Taking it in

Also, I know this is my third post of today, but I have just sobbed out some big tears of relief – how, after all those months of working towards an ending, is it that I get to keep K? How? Where is the catch? And how an earth did I actually achieve some kind of stability and resolution with what was happening? I never thought I had that in me, always thought I’d end up hospitalised if K ever told me she was ending our work, and yet – even though it was hell on earth – I survived relatively unscathed with *just* an anorexia relapse, some time off work, and a fair amount of self-harm. I somehow managed to settle into the ending and accept it was happening, and it was actually through that process of losing her and learning to let her go (even though it’s turned out I didn’t need to) that I’ve been able to internalise her and become as securely attached as it is perhaps possible for someone like me to be.

It just doesn’t feel real, possible, that I survived all that and now she will be here. How did I get so lucky? It feels much too good to be true. I am waiting for someone to jump out and yell ‘LOL. PRANK!’ It feels this evening as though all is right in the world. Well, in my world at least. It is hard to take in that this is actually happening. K is not going away. She will be here. I get to keep her. I feel so lucky and I am so unbelievably grateful. What is ahead of me – life – feels so much less difficult with her beside me. And because when I was losing her I finally was able to internalise her to a significant extent, it finally makes a difference to my life now that she is out there, somewhere, even when I am not with her – I can draw on her when we are apart and just let her fade into the background of my life because she is present inside me. I genuinely never thought I would ever get to feel this even some of the time. Does this mean therapy does actually work? Things aren’t great, but as I said to K earlier – I don’t feel suicidal and that is pretty good! And I am hopeful that I can get to a better place than this as well. This hope waxes and wanes but what I like is that it is now mine to carry.

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“I will be here”

We raised our fears with K about whether she will change her mind again and feel much better now because she gave us all the reassurances we needed. She said whatever happens she will be in [county we live in] next year and that we don’t need to worry every week that she will tell us she is going away again. She will be here. She isn’t planning any time off. And she said she is glad and relieved that she will be here, that it feels as though it is meant to be. I could feel young parts pricking up their ears when she was talking and I felt them sigh with relief when she said those words, letting out the breath that had been tightly held for quite a while. It used to take so long to get the courage to tell K when we were worried about things like this, we would be so curled up with shame over our needs and fear over being ‘too much’ and driving her away that we would try not to say anything and it would grow into a giant but invisible barrier between us. Now it is so much easier – we say it and feel a bit worried but we don’t get flooded with shame, and then K says soothing and reassuring things and everything is okay.

Last week during our session I was really dissociated and then by the end, through connecting with her, the level of dissociation had dramatically reduced. This didn’t used to happen and isn’t something I ever believed could change. When I got home I made a flow chart of my dissociation (DP and DR) process – why it happens and why therapy helps when I am like that, how being in that space is linked to shame (fear of loss of connection because my feelings and needs are bad) and so reduces through connection and having my needs and feelings validated (although the switch couldn’t be flipped by K till very recently – it has taken years of her validating my needs and feelings over and over again for it to have any effect on my dissociation levels). So often DP and DR are seen as being caused by anxiety and reduced by grounding and becoming present in the room and so on, but for trauma survivors where that state is chronic it is not triggered by fear/anxiety but by shame and the desire to become invisible, and so, as K agreed, grounding and becoming present doesn’t really. Anyway, K said the chart was really helpful and clear and that I should put it on my blog because it shows how dissociation works and how therapy can help it. So I think I am going to publish a couple of posts from my old blog later this week because they are about shame and depersonalisation, and then I will add the chart and an explanation of it. Basically though, I also realised that with K now I don’t automatically get triggered into a place of shame and dissociation when my feelings come out. THIS IS HUGE. We laughed that it has only taken 3 years. And it is why I don’t want to end therapy yet because things I thought were impossible are ALREADY HAPPENING.

It was a really busy session. As happened last week, I switched out basically as soon as I got there and then came back suddenly and had missed the first part of the session. It is so weird when that happens. It’s like I am there but not there. When she was talking us through the meditation we do at the start of every session I could see young parts giggling at the big and confusing words she was using, like ‘profound wisdom’ haha. And when we had finished breathing together suddenly everything I’d noticed from the body scan had disappeared. The past ten minutes was a total blank. I said I’d just got there and looked down and there were a cuddly hedgehog and a wooden fox in my lap which made me puzzled as I wasn’t really sure why they were there!! K asked where I thought I had been and I was like ‘err, at the back…’ and she asked what I meant so I was like ‘there were others at the front – Esis, Scarlet and Miffy’. She said probably they were there because they needed some space today, and how it was good we know about them now. Dissociation is so weird. It’s sometimes like I am watching the alters, like when you’re in the back of a car watching people in the front seats talking and doing things but with no control over what is happening. It’s really quite weird because it’s not always obvious, especially to people who don’t know me well, but it is like I am watching myself do things I cannot control and I can hear my voice is child-like (I have a quiet voice usually though and sound quite young even in my adult, so I think this is why people other than K and sometimes Nina don’t really notice when it’s not adult me). In the past the parts used to wreak havoc, often via text and email to K, and all I could do was watch in horror as events unfolded. I would know what they were sending was really a bad idea, but couldn’t stop it. Luckily that happens less now, but parts do still hijack me and it is… weird. There is no other word for it to be honest!

It is perhaps unsurprising that parts have been much more active since K dropped her bombshell two weeks ago. There has been a lot of switching in and out in session and I’ve been a lot more aware of them at home too. Provided they are not causing difficulties then this is okay with me! It’s sometimes too quiet when they are not around, I’ve got used to them now and they make me laugh. And overall I would definitely say the level of distress the alters experience is reducing. K and I talked today about how sometimes with therapy we can only see the progress when we can look down from above and see the bigger picture. She said how it was hard to see the progress when we were so ‘in it’ and so focused on her and on her and I. And I completely agree on this. Not being so lost in the horrific transference has definitely made it easier to see the complete picture and all the progress I am making. All the pain I was in for the first three years of therapy was so all-consuming and horrific and it really felt like I was getting nowhere – it is strange now to look back on those incredibly dark times and see that I was actually getting somewhere because it really didn’t feel like all that pain and desperate desire to die could have actually been ‘the work’ and been carrying me to a better place. I remember during the most intolerable times, when the fear and pain was genuinely killing me and I was frozen in some kind of disorganised attachment hell and causing K huge pain in the process, she told me we just needed to hang in there together. I couldn’t see how that pain could ever subside even a little bit, how it could possibly work just to hang in there – the pain and turmoil was there all the time and I didn’t see how it could ever not be there in that way. Yet it did subside and now when it comes around it does make more sense and whilst it is awful and still makes me want to die, at the same time I can usually hang in there with it and remind myself it will pass. To be aware of this level of progress and at the same time know K is and will be here to support me and guide me and parent me and help me heal further…Well, it all feels pretty magical to me right now!

Too much uncertainty

I have very high levels of physical anxiety today. In part I know this is caused by trapped negative emotional energy alerting my fight/flight system into thinking something is wrong. It is also caused by high levels of worry around selling my house and the fact that I’ve needed to borrow money this weekend to get a new (to me!) car because mine has totally packed up and, at 17 years old, just isn’t worth getting repaired again. Paying off the £3000 I’ve borrowed for this is contingent on selling my house as I was planning to upgrade my car with the money left over, so it is worrying that I’ve just got in to more debt in case no one wants to buy my house. We’ve had plenty of viewings, including a second viewing on Saturday who sound like they are about to put an offer in, and another second viewing from a first time buyer tomorrow, but we’ve also seen a house we really want and so I just want things to hurry up so I can put an offer in on that one and secure it. All in all there is just way too much uncertainty for me and it is making me, and little controlling parts, very worried.

There is also torrential rain here today which makes young parts anxious that we won’t get to K’s later because the lane will be flooded (this happened once before and there was basically a fucking massive and impassable puddle between us and her house which was hugely distressing and ended up with a lot of dysregulated screaming and wailing in the car as young parts took over). I hate that she lives so far away and in a place that does get cut off quite regularly. And I hate that it matters so much – as an introvert, basically any other engagement in my diary would invoke relief if it was cancelled at the last minute, but therapy is another story isn’t it! And I hate it. I hate that the thought of not getting there floods me with anxiety. Weirdly (or perhaps not so weirdly actually), the fact we are not about to end has made young parts more active and open in their attachment to her again. I guess this is unsurprising, but it is frustrating to be plunged back in to all the worry about not getting to see her and how long she’ll take off at Christmas and how often we will see her. Which brings me to my next point really.

I think by far and away the thing that is worrying me the most is that K will change her mind and still take a year off at some point starting in the next year. How will I ever know this isn’t about to happen? What if things change for her again? How long do we have left with her before she really does go away? The uncertainty around this is huge. How do I know we won’t get to February or March or whenever and she won’t suddenly say ‘right, I’m taking that year off now’. How do I know the year off thing has gone away? Will it ever go away? Has it gone away? And yes, I can see that I survived those months in the summer and it put me in touch with some very big stuff I needed to see and feel, and I know that now she is definitely less central in our lives than she was and that I can see that really my struggles aren’t anything to do with her, but how do I know we won’t all react like that again if she tells us she is going away? It really worries me. It worries everyone. Part of me knows K wouldn’t have said what she did 2 weeks ago if she wasn’t sure, but she was sure before and things changed. And I do know we will be okay. When the panic rises about how much we will actually see her (she said something about doing ‘chunks’ of work next year – what does that even mean?!) I remind everyone that although we were sad about the ending and saying goodbye, we were feeling okay (a lot of the time at least) about next year and not seeing her and not being in therapy and that this hasn’t really changed. And if she said she was taking a year off I think I am more able to be open with her now and say I want to take it as a planned break rather than a forever ending. I think it helps that the intense need for her has dissipated in recent months and so it is easier to tell her, from an adult perspective, why I want to keep our therapeutic relationship for as long as possible. It is much easier to be open about adult feelings than the crazed attachment needs of a huddle of traumatised children for sure!

And I must admit I was kind of looking forward to next year in some ways because of not having the actions and life of someone whose whole life is ‘not about me’ be so central to my wellbeing. I was kind of looking forward to not getting worried about being ill in case I had to miss a session, or being worried about snow or flooding in case I couldn’t get to therapy. I was looking forward to having a break from my relationship with a professional impacting me so much and becoming more central in my own life. Of course there was a lot I was not looking forward to as well, but the anticipation of having my weeks less disrupted by the absent presence of someone else was definitely something that I was pleased about. And in the past few months I’ve turned to K less (internally and externally) when things have been tough and she has not been in my thoughts so much. I’ve been more accepting of the fact that I often (nearly always) feel shit and dissociated and disconnected and struggle with huge emotional waves and I’ve noticed myself wanting to turn to her less often. I don’t want to go back to how things were. I don’t want to be on edge constantly waiting for her to tell me she is taking a break. I know I could choose to take a break still, but I do think it will be helpful to have support whilst I am moving house and trying to meet new people, and thinking about dating (argh!!!). I want therapy and I want it to be how it has been since September (i.e. in the background of my life more) even though now she is not going away now. I really hope that it is possible.

I’m just scared she will change her mind and has forgotten the huge impact it would have on my and my system if she did this. In many ways it was easier when I knew what I was dealing with and it was known pain I could anticipate flooding me in December and slowly dissipating throughout next year. Now I have no idea what I am dealing with or what will come and hit us all when. It is uncomfortable and I know it is another good opportunity to sit with uncertainty and breathe through it, but uncertainty is hard enough when it relates to concrete, material things – when it is uncertainty around if and when I will be abandoned by my attachment figure it just feels too much.

 

“I know you’re here”

So, after the plot twist of the century, the news that K and I are not careering towards a maybe-forever ending in a few short weeks is starting to settle inside us all. After the disaster that was Monday night, and just 90 minutes of sleep, I managed to survive yesterday and the big, big things I needed to do at work. I slept 9 hours last night so felt more human this morning, although I am tired still. My house has gone on the market today and the estate agent is hopeful I’ll have a buyer within 6 weeks so fingers crossed! On Friday after school Nina and I are going to view a really cute house (yes, it is a cute house – my friend didn’t think it would be till she saw the photos I sent her!) in a village outside the city we are currently in. I have a really good feeling about this house and am putting all my trust in the universe to make the right things happen for me and make the process of moving smooth for us.

K and I did a half hour session on the phone today. It was quite emotional and draining, but in a good way. When the call ended I was left feeling so loved and held and contained and full and connected. And so relieved. Relieved she is not going away and relieved she understands why the news was and still is so triggering and hard to take in. Also relieved we are both on the same page about where I am at in therapy now and what I still need and will continue to need. I had made a list of things that were coming up following her announcement on Monday – thoughts and feelings, reflections and worries. Before I read them I double checked that how things are going forward is my decision, and that anything I say today I won’t be held to. Then I read the list and she said soothing and lovely things. I was able to voice my sense that she has all the power and that we are all scared it is a trick or she will change her mind again. I said how everything is up in the air and how much we all hate uncertainty and unknowns, that they are the second worst thing after being abandoned. And I said how I’d spent the best part of 5 months trying to be okay with the ending and even though I know it wasn’t for nothing, all that pain in the summer – being signed off work, cutting and starving myself, falling apart – and that her news was ‘the work’ in many ways, it’s still like – all that pain for nothing?! I said I can’t afford weekly therapy next year, at least not for the first 6 months. I said that to be honest I never want a forever ending, that I have such deep attachment wounds and have worked so hard to get where I am that I think I deserve to have some support in my life on an ongoing basis. I said how in some ways this enables me to have a more natural reduction in the intensity of therapy – maybe fortnightly from the end of January and perhaps a 5 or 6 week break around the time of our house move.

And I told her something I realised yesterday about how important the longevity of our relationship is, there’s something in me that wants – needs – it to be long-term and enduring, because my past has meant I’ve had to cut ties with many, many toxic people and let lots of unhealthy friendships go, and it means there aren’t many people who know me and have been there in my life for a sustained period of time. It feels really important to have her beside me for as long as possible, to have someone who has seen me grow and become who I am. And I said because of this it means the frequency of contact between us is less important – it is knowing she is there that is important. And then I caught myself by surprise because I said ‘I know you are here’ and wow – that is so new, so unexpected. I used to lose all trace of her, all memory of her. I used to have no sense of her at all between sessions. My mind would erase her, like someone had washed away a part of my brain, and I would be unable to remember her voice, her face, or anything we had talked about in any of our sessions. I would text her repeatedly ‘are you still here’ and other times I would be unable to contact her even if we had arranged to email because I had no sense of her at all and it felt too weird. To be able to hold on to her between sessions and to be able to reconnect to her when I had dissociated from her without seeing her were both huge things that only really happened in the summer. So to say those words to her – ‘I know you are here’ – was a huge moment for both of us. I don’t need to see her for her to support me. And because of this, and how consistently there for me she has been, I know if we reduce frequency or take a short break  and something happens she will make time to see me or speak to me. Like she did today and two weeks ago and all the other times over the past 3 years. I can go away from her a little bit because I trust she will be there and that when we meet up it will be the same.

I said how she is my attachment figure, my safe base, and that it is through her I am interalising a sense of safety so that, despite the turmoil, there was huge relief and joy that I am not losing her. And I shared the painful revelation that some of the difficult feelings on Monday night were because she is still not enough. Whether she is here or not it is still not enough to fill me up and take away the pain and emptiness inside me. Being me is still so painful so much of the time. I thought when I finished therapy it would mean it didn’t hurt to be me. I thought it would no longer hurt to be me and that I wouldn’t have to feel this gaping hole inside me. I said how on Monday I felt empty and dead – not like I was dying, actually dead inside. I said partly I know I’ve done the bulk of ‘the work’ now because I am accepting of this and I know I need to learn to live my life around that hole in me, around that wound. It doesn’t stop it being hard though. Next year felt like an abyss at times, a hole I would fall into the minute I said goodbye to K in December, but the thing is even with her here it will still be hard – my life is hard and painful, not all the time, but those things are still prominent. I do think I can and will heal and integrate more than this, but there will always be the ghosts of my past lingering around me. K not going away doesn’t miraculously change that (it does make it seem easier though!) and even though I’ve now got something I never even considered as a possibility, it doesn’t mean all the other stuff is suddenly fine. It is starting to feel safer though, as the reality of this new change in the situation begins to filter through me.

She said it was good we are both on the same page about thinking the bulk of the work has been done. I said when she first said that to me, back in June, I really disagreed, but that I think for me the shift came in the summer, at the point in July when I was crying my heart out about her leaving, great sobbing waves of grief and despair, and it hit me that even if she changed her mind and said she was staying it wouldn’t make a difference – this pain is still in me, it is not about K, it is about my childhood and my attachment trauma. That moment was pivotal. On Monday I was sobbing to my friend that it is not enough that she is staying, it still hurts to be me, and again I was hit with the reality that K cannot be enough, cannot fill me, but I managed to stay with it and see that this isn’t because she is not enough but because of what attachment trauma has left me with. As I said to K today, I wish I could have her without having therapy but the truth is I can’t, and I could rail against the boundaries or I could really take in what I have got. And she reminded me how I’d said on Monday how I’d actually been able to take in therapy more recently and lean into it, because I wasn’t finding it all so hard and triggering and all-consuming – it had taken more of a backseat in my life and I can feel I am growing bigger in my own life. And this truly is amazing because I never thought I would get to that point even some of the time. I can lean into her and what I have now instead of losing myself in the pain of what she isn’t. And the reason this is possible is because of all the work we’ve done together and the fact she has been consistently there all this time. I do feel I have worked through the major transference and relational stuff now and there is a huge part of me that has internalised her as good object. We agreed that things would still come up, that things undoubtedly will come up around this change for example, but that the really dark and intense times were behind us, and this has to be a relief for both of us. It has been a rocky road, for both of us, and I remain forever grateful and in awe of the fact that she stuck with me on this. And I think that ever-so-slowly I am beginning to relax into the knowledge that I am not losing her, not yet at least, and I can let go a little bit and sink into this new safety.

As we were drawing towards the end of the phone call K asked me to close my eyes and take some breaths and see if there was a word or a sentence that I could take away with me from what we had talked about today. And I said that “sometimes it feels as though the universe is really looking out for me, because it brought me you- you were the first therapist who came up when I searched for complex trauma therapists in [city where I live], and three years later look where we are!” “And look where we are” said K. This phone call involved some of the most open and vulnerable conversations I’ve had with K, and there were young parts asking stuff and telling her stuff, and it felt so very us, her and I, moving forwards together into a different stage of our journey. I still feel quite shaken by this whole ordeal and it is taking a while to land, but I am beginning to open up and allow myself and all the parts to take in that she is not going away. She has been here, she is here, and she will be here for a lot longer it seems. What could be better?

Bombshell

It’s 4am in the UK and I am still wide awake. Racing heart and a sense of panic and huge disturbance internally. I need to be up in 3 hours and tomorrow is a big day at work, the biggest of the big, for reasons I can’t go into but I am so frustrated that I’m not going to be on good form for it.

Earlier this evening K told me her circumstances have changed and that she won’t be taking time off at the end of the year. She still needs surgery but she isn’t able to take a year off (for legitimate and unforeseen reasons by the way, she hasn’t been messing me around) . She may take extended time off of around a month, but mostly she will be working. So if I want to I can work, perhaps fortnightly for financial reasons and because I don’t really need to be in therapy so intensely at the moment, but we can also carry on working towards an ending if I want. She says I can take a break if I want to, of however long I want, especially as I am moving house. It is all up to me and she wants me to let it settle and make decisions in my adult about what I want and need, without being dictated to by the parts.

This should be good news, right? And in many ways it is of course. But also, what the fuck??? I have spent the best part of 5 months preparing for this ending and taking in the fact it could be forever. And now we won’t be ending, not if I don’t want to. I don’t even know what I think or feel.

When she told me I think I went in to shock – shaking and panicking and I nearly threw up in the room. I dissociated and lost my legs and was crying and completely overwhelmed and had no idea why or what was happening for me. Before I left she said if I need we can book in a half hour phone session this week as she could see it was a lot for me to take in and there was a lot of panic going on. I asked why this was happening and she said how any transition for a child is huge. I love how she can see who this panic is coming from and validates it instead of making me feel ashamed and ridiculous, or silly for not being happy that I got what I wished for.

I have so many thoughts and feelings. Of course relief. To not have to say goodbye to my attachment figure right before Christmas is huge. And knowing she will be there during the period of change next year is very nice. But…

I really can’t afford therapy next year with the house move. And I am tired of working so hard and still having to be so careful with money because of therapy. My credit card debt is mounting. I was counting on a break from January to get things sorted. By August next year my pay will have increased quite a lot and I may even have some left over from selling my house once I’ve paid fees and deposit on my next house. I was slowly getting my head around it all and now everything has changed and it has shaken me. It is hard having so much uncertainty and so many unknowns, decisions to make and variables that I cannot yet know – mine and K’s. I don’t want to take a break and then it end up running into K taking time off, which is silly really because it is still better than a year and potentially forever. Of course I am happy because basically it seems I can now come and go from working with her for the foreseeable future, until I move away from where I live now I guess, which is unlikely to be for another 7 years. No painful ending, no whole year and maybe forever, no uncertainty over being able to work together in 2020. It is still scary though – she could change her mind again. Who knows what will happen? Everything feels up in the air and, after abandonment, uncertainty is the thing me and the parts all hate the most.

I can probably afford to work  fortnightly from January and, let’s face it, there’s no way I’m going to take the whole year off. Maybe I will take a month or 6 weeks off when I do the actual house move. I can feel how I don’t need the intensity of therapy anymore. I think I could manage 90 minutes fortnightly instead of every week. And I’m sure she would still be there if I needed an extra session one week or to work by phone. In some ways it hurts that I don’t need her in the same way anymore. I don’t pine for her between sessions anymore. I know this is good but it means letting her go a little too.

Partly it hurts tonight because it is still not enough. She is not going away and yet it is not enough to take away this pain in me or to fill this gaping hole inside me. She can remain my attachment figure and I can continue internalising a sense of safety from her through attunement and being seen and heard, but ultimately this attachment hole will keep aching and I will have to learn to live my life around it. So whether she stays or goes this pain is in me. This is something I really realised back in the summer and, whilst all that pain now seems pointless, I can see it wasn’t – it really forced me to face and feel my attachment wound and all the pain that is in me and always has been. But now… my life will still be hard. I will always struggle enormously in relationship with abandonment and attachment. I think partly I can see I’ve done the bulk of ‘the work’ now because I am accepting of that. I’m not expecting one day to wake up and magically be healed. I believe I will heal more than this, especially as I move into a new phase of my life where I am expanding and meeting new people and moving out of the city and building a new life away from my mum, but that profound wounding will always shape me. I accept that now and that does bring some relief. K says she sees therapy now as being something I need to support me and enable me to stay steady, but the intense childhood work and battling with the transferential relationship is done. Now it’s about supporting me to live. But it’s hard knowing at the same time the therapy relationship will continue to trigger and unsettle me. I was dreading next year, but at the same time kind of looking forward to someone else having less power and impact upon me. I wish I could have K every week and not do therapy for a bit. I want a break from therapy, but not her. Only it doesn’t work like that. I cannot not do therapy with her because she is my attachment figure and things will come up with her. And if I do t want that I can’t have her.

The wonderful thing is that I can have support and guidance next year from someone who knows me, the parts, our past and how it impacts us all now, but we don’t always have to go there with that dark and painful stuff. If I’d ended up needing therapy next year I’d have had to go into all that stuff again to give them a sense of why I find aspects of life so hard and triggering, and the parts would have ended up coming out and it would likely have got messy. And not many Ts know how to work with people who have little people inside them. I can see I am lucky but I feel so much confusion and turmoil beyond this. It is now 4.50 and my alarm will go off in 2 hours, ugh! What an unexpected turn of events.

 

Dead zone (but also okay)

I’m feeling quite weird this evening. I need to go to bed and not let myself descend into attachment panic and pain, but I think it might help to get some things written down. “Dead inside” and “invaded by emptiness” are the two phrases I would use to describe how I am right now. A visceral sense of being filled with emptiness, and of not existing. It’s not existential angst – I know my life is full and has meaning and so on. It is more a sense of not being real, and of being consumed by a vast, empty hole inside me. It’s unpleasant but less scary than it used to be after an article I read recently sent to me by a dear friend. Alongside this is a sense of inner turmoil, but this is far under the surface and less accessible – the passive influence of dissociated parts I guess. And alongside this is also a sense that I am actually okay, that we all are. Ah, dissociation and parts make life so complex – rich, but complex and very weird sometimes.

I managed to pull myself back from that awful place on Friday, though it took some time for my eyes and nose to recover from all the crying. I managed to move to a place that had a future again, and regained a sense that my survival does not depend upon K – with her help strangely enough – it is odd that her being there would help me move to a place where it feels less completely-awful-I’m-going-to-die that soon she will not be here at all. It was a relief to be out of those life or death feelings once more, though it always leaves me feeling faintly ridiculous for having been in such an extreme place. Yesterday was a pretty good day and today I felt adult, capable and pretty upbeat – things are moving forwards with getting my house ready to sell and yesterday we visited the beautiful forest that is only a 10 minute bike ride from where I hope we will move to.

I arrived at therapy feeling excited about houses, and K wanted to see the ones I’m interested in so asked me to send her the links later. The first half of the session was light, which was welcome after the previous session, which felt sad and heavy and overtaken with huge grief over the imminent ending, and obviously after the phone call on Friday when I was really distressed and plunged into attachment and abandonment pain and trauma time – land of perpetual present. Even sharing the parts journal with a lot of distress from teen parts about us ending was okay, maybe because a lot of the feelings had been named on Friday on the ‘phone, and things had settled. And K was, as ever, validating about their (our) feelings about the end, and how important it is that we have feelings. And she agreed that yes, she is what she is to us because we didn’t have a mum who could see or love us, but that she is still who she is to us.

I gave her my wish list and asked her to think about what is possible over the next week and let me know. She read through it whilst I was there and said we would discuss it next week but she wanted to reassure me that it all seemed very reasonable and there was nothing that stood out as something she thought ‘no way!’ about. Phew. Such a relief to have those needs and wants out there instead of in some half-formed shape inside my head, where they have been growing bigger and less reasonable and more unlikely to be agreed to as the weeks have gone past. I mean, she has never said or implied there would be no contact at all next year, but I have never wanted to presume because obviously she is taking the time off for her surgery and to recover. And it says several things which refer to us working together again after the year is up, so it is nice (understatement of century) to know that she is not thinking that no way can that happen – she could so easily say it wouldn’t be in our/my best interests to have that in mind even as a possibility for all of next year as it would stop me moving on, and she has never once said that. I know she knows how strong our relationship is. We both know. It is why the end is hurting so much.

I stupidly pressed for some reassurance about her thinking of us all next year and ended up getting triggered because she said she would think of me and how I was and would be hoping I was okay, more than okay, that I was thriving and that all was going well with the house move and my work and friendships and so on, but she would also remember “the edges” when it came to our work, as she knew I would too. Someone younger asked what she meant and she said that of course there have been some challenges and it has been a difficult road at times. I mean, I know this – it has been. It really has been incredibly tough at times, for both of us, so it’s dumb that it triggered us all, but I can’t pretend it didn’t. A teen part asked if she would still have started working with us had she known how difficult it would be, and she said she would, but that she had been worried at times during our work, about my extreme states and me wanting to kill myself. And she said sometimes she wished there had been 5 of her, because I have needed 24/7 care and support that she just couldn’t give and I would have benefited from more holding. She has said before, back in February in particular, that she was worried she wasn’t enough for me and that therapy was making things worse instead of better, so it’s not like any of this was a surprise to me, but still it is triggering to be reminded that I could have lost her, and also that working with me has been so challenging. Like, there will be times when I’m sure she does feel relief that she will not have to worry about me after the end of the year! And it is obviously difficult knowing that not every memory she has of me is positive. Obviously this is the reality in any relationship, but shame is never far away from the surface for me and it doesn’t take much to trigger it and shatter my sense of connection to myself and others.

I was talking to a friend about this conversation earlier, and I kind of realised that the fact it has been so difficult and yet K did not give up on me is almost testimony to how much she cares for me and the strength of our therapeutic alliance. Sticking with therapy when disorganised attachment pain and abandonment panic was resulting in all kinds of chaotic craziness is probably the thing I will be always be proudest of myself for, but I am also struck by the fact that K hung in there with me, through some really desperate and extreme times and despite some ‘borderline’ projections and rage. I mean, things aren’t amazing internally for me from an attachment perspective now, but I am able to hold things for myself and the parts a lot better now, and *usually* manage to not descend into attachment panic where I have to contact her for reassurance or send some kind of unscheduled emotional diatribe to her between sessions. A lot has changed and I do feel stronger than I ever have now. Maybe not as strong as I’d like to, but the time it takes to recover from huge emotional flashbacks seems to be lessening, and the parts tend to not hit quite such depths of despair and desperation.

So I felt myself get triggered, but I was able to stay with it and remind myself of the reality of the context of the conversation, and that K wasn’t telling me that stuff because I was ‘bad’ or she thought I was bad but because the places I travel to in terms of attachment and abandonment are extreme and it is an essential part of reflecting on our work together that my attachment disordered issues are there in the mix. We were about to go into the other room to finish the painting and I wanted to go into full on ‘borderline’ reassurance seeking mode – are you angry with me? do you hate me? will you think bad things about me next year? is it my fault I’m like this? do you think I haven’t tried hard enough? do you hate me? are you angry with me? am I bad? and so on – and yet I didn’t because a) no words can ever reassure me out of that state, and b) I know the answer to these questions if I really look at the overall context of our relationship. So instead we finished the painting (which is amazing and lovely and such a special thing to have as a reminder of our time together) and I left feeling mostly secure and safe in our relationship. I guess my weird, dead, full of emptiness inner state is here now as a reminder of the disorganised attachment dynamics which have been the backdrop for all our work. I’ve wanted to self harm this evening but instead I am going to go to bed. I feel a little better for having written this. Still dead inside, but able to see it for what it is a little more clearly and therefore able to stop myself getting swept fully into the dead zone.

Wishes

So I did text K and she replied to say we could do a half hour phone session at 1pm. Phew. I really needed her today and I’m glad she wasn’t thinking she shouldn’t offer extra support because I should be getting used to her not being here. It calmed me a little just knowing she was there and is here still. And her voice is genuinely the most soothing sound I’ve ever heard. I remember thinking what a nice voice she had the first time I spoke to her on the phone, before we met for the first time.

Anyway, having cried most of the morning I managed to do about 20 minutes work, and then called her. I cried throughout most of the phone call, and again most of the afternoon, but I do feel a little more settled now, albeit with an excruciating headache and very puffy, sore eyes. I have to get up at 5.30 tomorrow morning to take Nina to swimming training (a new weekend delight) so am hoping I sleep okay tonight, obviously. I’m going to have a bath and an early night and hope the screaming 4 year old next door doesn’t keep me awake again.

It’s weird how K being there today has made it easier to consider what it will be like to let her go. She said how it can really help to talk about the feelings, to shift them from body sensations into a more cognitive space. So I sobbed out how we hardly had any time left and how much it hurts, how it is so hard because there is so little space for the feelings and I basically have to survive the busiest time of the year at work till 14th December and then we end on the 17th. No space to feel it. And she reminded me how I felt this bad when she met me 3 years ago, and that these feelings are because of the deep and profound attachment wounds I already had, that they transcend her and I and are bigger than the end of therapy. And she reminded me that the pain of not having had a mother is the most devastating thing a human being can endure, apart from that of losing a child. She heard it all and validated it all. And then she made me talk about resources and the house move which annoyed me momentarily because I wanted to poke around at the attachment wound and cry more (lol), but, as always, she knew what she was doing; although the pain of the ending still looms large, it feels less all-consuming – I have a future again. She said her job is to listen to my pain but also to prop me up and help me see the light, and I sobbed (AGAIN) ‘you dooooo prop me up’. More wailing. Honestly, it’s been months since I cried as much as I have today.

She asked where the plans were up to with putting the house on the market and I said my Dad was coming to do some odd jobs next week so I can get it valued the following week and pick an estate agent. And she made me tell her what jobs needed doing and how I will choose an estate agent and everything, trying her best to lift me out of that dark and dismal place where I am consumed by attachment pain and emptiness. And she said how moving away from the site of so much trauma, all the trauma of my childhood, was going to be so healing, that it is the most important thing I can do for myself at the moment, better than any therapy I can do. She said to be living in the countryside, surrounded by nature instead of an industrial estate, and near Nina’s amazing school that I picked for her, away from the place where I am curled up in fear every time I go out in case I see my Mum or her friends, will be transformational for me. And I do agree (but it doesn’t stop me wishing she would stay).

Near the end of the call we took some breaths together and she told me to let the things we had talked about and all the big thoughts and feelings settle inside me like glitter in a snow storm (how much do we all LOVE her?!). And we said goodbye and I stayed in bed and cried a whole lot more, but it felt like releasing tears this time and not just re-traumatising myself, because I had been heard and seen. And then I wrote a wish list which I will give her on Monday to read through and respond to the next week, when she’s been able to decide what is possible:

My Wish List

  • To hear that K’s surgery went okay and that she is recovering
  • To hear where K moves to next year (so I know if I still want/need therapy in 2020 whether it will definitely be possible to work with her again)
  • To end therapy in December with the intention of meeting in January 2020 for at least one or two sessions, regardless of where we are both living (she’ll be in the same county but it may be too far to drive to every week) and whether I want/need to be back in regular therapy at that point (i.e. to know we are both intending to definitely meet then, even if it just ends up being a life update)
  • To be able to continue attachment therapy with K
  • To know there is the possibility of moving to fortnightly sessions (which is how I would have liked things for the foreseeable future were we transitioning more naturally to working less intensely) if I don’t need therapy like I do now
  • To be able to send an email if something big happens – new house, promoted/made permanent, experience a whole day where I’m not dissociated – this is what I would have expected to be able to do if we were ending for another reason
  • To end on a double session so we all feel safe on arrival
  • To have an extra session around the end (Fri 14th/Wed 19th) so it’s not straight from penultimate session (10th) to end of term (14th) to last session (17th) with no time to feel in between.

None of these things seem like they are unreasonable and beyond the realms of the possible, but I want her to have some time to consider her responses and work out what she is happy with. Ending with the intention of meeting in January 2020 is the most important one for me, but a whole year with no contact at all because she is recovering and on sabbatical would also be really hard. I’ll see what she says, but I trust her to work with me to make sure this ending isn’t a mess. I am actually really proud of how I’m able to keep working with her and even though I’ve lost a day of work today, I didn’t cut or do anything mental. I’m just really tired and dissociated now and not looking forward to 5.30am at all…