwards, full on dissociation took hold and therapy was really really tough. I wanted to connect (that’s all I ever want) but I couldn’t and I felt like Em wasn’t seeing me because I wasn’t allowing her in. Of course, when I am in hiding I also feel like she is keeping me at arm’s length and so it’s a negative spiral where I feel increasingly disconnected.

NOT GOOD.

Anyway. Em and I did quite a lot of talking around the issue for a few weeks, i.e acknowledging that there was difficult stuff that needed to be talked about. I think sometimes those laying the groundwork sessions can feel frustrating because like, really, why can’t I just spit it out already? Why do I need to keep doing flypasts to check it’s safe to land. However, that is how it is, and eventually, after checking everything was safe enough I finally asked if I could show Em my book…not all of it….just the last picture I had drawn:

And whilst handing that image over was a big deal in the moment, in the big scheme of things this is really nothing compared with some of what I have shared with her over the years.

The response?

Exactly what I needed to hear. Em used the voice (you know the one!) and really ‘talked’ to me. She acknowledged what I was saying in the picture and how it relates to what I have said many times before – and she really understood how I was struggling with what was going on in the room between us. That the relationship, for me, has been the hardest thing. She held up her hands and took some of the ‘responsibility’ (her word) for skirting round the issue sometimes. She told me that she realises that there have been times where she has said or done things that haven’t met me where I am at, have been misattuned, and that at times this has meant I have been left feeling really horrible at the end of the session and having to carry that on my own and of course that understandably makes it really hard to open up because the fear (that was already huge) has had some level of reinforcement before.

That’s the long and short of it.

Basically, it was one of those moments where you get real human connection, you realise you are both human and absolutely doing your best but sometimes it falls short…on both sides…and that has been enough to make me feel anchored in the relationship and like she really does care.

It seems nuts really that I have been in hiding for months and a simple twenty minute ‘proper’ vulnerable conversation sorted it out….FOR NOW…because we all know this stuff has a habit of coming back round again….like in a few weeks when it’s her Easter holiday.

HELP!

So, we ran out of time that session but agreed to try and keep the connection and communication going – even if it was hard. She asked me to try and tell her when I felt disconnected or that she was misattuned even though it is really hard to in the moment. I left feeling so much lighter.

Part of me wanted to jump into the next session and show her more of the book but actually, another part just wanted to talk without an agenda. And that is what has happened. The last two sessions have been really nice. On Friday I showed Em the YouTube video that I posted here with the failed divers. It was good to lighten the mood and laugh together – but also to try and explain why I made the analogy with my therapy.

I feel like I have an A for effort but an E for execution so far as therapy goes. I turn up every week. I want to do the work….but fuck… most of the time it’s not a smooth move! Em told me that it wasn’t a performance and that I could be just how it is. On some level I know that but that also requires a level of vulnerability that I just can’t achieve.

Sooooo…to Monday and an unexpectedly HUGE session. Again, I just sat down, no real agenda, and started blathering on about work and then suddenly a load of buried stuff came out about early in my career missing a student with anorexia and the guilt that I still feel for ‘failing her’. Anyway, that developed into a massive conversation about when and how my eating disorder started in my teens. My ED is something I struggle to get to in my therapy (especially after the nightmare that happened last year) but somehow I could talk about it this week and god, it’s been so long buried, it was good to give it some light and air.

Whilst Em and I didn’t talk about our relationship at all – which has been ‘the big thing’ bugging me lately, strangely it’s kind of not front and centre at the minute. Talking about this ‘old but huge thing’ was incredibly connecting. Sharing something so personal and guarded and having it responded to kindly and with empathy was soooooo connecting.

So yeah, it’s a weird one right now. There are all kinds of things going on and there are certainly some more big (scary!) conversations to be had but right now I am optimistic about it all.

But don’t let me fool you into thinking everything is rosy in the internal landscape of yours truly. Hell no! That’s not how it is. So, it was bad from January to March because I felt unseen and disconnected from Em – booooo hiss!! BUT NOW because I feel connected to Em I feel really needy and just have that ache to be close to her. Oh the joys of attachment eh?!

FFS! Gimme a break!!! Haha…just remember this:

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I’m Giving Up Dissociation For Lent!

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

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

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

Maybe Lent is too easy then?

Maybe it’s the convenient timing too?

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

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

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

It’s strange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Not Alone

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Well, firstly, before I get down to the real business of this post I just want to ask this: how on earth is it only January 13th? Has someone been buggering about with the time/space continuum AGAIN?? Like, seriously, this the longest freaking month ever. I’ve only been back at work a week and already it feels like there should be a holiday on the horizon because I ache all over and feel utterly exhausted (unfortunately there are still five to go!); but then there’s that other important date that can’t come quickly enough too…payday!!!

Seriously, January is such a bloody depressing month – the twinkly lights and tinsel are both gone; it’s cold, wet, dark, and grey; and notably there’s no bloody money (to be fair there never is any money!)!! Actually, for once, this utter broke and probably eating beans on toast til the end of the month isn’t because I dipped into December’s pay for Christmas gifts (that didn’t happen this year) it’s because thus far January has chosen to shit on me so far as unexpected bills have gone: there’s flights for my wife to go to her grandmother’s funeral as well as an appropriate outfit to wear; a new bedroom carpet for my daughter after a vomit fest; and errrr some car repairs that uncovered more problems that weren’t worth fixing and so now….A NEW CAR! Not quite what I needed.

Anyway, I am sure no one is interested in my financial woes and January depression so I’ll get to it…

Not Alone.

I know that’s probably a bit of a random title but this week I can say that something else has started to shift a bit in me. As an introvert, to be fair, I like being alone. I don’t do well in crowds or at parties, I feel uptight and uncomfortable and like I would rather be at home in bed reading a book. At work I switch on the self that can do social and confident and capable but it does require effort. I’m not really talking about that ‘feeling alone in a group of people thing’, or being slightly distanced or whatever.

Bear with me, I am so tired I can’t really find words…

For the longest time I felt like I was alone with that gaping hole, #motherwound, sadness, misery, depression, eating disorder, self-harm, not feeling good enough… you know, all that lovely soul-destroying stuff… oh and of course, let’s not forget the crazy attachment issues with my therapist 😉 And I think starting up this blog started to change that a bit. I began writing and sharing the things that I have kept hidden and private, and soon discovered that actually I was far from alone with these feelings and that has been really transformational.

The interactions I have had on here (bar a couple of strange ones!) have been amazing. There is a real sense of community and holding and care from people that I have never met and that in itself has been a massive help on my journey towards healing. I have been lucky enough, too, to have stumbled across a few like-minded people that have become daily fixtures in my life – I think the word I am looking for is ‘friends’ – ha. And then (I’m sorry for this gush peeps) there’s a really significant person who I met here that I actually fondly now call my ‘Straight Wife’ but really I think ‘Soul Sister’ is where it’s at. Without her support over the last 15 months I know I wouldn’t be anywhere like as together as I am right now. It’s pretty unfortunate that we live about 500 miles apart but thank god for WhatApp calling eh?!

My point is, I do not feel alone anymore because I know that there are people who actually accept me as I am, not just a perfected version of me. To be able to be the genuine ‘warts and all’ version of myself, which at times means the needy, anxious, stuck one who can’t muster the energy to get dressed or eat is huge…and to be loved despite that is amazing.

I think my blog has been a bit of a training ground in seeing what happens when I am truly myself and allow the vulnerability out. It’s like another form of therapy. I guess it’s easier to write on a screen and have a bit of distance from it – that way whatever the response I am, in someway, protected. Practising the vulnerability on the phone with my friend has been another step. And then I guess this leads me to my therapy…

Therapy is slightly different. The problems I have around trust are huge and go way back. The maternal transference element and the disorganised attachment patterns I have haven’t made therapy easy (no shit!).

Therapy seems to be some complicated dance that I haven’t quite got the hang of (which after all these years is not really very funny!). It’s like I take one step forward and two steps back when I am meant to be waltzing around the room. I am not a natural dancer! Only what I seem to have worked out this last week or so, is that Em is not expecting me to waltz around the room. She’s perfectly ok with the one step forwards and two steps back. It’s me that has put the pressure on myself to be a certain way. Like honestly – big face-palm!

I have been so well defended lately that I have been unable to really connect with Em. I have felt like she hasn’t been trying hard enough, doesn’t care, is disinterested etc and yet when I listen back to my sessions this is anything but the case. Honestly, she really does try and get to me, and often succeeds by the end of the session. However, the feelings I feel when I am shut off or dissociated are horrible and I can’t see or feel her with me. I know the only way out is through but crikey it’s so hard doing something that basically stirs up a whole load of shit and then I am left with it ‘alone’.

Only, I am not alone am I? This week I have allowed myself to let the guard down a little, to look at Em (I haven’t been able to make eye contact for such a long time) and to just see what it feels like being with her. And do you know what? It’s nice. Rather than bracing myself for a feared attack (that will not actually come from my therapist – but hey I have my mum to thank for that) I have wondered what it would be like to lean into my therapist a bit. Rather than long for a specific type of care and then getting angry because what I am met with is not quite what I want (hugs!) I have just tried to be in the moment and feel what is actually there…and what is actually there is really good.

I feel like a right idiot writing this because nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. My therapist is the same but I am not. I know that is what it’s all about – me changing and growing – but it’s weird that it seems to have happened all of a sudden just like a switch has been flicked.

My last session on Friday was hard, we hit some really huge feelings- I accidentally triggered the motherwound landmine by not looking where I was going with fifteen minutes to go- but rather than run and dissociate from them I stayed with them, and in staying with those feelings guess what I noticed? Em was right there staying with them (and me) too.

When I disappear in session I take myself off into my ‘safe’ place (only it’s not safe, it’s isolating and horrid) I am completely alone and whilst I think it’s protecting me, it isn’t. Sure, it’s what I needed to do as a child when I really was alone and under attack but I am not under attack now. Even when those feelings of fear and being threatened trigger a trauma response in the here and now actually what I need now, and needed so badly back then as a kid, was to be connected safely to someone else. There was no safe person when I was growing up but there is one now and I get to see that person twice a week.

I feel like everyone will be doing the biggest eye roll and going ‘well, duh, that’s what therapy is…’ but it’s taken til now for me to actually feel that Em is safe, is there, is with me, wants to help me, and most importantly not only can I see that she cares, I can feel it.

I am not alone.

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New Year…Same Old Me

So, somehow, it’s 2019 and this year I will turn thirty six years old…thirty six years old???…that can never be right! I am actually fairly certain it is only 2004, I am twenty one, still at university, and someone has been fucking about with the time/space continuum for laughs. Perhaps I will wake up in a minute and discover I still have the bulk of my twenties ahead of me only this time will enjoy them and see how bloody amazing it is to be young and free rather than stressing out and never living in the moment! Ha. Hindsight is such a wonderful kick in the teeth!

I sometimes listen to the radio as I drive to therapy; there’s a morning slot on Heart Breakfast called the Time Tunnel where they play a bunch of songs from a particular year and then listeners are encouraged to text or tweet what they think the year is. Sometimes they go ‘old skool’ (basically late nineties stuff) and I am transported back to being a teen, can pinpoint the year immediately, and then can hardly believe twenty years, or more, has passed since I was singing along. Wtf?!

I’m a bit late to the ‘New Year’s Blog Post Party’ so given it’s already the 5th of January am not going to ramble on at length here about what I have learnt in the last year or summarise how things have been. I mean essentially 2018 was pretty good.  I’m still here – in remission from my cancer. I am able to work – too much probably. My kids are thriving. I am secure in my marriage. I have some amazing friends. I am reasonably content in my day-to-day life. I’m currently pretty stable (for me) in that I am neither self-harming nor stuck in an anorexic mindset. Therapy is… what it is!…but given I am not doing anything horrible to myself I think is an indicator that something is working! There’s a lot to be grateful for.

If there is a lesson that I will take forward and keep in mind as I navigate my way through this year it’s this:

Being an adult is really a very strange concept indeed. Somehow or other I find myself in an adult body going about an adult life and yet I am still waiting for the day where I feel like a proper grown up and feel as though I have everything together. I kind of thought that when I turned thirty and had left my twenties behind, I might feel like a genuine bona fide adult. I already owned a house, had a career, was married and had started a family but none of those things seemed to make me feel like I was anything but a kid, winging it, and essentially bullshitting my way through life. I don’t think that has anything much to do with the fragmented parts of myself/the structural dissociation, either.

Whenever I speak with my friends we are all pretty much in agreement (and we are fast approaching forty) that being a grown up is just a weird construct designed to make us behave in a certain way. No matter how much we age we are no closer to reaching that holy grail of what we imagined adulthood to be. So, my guess is- it’s a mirage. Everyone is pretending at being an adult! And if that is the case, that the majority of us are just trying our best then frankly that’s more than good enough. I’m going to try and stop feeling like a failure because I don’t have all my ducks lined up. To be honest I am pretty impressed that I have any ducks at all and so what if they are free-styling round the lake?! I’m sure that’s way more fun for them.

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Soooooo

I have no idea what I am trying to say here today so I apologise for jumping about and not settling on any particular topic. It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted. In that time I have had a wonderful, relaxing Christmas (please don’t hate me!) and have sailed through my therapy break.

I honestly don’t know what the fuck happened but somehow or other I got through it with little more than a fleeting thought of my therapist. There were a few bad dreams in the first couple of days but other than that I was miraculously able to hold my therapist in mind. I knew she was out there and that I was safe in the relationship and that we would be seeing each other on the 4th. This is really unheard of for me. As we all know, I am the client that freaks out between sessions and feels disconnected and abandoned all the time so your guess is as good as mine as to what shifted to allow me to not just ‘survive’ the break but actually ‘enjoy’ it.

Perhaps it’s something to do with being tired?

Em noticed a difference in me yesterday. Within five minutes she commented that she could tell I had had a break and didn’t seem exhausted or stressed out and she was right. I am neither exhausted or stressed out (although the idea of work starting on Monday again is beginning to make feel shitty).

The moment I finished work on Friday a couple of weeks ago I felt my whole system relax. The nervous energy and adrenaline went and instead was replaced with a sense of peace. I could finally relax after eight long weeks of rushing about and teaching. I needed it. As I replenished my reserves and slept, I felt much more solid in myself (and less like the out of control Octopus!). I was aware of the younger parts inside but they were all ok. I took my kids to the cinema on Christmas Eve and the various young parts of me really liked it. We played games on Christmas Day and again, the child parts of me loved falling on my arse after getting tangled in Twister.

Christmas was about attending to all the various parts of me and just basically allowing myself time to chill out. I did what I wanted to do. Saw who I wanted to see. It was so refreshing. By no means was everything perfect! My daughter was violently sick between Christmas and New Year which has resulted in a new bedroom carpet for her, my wife’s grandmother died, and there have been a few other things that have happened but on balance it’s been really fine because when my inner landscape is not suffering an earthquake I can generally handle what life throws at me.

Yesterday’s return to therapy was both welcome and not. I have been so ok that I was almost reluctant to go back. I don’t want to be a basketcase that melts down over my therapist refusing to send me a text message of three dots during the week. Going back yesterday I could hardly believe I had got so worked up over that. But I did. And this is why I think there is a link with me being tired and things seemingly falling apart and my sense of attachment to my therapist going awry at these times.

It’s almost like when I am exhausted my youngest parts are most activated. When I am tired, they and I get cranky. You can’t please them. They don’t really know what they want. Any attempt at settling them that isn’t part of their plan sends them into a tailspin. Em might suggest trying something but frankly if it isn’t a hug or agreeing to something else I want then she might as well be talking in a vacuum! I have some really very resistant parts you know!

I am trying to remember what it was like when my kids were toddlers and screaming at me for sweets when they actually needed to eat a proper meal. I think Em knows what she is doing….well adult me does! So whilst I might be tantruming over three dots I have to believe that her consistent and steady approach to my therapy is what is best for me. I trust her. I don’t believe she is trying to hurt me. I do think she is trying to help me heal. I know that when things have been really bad she has been there, consistently. She doesn’t mess me around. She doesn’t get angry with me. She listens. And she cares.

I am so grateful that in all the times I have felt lost in the dark that she has been there holding a candle for me offering to help light the way until I can rekindle my own flame. And I can tell you, that bloody inner-light has a nasty habit of going out so I am very glad I have her.

I am very aware that even though yesterday’s session was fine and we reconnected that by the end the familiar feelings came up in my body. I felt physical pain. It was that thing again where I was back in the room and suddenly all that young need came rushing forward and with it the shame of knowing those needs can’t be fully met. Ugh. The one thing I will say, though, is that I feel able to talk about it with her. I don’t feel like I need to go into hiding or shut down. So… I guess we’ll just see how this new year of therapy goes.

New Year…Same Old Me!

*I am so very sorry for that saccharine gush! I am just fully feeling the love right now!

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Not A ‘People Person’

WARNING: Mini-rant ahead!

OMFG I am totally dying here. Dramatic. Yes! Certainly. But hell. Someone please rescue me before I saw my head off with a rusty bread knife. Ok, that’s a joke, and it’s not funny, but I am at my wits end (not suicidal btw). I’ve taken to my bed early this evening and am hiding out with the laptop in the dark because I literally cannot do people any more today. I am saturated. My ‘nice’ has vacated the building and all I am left with is a steaming pile of resentment and ‘pissed-off-ness’.

What on earth is going on?

Well. I’ll break it down simply: in-laws are visiting for five whole days and we are only three days in.

Look, I am not really a mega bitch or anything but I am an introvert and  I am just not equipped to cope with house invasions for more than a couple of days at time. I don’t dislike my in-laws, far from it, but having an extra two bodies to manage and accommodate for this length of time in my space is enough to send me round the bend – especially when at the moment my working life is so demanding and I am out of my safe space so much of the time.

When I come home I just need to be able to unwind and be me…I need to sit down and NOT HAVE TO MAKE CONVERSATION. I should be able to get up and go to the bathroom in the night naked and not have to fumble for a t-shirt just in case someone should walk down the hall at the same time. I shouldn’t have to be mindful of being a good host and offering to make endless cups of tea. I just want to be able to be a grumpy cow and mutter shit under my breath in the kitchen or feel sorry for myself as a child part comes to the front and feels sad about Em going away for two weeks. I want to not have to have my armour on, basically.

(Look – I said this was a rant! I am not proud of myself for being such miserable sod but I need to let this out because I am reaching the point where something is gonna blow and that’s not fair on anyone because no one has done anything wrong except for breathe!)

I have always needed my space. This is something my wife struggles to understand about me. She grew up in a large family in a small house, sharing a room with her sisters and is used to hustle and bustle and being on top of each other. I am an only child and spent A LOT of time alone. And whilst this ‘aloneness’ hasn’t exactly served me well (!!!!) it is what I am used to and, to an extent, need now.

I get overwhelmed/drained when there is too much going on. I don’t like being around big groups of people (ok so there are only six of us here at the moment but it feels like more!!). I much prefer spending time one on one with people. I can do the party thing. I can do the fake extroverted social thing. I have to put a persona on every day of the week when I am teaching. I inhabit that space well… It’s just fucking exhausting…and so when I am at home I just want to be me without the shine. It’s not to say that any of what I am on a day-to-day is ‘not me’, it’s just ‘not the me I really am at my core’. A lot of ‘who I am’ is constructed to serve a particular purpose. I know how crackers that sounds but I think we all do this to some extent. The world isn’t really set up for us to be vulnerable and needy is it?

I think this last few days has felt especially pressure cooker-esque because I am so exhausted by everything I am juggling in my work…and in therapy. Work is physically and emotionally draining and therapy is…is…it… well…it…I dunno…it is what it is!! But it’s not plain sailing for sure. I am overtired and grumpy and sad and ugh!!!

For the last six weeks, or so, I have been counting down the weeks to the Christmas holiday on two fronts: in one way it cannot come quickly enough; on the other I am dreading it. Adult Me needs two weeks off like the desert needs rain whereas the young parts are just starting to plunge head first into the annual Christmas freak out period.

It’s really like the worst bits of Christmas have come early this year. I know I sound like the Grinch and maybe I just need my heart to grow three sizes and I’ll be sorted but man… this is really hard going! It’s almost like the family visit has given me an early taster of all the things I struggle with in the festive season: seemingly having to be in a good mood because it is Christmas; being exposed to people for longer periods of time than I’d like; having to make concessions about how you want to spend time ‘for the family’ (I don’t mean my kids here- I mean the wider family)… basically it feels like this time of year is a big exercise in sacrificing one’s own needs.

AND…

When you throw therapy break into the mix with all the other stress it feels like an enormous pile of shit. There is an irony in the fact that just at the point life becomes a bit of a frigging stress (being thrown into emotionally triggering situations with family) therapists just off and leave us to enjoy time with their families (ok, they are human and probably have the same issues as the rest of us!) and ARE NOT AVAILABLE.

Ok, I know Em hasn’t gone yet. We have two sessions this week and then it’s the break but because things have been so tricky in therapy lately I am already quite unsettled and anxious about how this break is going to pan out. I am nervous that we will end up having some massive rupture and it’ll be a total train wreck again. I really don’t want that. I know I need to use this week to try and get some kind of solid footing in the therapeutic relationship but that’s often easier said than done when there are so many feelings flying around. I don’t really even know what to say to her that we haven’t said a million times before. Breaks are shit. Somehow I get through them. What else can we say?

I know, too, that if I am really honest about why this week with my in-laws has felt so hard is because the young parts are really close to the surface because of the break coming and so my filter is a bit weak. I feel upset and anxious and out of sorts. This week, I guess, is a kind of trial run of next week when it’ll be my mum here with her husband and I won’t be able to reach out to Em when I feel triggered and there won’t be sessions to punctuate the nightmare. Not only that, they are scared she is going to go and never come back. They are sure that she doesn’t really care about them (not helped by the dots thing)  and they are actually just fucking heartbroken by this. Trying to shove those feelings down when they are so real right now is utterly exhausting and so my ability to be anything other than how it is is really hard.

When I feel like this I don’t have the capacity to be much of anything to anyone else and I try so hard to hide how I am feeling that I push everyone away. It’s a nightmare!

I love Christmas! 😉

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Impasse

I’m not sure starting a blog post with ‘FFS’ is necessarily appropriate, but it totally encapsulates where I am at right now with therapy, or rather the therapeutic relationship. I’m angry, frustrated, upset, exasperated, annoyed, sad, hurt, anxious, scared, lonely, not bothered (no fucks given), shutdown, agitated, full of love! I know that is a list of  complete contradictions but this is what is so difficult about fragmented parts – every part feels different things and reacts independently so in the end it just becomes an exhausting noisy mess inside.

Part of me is just doing a massive face palm and sighing a huge ‘for fuck’s sake!’ I haven’t had much free time to post anything here for a bit but actually this weekend when I have had time to think about what’s going on, or what I might post, I really haven’t got a clue what to say. I literally do not know what to write. I don’t know how to explain what is going on right now. There is a part of me, too, that feels like what’s happening in therapy right now is so huge that whilst I’m in the thick of it I can’t really write about it in any detail.

I am all over the shop: one minute I am absolutely raging and wanting to run away from the therapy and the next I want to roll up my sleeves, get my adult front and centre and do some serious advocating for myself and do the work. Em and I have hit a bit of an impasse. We’ve been stuck for a while now but this last couple of sessions has been incredibly hard. I can’t remember if I said this recently but I told her in session the other week that I felt like she didn’t care about me. It’s not just one part that is feeling like this, it’s several. I’ve been struggling to shake the feeling and so it’s been impossible connect. I can’t even look at her at the moment. The trust, that is so fragile anyway, has been steadily eroding since the half-term holiday in October and the empty chair text (which she never brought up).

I know I should bring this stuff up more but as I said recently, often I have ideas of what I want to say and then I get in the room and suddenly I am overcome by shame and switch into a part that is either really fucking annoying (the one who talks confidently about my here and now life so that the ‘real’ feelings don’t come out) or one of the parts that either has no words (v.young child part) or a withholding and silent part (angry teen). I mean it’s more complicated than that and I definitely shift about between different parts A LOT or feel like there are several competing for attention all at once but generally the part I need to go and talk isn’t bloody available. I don’t know where she’s fucked off to, but I suspect she’s sitting drinking a latte peacefully somewhere … but she certainly isn’t in the room! She’s a fucking moron though because it is her that is paying for this circus.

Knowing that this is what’s been happening I sent my last post to Em just before I left the house on Monday morning. I knew I would sit silently and not mention anything if I went to session without it. I’ve still got stuff I wrote weeks ago sitting in my bag and I just can’t get myself to bring it out. SO ANNOYING. I brought it up and asked her to read it. We had a conversation about my sending stuff to her when I know she won’t read it and all that. Ugh. I tried to explain that when I send something an hour before the session, despite writing it days before, it’s about making sure I can’t back out of talking about something that is important – which is what’s been happening a lot.

She read the post. I felt sick. I can’t really remember everything that we talked about in relation to it but she said something about how she had to admit that she had lost sight of the vulnerable young parts lately because what she sees as the ‘high functioning adult part’ (Little Miss ‘I’ve Got My Shit Together’) does such a fantastic job of distracting and hiding what’s really going on. That pissed me off. I know that’s what I do. What I have been doing. BUT I pay Em to see through this crap. I have told her enough what I do and why I do it. When I feel really vulnerable and unsettled I get out the smoke screen.  To hear her say she’d lost sight of those who need her most was really painful. Yet again, those parts are not being kept in mind…which is what they are terrified of and why they went into hiding when I was a kid.

I know I did try and talk about how futile it feels when I have things I would like to try and work on/ask for and yet ultimately I know that I can’t have what I want so it just feels really painful. She asked what I meant. I said how I read something recently by another therapist about coping with breaks and how they had mentioned a way to maintain connection that really resonated with me. The idea was for the client to send three dots in a text message and that at some point the therapist would respond in the same way. I liked this idea because there are no words to get hung up on, no chance of misinterpreting the tone, no getting into ‘doing therapy outside the room’… it’s simply a checking in process that says ‘I’m still here’. And for someone that genuinely panics that my therapist is dead on breaks it would be perfect.

I knew, though, that Em wouldn’t go for it and said as much to her but she asked me to explain it anyway. I did. And yep. It was a no. Or should I say another no in a long line of nos. She told me that she couldn’t commit to it or something and that she didn’t think it would be in my best interests and then I just shut down. Like what is the fucking point? I keep reading that relational trauma is healed in relationship and yet I am really really struggling to feel like there is a relationship. I know I should, by now, be able to see that she’s there for all my sessions and that she is consistent in how she operates… but there are parts that just can’t see that as enough. When they are breaking their hearts and panicking on breaks it’s no good saying ‘she’ll be back in x weeks’ the fear and anxiety is real in that moment; if I could rationalise it out there and then I would…but I can’t.

I think, too, that this particular ‘no’ stings so much because it is literally THREE DOTS. It doesn’t require much time. It doesn’t require really any thought at all. BUT it would make such a huge difference to me. What hurts the most is that she is unwilling to do this for me. It’s like I am asking for the smallest fucking concession and she won’t do it. And of course this feeds all that stuff about being unimportant, her not liking me, there being no genuine relationship. It’s horrendous. It’s making me so sad and angry recounting this right now.

Christmas break is approaching and I am absolutely terrified that it is going to be another car crash like last year. The feelings on breaks don’t change. Sometimes I reach out sometimes I don’t. This year I won’t no matter how bad things get, why would I? There’s no point. All that’ll do is fuel the part that is ready to walk away. I contacted another therapist this last week because things feel as though we are heading towards a drop off. I don’t know if we can work through this… I don’t know what to do.

I had to do a Skype session on Friday because I was working ten minutes after the session. So it was Skype in my car. Great. Not! Trying to connect through a tiny iPhone screen that would only show her in one third of my screen…it was like therapy on a postage stamp. Em felt really far away. And, I know I sound like a complete mental case but she just felt really therapisty. The session felt really formulaic. I could almost predict what she was going to ask me. Therapy questions 101. Painting by numbers. On more than one occasion I rolled my eyes when she said stuff and how I didn’t hang up on her I have no idea.

Look, I get it, I am upset and angry and feel like I am not necessarily seeing the wood for the trees which is why I will go to the session tomorrow. But I won’t lie. There is a huge part of me that doesn’t want to go. There’s a part of me that wants to cut and run before the Christmas break. I don’t want to be left with all these massive feelings over the holidays and keep looping back to ‘she doesn’t care’. I don’t want my Inner Critic to get a foothold in my mind and ruin the holidays.

I am really aware of this thing where, yet again, I have to sacrifice a need, ok albeit a childish need (my adult doesn’t need three dots – and is mortified that I need Em at all) in order to fit in with what the other person wants. I have done that my whole life and I don’t know how to get to a place where I can ‘accept’ this therapy boundary. I am not ok with the no touch thing but I can sort of accept it. I am not ok with her not responding to my texts but I can sort of accept it. BUT this … three dots… I don’t know if I can. It sounds ridiculous that something as insignificant as … could cause such a huge rupture…but that’s the problem, something so small is so massively significant.

I’m very aware that this is not one of my finer blogging moments and I probably sound like a petulant child who isn’t getting what she wants and is having a meltdown about it…but actually that’s exactly what this is. Adult Me can see this for what it is but the little ones feel utterly rejected.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I’m guessing some anger with a giant dollop of shame! Wish me luck. I really hope that I can break through the shame and the wall and get things moving again. I think the reason this is so hard is because it’s tapping into that core wound again. It’s like these three dots have functioned as a giant cattle prod right into the #motherwound and fuck me – it hurts.

* I had some comments that went to moderation recently (I have this as a setting new readers/comments) that were really nasty and I didn’t ok to go on the post. Please, if you haven’t got something constructive to say just don’t comment at all. These mental health blogs are written by real people who are going through real struggles. I do not need to be told that ‘I am in danger’ and am ‘obsessive’. This obviously isn’t aimed at the merry band of WP warriors who are always sensitive and empathic. x

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On The Outside It’s Crazy… Inside It’s Comfortably Numb

Time is flying at the moment. Life is going by in a sort of out of control careering down an unmade mountain road kind of a way! Same old. Same old. Busy. Busy. Argh! I’m hanging on in there and by some miracle seem to be doing just about ok. I guess ‘just about’ isn’t exactly brilliant but I haven’t totally slipped up on my arse/hurtled off the edge yet (YET!).

I am somehow surviving each day and achieving the things that need to be done so far as work and family life go. I haven’t lost my shit…and feel strangely calm despite the chaos, so that’s a win. Slight  Very big problem is that I am still not quite finding time for the things I need for myself to be ok (and sane) in the longer term: regular exercise, the great outdoors, adequate sleep, relaxation, this blog…and bloody therapy!!!! To be honest I am being steamrollered by life in general…  I just haven’t become a complete pancake yet but it won’t be long!

You can probably tell from this that I am in a manic high, nervous energy type state; this is all well and good, for now, BUT it is only a matter of time until the burnout happens. It always does. I feel like I am yo-yoing a bit at the minute. My last blog post was very much struggle and doom and gloom and yet here I am today full of beans. Living as I am right now is not sustainable and once I get totally exhausted I know I will crash big time. I do need to try and find time in the day to totally unwind and relax but it’s not easy. I feel like I am on a treadmill that never slows down.

How many times have a talked about self-care? Talked about how important it is? So why is it always the first thing to go when it absolutely should be the thing that I hang on tightly to? Ugh! I guess self-neglect is hard-wired into me and it’s going to take a serious amount of effort to change the direction of the auto-pilot.

Doing self-care when things feel ok is pretty easy, I think; the real challenge comes when you are in the thick of struggle and mental hell. One thing I do know, and that my friends keep telling me is that I really have to make myself a priority in my own life. It’s my life so it’s perfectly acceptable for me to take up space in it. It just feels so bloody alien. Like I don’t see myself as important or my needs as being as valid as anyone else’s. I think when you have spent your formative years trying to not take up space or get in the way or even really be noticed it’s a switch that gets stuck permanently on. Still, self-care has to be top of 2019’s resolutions list. In fact really that’s it, the only thing -take more care of me.

Anyway, last post I was banging on about work and stress and people not taking my ‘no’ seriously and finding myself in situations I am not happy about. blah. Fortunately, teaching last week was really good with my new group. Don’t get me wrong, it was challenging but the time with the group of 13 was actually really restorative and positive for me. I know that sounds weird. But I went in and was just me, me on my teacher ‘A game’ but also me as a ‘human’.

I know these people have had tough lives and so started simply by talking to them, telling them that I was there to help, and hopefully we’d get to the end and succeed but all I was really asking for was their commitment to have a go. Teaching, like therapy, is all about forging positive relationships with the students, building trust and safety, creating an environment that feels inclusive, safe, and nurturing. This has always been a strength of mine (god that sounds so fucking egotistical) but I guess because I know how it feels to feel unsafe and not fit in or be accepted I am especially mindful of this in my classroom.

I asked each student to write something about themselves for me: their name, age, their interests, anything they think it might be useful for me to know about them, and then a strength and perceived weakness in English.  Immediately one guy said ‘what do you mean about useful things for you to know about me?’ and here’s where I brought a bit of myself to the room. It could’ve backfired. They could have seen it as a sign of weakness and capitalised on it, but they didn’t.  I said, ‘well, it could be anything, but for me, I’d probably say something like I struggle with anxiety and depression and sometimes it feels really hard’….and then they looked at me and put their heads down and wrote. Reponses included:

  • I get angry fast
  • I get low easily and struggle with depression
  • I have BPD and dyslexia
  • I have ADHD and get frustrated
  • I have health needs and need a full time carer
  • I am on parole
  • I struggle with drugs and alcohol
  • My mental health is bad

Just by opening up the space for them I could see that they felt like I was interested in them and listening but that I am just like them – human. I already knew some of the specific learning needs before I went in but to have them tell me themselves what their challenges are was really helpful.

Anyway, we had a good giggle, got some work done, and at the end one of the guys, 20 years old, 6ft 3 built like a tank said, ‘Thank you so much for today. The session went really quickly and I learnt loads. I thought Maths was my subject but after today I think I like English best’. Mic drop! I was so pleased and it made all the prep and effort feel worthwhile.

So, yeah, that was nice and a confidence boost. The rest of work is what it is. Challenging and lots of it but generally fine. And to be fair, not gonna lie, this week’s session with group was like herding snakes! I am exhausted from today with them!

AND THEN THERE’S THERAPY which, I guess, is why you lot are here.

I call it therapy, but maybe I should say, ‘the space I have been going to and moaning about my daily life but refusing to go to the difficult places despite knowing I need to’ …

That’s a bit long-winded though isn’t it?!!

So, therapy. It’s been disrupted these last couple of weeks. Em was away last Friday and I was working so there was no session which felt just about ok because neither of us were available and so I didn’t feel too much like I was missing out. I saw her on Monday in person. And then today (Friday) the was no session again because I was teaching…she was there though. And so this is not good! At all! As if we didn’t already know this, I am not good with disruptions and breaks in my therapy!! I am still very much in recovery from the break at half-term and with two successive weeks of the pattern being changed I had totally detached until today.

I know the numbing/avoidance of my feelings and the dissociation is how I cope and it gets me through but it’s not a fantastic strategy really. However, this morning was like an emotional car crash. The reality of two missed sessions and not being able to see her was agony. I woke up feeling anxious and desperately wanting to reach out to check she was still out there. My mind had gone to the place where she’s gone/dead… ugh. I didn’t text her to ask her to reassure me because I wasn’t sure that she would and that would have upset me even more and to be honest, the times she has text back have been hopeless too! So I have spent the day sitting on young feelings and trying to be a fully functioning adult. It’s not easy!

In and out of sessions for the last month or so, I have been cross with myself for going and ‘talking but not really’. Sure, I have had plenty to moan about but I don’t need to go to therapy and moan about work. I can speak to my wife and my friends about this stuff. I need to be in therapy and do the work on the relational trauma, the past, the stuff that keeps tripping me up and making me feel inadequate and full of shame. I need to connect with my therapist. I need to get in touch with the young parts and try and help heal them. So, knowing this, why the fuck have I been fucking about like I have?!?!! So frustrating and EXPENSIVE. Every time I don’t talk it’s a pair of new shoes I can’t have. AND I LOVE SHOES!

My session on Monday ran like so many recent others. I went in and I talked about stuff that was stressing me out in my adult life….you know, work and being busy. I failed to mention any of the other things that have been steadily getting me down. I didn’t mention the therapeutic relationship or how I have been struggling to connect on a deeper level or be vulnerable with Em. The difference this week, though, was that Em picked up on what’s been going on and asked me about it. She commented on how lately my life has been really hectic and I’ve come and just offloaded that stuff but that perhaps there have been things I have been avoiding talking about because I don’t have the reserves to go there. I nodded and then off I went, switch, adult was gone, I was numb and seeing stars and feeling little and desperate to connect…but SILENT.

Em talked to me, asked me what she could do when things get like this because we have been here so many times before. Of course, when I get into that state I have no words and as much as I would like to ask her to come and sit beside me or speak directly to the little parts and explain that they are safe and she is there I just sit frozen like some insufferable mute.

It’s agony.

Time seems to accelerate and then the session is almost up.

And then I have to leave…and lately it’s been for a whole 7 days…which feels like a very long time now that my internal clock is used to two sessions a week.

I was frustrated with myself because knowing I have been doing ‘capable adult’ lately I have been very aware of this avoidance of the big stuff. The attachment stuff. The relationship. The goddamn breaks in therapy. So on Sunday night I had quickly written out some stuff to take to the session to hand over and try and get the conversation moving in the right direction even if my adult was not on board. Thing is, adult is the one with the bag and the hands isn’t she?! So even though with fifteen minutes to go I knew I needed to get the writing out I remained frozen, paralysed, and internally distraught. FUCK. Adult wasn’t playing ball.

I managed to tell Em that she was right about everything that she’d been saying about me having things to talk about but feeling unable to. She said that it was understandable that when the pattern of therapy is so important to me…i.e regular and uninterrupted sessions –  that it might have been difficult to go there and open up these last few weeks but that as of Monday, when we are back to two sessions a week, that it might be helpful to really try and attend to these bits that have been neglected.

Yes. BUT eeek!! That is exactly what I needed to hear but in doing so it also woke up all the silent and resistant parts and everyone wanted to have a chat…but the session was over!!! You all know how that is! So, what did I do? You bet, I sent a screen shot of the letter I had written in a text with a short message saying I had chickened out of discussing it in session but that next week we needed to. Face palm!

Basically what I sent at 2pm was an incoherent 11:30pm mind dump from the previous evening – but hey it’s a way in…:

November – Therapy Stuff

  • I feel anxious…really anxious!
  • I don’t like feeling disconnected but that is how it is right now.
  • I don’t want to leave without addressing breaks: 1/2 term (sad face emoji), these two consecutive Fridays (sadder face emoji), and the upcoming Christmas holiday (crying emoji). I don’t know what the solution is but we need to work together to put things in place to try and avert a crisis like last year…which was hell.
  • I feel like a protector part has been doing therapy since 1/2 term break. There has been plenty of ‘daily life stress’ but I could easily have discussed this stuff with my friends. The young parts feel really sad and scared and several ‘older’ parts don’t want you anywhere near the ‘little ones’ after the phonecall we had. Even though we talked it through I still don’t feel ok. It doesn’t take a lot to hurt the most vulnerable parts but it takes ages to repair and regain trust
  • I have really missed seeing you but/and there are parts that have been unable to cope with feeling like you’re gone/dead. Initially it was really upsetting and now parts of me feels completely cut off … like I just don’t care. I hate how painful, physically painful, it feels when the needy parts feel abandoned but I also hate that when I have most needed to reach out I have built huge walls around me
  • I don’t think you realise any of this… but it is all mess of contradictions!
  • Adult me needs help getting the other parts safe enough to be in the room – and for that protector part to take a backseat for a while…but I am so wary of that because Christmas is coming up. The space that opens up is overwhelming and I can’t fix this alone. I feel like therapy is all about counting down from one break/disruption to the next. I never feel settled because you are always almost gone…

And so basically that’s where we are at right now! I feel like my blog is totally falling by the wayside but this is really a reflection of where my life is right now. I really hope that soon I can free up some time to write and wind down a bit.

I found this earlier…wondering if I should have it as the main ‘go to’ page on this…save everyone the bother of reading! haha! x

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