I’m feeling quite weird this evening. I need to go to bed and not let myself descend into attachment panic and pain, but I think it might help to get some things written down. “Dead inside” and “invaded by emptiness” are the two phrases I would use to describe how I am right now. A visceral sense of being filled with emptiness, and of not existing. It’s not existential angst – I know my life is full and has meaning and so on. It is more a sense of not being real, and of being consumed by a vast, empty hole inside me. It’s unpleasant but less scary than it used to be after an article I read recently sent to me by a dear friend. Alongside this is a sense of inner turmoil, but this is far under the surface and less accessible – the passive influence of dissociated parts I guess. And alongside this is also a sense that I am actually okay, that we all are. Ah, dissociation and parts make life so complex – rich, but complex and very weird sometimes.
I managed to pull myself back from that awful place on Friday, though it took some time for my eyes and nose to recover from all the crying. I managed to move to a place that had a future again, and regained a sense that my survival does not depend upon K – with her help strangely enough – it is odd that her being there would help me move to a place where it feels less completely-awful-I’m-going-to-die that soon she will not be here at all. It was a relief to be out of those life or death feelings once more, though it always leaves me feeling faintly ridiculous for having been in such an extreme place. Yesterday was a pretty good day and today I felt adult, capable and pretty upbeat – things are moving forwards with getting my house ready to sell and yesterday we visited the beautiful forest that is only a 10 minute bike ride from where I hope we will move to.
I arrived at therapy feeling excited about houses, and K wanted to see the ones I’m interested in so asked me to send her the links later. The first half of the session was light, which was welcome after the previous session, which felt sad and heavy and overtaken with huge grief over the imminent ending, and obviously after the phone call on Friday when I was really distressed and plunged into attachment and abandonment pain and trauma time – land of perpetual present. Even sharing the parts journal with a lot of distress from teen parts about us ending was okay, maybe because a lot of the feelings had been named on Friday on the ‘phone, and things had settled. And K was, as ever, validating about their (our) feelings about the end, and how important it is that we have feelings. And she agreed that yes, she is what she is to us because we didn’t have a mum who could see or love us, but that she is still who she is to us.
I gave her my wish list and asked her to think about what is possible over the next week and let me know. She read through it whilst I was there and said we would discuss it next week but she wanted to reassure me that it all seemed very reasonable and there was nothing that stood out as something she thought ‘no way!’ about. Phew. Such a relief to have those needs and wants out there instead of in some half-formed shape inside my head, where they have been growing bigger and less reasonable and more unlikely to be agreed to as the weeks have gone past. I mean, she has never said or implied there would be no contact at all next year, but I have never wanted to presume because obviously she is taking the time off for her surgery and to recover. And it says several things which refer to us working together again after the year is up, so it is nice (understatement of century) to know that she is not thinking that no way can that happen – she could so easily say it wouldn’t be in our/my best interests to have that in mind even as a possibility for all of next year as it would stop me moving on, and she has never once said that. I know she knows how strong our relationship is. We both know. It is why the end is hurting so much.
I stupidly pressed for some reassurance about her thinking of us all next year and ended up getting triggered because she said she would think of me and how I was and would be hoping I was okay, more than okay, that I was thriving and that all was going well with the house move and my work and friendships and so on, but she would also remember “the edges” when it came to our work, as she knew I would too. Someone younger asked what she meant and she said that of course there have been some challenges and it has been a difficult road at times. I mean, I know this – it has been. It really has been incredibly tough at times, for both of us, so it’s dumb that it triggered us all, but I can’t pretend it didn’t. A teen part asked if she would still have started working with us had she known how difficult it would be, and she said she would, but that she had been worried at times during our work, about my extreme states and me wanting to kill myself. And she said sometimes she wished there had been 5 of her, because I have needed 24/7 care and support that she just couldn’t give and I would have benefited from more holding. She has said before, back in February in particular, that she was worried she wasn’t enough for me and that therapy was making things worse instead of better, so it’s not like any of this was a surprise to me, but still it is triggering to be reminded that I could have lost her, and also that working with me has been so challenging. Like, there will be times when I’m sure she does feel relief that she will not have to worry about me after the end of the year! And it is obviously difficult knowing that not every memory she has of me is positive. Obviously this is the reality in any relationship, but shame is never far away from the surface for me and it doesn’t take much to trigger it and shatter my sense of connection to myself and others.
I was talking to a friend about this conversation earlier, and I kind of realised that the fact it has been so difficult and yet K did not give up on me is almost testimony to how much she cares for me and the strength of our therapeutic alliance. Sticking with therapy when disorganised attachment pain and abandonment panic was resulting in all kinds of chaotic craziness is probably the thing I will be always be proudest of myself for, but I am also struck by the fact that K hung in there with me, through some really desperate and extreme times and despite some ‘borderline’ projections and rage. I mean, things aren’t amazing internally for me from an attachment perspective now, but I am able to hold things for myself and the parts a lot better now, and *usually* manage to not descend into attachment panic where I have to contact her for reassurance or send some kind of unscheduled emotional diatribe to her between sessions. A lot has changed and I do feel stronger than I ever have now. Maybe not as strong as I’d like to, but the time it takes to recover from huge emotional flashbacks seems to be lessening, and the parts tend to not hit quite such depths of despair and desperation.
So I felt myself get triggered, but I was able to stay with it and remind myself of the reality of the context of the conversation, and that K wasn’t telling me that stuff because I was ‘bad’ or she thought I was bad but because the places I travel to in terms of attachment and abandonment are extreme and it is an essential part of reflecting on our work together that my attachment disordered issues are there in the mix. We were about to go into the other room to finish the painting and I wanted to go into full on ‘borderline’ reassurance seeking mode – are you angry with me? do you hate me? will you think bad things about me next year? is it my fault I’m like this? do you think I haven’t tried hard enough? do you hate me? are you angry with me? am I bad? and so on – and yet I didn’t because a) no words can ever reassure me out of that state, and b) I know the answer to these questions if I really look at the overall context of our relationship. So instead we finished the painting (which is amazing and lovely and such a special thing to have as a reminder of our time together) and I left feeling mostly secure and safe in our relationship. I guess my weird, dead, full of emptiness inner state is here now as a reminder of the disorganised attachment dynamics which have been the backdrop for all our work. I’ve wanted to self harm this evening but instead I am going to go to bed. I feel a little better for having written this. Still dead inside, but able to see it for what it is a little more clearly and therefore able to stop myself getting swept fully into the dead zone.