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Hope around the edges

I haven’t written in a while. I don’t really know what this post will say, if I will even finish it. I don’t know how things are. Some fairly big things have happened in the past two weeks. Some have been things I’ve been unable to understand my cognitive and emotional reactions to and will unpick with K tomorrow (although I am aware this will soon be something I will not be able to do anymore, and I wonder what I will do with these tangles then). And others have been more straightforward difficulties which are helping me learn more and more about myself as a person – myself as a person with complex-PTSD and a dissociative disorder, the self who will need a gentle life in order to recover and live fully, as fully as possible, within the perimeters of what my childhood and adolescence have left me to deal with. Recovery – perhaps that is what this post will be about. Or some aspects of it at least.

Today isn’t a very “good” day. I am hugely dissociated and heavy and fuggy. My senses are numbed and distorted. I sang at a festival with my choir yesterday and Friday, and last night we did backing for a band which was an incredible experience. It all went really well, and there was a lot of laughter on the way home, but overall I’ve confirmed that I am not a festival person and that no amount of therapy will change that. It is just too much – sensory overload, not enough space, trapped and unable to escape. My brain was buzzing last night when we got back. I couldn’t settle. I wanted to go out and snort lines of MDMA and coke and forget (I didn’t, but the need was so great – in the past those drugs helped me pull everything together inside and stop feeling so energetically scattered). And today I am living with the shut down that was the almost inevitable outcome of that heightened state, feeling resentful that everyone I went with is having a normal day today whilst I am left with this, but also determined to remember the lessons and not have to learn this particular one again.

Sometimes I think I forget the “PTSD” part of what I am living with. The dissociation makes it easy to do this. Things switch and change so fast and I make declarations to myself, especially to the traumatised parts of me, about things we will never do again, and then the triggering time or situation is done and I dissociate from how bad it was, and find myself there again a few months or years later. During my time in therapy this is something that has changed – I am finding my edges and seeing the impact on me of doing things that I am not comfortable with. Two years ago, after a really difficult trip staying with old friends in London – the third of three difficult trips away that year – I promised my system that we wouldn’t go to London or stay with people for at least a year. That time really helped as it gave me some space to see what changed and became manageable and what didn’t. At the moment both being in London and staying with people still feel like things that are much too difficult and need to be avoided. Perhaps this will change in future, especially as I begin to see what I am left with as my reality once my work in therapy becomes more integrated next year, and what recedes without the constant triggering of the therapeutic relationship and all the process that comes up each week as my attachment wound is activated. And so my capacities may well expand once I am able to stabilise and not open myself up to that triggering every week, and I will be able to look at my needs then and get more of a sense of who I am and what I need. At the moment, though, I need too much space and am too eager to please to be able to manage to be a guest in someone else’s house. There are other things in my life that K has helped me see are non-negotiable and I sense they are embedded enough that I won’t revert without therapy, but there are other things I waver on and that I need to learn to recognise my limitations around, even when those limitations frustrate and infuriate me.

I hope I can get it together a little later to prepare for therapy tomorrow as after my session I head into a 5 week therapy break. No contact at all. In almost 3 years the longest K and I have gone without contact is 6 days, and the longest we’ve gone between sessions is 18 days (with paid and planned weekly email therapy in between). A few months ago this upcoming break would have sent me into a total tailspin. Perhaps somewhere inside are all those big feelings, but I almost cannot be bothered to look for them – they seem completely insignificant compared to the bigger ending we are working towards. They also seem insignificant compared to my life, compared to who I am, because I can feel myself growing bigger than K and my relationship with her. And I can feel some of the young parts looking to me and the older ones to guide them through this, I can feel their trust in me growing, and that is a truly beautiful thing.

And this break feels different from the breaks of the past, because it is a taste of things to come and once K is back and therapy resumes in September we will be entering a different phase of our work. We will be working towards an ending. This is something I never in a million years expected to be doing so soon. With the – understandably broken – promise of a year’s notice given in September last year, when K gave me her news at the start of June I still had in mind we would be working till at least June next year. It still feels inconceivable that we will be ending. At the same time, it also feels okay. I am starting to see these splits may always define me, and it is finding my way through them that is where the healing lies. It is being able to hold the confusion and uncertainty and mixed feelings and still stay with my truth that will bring me the peace I need.

This ending is also starting to feel like a new beginning for me. Something happened last week which really brought home how psychologically unsafe we both feel living where we are at times. Moving house is something that is absolutely vital for mine and Nina’s healing. We need to be in a home my Mum has never been to, in a place she never visits, at an address she does not know. I plan to put the house on the market in January and to move in the late Spring or Summer if possible. We will not be far away, and sometimes it doesn’t feel far enough as the city we will visit for shopping and the cinema and things will be the same one as my Mum, but whenever we visit the village we will probably move to I feel safe and free and contained. It is big enough to have a community and we will be able to walk and cycle and be in nature from our doorstep. K said on Monday how she feels the split between me and Nina staying here, where we have a support network (something – ironically – that is more needed because of the emotional and physical impacts my childhood continues to have on me) and me needing to move far away from Mum and the trauma of my childhood for my own healing. For now I will stay here, but I know that one day, when Nina has left home if not before, I will move far, far away from the place I grew up in and the traumatic memories that line its streets. For now, Nina starting secondary school in a place where she knows no one and no one knows her Grandma, and the planned house move, feel like enough of a fresh start. There is no way, really, that a house move would be possible while spending so much of my income on therapy. This premature ending, although unwelcome, does mean that other changes that are vital to mine and Nina’s safety and healing are possible.

I plan to spend some time in August going through old notes and scribblings from my time in therapy and to look through my journals from the past 3 or 4 years. I want to reflect and write and plan some writing and leave things boxed up. And I want to see the changes, see the growth, look back at the turmoil and darkness and see that I am not there anymore, not all the time. I want to look back on the intensity that arose 3 years ago, in the months leading up to and immediately after starting therapy in particular, when I began to see everything for what it was, because I can really see now that I am not in that intense place anymore. I remember K telling me earlier this year, or maybe at the end of last year, that she thinks the worst is over for me now because the really confusing times are over – I know why I am this way now, my struggles make sense, and nothing will ever feel like that time when I first met her again. I am an emotionally intense person, I think I always will be, and I am starting to see all the positives of this, having always assumed (and been told!) it was a negative thing. It is so different from over-thinking things, it is not a cognitive place, it is what it is – emotional intensity. As well as darkness it also means passion and creativity and a feeling of being fully alive, and with other emotionally intense and open and authentic people it brings tremendous excitement and exhilaration.

I also plan to purge my house next month of “things my Mum has given me”. Not everything – that would be impossible and impractical – but primarily the things I glimpse in my home as I carry out my daily activities that make me feel guilty and sad. Unwanted gifts, books I will not read, things that were given to control and manipulate, things that induce a sense of guilt and shame just by looking upon them, things given during the time we were “low contact” and her pain and self-pity hung heavy in the air around us. I will save some of the special things in a box, but the rest I will get rid of because I refuse to be suffocated by her guilt through the heavy presence of all these things in my home anymore. There was a time when K would have felt central to this purging process; I would have shared my intentions and taken some things to show her and tell her the stories behind. Maybe I will still do some of this in September, but now it feels so much more about me and my home than about being validated by K afterwards. My future feels much more about me these last couple of weeks. Next year in particular feels very much about me. The spectre of K’s absence is a frequent presence, but it is not consuming me the way it was a few weeks ago. And in letting go of my tight hold on her I can also see that I am taking her with me. It is impossible to leave her behind because she is woven into the surface of my skin. Just as I cannot leave my real mum behind me, however hard I might wish to, so too I cannot leave K. She is part of me.

Next year feels like it will be a year of hurtling forwards in my healing journey – I’ve had years like this before, where I’ve ended up feeling like a completely different person than I was 12 months before. Despite how much I’ve changed and learnt and brought into awareness during my time with K, my external life has felt stagnant in some ways. I’ve not had the time or space or money to grow in other ways and so, after 3 years of shining a light into the blackness and poking around in the dark to see all that is there that has been poisoning me and holding me back, I feel ready to expand and unfurl and grow. I’ve held myself so tightly in the past 3 years. I have felt terribly afraid. As K and I have dug around for clues as to why I am how I am, the full horror of what I endured has been laid out all around us and it has been hard to see past the terror and the enormity of all I lost. It has been hard to close my eyes against the brutal awakening to all that I needed and never had. I feel pretty certain I will return to therapy, and I do hope this will be with K, but I feel so ready for this time away from both. I know it will be hard. As I just said to a friend – I will lose myself and find myself repeatedly. What has changed is that I feel confident I will be able to re-connect to myself each time I lose myself without seeing K – I won’t need her to help me find myself and draw a line around my edges again each time I go astray.

I am finding my own edges. I am growing into who I am meant to be. I refuse to live under the heavy weight of my upbringing anymore. I want to find the people who dance to the same beat as me, a rhythm that beckons healing, light, vulnerability and authenticity. For so long K has held hope for me in the darkness when I’ve been unable to hold it for myself, but now (today at least…) I am able to hold hope for myself as I enter this brave new world without her. I know she will be there. I know she will always be a part of me. I know even if I wanted to I cannot leave her behind. Under her gaze I found myself, the self my narcissistic mother denied and ridiculed, and now it is time for that self to come to life. And I do have faith that the Universe will make it possible to share this next stage of my journey with her one day, that even though it is not a break with a definite ending, that our paths will cross again and she will hear and see what our work so far enables me to learn and do and become next year.


It seems as though I’ve come full circle over the past few days and am back to where I was 3 weeks ago – I think maybe I am not going to move to a new therapist and am going to see how I go with trying other forms of support which are aimed at releasing deeply held trauma from the body. I have been in so much physical pain the past couple of days, it’s like my body is screaming out for something new. I want to find therapies and techniques that help me release some of the deeply held tension and help me build on the work I’ve done with K over the past 3 years by helping me let go of things that no longer serve me – habitual patterns and habits and emotions. It feels like it is time to take a break from psychotherapy. I don’t think my therapy journey is done, and I do think I will want and need to do more work in the future, but I do feel very much in need of a break. I guess the difference between now and 3 weeks ago is that this time I am aware K and I may not work together again after her year off, or indeed ever. So I am not taking a break from therapy so I can work with her again, it is because it feels like what I need.

I keep coming back to the fact that I am exhausted. I cannot face more therapy. I cannot face life generally, but therapy especially is exhausting. I saw the T I would move to on Tuesday, A, and felt no desperate pull to work with her (which was good as it helped the confusion). She was kind, but I felt overwhelmed emotionally and cognitively at the thought of starting again with someone new. It was so apparent that A doesn’t know me at all, and yes – we would develop a relationship, but it would take a really long time, especially as we would be working for one hour a week instead of the 3 or 4 hours, sometimes 5 even, per week K and I worked until March this year. K and I have done so much work. We’ve worked intensively for nearly 3 years. We’ve never taken a break. The longest break she’s taken is 18 days, and during that time we did paid email sessions. I am done in. So much process comes up every week. My system is triggered enormously by the therapeutic relationship, by K herself. As she pointed out on Monday, even on a good day I find therapy – her – very triggering. I need a break. And I want a break from thinking about my internal process and trying to work out what is going on, noting stuff down to tell her and work through with her. I want to just be for a while. As K has pointed out, there are other ways of being than being “in therapy”, other ways of healing and releasing trauma and tension that don’t involve weekly psychotherapy. I felt deeply ashamed when she said this, but I can now see where she is coming from – I have done a lot of work and maybe it is time to give myself some space. And this doesn’t mean no supportive professionals in my life, it could even mean I have a number of people I go to and who are supportive and relatively consistent. I am starting 121 yoga sessions in August with someone who practices myofascial release and can incorporate that into her sessions but also her teachings so I can practice it myself with my yoga. I am also seeing a creative kinesiology practitioner 3 times in August as she does a special deal for new clients who book 3 sessions upfront. I had a wonderful feeling about her when we spoke on the phone, and would look at continuing this work if it is helpful. She runs a group for practitioners on holding deep process with long-term clients, and when I spoke to her was very attachment trauma-informed (she used to be a therapist), and got back to me really quickly with 3 dates in August 7-10 days apart as she understood, without me telling her, that I would need clarity around this holding whilst my therapist is away. So this person, or someone else, could end up being a source of support for adult me, but without the deep and triggering attachment. If I was in weekly therapy with A it would be hard to manage any of these things longer-term due to finances, and my body/mind is so in need of this kind of healing now.

And the money is a big issue – I have spent an absolute fortune on therapy the past 3 years. It was needed, but it is still stressful to think about. I think maybe the final straw on this one came when A said she would be happy to do a between session contact each week, but that she would charge pro rata for it. I can’t imagine her agreeing to fit in a 5 minute email check-in and planning her day around £5, so it would be at least £10 per week and perhaps £15. I get where she is coming from on this, but that’s £40-£60 per month. In the UK, this would pay for a monthly session of cranio sacral therapy, kinesiology, myofascial release, etc. Or just some new clothes each month, something which I’ve not really been able to do at all since being in therapy and I feel shabby now compared with my colleagues and friends. It is starting to feel ludicrous that I am so “skint” (we are not skint, and I resent people using this term when they are not either – we have a very decent standard of living, I pay for choir each week and Nina is in a swimming team and we can always find money for what is needed, but my debts are mounting and there is a lot of juggling going on and declined social invites because of money) when I work so damn hard and it took years of scraping by while I qualified for my job now which meant I didn’t have a decent wage at all until I was 32. So if I worked with A I would try to manage without the check-in but that might undermine the sense of connection, especially for younger parts. And even then – her fees are the highest I’ve seen anyone charging in our area, and I can’t help thinking of all the things I could be doing, for my own healing and also for Nina and I, with that money.

And I am actually looking forward to August, in a weird way. I know I will struggle without K, especially as it will put me in touch with what it will feel like when she is really gone, but I really want to try and connect with myself when she is away – this feels more important than trying to stay connected to her, which also seems like a huge sign of progress. During breaks, even with planned email contact every 5 or 7 days, I have lost all sense of her and then lost myself. I have become even more 2D and unreal and far away than usual. It is this latter aspect I want to change, or work towards changing at least, in August but also when K and I end later this year. I want to become bigger and more real in my own life. I want to find ways of reducing the amount of depersonalisation and derealisation I experience, because this stops me enjoying life even on a good day, when I am not hijacked by parts and in emotional flashbacks. My sense of the DP/DR is that it is caused by psychic conflicts, and is linked to being engulfed by an alternately disconnected and raging narcissistic mother as a baby. My DP is pretty much permanent, which means I started to use it as a defence before I was 9 months old. It is not related to anxiety and resolved by grounding, it requires connection to emotions and a sense of internal safety to feel and release these emotions. I wanted to ‘get to the big feelings’ in therapy, but maybe there are other ways , for now, of finding safety in my body, safety in existing and being me, being real in both senses of the word. I understand so much now, after working with K and reading a lot around this, but therapy is not the only way of resolving these things. It has been necessary, for sure, but if it holds me back now from taking further steps then that seems unwise, especially as it could take years to build trust with A enough for parts to work with her.

This week I’ve found myself wondering if I’ve already internalised K, I just don’t realise it. I’ve been surprised at the fact that, at times, I’ve still been able to use my connection to her to soothe myself and the parts over the past few weeks, even though we are all so distressed that we are soon going to be losing her. I have been lamenting the fact that, because of the intensity of the work we have done, the amount of work we have done with young parts, and the fact that she has shared (appropriately) a lot about herself and her life, she is woven into every aspect of my life, making everything remind me of her and therefore making everything hurt. I thought this meant we had made a mistake in the way we worked. Then I thought – why not turn this around? It doesn’t mean we’ve done the wrong thing, maybe it means I can carry her into my life without her being physically there. She is everywhere, and if we can have a good ending, maybe this will be something good. She said she hoped she could continue to be a safe person for me – maybe she can? It has been over the past few months, maybe since January, that thinking of her when we are apart has been – mostly – a source of comfort instead of agony. It is this that makes me want to take some space away from her to go through old notes and journals and memories and create some tangible things from our time together. I will start this in August, but it may also help a lot to end our weekly work and know I am going back for one last session. I’ll have the space to reflect without getting constantly triggered by the loss.

So maybe she can still be my safe, secure, stable person. Maybe I can use our work and our relationship to steady me when she is gone. Maybe this is as good as I can get with internalising a sense of safety from an earned secure attachment, for now at least. And maybe it is less confusing for my system to keep her as a safe person, rather than start to work with someone else. Obviously I may need to get a therapist, which at the moment would probably be A. The ending may be too messy and painful, or something may happen next year that I need support with. I might just struggle too much without a therapeutic relationship to support me. And it might be that I end up wanting to stay working with this person, even if K is back and able to work with me the following year. I would still want to meet K for one or two sessions in January 2020 to update her – she has been a hugely significant person on my journey – and A has said she would be happy for me to do this even if we were working together at that point.

I do believe the universe is on my side – it sent me K when I needed a therapist and she had the capacity and wisdom and strength to work with me, and knowledge and willingness to learn around the flexible boundaries and other things needed to work with DID-spectrum disorders. K reminded me of my trust in the Universe, how it is something she has taken from me, and I do believe (when I’m not triggered and desperate!) that the Universe will send me what I need next, and that if working with K again in the future is right then this is what will happen.

K has also spoken of the huge amounts of wisdom and insight and self-awareness I have, and the huge amounts of work I’ve done on myself – with her, but also in the 12 years before I started working with her with different people and learning different things for myself as well. She has said on numerous occasions that I am miraculous for not being on a ward somewhere (I do not mean any disrespect to anyone this has happened to at all – my high levels of dissociation and somatisation rather than constant emotional distress have led me to function relatively well, especially as I was able to dissociate from huge levels of physical pain earlier in my life to do well academically, but sometimes my “functionality” feels pathological and detrimental to my recovery to be honest, so I don’t see myself as stronger or “better” in any way). She has spoken of my strength, the amazing riches I draw into my life, the way I manage to pull things off with my career and my life even when I am in the depths of trauma and dissociation hell. Sometimes this feels triggering – is this all my life can be, even after all that work? And also – does she know how much effort it takes to get it together time after time and not just collapse in a heap and get admitted to hospital? – but I know really she is right. I have so much I can draw on now, so much I do draw on, but with some space from therapy I think I could do better.

She also said a while ago that sometimes the full benefits of psychotherapy aren’t felt until later, until years later, and I wonder if this is where I am now. It is time to take the lessons and insights I’ve gained from therapy, and apply them to my life. I think with someone who has “significant and profound abandonment and attachment issues” (K said this to me on Monday and I was like “no shit, really?!”) a therapeutic relationship will always be triggering. I think after being raised by a narcissistic and abusive mother that level of attunement and intimacy will always be triggering in some ways. And maybe whilst I am “in therapy” I can’t ever really get the stability I need to see the gains I’ve made and apply the insights to my daily life. I am bouncing from one trigger to another, with no time to gain my stability and just live in between times. I think I sometimes have the idea that I can only work with my parts if I have a therapeutic relationship to hold me as I do so, but maybe I know enough about my system now and would actually do a better job of holding everyone without someone else there. Taking a break from therapy doesn’t have to mean taking a break from caring for the parts, the opposite in fact. I’m not integrated yet, that is really obvious, and there is still switching going on where adult me is not present at all, and I think it is for this reason I will need and want more therapy in the future. Yet for now somehow we all survive. I am also starting to see I will probably never be free from these huge emotional storms, and that learning to be with those feelings, those body memories, of annihilation and abandonment is my life’s work. Maybe I can’t change them, and what I’ve done this past month or two is all I’ve been able to do. And therapy is something I can return to, as and when it feels right. And maybe this will end up being with K, which would be easy and comforting after all the foundations are already laid.

When I met with A again on Tuesday morning I felt slightly silly for being almost back where I was 3 weeks ago when I saw her, in terms of wanting to work through the ending with K for longer, something I was adamant I couldn’t do last week when I contacted her. On Tuesday I was clear I definitely wanted to work with her, but unclear on when as I think maybe I can work longer with K because Monday was not quite as activating as previous weeks. This has now changed as I am starting to think I won’t plan to work with another therapist at all, and will see what happens. She will be fine with all this; she has a busy practice and I’ve obviously paid for my sessions with her so it’s not like I’m messing her around. She says she’ll offer me an end-of-day session when it comes up and if I can’t take it then she’ll have to fill it with someone else and will let me know when another becomes free.  So there is no reason to feel silly, but I have felt like I’ve been over-reacting because of the huge cognitive and emotional swings I’ve been having. Well I was feeling silly and indecisive, until I became aware that it is my disorganised attachment playing out, as I’ve simultaneously wanted to end with K immediately and run far away, and stay with her as long as I possibly can. I’ve also felt torn between moving to work with A sooner rather than later, and just stopping therapy completely because it’s just too hard and painful. I haven’t necessarily been swinging, as a lot of the time I’ve felt all 4 things at the same time and there has been a lot of internal confusion and conflict.

Until I realised it was my attachment patterning playing out I’ve felt quite silly for swinging so wildly. Once I saw what was happening it became easier to stay with it and accept that of course this will happen. I kept thinking it was a waste of time and energy to keep coming to decisions and then changing my mind. Now I see it is the process I must go through, it is all necessary. I worry I’m irritating people, but, well – they should try living this! I’m really aware at the moment that I have parts. Parts that feel and want different things. It’s been hard to tell what has been healthy adult and what is young and traumatised parts caught in fight/flight or attach.  I write this today and it could all feel different tomorrow. I do think though, as an adult, that we all, i.e. the system as a whole, need a break from this. I think maybe I’ve had this idea that therapy isn’t done, hasn’t worked, until things feel better and adult me is able to care for the parts. But maybe, for the reasons I mentioned above, this can’t happen whilst we are getting triggered by therapy every week, twice a week really because the email check-in, whilst containing, also has the potential to be triggering depending on where I am at emotionally.

After my session on Monday I felt deep grief, and there was some young part hijacking and some screaming and wailing in the car and huge amounts of distress for a time. It felt different from the aftermath of my previous two sessions though, as we didn’t feel so activated – we were feeling the pain of someone so significant going away but it wasn’t the life or death feelings of attachment trauma this time. It felt more like pure grief. A necessary part of the process. I did feel huge amounts of physical pain in the evening, and the last few days have continued to be very bad with this too and also huge amounts of DP, but I think this is the stress of trying to work out what to do, and also big feelings I am not yet able to consciously feel. It was a really comforting session, even though there was a lot of sadness and pain. We talked through something that I thought would be hugely triggering and distressing to talk about – how we would work and what we would do if we worked till ‘the end’ – and yes there were tears, but it wasn’t a mess. I talked honestly and openly. I felt held and contained. We talked about “the mother wound” and K spoke so gently as she said ‘I can’t take away that pain for you”. And that is the truth. I know we both wish she could. I asked how we would work from September onwards if I decided not to end two sessions after the August break, what we would do, and her response was so comforting, so full of things I want to do – we would do a a lot of “hanging out” was what she said. And this is so what I want – to be with her, taking her in and feeling all we are and have been, letting big feelings come when they arise, but also just being with the beauty and light that we have created together.

I also said I felt I needed some space from her to reflect on the bigger picture of us, without getting constantly re-triggered. I asked about ending in the Autumn and then coming back later in the year for a one off session to end properly, so I could stabilise a bit on my own (I’m starting to accept I am likely to leave a triggered, sobbing mess, rather than the picture of calm composure I have in mind for our final session…) and know I had that later on, so it wasn’t a final ending. She thought that would work well for me, if I’m not able to keep working through October and November. She also said we could work fortnightly from sometime in October, to reduce the amount I am getting triggered by her. She keeps saying as long as we are clear about the purpose of all we do then we will be okay. She is letting me push and pull, wax and wane, and is holding steady throughout. We are definite that we will work in September after her break. And we are definite that we won’t end in December because that is a very difficult month for me as it is the anniversary of one of my best friend’s killing herself and will be my Mum’s 70th birthday (tough obviously, even though I don’t see her anymore), and Christmas is basically one big trauma trigger for me because of the way my Mum behaved about it and during it for my whole life up to last year. These feel like key things to hold onto – there are some knowns. She has said it is fine if at any point it all just feels too painful and difficult to keep going, we can just do two sessions to end our work. She won’t hold me to anything.

So I will go back in September – we’ve booked in 4 sessions, but will see how I feel during the break and how I get on with the yoga person and the kinesiology. Having so many options is a little daunting, especially for my two 10 year old parts who like to know how everything will be, but there are so many things in my life that will stay the same whatever happens with K and it is important to hold on to that. And it definitely seems to be that there is more I could be doing to support my own healing if I had a little more time, space and money, and maybe this is good timing for all that. And I think I will want more therapy one day, and I think I will need it again, but for now I am trying to sit with the idea that I will take a little break from it and get some stability back. I wasn’t stable when I started therapy at all, but I know there is stability to be had – I was there for a little while a number of years ago – and I’m hopeful I can get to a place where things are better than this, with less pain and dissociation. A place where I am not living underwater or behind frosted glass, unable to reach myself or others and feeling exhausted and ashamed when I try.


Already gone

I would tell you that I loved you,
If I thought that you would stay.
But I know that it’s no use and,
You’ve already gone away.

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This old song by The Cure keeps playing over and over in my mind. It’s a song I fell in love with age 15, whilst experiencing my first proper heartbreak. I think the theme of people already having left, even as they are leaving, is key for me. Knowing someone has gone away before they have left, maybe before they even know they are going to leave, is something I really resonate with. I guess hyper-vigilance, but also that dreadful, painful stage of knowing you are losing someone and yet knowing at the same time that you are powerless to change their mind and make things different. And I know all this somehow resonates with how I experienced my Mum – she was always there, smothering and engulfing me, and yet never really there. She had already left me. Always. She was unable to connect with me. I may resurrect my posts on engulfment and narcissism, and depersonalisation, touch and promsicuity next week, as I think my blogging from now will be more these kind of tying- things-together type posts. And I hope there will be a lot of reflecting on progress and growth in the coming weeks, as my journey with K comes to an end. I’ve also made some progress with understanding my struggles with self- care at times lately too, including something very big around my fear of going to bed. It is the realisations and awareness that help me, all of us I suspect, to treat my struggles with more compassion, and ultimately to make the changes I need, by loving myself into doing something, rather than yelling at myself for things and cursing the existence of the young parts who make everything so hard.

I saw my Mum for the last time a year ago yesterday. A brief, angry, frightening and guilt-inducing encounter on my doorstep as she arrived unannounced and flung a bag of new clothes for Nina at me, telling me “I know you don’t want to see me”  and walking off, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy, her wanting me to see this but wanting to seem as though she didn’t. Us daughters of NMs know their manipulative games, it was the diet we grew up on. We saw her properly the Saturday before this for our monthly time with her, a day out to a place we’ve all always loved. It was AWFUL, so awful. Nina was crying and upset about it for days afterwards because of what my Mum said to her when I popped to the toilet about missing her and how ‘Mummy has broken my heart’ (we went from seeing A LOT of her – she took Nina on holidays and had her for weekends – to seeing her once a month together in May 2015, shortly after I had suddenly had a lot of memories of childhood come back and realised she was abusing Nina too). I ended up in so much physical pain and so dissociated that week that I couldn’t work for 4 days after we saw her. Nina expressed concerns that if we stopped seeing my Mum she would kill herself. She was 10 at the time and I was horrified at this – I grew up with my Mum’s suicide threats hanging over me and I was not letting Nina grow up under this level of control and manipulation too. It was that week, a year ago, that the idea of going completely no contact with my Mum was first discussed in therapy. And over the next 2 months we worked through a lot of worries and questions in therapy, and in September I wrote to my Mum to cut contact between her and I, and between Nina and her while Nina is still a child.

So a year since I saw her. To be honest I’ve felt very little about this recently. I know, without a doubt now, that this is the best way forward for me. The relief it has brought has been tremendous. No texts. No unexpected visits bringing bags of unwanted things for Nina and I (this was her currency). No ramping up the pressure and guilt around Christmas and birthdays, no requests and subtle pressure to do things and go places and spend more time together. No being with her and having her say awful things I felt too frightened to challenge. No gradual erosion of my boundaries around monthly contact. And not having to see her and feel her pain, her emptiness, her despair – this is huge for me, as her pain has filled me my whole life. I am less afraid. It has not been a panacea, I always knew it wouldn’t be, and sometimes there are doubts over whether I did the right thing,, but I know it was the only way forward for Nina and I. Seeing her was intolerable, it was consuming my life even though it was just once a month. Her texts would floor me. Time with her was awful. I got nothing good from being with her – I remember K pointing out that in the nearly 2 years since she’d known me I’d never had an interaction with her that left me with anything positive, anything that would make the rest of it worthwhile.

I know somewhere there are feelings about not having a Mum, and about not having my actual Mum in my life. Every so often they have bubbled up, but I know there is a tidal wave inside waiting to come out when it is safe. I know that K leaving is triggering this core wound and that is why it hurts so much. For a long time I think I hoped that having K in my life for all the parts would protect us from having to feel the pain of not having a Mum. I realised in February that she couldn’t, that she could never be enough. And then I hoped that having her next to me as I grieved and felt it all would make it hurt less. And maybe it would have done, but now she is leaving she cannot hold me in it and contain it for me, what it is triggering in me is too huge. I am not strong enough to feel the two together, the real loss of someone so significant in my life, and all she triggers in me by leaving. She cannot help me with this, even if she tried. Is this why she is already gone? She has taken steps away from me, maybe consciously to protect us both, maybe subconsciously, or maybe it is just my subjective experience and she is the same. Maybe all three.

And maybe it doesn’t matter – I need to let her go. I need to accept that I cannot do anymore work with her. She is gone. We are still us in session, but I cannot work through this with her because it is too big. And so I need to move to someone else to process the loss of K with, and ultimately this will mean processing not having a Mum with someone else too. So there is grief around this as well, that someone else will see those enormous depths within me and not K, but there is no other way. I realised earlier in the week that there is no way of making this ending hurt less, it is not possible however long I stay, and what is important is choosing the way forward which helps me regain and maintain functionality. Perhaps if I had processed more of my core attachment wound with K I could work through this ending with her and reap the benefits of doing this, but the wound is too raw and open for that to be possible. I cannot put into words the pain of knowing she is already gone, that whether we do another 3 or 6 or 16 sessions I will never have her back again the way we were before, that we have moved to a place we cannot get back from. The pain is roaring and wild and uncontained and bigger than anything I have ever consciously known.

And it needs to go somewhere else and not to her, which involves being grown up and accepting she is gone so that we can at least have an ending and not an imploding mess of parts and pain. There is so much anger and confusion and hurt going on at the moment and I don’t think it is actually possible to process it with her. It feels like maybe I need to step away and, like with ending any relationship, accept that there will always be things I feel misunderstood about, things that she’s said that confuse me, things that feel messy and uncomfortable, but that one day these things won’t matter. One day it will become about the whole again, about all we have been and done together, and not these messy loose ends that I’m beginning to see won’t be tied up. Maybe in the weeks and months after we end I will come to a place of acceptance over the small messy things that have arisen during our time together, and will be able to write and create things to reflect the beauty we created together. I wanted to do this with her, to explore the beauty and light we’ve made together with her, but I don’t think this is going to happen now. The immediate hurt is too big to sit in together and I don’t want to destroy us in the process. I don’t want a bad or messy ending with her, and I think that means accepting that this ending is not how either of us imagined or wanted it to be.

I wish I had spent every minute with her soaking her up, taking in her words, letting her presence soothe me, letting her warmth fill me up. Instead I spent so much time terrified she would go away that I could never really feel she was there. And now I want to spend our remaining time together basking in her warmth, taking in all we are and have been, but she is gone and I am cold. Walking away from her before I absolutely have to, knowing she is still working and I could be eeking out my remaining hours and minutes with her till December, may just be the hardest decision I’ve ever come to. And all I can do is accept she has already gone and let her go.

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I’ve written loads elsewhere this evening but somehow here feels like it will help me make some sense of the turmoil inside my head. Made it to my bed but can’t lay down – it is terrifying. Trying to tell myself (thanks to someone very kind’s reminder) that it’s because I’m blended with young parts and little people can’t go to bed alone easily when things are very scary. It’s helping me feel less of an utter failure for not going to bed when I’m tired and overwhelmed. I can’t think of anything more scary than going to bed. Something bad is happening and sleep is impossible. Being in the dark, alone, feels like torture. I can see how in the future we need to do work around this but for now I’m trying not to yell at the young parts for being so afraid.

I am stuck between two intolerable options. I don’t know what to do. I know I need to end with K sooner (mid-September probably, as the end of July is too soon and she is taking August off this year) rather than later (December) because it is not possible for me to keep working with her and be in this much pain, but the thought of leaving her before I have to is just fucking gut-wrenching. I have no idea what is right. Probably because nothing is right. She said near the beginning of the session today that we need to acknowledge that it might not be possible for me to keep working. I don’t want to dissect my session and open it up to scrutiny, but just her saying this was validating – she knows how difficult this is for me, for all of us. She gets that the pain it is bringing up in me may be more than I can handle.

My gut tells me I’m not done with the work and that I will need to get a new T. I can’t wait a year, or 18 months from now, as it would be. Not for a possibility. And if I’m going to do that then I may as well go now, when there is someone willing and able to work with me, and who can can help me hold this and process the loss. I don’t know how to contain this to 90 minutes a week with K. And dragging out the inevitable ending doesn’t mean it will hurt any less when the time comes. I feel as though however long I stay with her the ultimate ending will be messy and intolerable. I can’t settle into our work knowing the end is coming closer every day. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have no way of knowing. All I have is my gut, which tells me this is more than I can handle. And it’s not like someone with a terminal illness, where a lot of the grieving is done before they actually die, it is someone triggering the fucking ‘mother wound’, the greatest of all losses, in their leaving. Every. Single. Second.

I do not understand how can she be okay with losing me. How can she be okay with saying goodbye to me and never seeing me again? How can she support me in making the right choice for me when it probably means losing me? How can she have spent all these hours with me and then watch me walk away? Does she not care at all? I hate what she must think of me. I hate knowing there will be some relief on her part as well as (maybe) some sadness, relief that she won’t have to hold all this crazy anymore, relief that I will not be her problem. She said what we have is rare and special, but it is not enough. I get why, I get she is ill, but it HURTS SO MUCH that she is so okay with losing me.

I wish I was stronger and able to take a break from therapy so I could keep the possibility of returning to her. I just don’t think I can. Even though therapy is horribly triggering sometimes, I don’t think I can handle this loss without it. I want to be okay without therapy so that K and I take more of a planned break, but as she said last week – who knows where I’ll be and what I’ll need and want in 2020. And parenting is hard and triggering sometimes. And I want a relationship. Maybe I’ll process the loss of K and find I don’t need therapy anymore. Maybe losing her will help me do the work, the final piece, the original wound work. But I am not feeling strong enough to do that work with her, knowing she is going away and our time is limited. I wish I was and could, but I know in my heart that I’m not able to.

K has poured so much into me, so much time and care and love, and yet here I am – still a mess. She must be so disappointed in me. I see all the growth and change in the past 3 years, and yet here I am – parts are still completely terrified to go to bed and be alone. Last week there was a lot of self-harm. Some self-care too. But still…. A fucking disaster.

And how on earth will I transition to a T who has no availability for extra sessions? How will I manage with 60 minutes once a week? How is this ever going to be okay? I don’t want to need what I need. I don’t want attachment to take me to such dark places. I don’t want to be who I am. I don’t want to be this person with this insatiable pit of need. I want to be able to do therapy and get on with my life and just live. I cannot bear the thought of another attachment. If I could do therapy without attachment I would. Maybe there is another way. Maybe therapy will never get me where I think it can. Maybe I am just expecting the impossible, that things can get better than this.

I do not want to lose K. It hurts so much. It hurts and hurts. I know I’m dumb, but somewhere was this hope that feeling the pain of not having a Mum would be easier with her by my side. We both said today how this is all about me not having a Mum. I want to stay and do this work with her, take our time over the ending, but it is triggering depths of pain in me that are unimaginable and I feel so wildly uncontained with it. I can see how working through this with her could help, but I don’t have it in me. I think it is really important that I am acknowledging that, that I’m not just clinging on to her for as long as I can. I am trying to care for myself by accepting that I cannot do this. Even though it means hours where I don’t get to be with her and I could be, it hurts too much to see her every week and know she is going away, know all she is not able to be for me. I am motherless and I can’t let her help me hold that because she is leaving me too.

I’ve not made a decision. We will talk more next week. But I think we both know where this is heading. 6 more sessions, with a month break halfway through. And then I will spend a long, long time grieving for her and all I have lost. I will never again have all I have had from her – safe boundaries but that have been open and flexible enough to really hold me. I have come so far but I am so ashamed that I have not come far enough to make K proud of me before we end. My whole life has been dismantled and I am building it again, but she will never get to see that. She won’t get to see who I become because of her.

Losing her will never be okay. It will be another traumatic loss. And this push/pull place I am in, trying to work out what to do for the best, is fucking intolerable. I am sitting in disorganised attachment hell. End now or work till the end? No swings between the two, just living both at the same time. Pain without resolution. Living like this is intolerable. I just want a mum. I was so drawn to call my own this evening, it just hurts so much to be ending with K and I wanted her to come and help. I know this would end up a disaster, but the pull is so strong. I want someone to hold me through this fucking agony and there is no one. K is everywhere. She is woven in to all of my life. And that means everywhere hurts. I will survive this, and that hurts too because I will have to move into a future without her. A future where everything safe reminds me of her.



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In my body live all the places that tell me how much it hurts that you are leaving


Things are difficult. I’ve come out of the crisis I was plunged back into after last Monday’s therapy session, but things are not really okay. I wonder where I am going, where I need to go, if I’ll get to where I want and need to be in life. Ultimately I do want to reach a place where I don’t need therapy anymore, and am able to sustain an intimate relationship and just basically not feel like depersonalised and traumatised shit all the time. And in the meantime I’d like to be living my life in a way that means therapy doesn’t take over. For many, many months last year I think I had reached this place, where therapy was one thing I did, albeit a big thing, and I was living the rest of the time. Sometimes the living was tough, really tough, but there was joy and lightness too. I remember writing in my journal how finally therapy felt ‘enough’ (I was still doing two 90 minute sessions a week plus an email check-in on Fridays, so I wasn’t surviving on the standard 50 or 60 minute session once a week, but for a long time 4, sometimes even 5 hours of therapy a week felt nowhere near enough to contain all that was coming up) and I was able to feel my session space and imagine being there between sessions, some weeks more than others, and that was comforting rather than just being painful because I wasn’t there when I needed to be. Whilst I am doing therapy, I would like that to be how it is, but when the attachment stuff is triggered in a big way (or even a little way) this becomes impossible. And what could be more triggering when doing attachment work in therapy than the therapist you are doing attachment work with going away?

This year feels quite a blur and I feel sad that I am losing the summer, the months I usually feel a little better during, in this dark and difficult place. Christmas was better – Nina and I settled into our own space and the first year with no contact with my Mum at all was easier than I’d expected for her (and me). There was a big crisis and a Saturday phone session after K’s break at the start of January. And then work became extra ridiculous. I also felt able to move from 2 sessions a week to 1 double session and a 30 minute Skype/phone session, and from that to just one double session a week and the email check-in on Fridays. The double session was working great for a while. Work stayed awful. I got sick as soon as I was on annual leave. May was okay, apart from another cold, and we had some wonderful, healing sessions in K’s garden and on our bikes. And then… the rupture, K being ill, me being in hospital with the pain flare triggered by the sickness bug, K’s news about the sabbatical. And now it has been 7 weeks since the rupture and nearly 5 weeks since K’s news and I am struggling. Even when I’m stable-ish, there are undercurrents of suicidality and despair. This is nothing new, but I think maybe it’s that the hope is gone. In the past when tough things were going on, like the fact it was a year since I saw my Mum and brother yesterday, I knew I could take the things to her in therapy and she would help me hold and process them. The crisis after our last session and the level of self-harm since would have been something I would have taken to her. Decisions over other steps I need to take in my life I would have taken to her and she would have helped me tune in to what I want and need and feel in order to gain some clarity over what I need to do. Now though, now the enormous pain is triggered by her going away, talking about losing my Mum reminds me of what I am losing in her, and she can’t help me make a decision over what to do without her because it is just too painful for me to talk about it with her. Even just talking a little about me without her in therapy sends me into horrific flashbacks which mean I can’t even soak her in when I am with her. So now the hope that she will help me move through this painful time has gone. She can’t. Working through this ending with her may help me move through endings better in the future, but it’s never going to feel okay to be ending with her.

I’m starting to suspect that I’m not going to have the composed ending I’ve had in mind, where we each shed a few tears, reflect on our work and our relationship fondly, hand over gifts and cards, hug, and say our goodbyes as we walk away from each other for what may be the last time. I’m starting to see that this ending will be messy until the end. The other therapist I saw, A, encouraged me to work through this ending with K if I possibly can, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do at all. Every option feels filled with pain and I want to do what is best for my future well being but how do I know what that is?

After my last session I drafted an email to K to tell her I needed to work towards an ending by her break at the end of July because I couldn’t keep doing this – it is absolutely wrecking me. At that point it seemed as though even though working through this ending with her could be hugely beneficial, I didn’t have the strength to do it. I was also desperate to email A last Monday evening and tell her I want to move to work with her sooner rather than later. Returning to work through this ending with K past the end of July, even till the end of July, felt intolerable and masochistic and not compassionate towards myself at all. It seemed like something that could be healing, but also something that (particularly as a single parent in a demanding full-time job) I just did not have the strength or resources for. I wondered if part of the lesson I need to learn from this situation is to let go and walk away from something that is hurting me (even though I know K has never intended to hurt me, she is, and in the process is triggering depths of pain I’ve never accessed before).

A few days later and the worst of the emotional flashback had ended, and I wasn’t in that place anymore. I felt more able to sit with the uncertainty again. I had managed to hold off emailing A (need to start giving myself credit for all the small ways in which I am being self-aware and not spilling my process and feelings all over the place), aware that things might settle again and that I don’t want to enter into some kind of push/pull dynamic with her, and/or annoy her and put her off working with me.  I thought about asking to book in another couple of one-off sessions to check things out more and discuss timescales, but I’ve already booked in 3 sessions of kinesiology for August when K is away, plus two 121 yoga sessions that month too, and I can’t really afford to be paying for therapy as well now. Ultimately I think I need bodywork AND psychotherapy, it’s not either/or, but I don’t know. Part of me wants to not have therapy for a while, to stop the attachment work for a bit because it HURTS. And I’ve needed to do more bodywork for a while now, to learn to connect with my body and show my mind it is safe to access the feelings and body sensations which are keeping me depersonalised, but I don’t feel like I’m ready to be without a therapist.

So much is swirling around my head. My body-mind is very unsettled too, though I did do yoga and meditate yesterday after not being able to since Monday last week. It’s hard to settle the body-mind when I have no way of knowing if things will be okay. It’s hard to use the breath to anchor myself when connecting to my body through my breath puts me in touch with all the huge feelings of grief and panic and attachment pain and abandonment. It’s hard to reassure myself, and all the parts of me, that everything will be okay when everything inside is screaming that things are not okay, that something very bad and unsafe is happening. It’s hard to hold the parts myself through this – learning to do this is why I’m in therapy after all, but I’m not there yet. The decision over whether to move to another therapist and when is not something I can mull over and make a ‘pros and cons’ list about. It is something that can only be felt with the heart. It is something that will come to me I know, but I do not want to leave things too late and lose my chance to work with A, or put myself through unnecessary pain now and still not get the ending I need with K for grown up me and all the parts.

The difficulty is knowing that I will get triggered into that dark, hopeless, destructive place over and over again during the coming months. It may not be today, but it will happen again. And I can hold my system through a lot of difficult things now, but this – this pain is something else. And she can’t encourage me to ‘lean into the therapy’ during this time, as she has in the past with difficult times, because she is not able to be there to catch me anymore. And soon I will be back at work full-time, and from the end of September the crazy time at work will start again, and I don’t know how I will manage this huge ending, and all that it is bringing up for me with “the mother wound” (ugh), at the same time as all of that. It is hard enough at the moment when it is the quiet time at work, I am very autonomous and most days can just work at home, and am on reduced hours.

So, do I take a break from therapy next year and see how I go? Do I work with K till the end of the year? Do I move to A then, or sooner? Do I plan for a few months of sessions with A to process this ending and then take it from there, with the intention of taking a break from therapy and going back to K? And then if the work feels right with A, and young parts are trusting and beginning to come out, I stay with her? Or do I move to A as soon as possible and just grit my teeth and get on with the grieving the loss of K, and then start wading through the attachment work again? I was prepared to take a break from therapy for a year because I want to finish this work, the attachment work,  with K, and I think it is a good chance to integrate the work I’ve done and incorporate some bodywork which I need, and which will help me heal and connect to myself, but the reality is that she can’t say if we will be able to work together after her time off (and neither can I really, even though I’d like to think 100% I would want to and would be able to – it is a long time).

A break means she stays as my attachment figure whilst I try out some things on my own. An ending means I need to find a new therapist to do the attachment work with. It changes everything. It changes what this is. It changes US, the us I carry into the future. I don’t know what to do. It feels impossible to make any kind of decision, especially when things are shifting and swinging so wildly inside and it’s hard to work out what are grown up thoughts and ideas and feelings and which are young parts. It’s hard to hear what everyone is saying, and what is traumatised parts speaking and what is healthy adult needing to protect myself and my system from too much more damage and pain.

These are the things I do know:

  • I need some kind of closure with K this year, whenever we finish
  • I don’t want a forever ending (and I would like to go back for one or two sessions even if I don’t want/need to be in therapy again in January 2020, just to tell her what has been going on)
  • I cannot handle getting triggered like I did on Monday every week until December
  • I don’t want another attachment like I have with K ever, I can’t handle it, it is too intense and triggering and painful. I cannot trust that someone else who I’m deep in the attachment work with won’t go away also, because life is unpredictable.
  • I cannot keep going like this. I have been in full-blown crisis 33 days in the past 7 weeks. This is not sustainable. It is putting too much strain on my physical body. It is damaging me. There has to be another way through this.

K said on Monday about me trusting the Universe to show and bring me what I need. She said that me, more than anyone she knows, has always reminded her of the importance of trusting the Universe to provide. And I said ‘that means if it’s right for us to work together after the year off then that’s what will happen?’ and she agreed. It’s just hard at the moment not to feel like the Universe is screwing me over massively one last time, by finally bringing me the healing relationship I’ve needed forever, and then snatching it away from me before I get chance to finish the healing I was promised.

And I don’t want to go to my session today. I am fuzzy, achy and really dissociated but I am OK. And I don’t want to be plunged back into where I was last week when I have parent’s evening at Nina’s new school this evening and my last choir rehearsal before the big Sing for Water event we are taking part in with 50 other choirs on Sunday. And this is the time I wonder whether I am done with therapy for now, at this point in my life. Could I go it alone? Or would things just disintegrate spectacularly?

Hope for Recovery

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I thought the article below might be helpful for anyone who, like me, sometimes finds themselves wondering what the point of therapy is and whether things can actually get better for dissociative survivors. It is written by Carolyn Spring, founder of PODS (a UK organisation providing support, information and training on DID-spectrum disorders) and I have found myself returning to it a number of times over the past year or so. It not only provides hope that things can get better for us, and that therapy can, in fact, end, but it also validates how long therapy takes for these disorders (she was in therapy for 10 years, but was living, as opposed to surviving for much of that time – I’ve seen her speak at a PODS training day I went to in 2016 and she is truly inspirational). I found myself returning to it today because I needed reminding that I have not ‘done’ the work, I am not done with therapy – if I had done the work, if I was ready to leave therapy, I wouldn’t be feeling like this about it ending. Yes, I would be immensely sad to lose someone who has played such an important part in my journey, but I would be ready to go it alone, and I wouldn’t be flung repeatedly into this state of total annihilation where I am self-harming and not eating and not able to sleep and just clinging on for dear life as the waves of abandonment and attachment pain obliterate me over again and again. I have come a long, long way in the past 3 years, but this article has helped to remind me that where I am now is not as good as it gets for me – there is more than this for me, and I am going to get there.

Divorcing Old Habits by Carolyn Spring of PODS

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Fooling Myself

A year break isn’t a break. It’s an ending. I can try and change my perspective to stop it being so heart-breaking, but the reality is neither K nor I know where we will be in January 2020. It is a really, really long time, and all the things that could happen within that time just make it naive to think we can take the year as a ‘break’. However I look at it, the reality is that in a few months’ time she will not be part of my life for the foreseeable future, and maybe she never will be again. I feel as if the ground has shifted again. I don’t even know what happened this afternoon. I feel like I’m on shifting sand and I don’t know if it’s what I’m standing on that’s shifting, or if the shifting sand is in me. I can’t work out if what K said was different from what we agreed last week, or if I’ve just been so dissociated all week that it felt okay when really it isn’t. I think actually that what we agreed and what she said today are the same – that we would meet face-to-face after the year and discuss properly whether it was right to work together again. It is my internal reality that has shifted – recognising this and that she hasn’t “backtracked” (which is how it felt at the time) is my sole thread of hope and is stopping me spiralling into all-consuming and destructive anger at her for changing things, when really she hasn’t changed anything at all. Maybe last week I was filled with huge levels of relief that it wasn’t 100% the forever ending I was expecting and fearing, and then today the reality has hit me again – whether it is a clear and definite break or only a “definite possibility” of working together again, the reality is the same – she is going away. She is leaving me. She said today how hard it was going to be for me to be in my adult and hold all the parts for a whole year, and yet that is what she is leaving me to do. And it may not be entirely her choice to leave me, but it is definitely more her choice than it is mine.

Things have felt so much better this past week. The young and teen parts felt more settled. Everyone was in agreement that a break, rather than a forever ending, was the right thing to do. I was able to practice yoga and meditate every day and laugh with my daughter again. It felt hopeful to be able to stretch our wings and explore the world and then return to K to share how we had gotten on. I’d blocked out the fact that this may not be possible, that we might not end up being able to work together again, that something might go wrong, or it might just not be right to work together again. I’d ignored the fact that I might not cope without therapy and might end up needing A or someone else, even if I didn’t leave K in December with that intention. Right now I have no idea what is real. I  feel utterly insane and like I am losing my grip on reality. I don’t know what is dissociation and what was adult me being genuinely okay with taking a break and seeing where I am in 2020 and whether it feels right to be back in therapy. This morning I couldn’t understand how things had felt so bad just over a week ago, for a really long time, and now this morning and being okay feels like a distant dream – it is incomprehensible that I felt okay about taking a year out of therapy and sitting with the possibility that K and I would work together again after that time. Is this real, what is happening now, or has this past week been real and now I am back here because the abandonment tidal wave has hit again?

I am shocked and dumb-founded that I am back here again, bleeding all over the place because that is the only way I could calm myself enough to be alone, unable to sleep and wanting to run away from therapy because I cannot put myself through this every week. I cannot feel the reality of being abandoned by K, and the original pain behind what she triggers in me, every single week. And yet I don’t feel able to walk away from her, not when there is the possibility that if I choose to stay as long as I can with her now then I won’t lose forever what we have. I feel stuck. How can I walk away from her and not know if I’m coming back or not? How can I walk away from her and not know if I will ever see her again? I need to know I will see her at the end of her year away. I need that to be the intention we both hold. I need to leave her and know I will see her again, even if that’s just a few meetings to tell her how I’ve been and what I’ve done, and to reach the conclusion that being back in therapy isn’t right for me at that time. The definite possibility that we will do this, the fact she is open to this, hasn’t changed at all today, but the weight put on it has. I want her to tell me we will definitely work together again, that this will be our plan, and then if I don’t want her by then it will be because I’m stronger and have grown and don’t need her. It will be my choice, and it won’t matter to me then that our original plan changed because I will be okay without her. It won’t feel like a loss. It won’t be a loss – I will have just grown and taken a path that leads me away from her but that is right for me. At the moment not seeing her or being in therapy with her is just  loss, the worst pain imaginable multiplied by a million. She is not my mum, she is giving me up, and in doing that she is putting me in touch with the deepest, most all-consuming, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching pain that lives within me. I would do anything not to feel this pain but I don’t know how to avoid it and going through it alone and not with her by my side feels intolerable.



There is a certain reticence to go to K tomorrow and say that we are all in agreement that taking next year as a break and going back to her in 2020 is the best way forward. On paper it all sounds perfect, and I am feeling strong enough in myself to undertake the challenge of self-care and self-soothing for a whole year, and have already taken some exciting steps to find practitioners I can do bodywork with, but there is a hesitancy around making this a definite plan.

There is the obvious shame around admitting how much she means to me and how much I don’t want to lose her – or rather ‘us’ and what we are together – but to be honest this is not at the forefront as it so often is, because she agreed with so much of what I said about our therapeutic alliance last week, and I know she thinks it is worth holding on to longer term. There is also fear over what would happen if something huge and real happened next year, or I just couldn’t cope with parenting and dissociation and life struggles without her or a replacement therapist, but I met with A (the other potential new therapist) last week and I think she would be there if that materialised next year. So there is something else to this hesitancy which I have been quietly pondering this week, with curiosity and non-judgment, as I have let things settle around me after our very intense session last Monday, and I realised last night that a lot of this reticence is because taking a break, rather than making December a forever ending, feels like an enormous leap of faith. It would involve putting more trust in K than I ever thought possible, more trust in her than I ever have so far, and I’ve trusted and depended on her more than I’ve ever trusted or depended on anyone (consciously at least).

Taking next year as a break means trusting, for a whole year, that she is going to come back when she said she would. Not preparing myself and all the parts for a forever goodbye is opening myself, all of us, up to the risk of huge amounts of hurt, rejection and betrayal if she decides not to return to work in the area we live in, or decides not to work with trauma clients, or just doesn’t want to work with us again. It means allowing ourselves, for a whole year, to hope and trust and depend upon her – however much we focus on other things, she will continue to be in the background of our lives, an abstract possibility, and a secure base. And I can see that her then holding true to her word and coming back to us would be hugely healing (and already this being her intention is healing because it means her decision to take a break is not because of us or because we wore her out, and she is not using her sabbatical as a chance to ‘get rid of us’, which she easily could because she could say she doesn’t think taking it as a break is in my best interests) but it is so much to risk, so much to lose.

So it is this, I think, that makes me lean towards the simplicity of a forever ending, even though it would be deeply painful to end by choice a relationship so strong and good and true. And in writing this I see how shaped by loss my life choices are and always have been. I have chosen over and over to let people go before they hurt me, before they have a chance to leave me and not come back, before I am proved right that no one stays with me if they are given the choice. For me, space means loss, and what could be a bigger space between K and I than not seeing her and no contact for a whole year. And so even though there is a chance to gain something incredibly healing, to test my abilities and grow and integrate the work I’ve done, and test the strength of my (semi-)secure attachment, my mind latches on to the inevitable loss that would occur if K doesn’t come back. I will share this with K tomorrow, and she will remind me of her intention to return, and that her intention is not, and never has been, to hurt me. And I will have to decide, over the coming months, if I am going to take this leap of faith.


I know what my heart wants. My heart wants to be allowed to love and trust and grow through taking the biggest leap of faith imaginable. Young parts trust K implicitly now, after 3 years of her always being there, always being the same, always doing what she has said she will do. And some of the older parts trust her too, because she has never, ever shamed any of us for needing her and depending on her. They know she will understand just how scary it is to trust for a whole year that she is coming back and won’t change her mind. They know she wouldn’t have said what she said last week if she had doubts, but still there is so much fear that what we are hoping for will be taken away, without us even knowing it is happening.

It has always felt like serendipity or synchronicity that I found K when I did. It has been something I’ve used when I’ve needed reminding that the Universe is on my side. A year and a half ago when I was stuck in the most intolerable disorganised attachment pain I’ve experienced, I remember thinking ‘what if I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to do all the therapeutic work they need with one therapist?’ (I’ve seen lots of other therapists and counsellors, but never attached to them like I did with K). ‘What if I do get to keep  her for as long as I need her, but I spend the whole time this terrified she’ll go away that she might as well not be here?’ It didn’t shift things at the time, but it is helpful to reflect on this time now and to remember how hard it was to trust her but that I did it anyway and have grown and gained so much as a result of this blind faith I placed in her. I chose to stick with the process then, even though running away felt easier and safer a lot of the time.

And this time I would like to choose to keep her, and to open to the possibility that this break is a necessary part of my healing journey, something that will benefit me and help me grow while at the same time still being held in some ways by her, and still being connected to her. I would like to choose this, rather than severing our connection myself because it is easier, because it fits with what I ‘know’ about how the world works. Trusting her that this really will be a ‘break’ and won’t result in a sudden, devastating, heart-breaking ending via email is utterly terrifying, but I want to choose again to step into uncharted territories and learn that my life doesn’t forever have to involve choosing the option which means I have less to lose. I really hope I can find the words to share this with her tomorrow and the strength to make the choice that could reap such rich rewards in my healing journey, if I can only allow it to be a possibility.

Leave space for something to change: some thoughts on yoga

I have so much I would like to write about my experiences of healing through yoga and meditation. I don’t have time or energy today to pull everything together and part of blogging for me is learning to let go of perfectionism and ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking, wanting each post to be self-contained and include everything I want to say on a topic in an eloquent and coherent way. So today I will start writing some thoughts on what I gain from yoga, which I wrote after a particularly difficult yoga workshop back in January.

By way of introduction, I suffered years and years of chronic pain and fatigue (a topic for another post for sure as things are so much better in this area (fibromylalgia and CFS) since I did a programme of Mickel Therapy and began daily meditation in 2012) and although it has been a lot better, overall, for the past 5 or 6 years, I still have a very tight body (adverse neural tension or ANT) and quite often have ‘things’ (not much body awareness, even of where large muscle groups are , due to dissociating since I was a baby – something I’m working on) which are pulled out of alignment and very sore – the tightness and mis-alignments move around, depending on which emotional issues are most prominent. All of this means that despite years of regular, almost daily, yoga practice, my body still ‘looks’ like someone who has only just begun and doesn’t practice between classes.

I practice at home daily (aside from the recent hospital visit and emotional crisis which resulted in me not practicing for 3 weeks – unheard of for me in recent years) and I go to a monthly Iyengar workshop, which is 6 very intense hours of hard poses which are built up in sequence to get to the required opening. I love it, and yet I have experienced shame and embarrassment at this workshop because I must come across to others as someone who basically never practices at home, and just rocks up to a really intense workshop once a month and expects to improve their practice. My body never really seems to loosen and become more flexible, or it does, and then everything seems to slam up really tight again due to nightmares and emotional stress. Yoga is not about flexibility, of course, but the physical benefits are still important and being as tight as I am makes the workshop, and getting into the poses at all, even with modifications, quite a challenge.

I was quite distressed the day after one of the workshops earlier this year because I had found it so painful the previous day – my body was so tight it felt tender and like I was bruised all over. At therapy K asked if I was doing the right type of yoga for me, and it got me feeling defensive and thinking about what I am getting from yoga, both generally but also from that specific workshop I had been attending every month since August last year. I think I’ve started to accept that for people with complex-trauma and dissociation, yoga may not ever bring the whole ‘body-mind-soul-spirit at one’ bliss and energy that is found by many yogis (though I have had moments of bliss and joy and connection after practice for sure). All it may ever do is provide me with some space for me and, on bad days, help me survive another day. I also really notice the physical impact of not practicing now, as my body tightens up, my lower back and hips tighten, and my knee joints are pulled out of alignment and I experience very bad pain there, particularly my right knee which is the side of my body which holds the most tension. And so even when I can’t get into a mindful and present state very successfully on particular days due to PTSD-symptoms, I remind myself that even just the physical practice will be hugely beneficial. And my body is improving, I know internally organs and other systems get such beneficial effects from yoga. My yoga teacher says she can see the progress I am making, internally in my mind, and externally in my physical body, even if I can’t see it myself.

So, the following – in italics – is something I wrote in my journal in January after K had questioned what I was getting from yoga and whether I would be better off doing something other than Iyengar. Her partner is a yoga teacher and she practices daily, and I felt attacked (projection, she wasn’t attacking, my Mum would have been) over my choice of teacher and the type of yoga I had chosen for this point in my life. I’ve tried many different classes and teachers and styles over the years, and have struggled to find a balance with my home practice due to my all-or-nothing tendencies. I finally settled on a monthly workshop (10-4 on a Sunday, and my Dad has Nina from Saturday evening to Sunday evening that weekend too, so I get some ‘me time’ before the workshop) and a daily practice at home, of anything from 5 poses to an hour or more, in August last year which I have found settled and which has stopped me striving for balance in my practice after 3 years of never feeling it was quite ‘right’.

Talking to K about yoga has led me to think about what I get from yoga generally, and my monthly Iyengar workshops in particular. It’s easy to note the distress and frustration I feel over my shit body, which is so tight and frequently has stuff pulled out of alignment, and how apparent it is at yoga workshops that my body is different from most other people’s there, but ultimately I am growing and changing a lot through my yoga practice and the Iyengar workshops. I am definitely happy where I am with my practice at the moment, after a couple of years of struggling to find a balance with it time-wise, so never feeling settled in my routine. So now I’ve lost my all-or-nothing approach and just aim to do yoga every day when I’m well enough (emotionally, i.e. not a flashbacking, dissociated mess, or 2, 5, 10 years old…), but even 5 or 6 poses is ‘good’ and I do however long I have time for and feel up to doing. So I’ve lost the set time goal, I go with poses my body needs that day, and I don’t feel I’ve ‘failed’ if I miss a day. And I no longer have that sense that if I’m kind to myself I won’t get anything done, because I’ve seen myself make my way to my mat nearly every evening, and regularly do 30-45 minutes, for years now. I’ve also accepted I HATE doing yoga first thing because my body is so tight and stiff, especially after nights of trauma dreams, which happen basically every night. So I’ve settled into doing it at 9pm and this is working well.

And I like having the monthly workshop that is at a set time, and childcare is sorted, and I know it is there – my time to deepen my practice and tune in to what is going on in my body, and where my mind goes, without trying to fit in a weekly class, which is not possible at the moment with work and single parenting. And I really like Izzy’s teaching of Iyengar. I’ve never felt anxious in her workshops or got triggered. And I’ve never felt shamed by her about my body (this has happened with another teacher). She is so gentle and is teaching me to treat my body with kindness, to make it comfortable, but also to encourage it to open and change. I love it when she says ‘leave space for something to change’ – this can be applied internally and externally and is my favourite quote at the moment. The use of props and supports to encourage opening without strain really helps because then I get the desired opening and strengthening without straining or worrying I’m damaging myself. I feel like I’m finding the edge between backing away from discomfort and pushing myself through and ignoring pain and discomfort in my body. On a physical level, my body needs to change. It needs to release it’s tight hold. ‘Leave space for something to change’ – it’s what I’m doing in all aspects of my life. If I never straighten my legs in yoga they will never learn to straighten. They need to, because physically my central nervous system needs to release. And if I never push myself to go to the places that cause me discomfort and pain then I will stay in this stuck place.

And I’ve become so aware of where I go in my mind and emotions when there is pain, and I’m becoming better able to stay with discomfort, to breathe into it and surrender, not hanging in there gasping for breath, but opening to the experience. And this is clearly so what I need to do, and let the parts do, in therapy this year! But the props, the alignment, Izzy’s knowledge of anatomy, the way she makes each pose as comfortable as possible for each person, her gentle voice talking about all the aspects of yoga, make that such a safe space for me. And I see the struggles I have in my life played out each month in that yoga space: the shame  and distress I feel over my body, which clearly holds all the fucked up stuff that has happened to me;  my desire to be invisible (I want to be the one in yoga class who needs no attention from the teacher, but because of my ANT I need regular assistance); my fear of being too demanding and being asked not to come anymore because I take up too much of Izzy’s time in class; my fear of being misunderstood because people think I am lazy and uncommitted because my body is still how it is, rather than seeing how brave, strong and persistent I am, because my body is how it is because of chronic trauma and abuse as an infant and child, and yet I remain committed to yoga even though it can be a very real, near-constant reminder of the reality of what I’ve been through, and the remnants of life experiences I would rather forget. The shame, the fear, the desire to hide, they all play out on the mat, and my job is to go back and face all that stuff, regularly.

And in the workshops I am finding the balance between total overwhelm and never facing anything hard, and I am learning to stay and observe what happens to me in that place. And I like holding the poses for longer (in Iyengar poses are held for between 2 and 10 minutes, generally) because in doing that I am learning where my mind goes, and getting chance to notice what happens for me. And these workshops are the first time my body has felt more open in the days following an intense class/workshop, rather than tighter and more closed up and painful. And my internal dialogue ends in Izzy’s classes in a way it rarely does in other classes. I am able to stay with my body and internal experience. And in life/therapy I need to connect to what is really going on, instead of pretending all is fine when it’s not, and I am definitely noticing through the workshops more and more of what is not okay for me, and also how to stay with pain and other stuff that is ‘not okay’ but is necessary to take me somewhere better, somewhere different.

So yeah, even though I feel disheartened when my body tightens so much it’s like going back to square one, I can see how much I am benefiting and I feel glad to have reached a non-striving sense of equilibrium with my yoga and meditation practice in the last 5 or 6 months.

There is so much more I could write about yoga, and also mindfulness meditation, and how they have both helped me with pain and fatigue and just living in an energised, content and responsive rather than a reactive way for sustained periods of time over the past 5 or 6 years. I will definitely at some point write about my journey into it all, and the barriers and challenged I faced, and continue to face, because of complex trauma and dissociation. I want to challenge the assumption that ‘being in our bodies’ is always calming, as for trauma survivors this is often not the case as the body is where the emotions we are trying to dissociate from live and they can be anything but calming, whilst at the same time challenging many assumptions made by trauma survivors (myself included) that yoga and meditation can’t be any use to them. I am looking into 121 sessions with a woman who incorporates trauma work and myofascial release into her teachings, which I am hugely excited about (one of the benefits of not having therapy next year, if that is what I decide, is that I will have a lot more money and as well as avoiding accruing even more debt for therapy, I will also be able to try out some of the other things that I am drawn to for my own healing), so I’ll write more about all of this when I get time.

Thank you for reading!