Every therapy session recently seems to be bringing deep and profound change and healing. I can really feel it filling me with all sorts of wonderful things I have never experienced before in any kind of sustained and authentic way. It has become almost predictable that I will leave therapy feeling grounded and full and glowing inside and capable of caring for myself and the parts for another week, regardless of what comes up. Last week I got really triggered and ended up in a place of total overwhelm about managing a demanding full-time job with single parenting whilst also needing so much space because of complex trauma and dissociated parts. I asked K for a phone session on Friday and she juggled her day around to fit this in. It really helped settle and contain things and also provided me with practical steps around how to make a bust up with Nina over swimming training better without sharing too much of my own process with her. In short, K being there made things better instead of triggering me further which is something pretty new for me when I am in that place.
K said a few sessions ago that I need to drink in now what it’s like to be able to be in relationship, to feel safe enough in relationship, and I need to allow myself space to experience that it is okay to feel safe in relationship. I used to feel I was bad for feeling safe with K (which is ridiculous when I think about it) and so this is exactly what I am doing lately – drinking in the safety, basking in the glow of K and I’s connection and the warmth and love and attention she pours into me, allowing myself to get lost in the cosy feelings that arise over my system’s newfound ability to feel and be with our attachment to K, to really experience it without panicking and feeling that we are dying, or drowning in shame for being attached to someone we pay, or wanting to run from away from her because she triggers so much pain and past trauma it is almost unbearable.
It is heavenly to be in this place after all those years of finding the pain the therapeutic relationship put me in contact with almost intolerable. And what is beautiful and wonderful and reassuring and so incredibly safe is that I can feel it is bringing K and I closer that I am healing. I didn’t know that would happen. I thought I would grow away from her as I healed but instead we are growing closer. Or maybe it is that I can allow myself to really feel how close we are now because I’m not constantly triggered into a shame-filled place where I cannot allow myself to feel the relationship is real because I pay for it and it has limitations and I must be bad for attaching to someone in this way. Now we’ve worked through so much of the mess from the past our connection feels so real, so visceral and physically present in the room when we are together, and so enduring when we are apart. I mean, it must always have been real, but now so much of the intense transference has been worked through I can really feel that what is there is real and sacred and goes both ways.
I know it must seem like I wax lyrical about how wonderful our relationship is all the time, but it truly is so different for me to be able to be with that and take it in and not drown in the pain of being away from her or panic over the fact that one day she will not be here. And our relationship is such a strong force for change now and I feel so excited about the healing that is so evident in my life in recent weeks and months and what the future will be like for me if I continue to heal and move forward as I am now. There is still so much wrong and difficult in my life but I can also see that changing; there is hope for the future and the work needed to get there feels much lighter than the dark depths we’ve had to travel through together to get me to this point. If I can work through such difficult, painful material and come out the other side then it feels like the sky is the limit as far as making other positive changes in my life. I nag and give myself such a hard time for still being stuck in the same old patterns so much of the time, for doing things I know are bad for me and staying stagnant in many ways. Some of the alters are also horribly critical and shaming and self-loathing and it has seemed as though dedicated work needed to be done with these parts to overcome this. And this way of being, for me and them (who I know are me really, but they are also not still) has often felt intractable and hopeless and grounds for even more self-criticism – we are all so bad we can’t even love ourselves. Another thing we suck at! Today, though, I am starting to see how maybe it will just be part of the healing process that these habits will fall away and self-compassion will develop. Maybe the changes and shifts will happen without huge amounts of conscious effort on my part, just through the work I am already doing in therapy.
In my session today I read K my post from two weeks ago, about how hard it has been for me to be in relationship with her and how we have worked through it together and are now in a place where therapy is mostly stabilising and makes my life feel better instead of even more intolerable. She said she would like a paper copy to keep and read again because it speaks so well about the difficulties of relationship and attachment and the therapy process, and it shows that there is light, that it is possible to work through that stuff even in it’s most extreme form as my process was. She said it shows how bad things have got to be sometimes before they can be okay. I said how so often I was like ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ and I know people must have thought I was crazy to be putting myself through therapy when it hurt so much. She said how helpful it is to review and think back on those years because I am so different now and there is a spaciousness around being in contact with her so it is not a fearful mess anymore. I said I genuinely felt like I was dying all the time and K emphatically agreed. It is so nice to know she knows just how bad it was, that she remembers, that she was there and witnessed it all. And now she gets to witness my journey from the other side of that mess to somewhere where I think I will be more fully alive and able to tolerate real and authentic relationships with people that are not based around getting wasted on alcohol and Class A drugs together.
There is still so much I need and want to work through with K, and I feel so incredibly grateful my therapy didn’t end last year because I think my healing journey would have looked very different and my ability to tolerate being in relationship would have been seriously delayed and maybe even permanently limited, had our work ended when it was meant to before she changed her plans. The work, and place of therapy in my life, is so different than it has been though. I still experience extreme physical pain and muscle tightness, I still have emotional storms, albeit on a smaller scale than at any other point in my life, and I still really struggle to be in relationship with others in a way that doesn’t feel violating and intrusive or disconnected and superficial. I still struggle with control and compulsive behaviours, I still freeze and lose hours of my life, I still struggle hugely with food at times and get triggered into painful emotional flashbacks, I still haven’t entirely faced down the mother wound. The work of therapy is less about actual survival now though, and is more about making my life better, less controlled by my past and triggers, opening up to more joy and authenticity with others and the possibility, one day, of an intimate relationship (I have no idea how I’m going to navigate dating with alters but will cross that bridge when I come to it!). I think I will always journey intensely when it comes to relationship, and I think I will always experience profound abandonment and attachment pain when old wounds are triggered by people close to me, but I also think I will learn to journey with myself as I move forward, rather than shaming and abandoning myself when I experience that pain.
Towards the end of the session we talked a bit about some insights I am currently pulling together after reading a post on another blogger’s site a few weeks ago about automatically anticipating any contact with others to be intrusive and difficult. The things I am putting together around this feel huge and really quite difficult as they (of course) relate to some of my earliest experiences about contact with others. K says it will take time to work through this material as it is really big and very important in terms of me moving forward and learning to be in relationship with others in a way that serves me instead of eroding me. She has asked that I start making some notes on this about what I can remember from the past and about times during the week that I notice this anticipation is impacting my decisions around other people, or is triggering me or making me dissociate. We have a 2 1/2 week gap between sessions after next week and I am looking forward to having some space to be able to journal about this and take it to her when we meet again on March 25th. What a weird and unexpected place to be – looking forward to a therapy break! I’m sure it will be a little unsettling at times, but nothing like the mess therapy breaks were before. Here is something Miffy wrote when we got home which says it all really…