Remembering

Edit: I opened it because Tuesday was too long to wait! It was actually a really warm and K-like message inside, with love and kisses and a sense of actually knowing who I am! She also said she hopes I am okay – it must be so weird for her not knowing. I would find it weird to be her.

A birthday card from K arrived this morning. “What happens if K doesn’t send a card?” I asked R on Wednesday. He said she wouldn’t send one, because she wouldn’t want to muddy the boundaries. I thought she would though, because to not would be really weird after all the years of cards and gifts for my birthday. And I sent her a card back in March even after the weird/unsettling/cold/abrupt email thing. We have a whole shoe box full of cards she’s given us and that we have made together for spring and winter solstice and things. Last year she posted a book she had got for us. It was a copy of her favourite ever book that we had read together lots of times, about a kitten who is abandoned and then taken in by a new family. It would have been very sad if she had forgotten or decided not to send a card this year. As it is, it feels like the light is still on for us.

Likely it won’t be the warmest of messages (I’ll find out on Tuesday!) but it is comforting that she remembered and that she didn’t decide not to send a card because I’m not in therapy right now. And in some ways it is easier this year that I am not in therapy with her but unable to get to her because of the pandemic. My birthday last year was awful for numerous reasons. I was meant to have a double therapy session on the day, which we were all really looking forward to because therapy was nice then and nice times didn’t trigger us anymore (therapy on my birthday the first year I worked with K was so painfully triggering and awful and I ended up self-harming in the bath in the evening). We were looking forward to two hours in nature together. As it was, it was therapy on a screen and she brought the dogs to see us and tried so hard to be there, but we just couldn’t feel any of it. So I guess this year will be better?

There is something huge I need to write about – I saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder (ADHD) a couple of weeks ago. It is huge and things have been quite a rollercoaster since then, learning more about the condition and seeing how pervasively it affects my life (and interestingly has got worse since healing more complex trauma and dissocation). I have started writing about it, but haven’t had chance to finish. It doesn’t feel urgent and I am just settling into it and getting my head round it.

Anyway, I do miss K a lot this past few days. I felt like I was drifting further and further away from her earlier this week but then after acupuncture on Wednesday I got hit by huge waves of grief again, just needing her to help me work out what to do about Nina’s ADHD assessment and treatment (the NHS waiting times are frankly ridiculous, but taking her privately is stupidly expensive) and to help me hold all I am discovering about myself. R said the treatment likely unblocked all the grief I was holding. I felt loads better yesterday though, so I’m glad it came. Maybe I just need a mum right now, with all that is going on!

Overwhelm

I feel like I am about to totally lose my mind. I don’t want to live like this anymore, constantly trying to find and keep my balance while lurching dangerously close to the precipice. I crave structure and routine and stability and yet I can’t seem to find any even when I have the opportunity to give it to myself.

Inside me is such emptiness, such darkness. I long for K to steady me again, help me get back on my feet. There is an ache in me that only she can soothe, a chaos in me that only she can settle. I am longing for something I cannot name and I don’t feel as though I will ever be full. I am empty.

I am also trying desperately to stave off overwhelm. Life feels so crowded. There is no space for me inside my head. Time off work so often feels more overwhelming than being at work, because there are a million things I put off doing while the weeks disappear in a blur and then here is the time to do them and it is all too much. We need to sort out adopting a bunny for Rainbow, Nina needs new clothes as nothing fits which requires hours of trawling through Depop with her, jobs need doing at home, stuff needs sorting out, a broken trampoline needs dismantling, the washer dryer isn’t working, there are people I need to see. I cannot get on top of things. Everything feels chaotic. There is always too much to do. Just daily life takes everything out of me. I need so much time between things so as not to become overwhelmed and overstimulated and that really reduces the time available to get things done and do nice things I enjoy. There is no time for anything extra.

I spent yesterday stripping wallpaper with a friend because I am paying someone next week to do some tiling in my kitchen/living area where there was revolting wallpaper since we moved in. Tomorrow I have to go to two different hardware stores as well as get passport photos to renew my driving licence and then drive 35 minutes to a colleague’s house because he is kindly replacing the smashed screen on Nina’s iPhone for the cost of the screen (£45) instead of the £150 apple would charge. That’s another day of my leave gone. It feels like I never get enough time to do nice things but when I do have time I don’t do the nice things anyway because my brain is full and I just need to lie in a dark and quiet room.

I am trying so hard to focus on one day at a time but I just don’t want to live like this anymore. I am so tired of holding so much. I feel overwhelmed nearly all the time. I’ve been so excited Nina will be restarting swimming next week as she has missed it so much and it is so good for her body and mind and self-esteem. But when her swimming club confirmed times for training I could feel myself spiralling. It will be till 9.30pm Wed, Thurs and Fri from next week, and then Sundays till 6pm. Before this lockdown it was only Wed, Fri and Sun and that extra night has sent me over the edge. Of course she could not do the Thursday, but also I want her to go because teens need exercise and ADHD-teens more than most.

The situation with my dad feels stressful and never-ending. I am tired of trying to navigate around toxic people. I wrote last autumn about my brother being in a really bad place and my sister asking me if I could see him (see here and here). Nina and him have been in touch on Whatsapp for a few months now but he is talking about meeting up now lockdown has lifted and I just don’t know what to do. It brings my mum so dangerously close again. Without K I don’t know if I have the strength to navigate that as well as my dad and parenting and every other fucking thing.

I just want K. I cannot see how I will find my way through all this without the structure and stability she provides. Talking to R is not the same. It doesn’t feel contained in the same way. And also – how long till he goes away too? Lockdown will ease and he will be able to see more clients again and he will be able to go away and he won’t have time for me. He will leave me like K has but even when he is here it is not enough. Nothing is or ever will be.

I feel as though the ground is swallowing me. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I try, I cannot feel on top of life. Inside and outside feel totally chaotic and I don’t want to do this anymore. I am tired of having to make such big decisions and having so much in my head all the time.

I am scared I will never stop self-harming. It’s getting worse and my legs hurt all the time and I don’t understand why this behaviour is worse than it’s ever been after I’ve healed so much. I don’t want to stop but I want to want to stop. I am nearly 38.

Losing K this year is enough. I just want everything else to go away.

What now?

I sent the email to my dad at 18.18 this evening. He replied at 19.20. The amount of time that elapsed between me hitting send and him replying says it all really. He just doesn’t get it at all. Not even a little bit.

He was pretty affable in the email. He thanked me, said he’s taken it on board although doesn’t agree with some of what I said and maintains he is not critical of Nina (wtf!). He said he’s been worried about their relationship for a while, but he attributes that to her having ‘outgrown him’ as she is 14 and he is 60 and ‘what teenage girl really wants to spend time with a 60 year old granddad?’ He cannot see how problematic how he is with her is, how every word he says to her is critical and judgemental and belittling and mean. He says he will ‘back off’ about his worries about her but thinks he has been supportive and encouraging of her. Again, wtf! It is scary that he can’t see it at all and so he will not change. I thought he would at least try to be different and then be better for a while, but ultimately be unable to change (like when I vow never to lose my temper again – realistically this is just not possible right now with the place I am in with my healing – and because I am human – but at least I can see it is a problem and it is not okay when I behave like that).

Maybe this is the beginning of a shift. Maybe I have sown some seeds. Maybe he will reflect. I honestly really doubt it though. I think this is the beginning of the end. The beginning of me accepting that he will never be able to look inside himself and see how he is and he will die with this gulf between us because he cannot let down his defences. I don’t mean that he is choosing not to, but that I don’t think he can. I don’t think he is able to. I think they are him. This is the thing with OCPD and NPD (I hate labels, but these two help me understand him, just as NPD/BPD have helped me make sense of my mum), typically the person themselves cannot see they have a problem, it is always everyone else who is problematic. So they don’t want or feel the need to change or heal or grow, because they honestly can’t see there is an issue.

There was me worrying I would trigger him into a place of shame and self-loathing, or make him angry or sad. I was scared of what it might force him to confront inside himself. Turns out it didn’t even really land for him. I don’t know what I’d expected given that I know he cannot see his own behaviour; he is so out of touch with himself and his feelings and how he is. The way he speaks to Nina is the way he must speak to himself. The way he was spoken to as a child of course, which he cannot see anything wrong with because he cannot bear to look inside and see how damaging his childhood was. It is also the way he spoke to me, all my life, and still does of course. And so beyond all this and deep inside is a real sense from teen and slightly older parts that he really will never be able to take in what he did to us even if we are ever brave enough to confront him. It is very hard to accept that there will not be a reconciliation or a time when he opens up and says he is sorry for how he’s been. I’ve known he won’t but I don’t think I’ve really taken in that actually it will be like this between us forever. Even if I am totally estranged from him one day, it will still be like this. I will be free perhaps, but it will never be different. We have nothing but lies and falseness between us. What a tragic waste.

I don’t know how to reply to his email. What is there to say? How do you make someone see that their whole way of being in the world, everything about them, their personality and the essence of who they are is problematic and shaming and abusive when they cannot see it at all? It is not my job to make him look at himself and change, even if I could. He has chosen not to take this opportunity to look inside himself and left me feeling so confused and bereft and small and invalidated. So hopeless. And deflated. I don’t think he can change and I don’t know how many times I will have to tell him that his behaviour is a problem before I give up. I cannot keep doing this, living this lie, trying to heal myself while allowing in the same treatment of Nina and I that smashed me into pieces in the first place.

There is a storm inside me. I can feel parts on the brink of total meltdown and collapse. It doesn’t have words yet, just a fucking painful mess taking shape and coalescing inside me. Scribbling inside my head and a mash of emotions I cannot access or name. I just want him to disappear so I don’t have to deal with this. I can’t believe both of my parents are so completely impossible that my life is better without them. It feels so unnatural and such a mess.

Dear Dad

****although this is about my dad, I am trigger warning it for rape and victim-blaming, since this is what my dad chose to engage in during his conversation with Nina while they were cycling on Tuesday***

Trying to find my inner warrior so that I can send this to my dad after Nina had a really horrible time with him on Tuesday. She’d not been on her own with him for 3.5 months and was decimated by 45 minutes cycling with him. R thinks I need to give him the chance to change, for Nina as much as anything, and at this point to warn him that if he doesn’t change he will lose her because in a few years she will be grown up and she will have no reason to see him if he treats her how he does.

I have never stood up to my dad about anything. Ever. It terrifies me. Nina really doesn’t want me to say anything and I can sense her terror of displeasing or upsetting him. Yet I also know this is the next stage of my healing journey and that I cannot let things continue as they are, for Nina’s sake. What messages does it send her that I can see how bad it is and yet I chose not to act and to protect her?

I don’t think he will change. I don’t think he can. I think this is only headed in one direction really, and that is no contact. But at least I will have tried. And if I cut contact in future, it will be Nina’s choice if she sees him or not and I will have done my best to facilitate a continuing relationship between them.

Six years ago I was in this position with my mum and it was R who was supporting me to protect Nina from her abuse and manipulation back then too. I stopped Nina from spending time alone with my mum then, and told her we could only see her once a month together as I needed space to heal too. It was another 2 years until I cut contact completely. I can see things heading a similar way here too, but I am stronger now. I would rather have no family than be living alongside such toxicity, but I will try a while longer to bring things to a more tolerable place for Nina and I. R reminds me of my strength and he reminds me I have no choice but to stand up for Nina and protect her. He tells me to make this all about her for now, and that later on I can address what I need him to know about how he is to me, and whether I want a relationship with him. He is holding my hand as I do this. He text with Phoebe last night when she was harming and there was blood everywhere and she was all alone. For all these things I love him. Somehow he makes me feel stronger than anyone else ever has. Even K.

However he responds cannot be worse than what I’ve already been through. I keep telling myself that.

Hello Dad,

Not an easy email for me to write, but I am very concerned about the way you are to Nina and I don’t think things can be left unspoken any longer if you want to maintain a relationship with her as she grows up. She is obviously scared of me saying anything to you, but I can see you losing her if things continue as they are and that would be a great shame for both of you.

She is often upset after seeing you because you are very critical of her and judgmental and lecture her and put her down and dismiss her ideas and experiences. On Tuesday she had a horrible time. You were critical and judgmental about her fitness and effort, her responses to your lectures about safety, implied she was stupid because she couldn’t follow what you were explaining to her, and then had a go at her for not talking to you – of course she wasn’t talking after that. She couldn’t. She feels ashamed when you are like this to her and that is sad because we know you love and care for both of us, but it so often doesn’t come across in how you interact with us. It is confusing for her to be told that you are a nice kind granddad when her experience of you is so often not like that at all.

These are not new concerns, but for me they have intensified since seeing you with her more during the lockdown last year (and also through my own healing showing me that the way I was parented by both you and mum was deeply inadequate and has caused long-term damage, meaning I am much more aware of what children need now). Last summer I was very concerned by how you were speaking to her when I collected her from your house. Belittling her intelligence over Maths and mocking the effort she is putting into school, and also threatening her she’ll end up homeless and jobless if she doesn’t change, are all things that are having an extremely negative impact on her self-esteem. The teenage years are particularly fragile years of self-discovery and your job as a granddad is only to love and support her as she grows up, not threaten her about her future or shame her or make her feel inadequate.

I am also really very concerned by the victim-blaming you engaged in. It is very hard for me to hear that you told her if she gets raped or attacked it will be her fault because of her behaviour and that she is ‘asking for it’. Women and girls are never to blame for what happens to them, it is always the fault of rapists. I would be devastated if something ever did happen to her and she didn’t reach out for support or tell anyone because she had internalised this message that I’ve tried so hard to counter as it is all around in society and the media and stops women coming forward. Pointing at overweight women and saying they won’t get raped is really concerning and just not true – rape isn’t about sexual desirability, it is about power and control. Women who aren’t conventionally attractive or slim get raped all the time, pensioners get raped, disabled women get raped. Women who do all the right things with regards their own safety get raped. Most of the time women are raped and assaulted within an intimate relationship or by someone they know.

Besides all this, Nina’s safety is my responsibility, not yours. I am the parent. You raised your concerns with me, Nina now doesn’t walk on the main road and stays in [our small town]. However the perception that ‘rapes are committed by strangers in a dark alley’ is a myth. She is far more likely to get raped or assaulted in a group of friends where alcohol and drugs are involved. It is this I will be doing everything to protect her from, by checking on her whereabouts and boosting her self-esteem as much as possible so she doesn’t feel the need to engage in risky behaviours in the way I did. So far this is going well and her friends are a safe group who haven’t grown up too fast.

These are separate issues though. You could have spoken of your concerns in a loving, warm, non-blaming way. And so it is the way you speak to her and how critical and judgmental and dismissive you are of her that needs to change. I don’t know if you are able to do this, I suspect it is deeply ingrained, but you do need to try because otherwise she just won’t want to see you anymore. That would be very sad for both of you and so that is why I am being brave and writing this even though I find confronting you on anything very difficult.

It is very important you don’t talk to Nina about this. She will be frightened that I’ve said anything and she doesn’t need a heart to heart talk, she need things to change in how you are when you’re with her. It is not a communication issue and she is not responsible for things changing, only you. You’ll find if you show an interest in her life and build her up instead of making her feel small by belittling and lecturing and shaming her, that she won’t respond in monosyllabic ‘yeahs’ with you. At the moment she doesn’t see the point of talking to you because you don’t seem to care or be interested in what she says a lot of the time.

We often make excuses for your behaviour, but honestly it is every time, even when I’m there. You barely see her as it is and I know that she will want to see you less and less as she grows older if things don’t change. I don’t want that to happen and I’m sure you don’t either. I would think there are people you can talk to about finding different ways of communicating with the people you care about.

I hope you understand why I’m writing and that it reflects my commitment to sustaining a relationship between us both and between you and Nina in future. Please don’t feel pressured to respond – I understand that this email will likely bring up difficult things for you and will, hopefully, lead to a period of self-reflection. There is no rush, but I do need a commitment from you that you will try and change how you speak to and behave towards Nina from now on.

Love CB

Loss upon loss

***trigger warning: talk of suicide***

I heard this morning that Ana, Jess’ mum, passed away peacefully last week. She had bowel cancer which had metastasised into her liver and lungs last year. When I saw her in August I knew she didn’t have long to live, but she didn’t know at that point and was still making plans for after her recovery. She told me in November she’d been given less than a year and Jess’ sisters were in touch 9 weeks ago to say their mum had deteriorated rapidly and had days or weeks to live. I was able to send a message that they read to her while she was still lucid and she told them how special I was to her, and to Jess.

It is hard to believe that this link to Jess is gone. I struggled in the relationship due to resonances with my own mum (of course, this is what drew Jess and I together even though we didn’t know back then) but being able to visit and share that connection with Jess was so helpful and healing. I can’t believe I’ve lost that and that Jess’ sisters have lost their dad and sister to suicide and their mum to cancer and neither of them are yet 30. It’s such a heartbreaking situation.

I thought it hadn’t affected me today, hearing the news, since it was not sudden and I have had chance to prepare. I’ve also spent the day mostly in bed, so lethargic I could barely move. And then the waves of grief over Jess hit again and I realised why I’ve felt so heavy and flat and lifeless today, my body struggling under the weight of this unexpressed grief. It is like losing a little more of Jess. And there is no one to tell about this sudden grief I’ve experienced this evening. Suicide is strange like that.

I miss Jess so much. It has been a little over 6 years since she took her life and when the grief hits it still feels so raw like it has only just happened. I remember writing on my blog at the end of 2019 about her, about how there is still so much shock and how, because of the way she died, my psyche remains unable to complete the process of grieving , especially because of how dissociated I am. I don’t think the grief process will ever be complete – it just gets re-activated and then fades away, split off in my psyche like so much trauma is. It just makes no sense that we will never see her again because she was so alive. And having young parts makes it so complicated too, because they really can’t understand where she went or what forever means.

And as I’ve written before, losing Jess is all tied up with shame and disorganised attachment and other losses for me. So hard to hold and untangle and understand. So I am left wishing more than anything I was driving to K’s to see her at 4pm tomorrow, like we did for all those years. We have done so much work around Jess and suicide and Ana and the shame I experience over how I reacted and behaved in the days and weeks and months after she died, in the time before I knew I had dissociation and complex trauma and alters. K would help me hold all this, help me untangle the complicated knot of thoughts and feelings inside me, let me talk and cry and write and whatever was needed. I would leave feeling understood and held and supported. A little more contained. A little more sane.

Instead she is not here either. She is another loss to add to the collection. And I am left with no one who really understands all this complexity or who knows my story with it. And yes – I have myself now, but without a mirror it is hard to make sense of this. The waves will recede again, I know, but now grief over Jess will forever trigger grief over K and that feels desperately sad tonight.

Losing her and finding myself

I never knew what a miracle it was, K and I being able to meet at the same time every week for all those years. For the first 2 and a half years of our work we met at least twice a week. I never thought to really stop and appreciate that or realised how remarkable it was that in this crazy helter skelter world we were able to have those times that were always ours, every Monday and Wednesday. And then every Monday. For 5 whole years. I didn’t know it could be taken away so suddenly. I mean – I did. I was always worried. But I didn’t really take it in as a possibility that could actually happen, beyond attachment anxiety, in the real world. I wish I had soaked her in more. I wish I had been able to. I took being there, being able to do therapy with her, for granted really. And I don’t know if it would make a difference now anyway, but I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had appreciated how lucky I was to be able to do that. Because I will never get it back. It’s over. Even if all the ifs work out and she goes back to in-person work, that time is gone. There is no going back. It has been over for a year, but it is also ending right now, in this present moment, as realisations flood me about how things are and how far away they are from how they should be.

I feel very weird this evening. A huge mixture of thoughts and feelings and a lot of passive influence from parts that I can’t fully access. Stuff around my mum and memories from childhood are very prevalent in a way they haven’t been for a long time. I feel like I could just dissolve into sobs for hours, but also that I’m fine and strong and have come so far. Both are true. There is so much pain about what I’ve been through but I also know I am in a good place. I don’t really know where this stuff has come from. Last week R did a clearing treatment (acupuncture) and he says it probably unfroze me and let this stuff surface. (It certainly brought me back to myself over the weekend which was wonderful – I felt like me again (last year’s me!) and it was so nice to remember that I am that person now, clear to myself in a way I never was before last year).

I mean – of course what K has done has brought up so much about how my mum was. She used to disappear and I would come home as a young child and there would be a note saying she was never coming back and then she would call crying and we would spend hours driving around trying to find her. She did that so many times. She left me over and over again. And she ranted and raged at me for hours and then my dad would have to rescue me and take me to his house. Or she would throw me out and send me away and tell me she never wanted to see me again. I’d be scrambling around my room trying to gather as much as I could to take with me, not knowing if and when I’d be back. She’d refuse to see me for weeks. When I was 14 she left me to go and see a man 300 miles away even as I begged her to stay because I needed her, because I was struggling with such intense self-loathing that I couldn’t go to school for 3 months. She drove away and left me in tears, all alone in a house with no thought for how I would cope without her. Cutting and blood were my only comfort then too, because my mum just wasn’t there. Of course there are resonances with what K has done. And K has shown herself not to be all good, just as my mum wasn’t all bad. And that is so fucking confusing to untangle. I can’t figure K out and I know I don’t need to, but of course my mind is trying to so that I can make it okay. Just like my sister and I used to spend hours and hours going round and round in circles talking about mum, trying to make sense of her mind games and manipulations so that it would be okay. It never worked. Obviously.

I have had lots of nightmares and trauma dreams the past few nights. Endless tangles that wake me distressed and drenched in cold sweat. In one I was begging K to meet me in-person outside just to say goodbye and she refused. The pain of that was excruciating. And then the other horrible one was my mum was dying over a six month period and I had to decide at what point to become involved again. A decision I guess I will have to make at some point. R says on some level this is my psyche processing K (my good enough mother obviously) is dying, or rather that she is dying to me – my attachment to her, my trust in her, my reliance on her are all dying. Over.

And this loss is something that should have happened as a really gradual process, as I continued to grow and integrate in the way I already was, like a child and then teen and then older adult does with a healthy parent. I remember last year at regular intervals I could feel that I wouldn’t need therapy forever, wouldn’t need or even want K like that forever. There were times when I resented spending money on therapy and was ready to forge a path alone. But still, the loss of her and our time together was so sudden and none of us were ready. It also feels so fucking protracted and drawn out. It has been a year now of not knowing what is going on or what will happen. A year of losing her a little more each day. “What is going to happen?” I asked R today. “At what point do I go back and do the ending work with her?” And he said ‘or maybe you are doing the ending work now?’ and yeah – I think I am. I don’t want to be, but I think bit-by-bit I am letting her go and finding myself again, like I did last year. I thought I could only integrate our work by reconnecting with her (my internal sense of her) but I don’t think that is true. I am losing her and finding myself and realising I don’t have to reconnect with her to find the self I built with her, which is bittersweet and intensely, gut-wrenchingly painful. Celebration and grief all in one murky muddle inside me tonight.

When I started therapy I thought it would be all about me. It was such a surprise to discover it was all about K, all about the relationship we were building. And now… Now it becomes all about me again. It was all about me all along actually and this is painful but also so real, so true, such an important realisation. And so I know this is a good thing. I know this is how it should be, I know this is the reality, but it is painful because this means the relationship was a vehicle and that is really, really devastating. R said today that it was a vehicle back to me, not just to the pain in me, but to the relationship I have with me. He is absolutely right, of course, and this is really the journey I have been on over the past year that took me to knowing myself and seeing myself and then being brave enough to take a break from something that wasn’t helping me and was instead hurting me. The thing is though, I just wasn’t ready. I feel like the foundations I’ve had to do all this growth on the past 6 months or so just weren’t as strong as they should have been, had K and I been able to continue working as planned.

I wasn’t done with therapy with K. I really wasn’t done. R said how clear that is, that our work really was not done. It is a huge loss, to have to say goodbye to all those possibilities. It used to be so exciting to look at how far I had come and think about where I could get to if things continued as they were. I have lost that process, all those beautiful possibilities, as well as losing what K was to me, as a therapist and as a person. I know I have the choice to return to remote therapy this autumn, but I don’t think I can be me – all of me – on the screen. I’ve noticed with R how easy it is to share my growth and healing and strength and insights when he is next to me. This was what made remote work so difficult for me – the shame that comes up for me around sharing progress and good things (thanks parents!) was intolerable via Zoom. And the work I need to do in future I cannot do online. I can’t do parts work anymore with her. I can’t do the gentle, relational healing I need. I don’t know what is left after that apart from sustaining something that brought me so much support for so long because the absence of it is too much to bear. Is that in my best interests? Who knows?

I don’t know what I will do come September and I think this is something that I will just wax and wane over for the next 5 or 6 months and in many ways that is okay, as long as I can sit with it comfortably and still live my life and heal. In many ways whether I go back or not is not really the point right now. Our work is taking root inside me still, I can feel it, but whereas before I felt I was drawing on our work internally so much of the time to enable this, and so I was sustaining our connection, now it feels like I am healing by growing away from her. And that is painfully real and necessary and sad and beautiful and tragic and hopeful all in one strange place inside me.

Broken

The amount of support I’ve had from people I’ve met through WP in the past few weeks has been something else. Thank to you everyone who’s reached out or written such lovely, wise, thoughtful comments on my posts. It honestly means so much and really helps to be able to process and think this situation through, so I can work out is the right thing for me to do going forwards. I really, really appreciate this place.

I am also editing to add this in: I’ve not emailed K again and probably won’t, for reasons I will explain in another post, but in large part because I have a full on 3 weeks at work coming up and I can’t risk this dragging on and getting further destabilised again. I’ll see how things go…

K said what we have cannot be broken. No matter what. So many times she said we would be doing this work ‘no matter what’ and that when the world turned to shit because of climate and ecological breakdown (which, ultimately, is what has happened) she would be here because we would need her even more than ever. She said if we couldn’t get to each other we would meet halfway and I would come by bike and she would come by pony. She told me that the house she now lives in, that she moved to in September 2019, would be the house she died in. She never put an end date on our work, knowing how important it was for me to have someone who knows ‘all my stuff’ across the years. I thought our work would soften into something else and that one day we would go from meeting every week to meeting every other week and then once a month and then to not really ever at all, but that I could go back if needed.

She told us she was fostering us, giving us some of what our parents couldn’t. She poured so much of herself into all of us. She went above and beyond and helped me reclaim parts of myself that were buried and split off long ago. Scattered shards. She loved all those parts, I’m sure she did. But she has left them behind and I don’t know how to reach them now.

It is a year tomorrow since I last saw her in-person. I got home and late that night the news said people with asthma would soon be asked to stay home for at least 12 weeks. I lay awake all night having panic attacks, knowing in my heart it would be 3 months till we could see K again. We spoke by phone the next day and K told me how committed she was to our work, to me, to us, and making sure we could continue working during this time. We arranged to split my double session across Monday and Friday, move my Friday email to Wednesday, and have text contact on Tuesday and Thursday. She understood that we needed her all the time when everything hit and she did her absolute best to be there and support us. She never shamed us for how much we needed her. Not then or ever. She found out about a local crisis service. She sent photos and videos of lambs playing in the field behind her garden and the dogs and our Miffy in her garden. She posted us a homemade Easter card and a birthday present.

I don’t know when things changed.

I don’t know when she started to want me to take a break because it was too hard to hold my process remotely.

I don’t know when we broke and if we were broken before I knew that’s what had happened.

It feels broken now though, and that is probably the hardest part of all. Perhaps I could have got ready to leave her if we were still intact. But we are broken and I don’t know how to rebuild my life away from her without the foundations we spent 5 years laying.

I am shattered. Scattered. Fragmented. Disintegrated. Dissolved.

She was my internal sense of safety and now there is just an empty space.

At night my only comfort, the only way I can get into bed, is knowing that I can cut to soothe myself and bring sleep. It feels almost cosy to be able to do that and know I will fall asleep comforted by endorphin release and the stinging that distracts from the aching pain inside me. I feel so ashamed that this is how I’m looking after myself, but it is the only thing that helps me stay okay and functioning enough to work.

While I know I will rebuild myself, and probably in days rather than weeks now, I’m not sure what foundations to use because her emails have pulled the floor from under me and left me wondering what was ever real.

It doesn’t even feel sad that she is gone. It only feels unreal that she was ever here at all. I wonder if I made it up. I wonder if she was playing pretend. I look at all the things we made together and that she gave us all, scattered around my home, and I wonder why they are here. I don’t feel as though I ever knew her and she can’t have known me or she wouldn’t have done this. She would have broken the news gently and offered to speak with me to make a plan if she knew who I was. So we never knew each other really and that feels like the saddest thing of all.

Maybe

I might send this to K on Monday. I figure if she responds badly it will mean it is time to let go and move on. And if she responds well then I can try and resolve this fear and splitting and move into the next 6 months feeling more stable.

It is terrifying what she might come back with. But maybe better than what I’m sitting with and all the uncertainty.

Dear K,

Before you read this, please know I am in an extreme disorganised attachment place for the past few weeks. It is the worst it has been for around 3 years. So sending this comes with considerable personal risk because I am braced for hurt and anger from you as I seek connection and some kind of safety.

I am emailing to ask if we could arrange an hour session in the coming weeks. I know you’re currently full but if you have a space that a client cannot make in the next couple of weeks then I can do that. There are only a few times I have firm work commitments in the next few weeks so most likely I could do whenever you are available.

I know we are not working at present and you will likely think I should speak to someone else, but this is about us and this is still a break taken for reasons outside of my control. It is also important for my well-being going forwards that I find some kind of resolution to the position I am currently in. I am really struggling to process your email responses to me and my brain has completely split you so I can’t find any good at all, only the edges. As you can imagine, this is making it hard to contemplate ever returning, but is also meaning I don’t feel I can use this time to integrate our work further. It is a frightening place to be in and I’m really unraveling. A session to reconnect and try and resolve this painful splitting process for me partway through this extended break would be very helpful. I cannot do this alone or with someone else because it is about us, and 6 or more months is a long time to hold it.

We are currently in pandemic and these are unprecedented times and so I ask you to please show compassion for my situation and to do something that you might not agree to in more normal times.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm wishes,

CB

Battleground

I wasn’t sure whether to post this picture. It feels like such a betrayal of K. But honestly it contextualises all of the crazy that is going on right now with R and how utterly shit I feel, and she has betrayed me too so why am I protecting her? I can’t move past these words:

Last night and this morning I was stuck in disorganised attachment hell. I feel so in need (pandemic and isolation is really not helping this) and so scared I’ll make R go away and then obviously this triggers my attachment system to seek connection and safety because there is so much fear and so then I want to reach out but I’m scared reaching out will make him go away. I am so afraid he will change, pull back, become overwhelmed with my insatiable needs. And that makes my need even greater because I am distressed and want him to soothe me. And that makes my fear even greater.

And so it continues.

On and on.

Fear without resolution.

It is agonising. It doesn’t matter what he says, I can’t believe him, trust him, take it in when I am like this. I believe his voice note in that moment and then I don’t know if things will be the same even a few minutes later (I know – this is my mum). And then I want more connection to feel safe but that triggers me into a place of fear and unsafety again. And so it goes on. Both biological drives playing out at once. Always braced for rejection, abandonment, abuse, anger from the people who love me and the terror of getting that in response makes me even more desperate for connection with them so that I feel safe.

I know this is my early patterning playing out. But what the fuck has K done also? How could she break the news to me that our 5 years of depth attachment work is basically over with a few harsh, cold sentences like that? I really don’t understand it. I never will.

Her email had two other paragraphs. Both impersonal. The first was about the sunshine and what an extraordinarily difficult time this has been globally. The last was basically saying how far I’ve come on this healing journey and that perhaps it is time for a new way forward with someone who can work face to face with me (body work, she wasn’t suggesting a new psychotherapist). Nothing about us, our work, our time together. Nothing about this being sad or difficult (for either of us) or that she hopes we will be able to pick up again some day. If I’d not followed up and asked about remote work in the autumn she would have left it like that- hanging, open, broken.

Is it any wonder I am absolutely losing my shit, playing out this crazy dance with R, trying to cut him off and push him away whilst also wanting to reach out constantly to know he is still here and nothing has changed? He sent me a voice note this morning and said he understands that I am so in need of connection with him but that this is terrifying for me because of disorganised attachment. He knows how scared I am I’ll make him angry or overwhelmed or that he will just disappear, and how this makes me need him even more and act out behaviours that I then worry even more will make him go away. He knows this is about K and about my depth process. He thinks it will settle and I hope he is right but… how long till he does what K has done? Because I honestly don’t understand how she could do this and why she has done it but the reality is she has. Why didn’t she want to be kind to me? What did she think would happen if she offered some softness, some empathy, some reassurance?

Why has she done this and left me in this dark place where I am in danger of losing R because of what she has triggered in me? It is like she wanted to prove that she can set boundaries and communicate things with no explanation or justification. Where is the humanity? Did she have to fight the desire to be kind to me or is this actually just who she really is?

How could those 3 sentences be how she chose to tell me that everything we had has gone?

Splitting

My mind has split K and turned her completely bad and it’s honestly devastating. I guess it’s progress I can see this has happened and am aware that it might not reflect reality, but it feels like it is real and I cannot find anything good about her – memories of all the good, connected times have dissolved and I cannot find a single thing that is not scary and threatening about our time together. I cannot remember her at all and she feels cold and hostile and scary.

The waves of grief continued till Saturday evening and then on Sunday there was just this deathlike numbness inside me. No feelings for K at all. No feelings about anything at all. A hollow emptiness that invaded every cell of my body. In the evening I let parts write for the first time in a really long time. Loads of stuff came out about K from lots of different parts, but I couldn’t connect to any of it. It was so disconcerting to have such huge feelings and big process appear on the page from a pen held by me but have no sense of connection to it. And when I went to bed I wrote in my journal and it was so dark and cut off. When I try to find what K and I had all I have access to are her edges – the hardness, the rigidness, the cutting off and pulling back and pushing me away. All I can find is her scary parts, the parts that were cold and inflexible and told me I was tiring and reactive, the parts that took away the Friday email without discussion and refused to see me last summer, the parts that refused to budge and refused to negotiate. She can’t have been like that really but I cannot find anything inside that reassures me otherwise. Her softness and love and warmth are nowhere to be found and I don’t actually think they existed. I think I made all that stuff up. I don’t know what is real.

I keep coming back to the fucking horrible, cold, clinical email she sent me last week, which had some weird attempt to be a human by mentioning sunshine, but really missed the mark. I knew she would respond like that. It was partly why I was braced for being so triggered by her. I knew she would offer me no words of reassurance about me being important to her or her wanting to continue this work with me. R is clear that it actually isn’t okay that she was like that. He says she could have been warm, connected, human. He has promised me he will never send me an email like that, but then I feel guilty for splitting and comparing them. His warmth is an antidote to the cold in me, the cold from K, the coldness that has lived in me forever. His warmth didn’t touch me today though. K has wiped all trace of herself from me and taken R with her. A final fuck you.

It had been 6 months and in that time I had text her once in November when our bunny, Ollie, died very suddenly (and she sent a gorgeous message back almost straightaway), emailed her once at the start of December to say that I was growing and healing but was ready to be back in therapy with her now and hoped she was keeping the light on for us (I said not to worry about replying and she didn’t – but as R said today, how could she not want to when someone she had worked so closely with sent a message like that? I think it made him sad to think of me being ignored like that), and then we text on 6th January to wish her a happy new year and said it was weird not to see her on the first Monday of the year after all these years and she didn’t reply to that which kind of makes sense as it was communication from parts and I guess we are not in therapy with her anymore. But honestly, could she not have wished us a happy new year?

So apart from when I asked if we could do some sessions when I heard about how much my brother was struggling in October, which is a legitimate reason to have emailed her, I’ve contacted her three times in SIX months. What did she think was going to happen if she sent a warm email response to mine, that I would suddenly message her every day? Have I not proved myself this past 6 months? And why on earth wasn’t there some cushioning around her news that she has no plans to return to face-to-face? We were doing depth attachment work when the pandemic hit and she was basically telling me I can’t continue with it, and yet wrote it in the coldest way imaginable. Why not… I know this will be difficult for you but or I’m really sorry that at present I have no plans to return to face-to-face work or I don’t currently have any spaces but if you want to consider remote work I can see when that might be possible. Why did she not feel any responsibility towards me? It was really such an awful, cold, disconnected email. It hurts that she would choose to send that. It hurts that she felt no sense of letting me down or any responsibility for how it might leave me feeling.

I’m scared that’s who she really is though. I’m scared that was the real her. How can I go back to her? How did I ever feel connected to her? I cannot imagine telling her anything ever again. I cannot imagine being met with warmth and understanding again. How did I ever feel connected to her? Were we actually close? I don’t see how we can have been. It feels like there is no warmth in her. She doesn’t and didn’t care. How did I ever dare to contact her via text and share such big feelings with her? How did I ever reach out knowing what might come back?

I feel so disgusting inside. I feel ashamed of myself for having these feelings and ashamed of K and then ashamed of myself for being ashamed of her. I talked stuff through with R today around her and I feel like I’ve betrayed her and our work because I was picking her apart, trying to make sense of what she’s done and why. What does it mean for me? I told R I’d split her and that I shouldn’t be trying to make sense of things while I wasn’t in touch with reality. I don’t know if this will ever change though and I’m not even sure if maybe I wasn’t wrong before and this is real, what’s happening now. I don’t know what is real, maybe this is real and everything before was all in my head?

It feels like K’s emails last week have changed everything that came before. It feels as though she has erased us. After 5 years she just let me go. If I’d not followed up and asked about returning to remote work in the autumn after I got her first email she would literally have let me walk away forever without even an ending. She has let me go. Just like that. She has cut me off and pretended we were nothing and the worst part is she has left me believing her. We are broken and she has taken away from me what we had and left me in this black, dark, cut off place where everyone is dangerous and I am so full of black filth that I make them all go away. I feel completely insane and broken this evening. I feel as though I twist and break everything pure. I will break R too and he will leave me like K has.