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.