Back here

How am I back here? It feels like Friday night is the new “suicide Tuesday” from my drug-taking days. I don’t want to go on like this, I can’t. There aren’t really any words.  Last night was a complete disaster. My sleeping meds seem to have stopped working (they’re only meant for short-term use) and so I didn’t take one last night because maybe then they will start to work again… And the panic/terror flooding my body as I tried to sleep was intense – I took diazepam twice but it didn’t really help. Maybe because this is not racing thoughts related, but body-based – there are no thoughts that take me to that dark and panic-stricken place, only flashbacks, body memories, experiences I am reliving but that don’t belong here. So I barely slept and also had adrenaline coursing through me all night, leaving me wired and depleted and feeling utterly defeated.

Today has been such a struggle. Luckily I was working from home, but I have achieved very little which in itself makes me anxious because I have targets to meet for my probation (5 years in the job I do, ugh). And it is infuriating, it is such a waste of time. I love what I do, and yet my cognitive functioning is so poor so much of the time that I struggle with it so much. And it makes me sad, because I want to be able to enjoy it and it not just be something else that attachment trauma has taken away from me.

I could have napped and then been more productive later, but I couldn’t because my body is ramped up and on edge. I did do some yoga in my lunch break which I think did help the anxiety symptoms. And I’ve drank some water, but I’ve basically just eaten cornflakes all day. And I am exhausted and want to crawl into bed but I can’t because I have go out to pick Nina up from training at 8.30. And I am already scared I won’t sleep tonight despite being so exhausted, which is counterproductive I know, but sleep has been so hard lately that it is so hard to trust it will be okay.

It is hard to trust anything will be okay on days like today. My DP and DR are both bad. My heart is racing and I keep getting flashes of dread and pure terror. I know that K would say we’ve been here before, where I’ve felt so utterly overwhelmed and the thought of continuing in my job whilst solo parenting and recovering from complex trauma seems impossible, and then things settle. And I want to believe I am healing and moving forwards but on days like today it feels like I am stuck, destined to live the same pain and experience the same despair and hopelessness over and over again. And underneath it all is the knowledge that she is going away from me, 12 more sessions and then we are done. It is not enough.

The last few days were better, despite the intensity of my session on Monday, but things gradually slipped and today I am stuck in this place again where the thought of carrying on like this is overwhelming and I wish there was someone to help but there isn’t. K said in her email today that she hopes I get some deep rest over the weekend, but today it feels like I will not get a proper rest for another seven years. I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but bringing her up all by myself has been and continues to be the hardest thing I can imagine doing. I love being a Mum, but all the other stuff that goes with it is so hard, so relentless – being the sole person responsible for the physical and emotional wellbeing of another person 24/7 is exhausting. Before I had her I had no idea that so much time could be spent doing basically nothing – tidying and organising and driving around and feeding and it just goes on.

And I know this overwhelm and exhaustion is not really about her, or work, or running a house. It is trauma memories. I know this overwhelm belongs in the past and that my brain is trying to find a present day reason for it — nothing changes on the days I feel capable and calm and energised but my internal landscape. And yet that doesn’t change how hard it is on days like today, when I just want to hide in a hole and instead I have to keep going. I cannot wait to get into bed tonight and just hope more than anything that I sleep tonight and that tomorrow I am not in this place where carrying on living feels such an insurmountable task.

 

 

 

Clawing back out

I’ve just got home from a really intense therapy session. Such hard work. Such pain. So many tears. And yet somehow so liberating and freeing to allow that pain to come out with K, in a safe space, where it is held and contained and not allowed to sweep us all away. To have that pain over not having a mum who could see or love me for who I am allowed and validated by someone who knows me and my alters so well and has walked beside us all for so long was so healing, more healing than it ever has been. I will hold that memory in my heart and remember feeling safe and heard and seen, even though those feelings seem too much to bear. I remember reading once how part of the work of trauma therapy is to pair those traumatic feelings with a sense of safety, and it so feels like that happened this evening. And I guess it went a little way towards integrating those huge feelings of loss and abandonment and emptiness into the story of who I am, because trauma is the things we keep outside of ourselves and refuse to make part of our story, and yet the healing is in owning that pain and making it part of us.

I filled K in on the week, about how far we fell on Friday evening, about the suicidal place and the need to cut. I told her all we did over the weekend to try and regain some stability and equanimity – the gym, seeing a friend even though we really wanted to cancel and hide in bed, sorting the house, cycling, four baths, regular meals, yoga. She said how lovely it was to hear that I clawed my way back out, even though it sounded so hard to do. I definitely do sense that, with therapy ending perhaps, I am taking more practical steps to pull myself out of that place. It’s hard. Yet here I am.

*** The next paragraph jumps between first person, first person plural and third person but I can’t make sense of it enough to change it, I think it needs to do this because it feels partly like the story and those feelings are not me and partly that they are – towards integration I guess***

At the beginning of the session when we were breathing together and doing our mindful body scan, I was aware of Leia (14) screaming and screaming and stuck in a cave. So in the second half of the session she came out and did some work. She had to pick 10 cards with animal pictures on from K’s set. Nine were pictures of different animals with their Mum’s, and one was of a nest of baby birds with their mouths wide open screeching for food, crying out for their mum to nourish them. The word under the last card was ‘demand’. We talked about the nine creatures with mummies first and Leia sobbed that “it isn’t fair, why didn’t I get that, is it because there’s something wrong with me?” And she wailed that she couldn’t even imagine what it was like to have a Mum. K said it wasn’t her fault, that it’s never a child’s fault when an adult behaves badly. And then we talked about the nest of baby birds, and how there were many times our Mum left us, but that the time that stands out for Leia, the night she split off, is when our Mum left her to drive 250 miles to see a man she used to know because his wife had left him. She did this even though we were really ill and off school because of anorexia and self-harm and needed her. Leia begged her to stay and she yelled how selfish she was and then drove off. My sister found me covered in blood and got her Dad to drive me to my Dad’s. He was enraged but I don’t remember being allowed to feel. It was all about his anger over what my Mum had done. What a fucking mess. K said how frightening it must have been to have been left alone in that state. And she said how great it was that Leia asked her not to go, that she had feelings, that she has feelings now. And we said that it fucking shows the extent of my Mum’s lack of motherly warmth and empathy – we begged her not to go and still she went. She said she’d do anything to help us get better, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t capable.

“And now you’re leaving me too” we wailed. And K nodded and said “but we still have time”. And she is right. We do still have some time. So we made a plan to take our bunnies next week to see her again, which is one of the things on the “list of things to do before we end” and little parts came out and were excited and told K she will not believe how big they are now. And K is excited to see them too. We’ve taken them twice before and both times she has been genuinely so happy to see them. It makes us all love her so much, that she is vegan and loves animals and understands this in us so well.

So I’m here. I’m feeling wobbly because grieving the loss of K and the loss of my actual Mum, and feeling the pain of all I never had and always needed, all at the same time is basically the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face. Yet I am facing it. And facing it with K. And it feels better to let this pain out than hold it all inside and let it make me ill. So that is what I am trying to do.

Breaking point

I’ve somehow managed to descend into full blown mental health crisis. It’s been brewing all week, but today has completely broken me. I am sitting here in floods of tears now Nina has gone to bed, with dark thoughts swirling round and round and this agonising pain inside me. I don’t want to live like this anymore. How is this my life? How did I end up here?

I couldn’t work today. I couldn’t think. I sat and tried. I googled to try and find out what is wrong with me, as if I didn’t know. I did ride my bike at lunchtime, but that was between waves of desperate crying and hopelessness. I am so tired of my body holding so much pain and tension, of my brain being so foggy, of the only time I feel okay being when it is warm and sunny and even then not guaranteed. I am tired of trying so hard to be okay, of how much effort and money and time I put into it and yet still – here I am. I am tired of not sleeping, and of having hours and hours of trauma dreams when I do. I am tired of being alone and not feeling like I belong anywhere. I am tired of the self-loathing which sweeps in whenever I don’t feel good. I am tired of not being able to love myself because I was never loved for who I am.

This pain is not even about K. I’ve barely thought of her today. I mean it is about her, but also about this fucking pit of need and despair and grief that she puts me in touch with. My desperate longing for a Mum is there somewhere, but that gets swept up in shame because she trained me that my needs were bad and shameful, so even needing a Mum makes me bad. I’m consumed by dark thoughts of hopelessness, of despair over things ever actually getting truly better for me. Healing feels so hopeless, a promised land I will never be given the map to reach. It has taken so long to get here, and then I find here really isn’t okay after all. All this work and all these years and I am still here, desperate to cut my skin to take away the ache inside me. I feel agitated and dead inside. I am so tired of battling with the darkness inside me every single day. I know what I need – a break. A break from feeling, a break from trauma, a break from work and solo parenting. A break from pretending. And I can’t have any of these things. This struggle is just mine to continue.

I feel so lost with everything. Lost in therapy. Lost with yoga and meditation. Lost in healing. Lost with my work. Lost in trauma land. Lost in struggles to understand why my body reacts as it does, as if it is some alien thing. I have no sense of where I am headed. It all feels so overwhelming. Work when I am like this is impossible and without work everything will fall apart.  In our email exchange today K reminded me that only 2 weeks ago I was in a very different place. And she said I am holding so much that hopefully just slowing right down and taking each day at a time will provide more ground. I need some ground. I need ground under me and arms around me telling me I am safe and that things will be okay.

For a while I was able to hold hope for myself but that seems to have faded. I’m not even sure healing is possible anymore. Is this just my life? All the things that seem to help ‘normal’ people just seem so complicated and triggering for me. I try to deepen my yoga practice and everything gets stirred up. I go to a yin and sounds workshop and the gongs make the energy buzz in my head and neck till it actually hurts and doesn’t stop. I try massage and end up barely able to move for days. I got triggered in my Creative Kinesiology session because stuff with alters came up and it felt like we had shared too much and we felt over-exposed and so ashamed. And I get triggered by yoga teachers and healers who do not get my adverse neural tension and just bulldoze in with their understandings of the body and won’t listen that mine is super-sensitive and reacts differently. I don’t want it to be like that, but it is. And so I am tired of reaching out and putting in effort to find practices and people to help me on my journey and just falling flat on my face and being in more pain and more tense and more unsettled than I was before.

I sat at a work party for a couple of hours tonight while Nina was swimming and I managed to laugh a bit but inside I was shattered into pieces and just comforting myself with the reassurance that I could cut when I got home. (I haven’t, so far). I want more than this existence and struggle. The hope I had for life after therapy is evaporating because I cannot seem to engage with the things I thought I could and I don’t know where I am headed. I cannot keep going with work and single parenting in this state. I keep doing the things I know I need to do but my energy is so depleted and there is never anyone to care for me, in the here and now, in my home. It is all down to me to not only look after myself but also build a life for Nina and make sure she is nurtured and supported and well-fed and chauffeured around. I love her, but loving her doesn’t seem to leave enough space for learning to love myself. And I wanted K to teach me but she is going away.

 

Nighttime disaster zone

Last night was a disaster. Bed transformed into that scary place once more. Terror and dread flooded my body over and over again as I lay there battling the feelings that belong in the past and yet won’t leave me alone. Every time I felt myself on the edge of sleep I jolted awake in a panic, my heart clenching and stomach lurching. I took a double dose of diazepam for the anxiety and prescription strength codeine left over from my recent trip to hospital with the pain flare because I had super bad period cramps. Nothing had any effect. The cramps were probably the worst period pains I’ve had in my life, apart from the first period after the abortion I had several years ago. The anxiety just went on and on. And when I finally dozed a little from around 3am trauma dreams cycled through my brain on an endless loop. Luckily I was able to work at home today so after driving my daughter to her friend’s house so she could get a lift to school I was able to sit with my laptop on the sofa and didn’t have to face talking to anyone.

The anxiety continued most of the day. I did manage to get some work done, not what I had planned to do, but things that needed doing and that will clear space later this week for more important things, once I am hopefully in a better place. I reached out to my acupuncturist via text, asking if he had space today. He was full but I can go on Friday if I am still this dysregulated. I don’t even feel that bad consciously, my brain is fairly calm, but my body is screaming at me that something is really wrong. My body tells the story of the things I would rather not know. My body is the proof. My body scares me. K tells me my body is not scary it is just trying to tell us big things, but I still find it scary how tight and painful and locked down it gets.

I did manage some yoga at lunchtime which helped a little. I made healthy food for me and Nina and collected her from swimming training and helped her prepare her ingredients to make a fruit fusion in food and nutrition tomorrow. On the surface I look okay, but bubbling underneath is a melting pot of unfelt emotions and just absolute fucking agonising pain. One of the texts to my acupuncturist, who I’ve worked with on and off for 14 years now and who a few years ago witnessed my first realisations of all that I went through growing up, was basically “I want my Mum”. This is what all this is about isn’t it, needing something I’ve never had. That fucking gaping hole in me. I don’t want to be like this, I don’t want to care or need or want that elusive thing I’ve never had. And K going just throws it all in my face – I’m not hers, I don’t belong to anyone the way I need to. And it makes me ashamed and then I bury the feelings and then they explode out of me in the form of anxiety.

“Maximum self-soothe” is a phrase I read recently and is something I want to adopt at times like this, rather than the self-abandonment which is my default response. It feels like I am falling apart and yet I am keeping going and keeping everything together. I wish I could just sit and howl with the pain of losing K and not having a mum some times, really lose myself in it, but there is never time and space to do this. I want to reach out to K and yet she can’t help me because I have to go through this. I know this and she knows this. I know if she could take this pain away from me she would.

I hate this anxious state. I am scared I won’t sleep again tonight. I’ve switched my phone off and have a sleeping tablet to take soon. I am going to read some of the wonderful novel I am reading that is one of those books that feels familiar and still takes you someplace new. I am going to tell myself it won’t always be like this. I am going to remind the parts who are freaking out that it isn’t always like this. Anxiety is a fairly rare visitor to my life, I usually am just straight to hypoarousal, and I know this phase will pass. But being stuck in it is still so horrible and makes me feel so incapable of living and healing and keeping going.

 

Not enough time

Despite the growth and relative-stability of the past two months, there are still times when the pain of the ending of my therapy with K feels too much to bear, when it feels unsurvivable and I just want to curl up in a hole and die so I don’t have to feel it. And there are times when the pain of not having a mum feels so acute it quite literally takes my breath away. What I wouldn’t give to have a mum to reach out to for support and love to help me with the pain of this ending (and yes, I know I wouldn’t be in this place if I had a Mum like that but sometimes the absence of any kind of mum, however bad and dysfunctional, is so all-consuming – I don’t even have someone rubbish but who tries hard and can just make me tea and crumpets and watch a film with me). It is a year today that my Mum received my letter cutting contact completely. I have no doubts about this decision, I am even more sure now than I was then that it was, and remains, the only tolerable way forward, but her absence from my life is still so present sometimes. My daughter starting secondary school has been such a big (though hugely happy so far) transition for us both, and not having a mum to even send a photo of her in her new uniform to – it just hurts.

This evening at the end of my session both of these came at once. I knew another wave of grief over K was bearing down, felt it in the car on the way to session, and then the tears came during our breathing and mindfulness practice at the start of the session. A brief interaction before we started breathing was all it took for the enormity of what I am losing to hit me – we are SO good, she is so attuned, we have something so real and whole and containing. And our time together is ticking away. I named the feelings behind the tears, named the pain, sobbed that “I don’t want you to go away but I can’t talk about it today” and we put it to one side, knowing it is there, but not going there today. This is one of the greatest skills I have learnt through my time with K – being able to name pain and leave it, so that it is present but not opened up. At the beginning I would have needed to poke that wound as hard as I could today, but now I can know it is there and leave it alone till another day.

I cried a lot on the way home, feeling the full force of what is ahead of me and what is behind me at the same time. I am losing something so real, so tangible, so valuable to my life. I am losing someone who knows me better than anyone, who can always now help me make sense of my reactions and struggles. I took so much muddle to her today after an overwhelming week of anxiety and panic attacks and insomnia and flashbacks, and we made sense of it all. And losing her is triggering the biggest loss, the loss I carry with me everywhere, the loss that has shaped me into who I am and colours every other loss. I am doing my best to hold both these things separately, and at arm’s length, to feel these two huge losses and not lose myself inside them. It is hard though, so fucking hard.

We are ending in December and I plan to work every week until this time. So I am doing what I didn’t think I could do. We are working through the ending, but also working through it, working despite it, because we are still getting therapy work done which has come as a surprise. It has surprised and pleased me that I am still able to take everything to her the way I always have, despite the maybe-forever ending that is looming. “We still have time” is something she has said in recent weeks. And yes, we do, but not enough – never enough. Still so much comes up each week. Me and the parts made a list of things we want to do before the end – the trip to the forest, a memory jar, some art projects, a film night, taking our rabbits to see her again – and we are scared we will run out of time. We have 13 sessions left now. I feel physically sick when I think how fast they will go. I don’t want to waste a single second, and yet at the same time I want the ending to fade into the background so K and I can create more healing alchemy together and not be permanently dragged down by a pain that is bigger than us, a pain that is not about her and I but about things that happened long, long ago.

I was freaking out before my session and messaged my lovely friend asking her what the positives of this ending were again… And her messages were there waiting for me when I got out this evening – K will get better, I will have time and money to do nice things and go to pretty places and be able to integrate all the work K and I have done. Her messages helped so much, reminded me that there is life after therapy and that I have been able to see these things at other times over the past couple of months. I want time to stand still so I can keep K forever, but I know that when this pain has subsided a little in the days to come I will once more be eager to get on with my life and continue my journey, even though this journey will take me away from her.

Coming home

Nina and I are in the city I lived in for 5 years from the age of 18. I came here to do my undergraduate degree and stayed working here for a couple of years afterwards. This is the city I lived in when I was pregnant with her, the city I reluctantly left to go and live back home with my Dad, 250 miles away, just before she was born, the city I sobbed my heart out to leave as I drove away from my three best friends who had come to help me pack up my car and say goodbye. I still remember watching them disappear from sight in my rear view mirror as they waved me off on my new adventure. Even though I was beyond excited about the fact I was about to meet my daughter and become a mother, leaving my life and friends here behind was very painful and I cried for at least the first 40 miles of the long drive back to the city I spent the first 18 years of my life in.

I’ve not been here for more than 6 years. Last time I was not in a good place in life – it was before I properly started my healing journey in September 2012 and I was struggling with CFS and fibromyalgia, things that used to dominate my life whereas they rarely bother me now, not to the extent they used to at least. Nina spent a night with friends by herself and I basically slept the whole 24 hours. So much has changed since then and being here now I feel so drawn to this place. It is a feeling I cannot put into words, it’s like a homecoming I suppose.

I feel free here in a way I don’t feel anywhere else, especially not in my home city where the ghosts of my past and the ever-present spectre of my estranged mother lurk on every corner. I remember in the September before I fell pregnant, when I was 22, walking home from having coffee in this city with a friend and feeling a deep sense of peace and contentment engulf me. I was unwell with chronic head pain and huge levels of emotional distress, but I still felt good that day. I remember writing later how I had found myself in this city, a huge thing given that my early years involved being engulfed by a narcissistic mother and never being allowed to develop a sense of self at all. It was the first place I was free to become myself; I grew so much here, through the good and bad. I had a solid group of friends around me and I felt very loved. I wanted everything and everyone to stay the same forever. My second suicide attempt came the night that my housemate told me she was leaving the city – everyone was drifting away, to London and other places and the changes were too much for me. Until 6 months later I became pregnant and it was my turn to change and move away, leaving behind this place that has clearly played such a huge but till-now invisible part in my healing journey.

Everywhere I’ve walked the past two days memories have tugged at me, drawing me in and pulling me back. I can feel my mind whirring to make sense of how I was and what I was doing at different times, how it fits with who I was and how I’ve grown to become the person I am now. I wasn’t always happy here, far from it, but most of the memories are of laughter and dancing, love, joy, hope, and the making of beautiful friendships.

I found myself here, away from my parents and their expectations, away from the trauma and alcohol abuse and sexual escapades that line the streets of my hometown. I remember in my first few weeks here, age 18, taking a train to a nearby town for the evening to meet some friends from home who now lived near here and realising that no one but me knew where I was going. It was an exhilarating feeling, one I’m sure many 18 year olds experience but especially poignant for someone who grew up under the watchful omnipresence of a narcissistic mother.

I wasn’t expecting to love being here so much. It feels new and yet so familiar. It has been lovely rediscovering the city and showing Nina the different places I lived and where I used to go. At the moment she is swimming in the pool I swam in 3 times a week when I was pregnant. It has been wonderful wandering around a place I know so well with fresh eyes, a more solid and integrated version of myself than I’ve ever been. I would love to live here again. I still have friends here and it is near London where many of my other friends live too. There is also an institution here which would be much better for my work than where I am now. I can’t see myself moving anytime soon, but if a job comes up I will consider it, if it’s a good time to move Nina. It is a one-day dream – I will definitely move away from the city I live in now when Nina is 18, if not before. Here feels like home so I would love it to be here. Despite all the illness and pain and really awful times I experienced here, my heart and soul feel settled and at peace here. These few days will be held in my heart forever – a whisper of what was and a hope for what may one day come to be.