The Divide

A stranger who I’ve seen every week for 4 years sits across from me.

Are you a metre away or a million miles?

Lucie (22)

K read this in our parts book today and she said ‘I’m here. I am here all the time. I am the same as ever. So the distance is not with me. The distance is with Lucie and adult CB and everyone feeling separate. So it feels like for you maybe there is a glass wall here, but actually for me there isn’t, there’s no divide. For me it’s the same as always.’

And it hurts so much. It has been 5 weeks since we could reach K. It is making everything else feel so unmanageable. The pain of not being able to connect and then being shoved back outside into the cold and wet and left with this gnawing aching pain getting bigger and bigger as it sinks in that  it is a whole week till we get the chance to try and connect again is so completely awful. It is so hard to sit with this pain and not do desperate things to squash it. And K replied to a text this evening but I don’t want to be like this again. For so long texting her didn’t occur to me. I want to be back there again. I felt so secure in our relationship. I am scared she will get tired of being back where we were. Are we back where we were? Does she notice we are not in combat this time?

For so long therapy was ‘something I did’ – important, but not all-consuming. So beautiful after all those months of years and turmoil. I was more stable then I ever had been. K was in the background and I rarely thought of her because I knew she was there and I knew my space was there waiting for me every week. I want that back. It was so safe and lovely and I was soaking her in and enjoying the healing and now I can’t feel it. I feel so lost and untethered. Keeping going is so hard. I’m starting to doubt whether all those months of feeling so held and safe and self-contained every really happened.

Why did she have to move house? And how can that have disrupted everything so much? Has it? Or am I making this up? I feel so lost and alone.

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Hiding the damage

On Saturday I was exhausted and binge-watching the new Netflix drama Unbelievable when I was hit by an enormous wave of another level of painful realisation about how and who I am, and the accompanying grief left me sobbing and fragile. It came to me so strongly that not only was I abused and neglected and abandoned, but that I have spent my whole life so far trying to cover up that fact and live the life I could easily have had if this had not been my childhood. It takes all my energy trying to hide my pain and pretend I am not traumatised and dissociated and a person who is enormously triggered by other people.

Yesterday’s therapy session, for all it’s painful feelings of disconnection, did involve some very open discussion around this, and interestingly ended right where it began. Near the start I told K what happened whilst watching Unbelievable, about how some victims are believed and some aren’t, and about how not being believed has been such a constant theme for me, in part because my Mum seems so normal and generous to the untrained eye, and in part because my life looks so ‘successful’ in many ways. And I talked about how no one at work or in the real world would believe me if I disclosed complex-PTSD and a dissociative disorder and chronic pain because I function SO WELL (ironically because of the dissociation and my ability to push huge levels of pain to one side to get done what needs doing, and to almost dissociate from the heavy fog of dissociation in my head so I can carry on working). No one would believe how intense my symptoms are, how I am on sensory overload nearly all the time due to hypervigilance, or how I am half a world away most of the time. And at the end I was talking about work and the possibility of getting a referral to occupational health so adjustments can be made and the reason I am SO RELUCTANT to do this is because I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. And there I was, back where I started – spending my life desperately trying to hide the impact attachment trauma has on me, to the point I won’t tell anyone even if it might make my life easier.

And that is the crux of the issue. I have never allowed myself ANY dispensation for the legacy of my childhood or the fact I am a single parent. I submitted my PhD in 3 years and completed within 4, just as everyone is expected to do (and many don’t), despite having a young child and, at that time, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.  At work I have not taken a single day sick ever because of pain or emotional flashbacks and attachment trauma (though I have many days where I am not as productive as I would like to be). Within Extinction Rebellion only one person knows I have complex-PTSD (I told her last week) and the thought of other people there knowing, seeing me as vulnerable and broken, horrifies me. I so desperately want to be ‘normal’, or some version of it at least. I am so incredibly ashamed of the physical pain I experience. And I also get triggered when I do disclose and people don’t understand just how much pain I experience (because how could they, when I function so well in spite of it?).

I don’t know what I’m afraid of happening. I can see that a referral to OH is needed now. For a long time there was always a reason I was struggling. I was taking too many drugs. My friend had killed herself. I was having memories resurface of abuse when I was a child and teen. I was realising my Mum is seriously mentally ill and abusive to Nina and I needed to reduce contact with her. I was deep in attachment trauma therapy and constantly in crisis. I had recently become estranged from my Mum. It was Christmas. It was winter. I was struggling with climate breakdown. I was doing too much. I was moving house. I didn’t give myself a break over summer. But last week at work was just a normal, very full, week, nothing extreme happened, just the usual frustrations on top of my anticipated workload, and yet the state I was in by Friday – dissociated and over-stimulated and utterly overwhelmed – was extreme. It’s not even the busy time of the term yet. K said yesterday how she knows other people who do what I do who struggle at this time of year, working evenings and weekends and finding it really tough. ‘Your job is hard’ she said. And at the time I took it to mean ‘everyone struggles, it’s not just you’ but I see now that’s not what she meant. What she meant was it’s a full on job, even without solo parenting and complex-PTSD. I pointed out to her that I’ve now reached a point in my career where it is manageable for most people, after the intense first few years of targets and other things I can’t go into without giving away what I do. For the first few years I was working late and most weekends, but that is not how it is now for the most part (although looking ahead I can see it will be the case this term as I have so much to do). I have significantly cut back on what I do now also, saying no to more, expecting less of myself. And yet it is still not sustainable for me.

I’m not cut out for it. I see that now. As I pointed out to K yesterday, other people struggle but can still have a life outside of it because being with people soothes and resets them, they can socialise in the evenings and unwind, they don’t have to strip back their lives to the bare minimum to make the job even partway manageable. And I could list all of the things I did last week, and how full each day was, but the truth is this is part and parcel of being in the job I am in, and those that cope with it most likely don’t have the struggles I have. K said on the phone this evening [yes, another last minute crisis call] that she is amazed by how much I do at the weekends, after a full week of work, but it makes me sad and resentful that I have to give up those things in order to feel well enough to work.

For a long time I’ve held in mind that as Nina gets older my life will get easier and more spacious. However, we now know the speed at which climate and ecological breakdown is happening – in 6 years time when she is 18 and old enough to leave home I highly doubt we will be living the way we are now. K told me last night how much easier things are when children are grown up, but I had to cut her off – I became a mother at 23, knowing my daughter would be grown up by the time I was 41 and I would have some time and freedom then, but this is not the world we will soon be inhabiting. Things are going to get fucked up beyond all recognition and I cannot spend the next few years comforting myself that things will get easier as Nina grows up because it just is not true. And I cannot sustain another 6 years of this. I did email Occupational Health today and I said that I’d hidden my struggles (my disability, really, isn’t it? This counts as a disability under the Equality Act) for 9 years and that I just couldn’t do it anymore. My workload is increasing, as is everyone’s, but also so is my knowledge and expertise, so I am in demand and invited to be on committees and other things. I cannot keep going like this. And it is clear that even without regular attachment crises my work is making me ill.

I don’t know what to do. It breaks my heart that I can’t do this work without it really impacting on my well-being because I love it. I love (most of) the young people I work with. I love my research. I love sharing my knowledge and expertise and wisdom with others. My traumatised body-mind just cannot deal with it though. My brain cannot handle the amount of information that it is required to hold onto and process each day. During the busy time of year it is just more human interaction than I can cope with. I am on sensory overload all the time, and it does not take much to send things spiralling out of control. Someone at XR said they couldn’t do two back-to-back meetings and it hit me how much I do – my days at work are back-to-back meetings for the most part, during the busy 6 months at least. And even positive and inspiring and light-hearted interaction with other humans leaves me depleted and over-stimulated. And my brain cannot cope with the sheer volume of different things I have to hold – it’s not even the amount of work I have to do, it’s that my attention is split between so many different demands and there is always some issue to firefight.

I feel utterly trapped. I have a mortgage, I still have £8500 in debt, I have no savings, I pay £300 a month for therapy, I have to run a car to get to therapy. The fear of having to stop seeing K is huge, even though she says we’d come to an arrangement like a LETS scheme and I would do her garden or other household things. And I could get 6 months paid sickness absence, so that is maybe the worse case scenario for now, 6 months to rest… But it would have implications, it would let people down. I don’t want to do that. Within the next month or two I can put in to come off probation as I’ll have met my targets a year early. I hope this will take some of the pressure off, enable me to say no to more things without the constant worry it will stand against me. But ultimately I need to start to accept that I have complex-PTSD, that I cannot do the things many others can do because of trauma. And that is really, really hard because I am still so ashamed and I still don’t want people to know. I still expend so much energy keeping my symptoms and brokenness hidden. The thought of telling people I have complex PTSD and pain and need adjustments at work and need people to support me makes me feel actually ill. I think maybe I wanted to get so well that I never had to tell anyone how damaged I am.

Reaching

I couldn’t reach K again today and now I’m home and it feels like my insides have been ripped out. How after so many months of feeling so held and safe and connected am I here again for so many weeks now?

I read K what Phoebe wrote last week. She said it’s amazing because it sums up the block between us that is happening right now and that is about something historical that has led to a special shape within me, a pattern that says that most things are not safe (what a fucking sad statement of fact).

‘I can’t reach you’ I managed to whisper.

‘Yeah, I know’ and she sounded sad, like she really knew how fucking painful it is to be a metre from her and also a million miles away. And it surprised me that she knew straightaway, she knew I couldn’t reach her, because I was behaving ‘normally’ and pretending all was fine, and she is still the only person who sees through my mask and knows I’m out of reach.

‘Well… I think it’ll come back’ and I started to sob and she said ‘don’t worry, you know what  – this went on for a long time with Mum, years and years and years. So right now there’s a patterning that’s saying don’t trust. We’ll get through it. I’m confident it’ll come back.’

She said how important it is that we don’t pretend it’s normal, like I had to as a child, and that we let it be there and let things be difficult and authentic. She thinks it will settle of it’s own accord over the next few weeks, if we sit in the storm with it and don’t force it.

‘And I’m here, no matter what. And it’ll be alright. I’m convinced it will be okay’.

‘It’s hard without you’ I said quietly. (And it is so hard, to be without her after months of feeling her with me all the time, whenever I looked for her).

‘Yeah, and I’m here, waiting in the wings.’

And we talked about Phoebe again, and how she didn’t used to have any words. About how she was mean all the time because she was scared of K and how much she hated all the other parts for attaching to K. She was the last, shame kept her far away and angry and defended for so many years. And it hurts so much that she wants to connect and can’t. But she knows K hasn’t done anything wrong now and she knows K doesn’t hurt us deliberately and just wants to help. The blocking is automatic and it comes from us, not K.

So things are different but also the same. Or maybe they are the same but also different. I’m not battling K. We’re not falling into horrible relational re-enactments and locking horns. I’m not accusing her of being different or convinced she hates me. I know she’s there and that I can’t reach her. We can talk about what’s happening now, even though we cannot make the connection come back however much we both wish we could. And inside me is a gaping pit of emptiness and I want to die/cut/take drugs to fill it, but I know this hole is not caused by K but by my parents who couldn’t love me, and so whilst I want to die I can also hold on tight to her belief that I will reach her again. I just really hope it’s not much longer because I miss her. I missed her even while I was in the room with her for 2 hours earlier. Everything internally and externally is very hard at the moment and I need her with me and it really fucking hurts when I can’t reach her.

All that matters

As my blog has alluded to, I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed lately, by all I am doing and all I am holding. On top of the attachment crisis following K’s move, which doesn’t feel fully over but has definitely settled, I’ve been bombarded on all sides by work and Extinction Rebellion (XR) demands, not to mention parenting and running the house and looking after the pets. Plus I also saw my Mum in town when I was marching through the High Street for Earth Strike on Friday, from a distance and she didn’t see me, but it caused another near-death experience and has brought up a lot around the guilt I feel for wishing I had a different Mum. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what I’ve been doing, because that’s not the point of this post, but I think it is finally beginning to become apparent to me in a very real, practical way that my life is and always will be limited by complex-PTSD and I know I have some difficult decisions about how I spend my time, and what I will and won’t be able to tolerate, to implement over the coming days and weeks.

Going to K’s new house still feels very, very weird and not right at all. It still feels like her and I are not real there, or that the space isn’t real, like we are suspended somewhere we are not supposed to be. It’s getting gradually more familiar though, and the sitting room does look very warm and cosy so we are looking forward to our next film therapy night in a month or two. We are going to start a craft project next week too, probably using glitter glue, because K thinks it would be a good idea to do this and to feel into it being safe enough there to make something together. And we are doing double sessions now and that feels so much safer and makes it so much easier to settle into the space and into K’s presence. The difference it makes is beyond merely an extra 30 minutes of therapy, the longer session has a profound impact on me and the young parts and I feel so grateful that K is offering me a hugely discounted session to enable this, and that – for now at least – I have the means to pay for this.

There is no doubt that the prospect of societal collapse due to climate breakdown is looming large in the space between us. I can’t shake the fear, or help young parts with it, because we know what is ahead and it will mean losing K, or ending our work at least, only we don’t know when or how many years are left, or what it will look like, and it could be that my life is very different by then and it feels more okay than the thought of it does now. These fears and the whole theme of ‘too much’ were both really reflected in the sand tray we made this evening in our session. K said she’d never seen such a full sand tray!

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It was basically a tired and sleepy 14 year old me, desperate for rest, buried underneath all the people and demands being thrown at us as people desperately try to stave off climate breakdown. And little me feeling sad trying to get people to stop eating animals, and other people with their heads buried in the sand as species go extinct and ecosystems collapse, and we couldn’t reach K, partly because of the imminent collapse, but also because of all the demands, because they stop us reaching her because our head gets too full, and because they keep us in a future where her and I don’t exist. And because the scary part is that if we achieve the systemic changes needed in the face of what is coming, then it will also mean losing her, because we won’t have privately owned vehicles and life will be more local and there won’t be money for therapy. And if we fail to act and adapt and mitigate, then food and fuel shortages and war and collapse are what we have in store. How things will unfold environmentally and societally are big unknowns in many ways, but climate breakdown is accelerating and the latest temperature prediction models to be released this week show that under the business as usual scenario – which shows no signs of changing at the moment – we are on track for a 6.5 – 7 degree average temperature rise by 2100, so much worse than what was predicted by the IPCC in 2018. 2 degrees is locked in already, and that will lead to catastrophic and irreversible consequences for life on earth, so all this stuff is very real, but I don’t want to live in this terrifying world before I have to. 

After K had taken a picture of the busy sand tray (which she won’t put on the internet, we checked!!) she asked what needed to be changed to represent me having a rest. And we scooped all the things off that were covering us and weighing us down, and shoved everything else away to the other end of the sand tray – all the people eating animals, and all those demanding too much from me as they frantically engage in activism to stave off climate breakdown (and probably to distract themselves from the horrifying reality in many ways), and the barriers that collapse will put up between me and those I love. And then we put very little me with teen me under a tree, because young parts need more time at home doing nice things, and a hedgehog to represent Nina, and K, her donkeys and Mr Raposa, in a circle with us, really far from the pile of other stuff. And someone said ‘really those are the only things that matter – trees, young parts, you, and Nina’ and we put a row of hearts between these things and all the pile of stuff; ‘we can love those things but still look after ourselves’. And K said this is so important, and reminded me that I already do more than most people with being vegan and not flying and cycling to work and not buying unnecessary things.

And she asked how I felt about the transformation and I said ‘better, because those are all the things I will never regret doing with my time’. And she said how powerful the wave of stuff coming down the other end was, and that the barrier in the middle was now filled with hearts instead of rocks, and the whole room feels softer and at ease, and she said ‘I hope you feel also that you’ve got a place to rest, you have to have rest in your life’.

Those are all the things I will never regret doing with my time‘ – this is so true and is what I am taking with me on the Autumn Equinox, on the day when there is light and dark in equal measure and we are invited to seek balance in our lives. K always tells me I am enough, but I want to feel that, and I don’t want to lose myself in activism to the point where I lose myself, in part because I think it’s most likely too late to avert catastrophe and collapse now and so the focus needs to be on adaptation, including community building and self-healing, and in part because Mother Earth cannot heal while we continue to live such toxic and demanding lives. And I may look back and wish many things, but I will never regret the time I spend with K, with Nina, in nature, and replenishing and healing myself, whatever happens, whatever comes.

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Attachment still hurts

Attachment pain is killing me. It’s not felt like this for months and months, since December last year in fact so nearly 9 months. I can’t even remember what to do with this pain and the gnawing, aching sensations in my chest and tummy. I feel so empty inside, so desperate for something I cannot even articulate. I want to curl up and die, preferably with K right next to me. It hurts so much. When it was time to end our phone call earlier I just wanted to scream and cry. It wasn’t enough time, it feels like it will never be enough time again, even though for all those months therapy hasn’t felt like this at all. It is like K and I are the same but the new house feels so strange and all wrong and we are both floating untethered in the new space. I need longer there, to learn what it is like there, to know I can trust it, to know K and I are the same and everything is still there. It still feels so far away and I can’t work out how our skies match up or where the moon should be.

K continues to be amazing and kind and validating. Monday’s session was not enough to settle this wave, I could feel the abandonment tidal wave threatening to erupt even before I left, as the time trickled away and the week apart stretched ahead. She took me outside before we left, to the special spot in her new garden, a shady space where you can sit under the trees and look across to the rolling hills and the edge of the moors and watch the sun go down. And as we sat there I wanted to beg her not to send me home yet, to let me stay until I’d soaked in enough of her to sustain me again and could feel deep inside that everything is the same and will be okay. I know she can feel my internal disturbances even when I don’t speak them out loud, and she said for now it is like it was when we met and to contact her when I needed to, to not hold back if I need her, to let her know how I am doing. She didn’t used to say those things, although we text most days at the start and often worked by phone, but I think before texting never used to help, and waiting for a reply was agonising, and we just couldn’t take in what she was saying and would end up more triggered, whereas now she knows this is temporary and that her presence helps me. She knows I can support and care for myself in the ordinary course of life now, that I have come so far, and that is why she is offering more, knowing she won’t have to pour this much into me again forever. It is good to remember things are different now, even though the storm feels the same.

Walking to the car I could hear the screaming inside, the pain was so intense, like part of me had been ripped away, like I was being left alone to die. The week ahead, even with phone contact, felt completely impossible to survive on my own. I nearly threw up before I got in the car. I wanted to scream and sob and wail, but feeling those feelings alone is intolerable so I swallowed the screams and I drove home, the pain in my head intensifying as I got nearer home and I pushed the feelings down more and more so I wouldn’t be a mess when I got back to Nina. We text K an hour after getting home. She said it is a big storm that will settle, to resource and rest, that we could work the next day (yesterday) by phone if it would be helpful. I tried to rest but young parts were so disturbed and the head pain was so intense and debilitating. Yesterday I had to work in my office and had meetings and a training and coffee with a friend and mostly I was adult but there was an undercurrent of disturbance all day and at Nina’s bedtime I yelled at her because she had the guinea pigs on her bed and one of them did a wee and so her sheets needed changing at 9.45pm. This was an annoyance, but the rage it triggered in me was clearly disproportionate. I did myself a reiki treatment and that soothed things a bit and I apologised for yelling before she fell asleep. K and I spoke this morning and it helped and hurt at the same time. I can’t even remember really what she said, but it was about attachment and trauma and not feeling safe in relationship, about how we are still working through the imprint of what happened to me as an infant and my attachment system, and that we were both working really hard to contain this wave and would continue to do so. I wish I could remember her words, but they’ve mostly dissolved already and I want to reach out by text but there is nothing she can do and ultimately this pain is not about her. It was so soothing to hear her voice and know how solid she is but it also hurt so much to have her there and to know I would then have to survive until Monday again without her. This feels so ridiculous to be writing, I’ve not struggled between sessions like this for so long.

I told her the huge and really intense dream I had last night about her and my Mum and all the pain I keep hidden. I was shouting a lot in the dream and just so completely broken. The content of the dream is pretty textbook, but as those of us who experience trauma dreams and nightmares will testify, their power and their residue is immense. I had intense knee pain, and other body pains, in the dream (which I have had a lot of lately, and could feel in the night every time I was semi-conscious) and had been carrying on for weeks as though my knee wasn’t hurting, but finally went to have X-Rays. My body was broken in multiple places and when the radiographer showed me my knee images my knee caps were cracked in two. I was told I would need to wear a cast for 3 months and my first thought was practicalities around getting Nina to and from swimming training and getting to work, shortly followed by ‘how will I get to K’s?’. Somehow I managed to get dropped off at the junction of the A-road I come off at to get to her new house, thinking that however much it hurt my knees I would walk the rest of the way, but then every time I went round a corner I was somewhere different than I expected to be and there were still miles to go. I was in so much pain and made it to a telephone box thinking if I called K she would come and get me (which she has said she will do in the landrover if there is ever flooding or snow I can’t get through to get to hers), but she wasn’t bothered and said she’d see me when I was healed and the cast was off. So I called my Mum to come and drive me to K’s and she did. I don’t remember seeing her in the dream though, and the next thing I was at her house, where I grew up, with my sister sitting across from me and when she found out how I’d got to K’s she went crazy at me about what I had done to my Mum and did I not realise the state she’d been in since I cut contact two years ago, and how this would destroy her (i.e. me reaching out to her when nothing has changed). I said it was fine, she knew nothing had changed and this was a one-off, but my sister continued to say angry things to me until I exploded and screamed at her ‘what about what Mum has done to ME?’ and how she broke me, how it is taking years and loads of money in therapy to recover, how for the first 18 months of therapy my plan was to kill Nina and I, so ‘what about ME?’ and if it wasn’t for what she had done I wouldn’t have needed to get to K’s in the first place.

This dream is so obviously about all my system is struggling to process at the moment, about climate breakdown and not being able to get to K’s, about attachment and damage and my dysfunctional family and the impact what I’ve had to do will have had on family members, and about the lengths I go to to conceal my pain, physical and emotional, consciously and unconsciously. And K says it shows us what big things have been coming up around her move and not being able to get to her, and things changing, and then not being able to see my sister at the weekend, for various reasons but in part because of the family mess and the emotions it would bring up. It has stayed with me all day.

I still feel as though I am dying, but I realise what is worse is knowing I won’t actually die between now and Monday, instead I will just have to live with these intolerable feelings and with no one to soothe it for all that time (obviously logically I can see actual death would be worse, but it doesn’t feel that way). I cannot escape this pain. I can’t remember what I did to soothe it, did anything work? I’ve been trying to think about ways this pain is different from before. I don’t feel K and I’s relationship is under threat, only our ability to see each other and work together. I don’t feel caught in the disorganised attachment dance, desperate to reach out to her yet terrified of pushing her away, I am just aware, from an adult space, that I can’t keep texting as there is not really anything she can do other than wait out the storm with me. And I also know now this pain is not about her, and this does leave me feeling like at least we are in this together; it is not about me needing more and her holding back from me, it is not making her angry that I feel this way, it is not making her want to give up on me, she is on my side and doing all she can to help make things better right now. If I text she would reply. She’s said we can work by phone again on Friday (except how much is all this phone time costing me, argh) and that she is solid in us and it doesn’t feel different for her.

I really, really hate feeling this way. I hate having young parts freaking out whilst at the same time I am trying to work. I want someone to hold me but I know if there was someone here it wouldn’t help. I asked K if she would go away if the baby part (Hope, she is called) really screamed with her and she said she thinks that baby did scream with her on Friday and I said “not as loudly as she screams when you’re not there” (because I was aware, even in that state, of holding back and not making too much noise) and she said if you become aware of that baby part coming out tell me and we will find ways to soothe her because it’s not good for babies to be allowed to just scream. And I said ‘but she doesn’t know what it’s like to scream and not be on her own’ and I think K understood this. I know she knows the level of distress, but to have it witnessed in all its intensity before it is soothed feels like something older parts need to witness happening if that makes sense.

This past week or two has been so hard. It is crazy thinking I felt so much worse than this for weeks and weeks on end for such a sustained period of my life. I don’t know how I coped, especially when it truly felt all about K and she couldn’t reach me in it. She thinks this will take a while to settle again, that it is a good reminder for us of how even though things are so much better now that it doesn’t take much to tip the balance again, that it shows why my body is so broken, but it is also really hard knowing these feelings still lurk and are still so life or death in their intensity.

‘I’m having a complete meltdown unrelated to your move…’

What a day! I spiralled into a hysterical crisis after I wrote this morning and ended up going to K’s an hour earlier than planned. I messaged her when I came off the main road so she could wait outside and show me where to park, telling her I was 9 minutes away and was having a meltdown that was ‘unrelated to her move’ (ahem…). I was crying when I arrived, pretty much yelled at her that I couldn’t possibly do that journey every week (I will be), and then sat on the floor of the new therapy space crying as she made tea, not even able to sit on my normal cushion. She offered me a hug when she brought the tea in and sat on the floor with me where she held me as I sobbed and howled. I’ve never lost it like that with her before and let the feelings out so loudly, and she stayed holding me until I was done and then helped me sit on the cushion with the blanket and drink some tea.

She has been amazing today. We unpicked the time I’ve had since we last met. We talked about all that came up over not being able to see my sister this weekend, and how I just want a family. We talked about how sad and frustrated I feel that PTSD and dissociation limits my life so much. And she showed us the stables and paddock where her rescue donkeys will live and we sat looking at the beautiful view and Miffy asked if other people who are little in a little body would go there and she said no, not at the moment – there are no children and we are the first people to go to the new house which she said was nice (it is, of course). For the first time in a very long time I was freaking out from about 10 minutes into the session that it would soon be time to leave and I would be back on my own with the intolerable feelings I was experiencing for another 3 days until we meet again. (Maybe that should have alerted me to the fact this was crisis was attachment-based…). She said she was available over the weekend so we could work by phone if needed, and to let her know how I was doing later.

I then cried all the way home and for most of the afternoon, stopping only when my Dad arrived to help Nina with her Maths homework before taking her to swimming training. (He pretended not to notice I’d been crying, which a few years ago would have sent me nuts, but I accept that it brings up too much in him now and can forgive his limitations). I text K and she was so kind, said this was deep pain (I think she knew before I did that something bigger was at play today) and used her lovely phrase ‘soup and blankets’ which she said to me the first time she saw me in crisis (our second session), and told me this wave would pass. And she repeated her offer of phone work over the weekend. Then the pain in my head became unbearable and I thought I was going to need to ask my Dad to drive me to hospital for IV painkillers. So I asked if we could speak this evening (oh so wonderful that this is a simple request now and I no longer get stuck in that hellish place of disorganised attachment where I am desperate to reach out and terrified in case I am ‘too much’ and make her go away all at the same time and dither in a shame spiral until it is too late) and we spoke straightaway. Her landline was being connected as I arrived today – perfect timing!

It’s probably the most beautiful phone call we’ve ever had, apart from maybe the one after she told me she wasn’t going away after all and we had a meltdown because even that was too destabilising…. We did a check in and told her how bad the head pain was and that there were a lot of worries that she would go away and that a part kept saying just to not go anymore because if we stopped going it would hurt less than K going away. And K said as soon as we left today she’d been thinking ‘attachment, attachment, attachment’ which was funny because I’d said to my friend that K probably thought it was funny that I’d said in my text that the meltdown wasn’t related to her move… And she said how even though all the things I shared about life being too much were valid, underneath it all was something much bigger and that it felt to lots of young (and not-so-young) parts as though we had ended because there was so much worry that she wouldn’t be there when we got to the new house and that we would have to stop working. She said it was like we had gone back to the old days where there was a constant fear that she wouldn’t be there, wouldn’t open the door, would disappear, would say we were too much. And she reminded me of how deep and extensive my attachment wounding is (which helped, because sometimes I forget and just feel nuts!). We shared a lot, about what we thought of the new house (that it *might* be okay but is much too far away, that it is pretty, that some things were the same, that she was the same in the new house, that we liked it that she met us at the door with Digby on his lead even though we were too upset to notice him). We asked if we could do cutting and gluing soon and talked about the picture we are planning to make, and about donkeys and film nights. She told me how much progress I’ve made, how very hard I’ve worked in therapy, how the damage I endured as an infant and young child is so huge that it has taken us years – 4 years so far – to start to process and unpick what happened to me, and that we still have so much work to do and she is so glad we are continuing to work. And she said how even though today was like before it also wasn’t, because we know this territory now and we know what we are doing. She said how nice it is that we are in a different phase of the work where – apart from today – I can enjoy our time together now with less of an edge for me around being in relationship. We talked about how it was before, when therapy was so painful and speaking to her on the phone when I was in crisis made everything hurt even more but not speaking was awful also, and how now it helps to speak, it really helps – I felt soothed straight away this evening and the pain in my head subsided massively.

And somehow we managed to share how much it hurts when we’re not there knowing that she will soon be starting with new clients now she has moved, because it’s always nice with new people where nothing bad has happened yet, and how this is so linked to feeling invisible and non-existent unless we are extra prominent, and all the painful realisations around this I had whilst we were on holiday recently, that I’ve not fully worked through yet but am still reeling from as it is so huge and sad and limits my life in such extensive ways. I said when we were with her none of those things matter because we can feel how real our relationship is, but that when we’re not there all those other people become huge and we are completely eclipsed. I used to text K constantly asking ‘are you still here?’ but partly I was actually telling her I was still here, because I couldn’t believe I still existed for her when I wasn’t there, and I didn’t exist if she couldn’t see me. Learning I am here is such a huge part of my journey and the work I need to do still. I told her today on the phone that these realisations about why I feel so invisible and am so terrified of being replaced are the most painful realisations I’ve had for nearly 18 months, and I asked if it would stop hurting one day to know why I’m like this, and she said she thinks it will soften and become easier to live with.

I said how hard it was to realise that I still need therapy every week and that even though I cope I struggle without my Monday session. And then I realised that I used to be unable to cope for a whole week without her and now I usually manage that time completely fine, it’s just hard without her for longer. And of course there is shame in that still, but our time together is the glue that holds me together and enables me to do so much other stuff in my life too. We also spoke about my fears that she will say I shouldn’t come anymore and why therapy is taking so long, and she was so validating about why I need it, why I need her still. I said I couldn’t understand before what people did in therapy for DID for so many years (7-10 on average) but I do now, and that I wish I’d known it wouldn’t hurt so much all that time (although I wouldn’t have believed it anyway). And someone little asked if it was okay to always need therapy when things had been really bad for a long time and she said yes, and she has no plans to go anywhere ever now, she is where she wants to be. And if it wasn’t for imminent climate-induced societal collapse I would be so happy to hear this!

The last thing we talked about was her offer to do a double session for only a little more money than I’m currently paying for 90 minutes, to make the journey worthwhile. At first when she offered I was unsure because it will mean I am later home for Nina and will still be an extra £50 a month. But there is something so nice about double sessions, I find them so safe and containing, and I think it will be less tiring to have more of a break between the two 50 minute drives. It also better reflects the stage of therapy I’m in, where it is so much about spending time together and doing ‘nice’ things. I said my friend said I should go for it and that this was my thoughts also – I said how on the way home I’d felt very sharply again how important it is to still prioritise my therapy or I would compromise my ability to work and be involved in Extinction Rebellion. And in the back of my mind – always – is the knowledge that climate breakdown is happening so much faster than we ever expected and it is important to make the most of being able to get to K for as long as possible. I cannot imagine ever looking back and wishing I hadn’t spent money on something so vital for my well-being. I have such gratitude for the journey K and I are on together and all the ways in which it enables me to function and grow.

As we were finishing the phone call she said again how big this transition is for my system and how she will be flexible for me and available by phone over the coming weeks so we can work if things are difficult, until all this is settled. I felt all snuggled and wrapped in a blanket when the call ended and that was nice, but it has dissipated quite a lot now and I am feeling lost and unsettled again. I am so incredibly tired and feel as though I’ve been through a near-death experience today so hopefully I will sleep and can spend tomorrow putting the house and my selves back together again.