Unexpected

Dear CB,

I hope you are well. I wonder if it would be helpful to speak briefly to find a way forward. I could do that at 3 today or 11 tomorrow.

Let me know if you would like to do that.

Warm wishes,

K.

So this was an unexpected text to receive this morning. I had just got back from my morning bike ride, committed to not checking my emails until I’d showered and meditated as I knew hearing from K could set my day off course again, and her text was there when I looked at my phone. We are going to speak at 11 tomorrow. I don’t know if it will be to discuss how to end our work appropriately, or if it will to consider whether we could try working online again for a few sessions and then end if it doesn’t work, but either way it is better than the alternatives.

I am trying not to be hopeful but I really don’t want to end our work and I can’t help but hope that maybe she is open to at least trying to work online again. If not, I hope she has been able to at least take in how damaging it would be for our work to end in this way given the depths we went to together, and all the open boxes left on the therapy shelf, and that we would need more than one or two sessions to close things appropriately.

Who knows what she is thinking though? This year she has behaved in some pretty surprising ways!

Ending

I sent the email in my last post to K on Monday afternoon. I’ve not heard back from her. She doesn’t work Thursdays or Fridays so I won’t hear till Monday at the earliest now. I actually think, though, that she will package up the things I asked her to send back and post them later this week with a card ‘wishing me well’ and telling me she is not able to do the ending sessions I have asked for (i.e. a celebration of our work that does justice to the depth of the attachment and the profound nature of the work we did together). She might give a reason (‘wouldn’t be appropriate after all this time’ or some such rubbish), or she might not. Either way it will be the very end.

Every so often I think I made a mistake setting out what I needed from the ending sessions instead of just accepting her offer and hoping that when she saw me again she would allow herself to remember me and open to what we were. But honestly if that didn’t happen and the last time I ever saw her was cold and detached then it would break my heart. I would rather not see her again if she is not in a place where she feels able to be warm and open to me. So, if she can’t give me the ending I need, or something close to it at least, then I am better off continuing to let her go as I have been – away from her.

My GP yesterday, who I saw in absolute crisis, said K needs to give me a proper ending ASAP and that she has a duty of care to ensure I am supported to transition to someone new since she can’t work with me anymore. It was validating to hear this and that she understood how hard this is for me. I could email K and ask for this, remind her that we need an ending even though it has been over a year and ask for recommendations of other therapists to continue our work with, but what is the point of seeing her after all this time if it is under duress and she is defensive and unreachable? I honestly don’t want our last interaction to be like that, when I have so many memories of us being so close and feeling so safe with her, loved and cosy and warm. It is hard to hold on to those memories but I know when these awful waves have subsided and I am able to process this loss – again – that I will be able to find them. I’m scared if I saw her and it was ‘weird emailing K’ on the screen that who we were would be ripped away from me too.

We could have had such a lovely ending. It would have been deeply painful of course, not least because our work was really not done when the pandemic struck, but it would have been real and heartfelt and worthy of our time together. If she had contacted me earlier this year when she first realised she was staying online we could have met to discuss whether we could carry on working and then, if not, we could have had a proper ending of at least 6 sessions. We could have reflected on our time together, talked about all the lovely things we did together, remembered how deeply painful the first few years of therapy were for me and how much it hurt me to take in her care and warmth, and then packaged up the things we left on the shelf in therapy last August in a way that would enable me to take them to a new therapist, if and when I chose to do that. Instead I’ve ended up here and it is baffling because she always said how important good endings were for me, with the attachment wounding I have and the profound abandonment I experienced as an infant. Years ago she told me she is ethically obliged to give me 6 months notice if she were to retire or close her practice, but that she would give me a year because of the depth of the work we were doing. Even last year, before the ‘break’ she reassured me this definitely wasn’t an ending – ‘this isn’t how I do endings’ she said. And she said even if I’d come to her and said I wanted to end, she’d have made me do 6 sessions because of how long we had worked together.

I can’t really see why that has changed now and, if anything, a longer ending would be more appropriate, to enable us to reconnect first. I don’t see why it is relevant that it has been over a year since we met. She must know I was expecting to work with her again and so the way she has told me, incrementally over the past 7 months, that our work is over is so hard to comprehend. It feels like she has turned into a different person. I really do hope she gets it together to give me what I need, but I am kind of accepting now that she likely won’t, or can’t.

I’m in kind of an okay place about it all again for now, just immensely tired and dissociated, which is a relief because the previous 48 hours were pretty fucking horrendous. Mostly I feel very angry that she has kept me waiting all this time without being clear – her vague emails in both March and July have meant I’ve been left waiting and wondering what to do for 7 months now. I have been trying to come to a decision that wasn’t even mine to make in the end. That stings. Especially as I decided to take a leap of faith and go back, knowing that to lose her from my life forever would be far worse than going back and finding out things were different. I tried to really feel into what was right for me and I contacted her knowing that leaving our work in the past really wasn’t right for me. I was prepared to take the risk of not being able to work online again, and so needing to end, in case it was actually okay and meant I could continue to get her support and guidance in the way I need.

She should have contacted me as soon as she made the decision not to return to in-person work really, so that we could talk through what this would mean to me and so I could be supported to move on if needed. At the very least she should have thought this through in March, which is when I emailed to ask when she would be going back to in-person work and she broke the news that she wasn’t – in the coldest way possible. I asked her then if this was the end and if I was supposed to pack up 5 years together by myself or if she was still expecting me to come back at some point, and she agreed that my idea of possibly returning to online therapy in the autumn was a good one. She said to let her know my thoughts over the summer. I did this, told her I wanted to, and she again was vague. And so here I am 7 months later, yet again struggling to contain an emotional storm of abandonment annihilation and adult grief over the loss of someone I’ve not seen for over 13 months. It all seems so stupid. Why didn’t she tell me sooner, when a proper ending may have been more ‘appropriate’? Why did she not take the time to think it through back in March instead of being weird and incomprehensible?

Her email to me on Monday was again ridiculous and so poorly written. It was vague around having ‘no appointments for you at this time‘ and then said ‘My work is online and we had agreed that this was not a helpful approach for you’ which is very unfair since 7 months ago I’d said I would be fine to do this. There is such a huge difference between finding online work difficult at the start of a pandemic when all you want is things to return to normal, and online work once you’ve accepted that is all there is on offer and are intending to make the best of it. She then said she was moving into more of a supervisory role in her work and so her ‘sense is that it may be helpful for you consider other therapists’. Again, vague – should I move to someone else or not? Then she went in with the ending talk and the penny dropped. She said…

Although we haven’t met for over a year there is the question of an ending if you may find that helpful. I don’t think that a long ending would be appropriate after all this time but do let me know if you’d like to consider one or two sessions for closure.

I was so tempted to tell her to screw her ‘one or two sessions’ and to point out that, had she made this decision and communicated it clearly 7 months ago, then a proper ending may have been ‘more appropriate’. I didn’t though. Instead I spent 4 hours in basically a freeze state crafting the email I ended up sending – open and heartfelt, authentic, mature, non-blaming, clear about my needs. As I sobbed on the phone to R in my car on Monday night I read him the email and he thought it was brilliant and that if anything could ‘crack her open’ and bring her back to herself/us so she could respond with warmth and we could have a proper ending, it would be my email. Well, it hasn’t so far…

I feel so sad it is ending like this because it didn’t need to at all. I have behaved impeccably this past year, with maturity and insight and self-awareness. I’ve not contacted her in crisis or allowed young parts to message her or challenged her decisions. I’ve been understanding and accepting and not raged at her or been passive aggressive or anything. I’ve not done anything to make myself undeserving of a proper ending. She has no need to try and protect herself from me. R says to hold onto this – that my understanding of the situation is accurate. We were on a break – she made that very clear at the time and she had every intention of carrying our work on. I deserved an explanation when this changed. I am right to be angry and confused over what has transpired.

I’m sure there will be more outpourings of grief over the coming days and weeks, but for now the storm has subsided and I know how to keep moving forward again. I never in a million years would have taken a break if I’d known that it would prevent me from going back – being able to return was the only reason I was able to make the decision to pause things and I feel so betrayed that this has been taken away – but this is where I am and this is what is happening. Things change, of course they do, but to not even feel the need to discuss with me what I should do after such a huge change feels like a betrayal of the profound and depth work we did.

I hope K manages to find me inside herself in the next few days, but I expect she is just going to package up the things of mine she still has and let me go forever. What an unexpected situation to be on and what a tragic and unnecessary way to end all that beautiful work we did together.

The end.

Dear K,

Thank you for your email although I am obviously disappointed that you’ve made the decision to end our work without knowing what is going on for me and where I am in my life now. I’ve really grown into working online this past year and have built strong relationships with a coach and another practitioner in this way. I made the decision to ask to return to online therapy with you after much reflection and feeling into what was right for me because I was as sure as I could be that it would be beneficial for me. I had hoped to be able to build upon some aspects of our work, while leaving behind the things I’ve moved on from this past year. I’ve known since the winter that our work would never be how it was before the pandemic and have processed this, as far as possible, as well as grieving the loss of that time (even though it was so traumatic and painful so much of the time) and the closeness we once had (whilst reflecting upon how far I’ve come as well of course, and how I am able to see myself through my own eyes now instead of always needing a mirror to make me feel real).

Of course I had doubts and was scared I might return to therapy with you to find that what we had wasn’t there anymore, but I reassured myself that we would find each other again because our relationship was strong and special and had endured so much. I had hoped that once you saw me again and understood how far I’ve come this year that any residual doubts about working with me online again would dissipate (and if not, at least then we would be able to go through a proper and gentle ending phase, as would befit the intense and profound work we did together). I have been moving forwards and integrating the healing I’ve done but there are parts of our work I have deeply missed and there are certain – pretty big and long-term – things I wanted to be able to talk through and work on with you, because you would understand what was going on for me around them in a way no one else does. I had hoped we could transition into something more focused on my adult life, but built upon the foundations of what we had and your knowledge of me and my history. I can hold so much for myself now but there are still times when I need help to untangle an overwhelming mess so that I can understand what is going on for me and why. I have not had this experience with any other professional; when I take an overwhelming mess to someone else, I come home with an overwhelming mess. And so I miss your skills as a therapist, and your knowing of me and all the threads that make up the tangled messes I get into, very much sometimes. To know I am losing that forever now is quite hard, especially because I left thinking it would be my choice whether or not to come back and with your reassurances that we had always made times work before and so we would make them work again. I know things change, and the pandemic brought changes that I wasn’t expecting for a good few years, but I still thought it would be a very long time till you were never in my life at all.

You once knew everything there was to know about me, K. You knew every part of me and every part has told you their story in one way or another. You walked beside me in the present for five years and you also journeyed back in time with me, so that in my memory it sometimes feels as though you were there with us in the past too. You hold my story the way a mum should and the person I am becoming is built upon the foundation of all the good things you poured into me for five whole years. Our relationship will forever be among the most magical and beautiful and sacred relationships of my life, paving the way for all that is still to come. To be offered one or two sessions to close our work, if I want them, after being so sure we were not ending last summer and reassuring me that ‘this isn’t how I do endings’ suggests that the depth of our therapeutic relationship or the intensity of the journey we undertook together is no longer present in your heart or mind. It is as though you have forgotten that this is me, CB, a person who you valued and cared for and worked endlessly to steady and show that safety is possible, that safety is safe. You were deeply invested in our work, I remember, and I’m sure you felt sad that a source of such deep connection and growth was cut off for me in the way it was last year, especially because after all that struggle and darkness I’d finally reached a place where I could really be in relationship with you and soak it up – relational healing, healing all the parts of me.

I remember you saying how grateful you were to be doing this work with me, that it was a privilege to know me, and that you thought what we had was rare in the psychotherapy world. Your emails this year have left me feeling that you have forgotten me and our time together and how important our work once was. It is for this reason I am concerned that it would not just be deeply painful for me if we were to have some ending sessions, which is a necessary pain I know, but that it would take away from me what we had and turn it into something else. I don’t want to risk confirming what I have sensed in your emails this year and to carry that into the future with me instead of the you, the us, that I remember. If I am to lose you from my future I don’t want to lose you from my past as well, or to lose the certainty I have carried inside me this past year, even when I felt as though you had forgotten, that our relationship was real and sacred and mattered to us both. I need this so that our work can continue to take root in me and so if you don’t hold what we were inside of you anymore then I am scared it will be taken from me too.

If I am mistaken in this and it is just that something has gotten lost in translation (and I hope more than anything that I am wrong of course, and that you still remember and have a place in your heart for me, for all of us) then I would be pleased to meet and reflect on our work together in some ending sessions. I only feel able to do this if we can do it in a way that doesn’t underplay its significance though, so that it is present, centre-stage, acknowledged as a powerful source of alchemy and transformation, recognised as a deep loss regardless of any growth that has come since. I do not want to leave feeling ashamed for how hard I know I will find it to say goodbye to you for the last time, despite how ‘fine’ I’ve been for so much of this past year, or for you to tell me how far I’ve come without you – I’ve only come this far because of our work and I always assumed I would be able to share my growth and discoveries from this year with you one day, and that we would then take down the things we put on the therapy shelf last August and carry on our work. I knew it would be different of course, but I also thought it would still be the same in many ways because you and me would still be there, and this always was the essence of our work even though I found that so hard to take in.

If you are open to embracing our work fully in the ending sessions then please let me know and, if so, I would like 3 sessions please, or at least the option of this many (which I don’t think is at all excessive, given the unusual circumstances – to be honest, when I have considered what would happen if you didn’t want to work with me again, I had in mind 6 ending sessions as the right amount to enable an element of re-connection before the very end). I can do pretty much any days and times for the next month or so (although earlier in the day so that I have time to process and centre before Nina arrives home from school would be preferable).

Either way, please could you post little yellow [soft toy], my copy of [book], the parts triangles we made together, and any other papers of mine that you have in your room (I think there are all the lists of funny times, cosy times, etc. and some posters and timelines as well). I have one of your books here so I will post that later this week. If you could find it in you to write something for Miffy when you post back our things then that would be much appreciated, but I understand you might not feel able to do this.

I look forward to hearing from you,

CB

What next?

I am at a pivotal moment. Or rather I am not, or don’t feel I am, but I need to propel myself into seeing this as a pivotal moment because I need to decide what I am doing about returning to therapy – again! – and if I am not going back, what I will do instead. It is now September 9th and last time K and I were in contact I said I would email this month so she could let me know of her next available space. I had said I would like to start sometime after 13th September. Do I want to do this?

I really don’t know. Well, I kind of do know. I don’t want to go back to therapy with K at the moment, for complex reasons I think, but I also don’t want this to be the end. I also don’t feel I can let it drift after this month without it being THE END and this being communicated to her. It has been 13 months since we paused our work now. Letting things linger in indecisivenes is not really that good for me I’m sure. I feel so torn and have just been avoiding thinking about it to be honest. Most of the time I am content to let it drift along as it is indefinitely really, as I’m in no hurry to return or bring things to a head, but every so often I become aware that I really do need to decide. And the longer it is the harder it will be to go back to online therapy I think, if that is what I decide to do.

Basically K’s response to me after I last wrote in July saying I wanted to return to online therapy in the autumn was that she couldn’t say yet if she would have space then so we should check back in at that time, but that if I was ‘in need of psychotherapy it might be a good idea to look around for people who work full time’ (yes, sigh, but I’m guessing she has to say this ethically, rather than just saying ‘oh yes, just wait for me even though it could be many months’). The thing is I am not in need of psychotherapy, but I want and need to return to therapy with her. It feels wrong to have cut off such a depth relationship and source of healing and connection so suddenly, without knowing that is what we were doing, and without a chance to reflect or even say a proper goodbye. That session last August is not how we would have ended 5 years of work and it still feels as though it is hanging – suspended, unfinished. So going back is in recogntion of what we had, rather than psychotherapy being something I specifically need right now above all other healing modalities. I’m sure she gets this really.

I have no idea what is the right thing for me to do. This is exactly the kind of decision K would have helped me feel into and work out what is right for me. Without her it is impossible to be honest and I get so lost in the unknowns and what ifs. I don’t need psychotherapy at this time I don’t think. What I think I would benefit from is a weekly space that is held for me where I can process and understand the things that happen in the week, be supported to make certain decisions, and make sense of my internal experiences based on who I am as a person and what I struggle with due to complex trauma. Hah! I know this is psychotherapy, but it is also not attachment therapy and it is not really what K and I were doing before, or only for part of the sessions. I am scared that I couldn’t do this kind of adult work with her without parts getting triggered and all the attachment stuff coming up again. And there are things I am scared to look at again that I know are spiralling in my psyche just out of reach, around my dad and also my brother. I know these will come up when I see her and I don’t know if I want them to, even though I do need to process and move forward around them both. I am scared of this relative and fragile peace I’ve found being disrupted, even though I can’t really say things are that great right now either.

I do know I am past the phase of intense attachment therapy though – I did this work and it was fucking agony and at times I didn’t think I would survive it. But I did and had K and I kept working as we were pre-pandemic then I think it we would have continued to transition into something close and intimate that could only have grown out of those years of struggle and desparate need for her, and the raw, intense trauma work. There was a new softness surrounding our work before lockdown and the trust and safety that was emerging was the most healing thing imaginable for me and the parts, all the more so because none of us, or K, ever thought we’d get to that place. If we had kept working I think the relational healing I was getting – at last – was something that would have benefited me for years to come. Being able to be in relationship with her, at last, wihout wanting to die or feeling I was dying was the sweetest thing on earth for me. Losing that still stings, when I let my thoughts wonder to the past, but mostly I am at peace with the reality that what transpired is my path and the pandemic, despite being so difficult globally and personally, has led me through another period of intense growth and healing to a place of self-knowing. It brought me to a place where I am able to see myself clearly for the first time in my life, without needing someone else to be my mirror, and without disappearing from my own view without someone there to show me who I am. I could never, ever wish to go back in time and for my path to be different, if it meant I might risk never being able to see myself through my own eyes as I can now.

I am scared to go back and find that all of what K and I had is gone and that it is impossible to get it back. It would be better to leave it intact exactly as it was than to risk it being watered down and becoming something else, washing away the past in the process. I can imagine the pain of seeing what we were evaporating into the air in each of our separate rooms, while we look at each other on the screen and forget there was ever anything else. In the room together everything we were and everything we had ever done filled the air around us. It was concentrated, potent, full of life and vibrancy. The memories were usually unspoken but ever present, echoes of the laughter, tears, anger, fear, frustration and love we had shared over the years, along with the surpising newness of the place we reached when suddenly I could take in therapy and what K was giving me without it slipping straight through or not being enough or triggering the pain of what I never had.

To let all that understanding and history dissolve and lose its force, it just feels like such a risk, even though I know the gains of reconnecting could be beautiful and healing too. There are times when I feel that just seeing K again, screen or not, is what we all need and will be amazing and holding and connecting in and of itself. I just don’t want to lose what we had inside myself because it gets replaced by whatever comes next. So a big part of me wants to leave K and I’s work as this beautiful, intense, fucking traumatic at times, contained 5 year period. To box it up and leave it over there, finished and finite. But then to never get to see her again or share memories of how things were and look at how far I’ve come, and to never share this past year with her and the growth and healing, to live my whole life and her not see any of it… I just don’t know.

I wonder if I need a new therapist instead. I know body work is important and is something I do and would like to do more of, but I actually feel I really benefit from the cerebral connection of talk therapy as well and that this has been especially healing for me (especially as K is a core process psychotherapist and so awarenes of the body and emotions and internal imagery and so on in each moment is a core component of the work). However, it would be very hard to have even therapy that supports me mostly on an adult level with someone new because K knows me and would understand implicitly how things were affecting me and why. It would take a long time to build that with someone else and I don’t really want to. And with R so much past still comes up, a past he knows a lot about already but new things still emerge, and I still switch and parts talk to him, and so I don’t think these things would just vanish with a new T. At least with K she knows them and they can just be there.

I do see R every week still and it is wonderful, but when I go with a big overwhelming tangle I come home with a big overwhelming tangle. Our work is best when I am in a period of growth, or when I just need holding because of an outpouring of grief or something. Talking to him doesn’t always help things feel clearer or more settled and less overwhelming. Everything comes out in a jumble and he hears me and reflects on what I’ve said and helps me make decisions or feel justified in my decisions, but it is not psychotherapy and it doesn’t always help me contain things or work through them in the way that would help me. He is not a trained therapist afterall, and sometimes that is really apparent and I miss that type of work. I miss the way K held the session, invited me to share my week so that we could work out what to prioritise and what else needing to be talked about, the way she broke down the time, held it in a magical way so that sometimes it seemed to stretch endlessly and leave us time for everything that needed to be shared. But R holds me and that settles my nervous system and stops me feeling so gross and untouchable, and he cares and knows so much. He is deeply invested in this work with me and being here with me for as long as he can, hopefully until he dies if that is what I want. Choosing K over him? Choosing him over K? I don’t know.

If I could go back to remote therapy with K without stopping seeing R each week then that is what I would do. And if going back to K meant a return to in-person therapy then I would choose seeing K over seeing R (or not seeing him very often at all). But I don’t think I can give up weekly sessions with him for K on a screen, which is what I would need to do. I am left with a seemingly impossible choice again.

I also really don’t feel I can cope with the inevitable destabilisation that will come from connecting with K again, despite knowing it will likely help in many ways as well. It has been a relief to be away from the triggering of my attachment wound or the way that looking at certain things in therapy stirs up other things. It’s almost like if I’m ok, and often thriving, without therapy – why would I go back and risk destabilising things? Only things are not totally okay I guess… There are struggles I long to take to K sometimes so she can help me find a better way forward. But she only works daytimes now, Mon and Wed 10-4pm. I would therefore have therapy partway through my working day, every week. I don’t know how this would be, given therapy’s tendency to disrupt things, or at least unsettle them. I don’t know if that is what I want either. I lose so many days as it is, due to ADHD or lack of sleep or being dysregulated by Nina or something else. I need as much stability and routine and structure as I can get. I am scared therapy will sweep in with a destructive force and unsettle everything again when I’m kind of ok. I’m also not really ok, and not sure how to reach that place without therapy with K and building on what we had to help me reach more of a place of safety and conncetion in my life and in myself. I know there are so many other ways to do this, but I am tired of trying new things and I long for familiarity.

It is certainly a dilemma. And alongside all this is that she could actually say no anyway, and that on reflection she doesn’t think online therapy would work for me after the last time. Whilst I feel different enough now that I think online therapy would be okay, I could be wrong on this. I guess I cannot predict what she will say, and so I need to at least work out what I want and need, which is SO BLOODY HARD when there are so many variables and unknowns and when there seem to be so many competing needs inside of me. My biggest fear is that I decide to go back, we start regular sessions again, it doesn’t work online, or is too disruptive and destabilising (perhaps because it’s online, perhaps because it triggers the attachment stuff again, perhaps both) and then we have to end on the screen. I think that would break my heart to be honest, to bring our work to an end due to circumstances outside of my/our control and to not even get to see her properly to say goodbye. This is partly why it is easier to leave things as they are now, but it is also not something I can ignore forever.

Returning to therapy in the autumn (I hope)

I decided I need to go back to online therapy with K in the autumn, for all sorts of reasons and also only one; it would be beyond damaging for all different parts of me to not go back and to have left things hanging on a break as we did. It will be different and weird and perhaps unsatisfactory in some ways, but it will be K and me and we will find each other again. She holds my story, she knows me better than anyone else in the world, and she is probably the only person whose perspective on attachment trauma and narcissistic parenting and chronic pain and a million over things chimes so closely with my own. I feel as though she really understands my past and my present because she has lived my experiences with me, both in real time and also the past we shared with her and built a narrative around together. I find talking to anyone else, even R, grating at times and triggering at others, because I get so easily invalidated by people seeming to imply that ‘everyone is a mess’ and ‘everyone has trauma’ (even though this is not what R means to do at all). So I just want to sink back into the ease I had with K at the end, an ease that was bloody hard won after years of triggering and crises, and that I never got to reap the benefits of before the pandemic set in.

I am not sure how it will work on screen and with 50 minute sessions but I am committed to trying and to taking what I can from it while accepting what it is not (and also what I do not need therapy to be anymore). As my post on letting go explained, I am in the process of leaving the first phase of our work in the past and moving forward without her in the place beside me that she once had. I still want her in my life in some way again though, and I know that her input and guidance and support will be very valuable for me over the autumn and winter and maybe even beyond. I miss her and the perspective she brought to things. I miss her way of always putting my wellbeing centremost and her unwavering support and belief in me. I miss sharing progress and good news with her. It is not a crazy, intense missing, but when I think of her I think of how nice it will be too see her, even on a screen. And the thought of never seeing her again is really too much for young parts to cope with when things were left with such certainty and clarity that this was just a break, not an ending.

I am also painfully aware that if I really can’t manage therapy via a screen, and all kinds of dissociated hell breaks lose, that we will need to work towards an ending, which would be heartbreaking to do online I think, but also necessary if it just wasn’t working. I am hoping I’m in enough of a different place that it won’t come to this, but with parts and attachment trauma there is never any guarantee of this!

I just hope she doesn’t say no. I have decided to send the email below later this week and not go into any detail on why I think it will work online and what I need and so on. I just hope she trusts me still and knows I’ve not made this decision lightly. I hope she trusts that I am intending to re-enter online therapy and make it work, even if it is still painful at times. I can see she might be worried that it will be a mess again, so I guess I am prepared for her saying no. At least I will know then.

Dear K,

I hope you are well. I am emailing as discussed to confirm that I definitely wish to return to psychotherapy in the autumn. I would like to start back soon after 13th September. I understand you can’t hold a space open for me if one comes available before then but I still thought it would help for you to have a date in mind from my end.

I could write an essay about all the reasons why I want and need to do this but I am trusting that you know me well enough to understand that I’ve thought this through properly and that it is the right thing for me to do. If you want me to explain in more detail I’m happy to though, just let me know.

It is likely I will be working from home every Monday and most Tuesdays next term and so could do therapy one of those days (my SL was postponed until next January, so I will be working at home every day from mid-December as well). Wednesdays would be trickier but not completely out of the question. I know you don’t work Thursday and Fridays anymore.

I look forward to hearing from you with what you think is the best way forward.

With warm wishes,

CB

And then will come the painful time when I have to give up weekly hugs with R to see K on a screen, but I am trying not to let my mind go there yet…

The light floods in

This is my first day on stimulant medication for my ADHD. I wasn’t sure if I’d notice anything today as it is a v low dose to start with. Then as I was driving back from dropping N at school I felt it kick in and just… wow! I’d been feeling stressed and agitated because school emailed late last night to say there was a positive LFT in her year group and they needed to stay off till the student had got a PCR test done. Then they emailed at 8.10 to say it was a computer error (more like a parent ticked the wrong box when logging the test result late last night!!) and they could go in after all. By this time N’s bus had left so I had to drive her to school and she took ages to get ready so I had been snapping at her and feeling flustered about the day ahead, and then…

Then the fog lifted. I could see. I could see the world, even though it was grey. Everything came to life and there was colour and it was 3D. I never have this kind of mental clarity but on grey days it is usually really, really foggy inside my head and I can’t see or think properly (because sunlight helps us produce norepinephrine, which along with dopamine is super deficient in ADHD brains, and so for me grey days have always meant fog and dysfunction and a total inability to focus or think or feel energised).

Suddenly everything inside went eerily quiet. I felt calm. I noticed I was having one thought at a time and I could finish that thought and then move to the next. In fact, I physically couldn’t start another thought until one was finished. I was calm inside, settled. In my house everything looked clear and my brain was calm and focused as I looked round and was able to take in one thing at a time. I typed a text to R to tell him and I was able to watch my fingers typing the words and finish each sentence before thinking what to write next. ‘Everything has slowed down’ I wrote to him. ‘I’ve never felt this calm and slow in my whole life’.

Midsummer’s Day. The day when light flooded my life.

I asked if I could phone R because I needed to share this moment with someone who gets it and has been beside me on this journey of waiting for meds since mid-April, but also the other huge journeys that make up my life so far. When we spoke I could listen to what R was saying. Actually listen to it. I could focus on it and take in what he was saying, picture it, pause, decide how to respond. My mind and body felt slow and calm, not restless or agitated or flooded with an urgency to do and say and think something else. I could imagine being with him next week and not having anything to say because there was nothing that needed saying (in which case we will just hug, he said). It feels impossible to dredge up concerns that don’t matter at this moment in time because they can’t be dealt with now anyway. Usually my brain floods with everything at once because ADHD brains lack a filter for incoming stimuli, including our own thoughts.

After the call I remembered I needed to phone DFS because N spilt smoothie on the sofa yesterday. Normally the thought of finding the paperwork and working out what to do would mean I avoided this for days and sometimes weeks or even forever (there is still a different stain on it I never got round to claiming for). I went straight upstairs, found the paperwork, went to the website and was able to read and follow the instructions. I could read each word at a time without jumping ahead or trying to absorb everything by osmosis. I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I worked out what to do and made a call. When the call handler put me on hold I was able to just sit there, calm and still. I didn’t feel the need to fidget or open a tab on my laptop or wander off somewhere. I felt calm and patient. I could then listen to what the man said and wait till he finished before speaking, or even thinking of what I would say.

I was able to make a plan for the day without getting overwhelmed or flooded by what needs doing and when I should do it. I think of something I need to do and then I just do it. For example, getting a glass of water (which I usually procrastinate for hours, even when I’m so thirsty I can’t think of anything else), using the toilet, writing something down. I saw something on the floor that shouldn’t be there and instead of walking past it I picked it up and put it where it needed to go.

I meditated and I was able to sit perfectly still easily. No restlessness in mind or body. No fidgeting. I could focus on each breath one at a time and it wasn’t like someone was scribbling snatches of words and images and urges to do things inside my head. I didn’t get bored or restless or need to keep checking how much longer was left. I’ve meditated practically every day for nearly 9 years and it has never felt like that. I’ve had calm and peace and even euphoria, but never stillness in my mind and body like that. I’ve never had just one thing in my mind at once and no restless energy in my body.

I am about to start work now as I’ve given myself some time to let this sink in and I need to shift my focus (I can tell it is going to require work to ensure I focus on the right things each day!). Already there is no frantic switching between tabs on the laptop and apps on my phone, seeking out stimulation to provide the dopamine my brain needs to function. Having one thought at a time means I can focus on what needs doing before moving to the next thing. I don’t feel agitated typing like I normally do because my fingers can’t keep up with the thoughts in my brain and I can’t finish a thought before moving to the next. I can type each word at a time and just let my brain provide one word at a time. My brain isn’t flooded or overwhelmed.

It’s no wonder I have felt overwhelmed all the time when my brain was flooded like that, with every thought, every possibility, every memory and every plan jostling for attention and with my brain constantly seeking stimulation because it couldn’t function without dopamine and so I was stimulation-seeking and ending up more overwhelmed. I wonder how it will affect my sensory overload and auditory processing issues…

I know this feeling of brightness and newness won’t last. I know the effects will die down or not feel as pronounced after a week or two. I don’t feel euphoric though, which often happens in the first couple of weeks of ADHD meds and leads to people feeling let down when their brain adjusts and feeling ‘normal’ becomes normal, I just feel blown away by how different this is. Clarity and calm and stillness. Is this really how so many non-ADHD people feel? No wonder they get so much done and function so well. And for me the main thing is that it means methylphenidates will work for me and I just have to hope I don’t get intolerable side effects. I know they might not last forever for me, but I can see how much healing this state of being, for N and I, is going to bring to our relationship and how much better able we will be to do all the other things we both need to manage our ADHD (and for me, I know I will be able to do the things to heal from attachment trauma more easily now). So even if they work for a few years then that is fine by me, although there are people who’ve been on extended release methylphenidate for nearly 2 decades and it still works fine so there is no guarantee it will stop working.

It won’t cure my ADHD. I will still be forgetful and have a lack of working memory and issues with distractability and getting started on what I actually need to do. I will still have executive dysfunction and will need to work hard at other strategies to make sure I prioritise and get started on things I need to do (instead of hyperfocusing on this blog post haha – it has been so easy to write this and really focus on it and not get distracted and go and do other stuff, but it is not what I should be doing right now!) but it feels as though these other strategies will actually be able to take effect now I’m on meds. I can imagine responding better to yoga and meditation and yoga nidra and other healing things now because I will be able to actually focus on them! And of course now my nervous system will be calmer I will have less stress chemicals constantly flooding my body, meaning my health will improve in this way too.

Wisdom is that meds for ADHD are the bottom line and enable all the other positive lifestyle changes and therapy and coaching and so on to really take effect. So I guess I’ve kind of done things the other way around and it will be interesting to see if these things begin to actually work more now I’m being treated. It also explains why after decades of healing in different ways I still felt the same a lot of the time – overwhelmed basically, and unable to do things or listen or focus and just feeling agitated and chronically irritable, and foggy and slow and lacking in energy (not attachment pain and emotional flashbacks as they are a lot better, but all the other things that make my life so hard).

I can’t wait to do yoga at lunchtime and see how it feels, or to read a book or watch TV and see if there is a difference. I can’t wait to be with my friends and to be able to listen to what they are saying without having to try really hard to pay attention, or constantly interrupting them or zoning out and having to ask them to repeat themselves multiple times. I can’t wait to see how it affects me over the next couple of weeks and then longer term. There are so many changes I’ve wanted to implement but the ADHD got in my way!

Edit: to add – I ate my lunch just eating. Still. Not looking at my phone or feeling bored or restless. Just eating. And then I did yoga. OMFG!! No wonder non-ADHD people find yoga so beneficial. I could stay still in each pose. It’s like when you throw a block of wood down and it beds in where it lands. My body was like that. I set the pose and it felt solid and then I could stay in it. Perfectly still. There was a constant crawling restlessness inside me before that I never knew was there till today. Even when my body was externally still (rare) there has been a restless energy rushing through me. I thought it was my mind that was agitated but it was my body too. Nothing inside me has ever been still and my body has never, ever felt like this before. And during yoga my mind was also still and empty. If a thought came, a single thought now, not hundreds at once, I gently nudged it away. I wasn’t bored or restless or anxious to move to the next pose. I didn’t have to try really hard to be in my body. I was in it the whole time, effortlessly. It’s not hard to see that yoga will have a more beneficial impact when it is done in this way!

I can’t wait to live and not feel overwhelmed emotionally and cognitively nearly all the time – for me this was the symptom I heard about that made me sit up and notice what ADHD is, and how it is not what we think it is (it is not an ‘attention-deficit’ at all) back at Christmas – ‘a constant state of overwhelm’ yep, that sounds like me! And then when I read about executive dysfunction that stops ADHD brains actually doing the things they not only need but want to do it all fell into place. I’ve lost so much of my life unable to do things even though I want to, feeling overwhelmed but also totally unable to do anything. Not being able to do things I want to do, even when I have the time and space, has been such a loss and I hope I might be about to be able to change this.

So anyway, here we are. I hope the positive effects last, even if they fade into the background a little over the next few weeks, and that this is the beginning of something huge and wonderful coming my way! I’ve read so many positive stories of ADHD meds being absolutely life-changing for so many people the last few months, enabling them to take charge of their life and stick to habits and meet goals, helping them be less impulsive and agitated and to feel more emotionally regulated and less foggy and lethargic. These stories have kept me going while I waited to start meds, and I can’t believe this day is finally here for me!

Time to let go…

So much change is taking place inside me and in my external world at the moment. Shifts that would be imperceptible to observers but for me, from my vantage point, are profound and life-changing and very, very welcome. I wonder about the future of this blog and whether I will keep it going, because even if I go back to therapy with K I won’t be doing attachment work with her anymore and that is the journey I set out to record here. I will see how it goes over the coming months. I just feel a strong pull to be living again, moving into the future, instead of picking over the past and my relationship with K, as I needed to do for so long. I am not sure where blogging fits into that or whether I even have things to say that people want to read anymore. Do people in depth psychotherapy even want to read about life after that intense work is done? I think for me it was triggering to think that there would come a time when I didn’t need K because of course I couldn’t imagine feeling differently than I did back then. There are still threads to draw together, and I like the cohesive narrative blogging enables me to weave, and so I feel that blogging is still an important part of my life. I guess I’ll just see what happens…

Being diagnosed with ADHD and learning about it has been utterly transformational for me. I’m finding so many missing puzzle pieces that are enabling me to make sense of my brain and life in a way I’ve never been able to before. It’s like all the pieces of me are inside a kaleidoscope and the patterns being made are now entirely different than they used to be – clearer and more vibrant – because every aspect of me is in there now. I can see myself in a way I’ve not been able to before. I am beginning to accept that my brain has deficits because of ADHD and to live my life in recognition of this. I am learning how to make life easier for myself as someone with an ADHD brain and it feels SO GOOD. I’ve also only just started on this path and so I am really excited by what is possible in the months and years to come, especially when I start medication in 6 weeks’ time, but also through coaching and learning and trying new things. (To clarify, ADHD is hell to live with most of the time, I totally reject the ‘neurodiversity’ movement and I don’t ascribe to the view that ADHD is a gift or a ‘difference’ – it is a disorder, a deficit, and it causes pain and suffering and addiction and leaves those with it dealing with some truly difficult, and usually misunderstood stuff, but I do know that for me there is freedom and growth in embracing it and using my knowledge and self-awareness to make real change in my life.

The other huge change is that I am starting to integrate the reality of experiencing chronic pain into my life and to actually tell people close to me about it. This is huge after years of basically not telling anyone I am in pain. My first dose of the Covid vaccine triggered an absolutely huge flare of pain and other physical symptoms. It has lasted 2 and a half weeks now and is only just beginning to ease (though I had two better days on holiday last week) and at times it was completely debilitating and left me nauseous and vomiting and unable to even lie still it hurt so much. If I was ever in any doubt about the state of my nervous system, and the chronic inflammation present in my system still, I am not now.

There is a lot I want to write about pain and ADHD so I’ve decided to split this post into three and write about these latter two aspects separately, because they are deserving of their own posts I think.

And so to K. What does all this change mean for the future of my work with her? Is she in my future? Right now life is expanding and I am enjoying that and I know whatever happens in September I don’t want to go back to how things were. Even if we could work in-person again, for 2 hours each week, I wouldn’t want to go back to how we were working in March last year. I am not the same person and I want to keep moving forward because I am enjoying this part of my journey so much.

Generally I rarely think of K these days, but she was in my mind last week as we were on holiday in the same place as we were when I first spoke to her on the phone about starting therapy. It is such a special place for me, a place where Nina and I have returned many times, a place I spent lots of time with my dad as a child and teen and young adult. It is the place where I have found so many pieces of myself over the last 9 years and where I learnt so much about the simplicity and beauty of life that brings me joy and peace. And it is a place I later found out K used to live and that is special to her too. It is a place that had so much meaning in our work. And while I was there I felt sad because that work is in the past now. I had a really strong sense of wanting to go back in time to August nearly 6 years ago when I was just about to meet her and to be able to start working with her again, knowing I had 5 years and 550 hours in the room with her ahead of me. It is over though. That part of our work is in the past. Whatever comes next it will be different and not how it was at all.

During my treatment today R said he could sense I was ready for something. I knew what it was as soon as he said that because it was on my mind and it came up last week in kinesiology too. It is time to let K go. It is time to move forward in my life without her. What the shape of this will be I don’t yet know, and whether it will mean the end of my time with her or the start of something else remains to be seen, but I know that it is time and I am ready. Last week when we were away, and when we returned home to our lovely, calm house that I have worked so hard in so many ways to bring into reality for us, I had such a deep sense of being an adult now, living an adult life, and finding joy in ways that are authentic for me. There are struggles and Nina is incredibly difficult to parent at times as a teenage girl who also has ADHD, but there is so much growth and change and moving forward for both of us at the moment. I am giving her tools and a language to understand herself as I learn more about myself and my ADHD brain, and, as they are for me, I imagine her ‘limitations’ will become less limiting as she embraces them and integrates them into who she is. It was a wonderful feeling, to be so fully grounded in my own life, and even as the intense pain has flared again this week, I’ve been able to hold on to this feeling.

K and I won’t work how we used to ever again. We won’t do parts work again. We won’t delve into my past together. We won’t do craft or read stories or watch films. I don’t need to do these things anymore. If we work again it will be to help me manage my life as it is now, and any obstacles that come up over the months and years ahead. My path for the next couple of months is to let go of what we once had together. First I need to hold it gently. Bundle it up and keep it close to me. Take in how special and all-consuming it once was. And then I need to let it go.

And from there my path is open. My kinesiology session last week brought up things around K and how I must do what I need instead of what I want when it comes to making a decision over whether to return. I want her but I don’t need her and I don’t know if I can get what I need in my life now from her come autumn anyway. Psychotherapy is so disruptive. It’s hard work. It stirs things up and brings them to the surface. It churns things up and then we work through them and eventually things get better, but it rarely makes things better in the moment. I don’t know if I want to go back to that or if I need to. It put my life on hold. I am ready to live now. I think the test if I go back will be if I can take anything from it without losing my ability to live. I don’t want it to consume me. I want it to support me in being me and moving forward and learning to live with ADHD and the remnants of my childhood. I wonder if another medium is the best way to make the changes I need now, as they feel so practical and ‘of the world’ and different from the work I used to do with K.

I’m scared in going back I’ll either lose me or I’ll lose what K and I had. And while I know I need to let go of what we had for all those years, perhaps to then be confronted each week with how different things are will be too much and will bring a pain that is unnecessary. I don’t want everything to turn to shit again when therapy’s place in my life has shifted. I want – need – any healing work I do now to enhance my life because the time when I needed it just to make it possible to live at all is past.

I wanted to transition into something softer with K, when the time to end our depth work came, but that softness may not ever be possible when we cannot be in the room or in nature together again. And I’m just not sure I want to go digging again. I’m not sure what psychotherapy even is without that though. What is psychotherapy if not digging and uncovering and making meaning? Part of me wants the K who knows me back, the K who empathises with my struggles and takes pride in my progress and career and all the changes I am making. Part of me can’t wait to share all I’ve done and learnt and the ways I’ve changed in the past year with her, but part of me knows that is old me needing her to know everything. New me likes to keep things a little closer and to have aspects of herself that are not shared with others and dissected and made to make sense.

My favourite part of the week always used to be telling K about it.

I am not that person anymore. I want to be living my life instead of simply observing it.

What K and I had was incredibly strong and special. It won’t be like that again. Part of me thinks it is better to leave it as it was when we started the break in August – intact, bundled up, a discrete and special period of my life. Going back and it being lacking in some way could hurt so much more than letting it peacefully recede into the past. I’m scared going back and not having the depth we once had will take away the past, stop it feeling real. I don’t want that. I want to keep our past intact somehow.

I am sad we missed out the final stages of our depth work. I am sad that I couldn’t spend more time enjoying being close to her before the pandemic hit. I am sad we couldn’t integrate our work together, but as my kinesiologist said last week – the pandemic is your path, not being able to see K is your path, it is all your path. And it is. I trust my path. I trust the universe to bring me the healing I need and want, even if that means not working with K again. I suspect those of us in long-term therapy doing depth attachment work will never feel it is done or that we are ready to end, because our attachment wounding doesn’t just disappear even when the depth work of psychotherapy is done. We have a lifetime of healing ahead, but not all of it needs to be done, even can be done, in the context of that unique and strange relationship. I know I will always struggle with attachment and I am under no illusion that the difficult excruciating disorganised attachment feelings will rear their ugly heads from time-to-time in my relationships and that I will experience abandonment flashbacks and confusion and untameable feelings.

I have come so far though and I don’t want to go backwards. So instead I sit and wait and watch to see which path emerges over the next few months and if there is a way of working with K that carries me forward without breaking my heart at the same time. Either way, it is time to let go and I am ready for that.

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.