I am crying a lot this evening, great big wracking sobs whose cause, or rather underlying emotion, I can’t really put my finger on, but it feels like I am letting go of something. I shared my last two posts with K, the one from last week about how different things are now in therapy and the one from Saturday about Mr Raposa. I welled up reading both, tears of gratitude to both of us for sticking with therapy when it was so incredibly tough, bittersweet tears because with this shift comes space inside me and in my life that is not filled with K, but also bigger tears, tears carrying the force of all that has lived inside me since I first set foot in K’s house all those years ago and the process of looking at and feeling what is inside me began. And as I finished reading my body started juddering and shaking, almost like the shock response I’ve come to know so well over the years in therapy when some huge realisation about how I am or what I’ve been through hit me all in a rush. I wanted to scream and shout and cry and wail because it hurt, whatever feelings were surfacing and flooding out of me. I think it hit me all-of-a-sudden in that moment how truly, truly traumatic those years of therapy were, and a little of the trauma and intensity of those days came loose inside me and began to be metabolised.
I cannot adequately put into words just how difficult therapy was for the first three years. I genuinely felt like the pain, the process, the horror of disorganised attachment, the constant triggering of my attachment wounds, would kill me. That sounds dramatic but much of the time it really did feel that way. Therapy was agony, leaving therapy was agony, being away from K was painful but being with her hurt too much too. I wanted to end therapy to stop the pain but the pain when I thought of my life without K was intolerable too. I barely survived the time between sessions, could hardly go a day without contacting K, and spent much of my days feeling suicidal, self-harming, and generally feeling utterly hopeless and convinced I would die because of what happened to me as a baby. Words cannot do it justice really. It was truly, truly hellish. I needed to go through that awful time but it has left its own traumatic scars upon me, I have no doubt of that.
I obviously managed to trust the process enough to keep going, and there were momens of light and joy and connection, but I also couldn’t see that it was getting me anywhere. I talked about there being ‘another side’ to get to, but I had no real sense of it existing, or what it might be like. And that pain certainly didn’t feel like process, although I see now it was and was me learning to tolerate being close to someone, being in relationship, feeling connected. For more than 3 years being in relationship with K was like having caustic soda poured all over my wounds. My skin burned and I writhed in agony, and the wounds never had chance to heal before I was back for more. I was addicted to her but being with her made everything hurt more. However much love and warmth and support she poured into me was not enough, it flowed straight through me and left me desperate for more. And the love and warmth hurt me too, constantly triggering my disorganised attachment system, telling me something was very, very wrong and that I needed to protect myself by getting closer and running away at the same time. It was one crazy storm and I couldn’t even hold on to K to steady myself. Dissociation erased her from my mind and left an empty space inside my head.
I was deep in primal pain so much of the time for so many years. Crisis after crisis. Regular self-harm episodes and weeks with no sleep and floods of abandonment panic drowning me. Pain just poured out of me for months and months and months. Years really, with the occasional brief respite for a week or two where things felt more stable. Nearly every day was a battle as I somehow managed to hold my adult life, my daughter and the parts, my work, whilst years of unfelt pain and trauma surfaced and threatened to pull me under. I wondered every day how I was going to survive the rest of my life and was petrified that K would go away and leave me all on my own with the blackness inside me. Parts do still feel this way now I’m not gonna lie, and it is still very difficult living some days, but lately I can tell that we’ve done the groundwork in therapy, we’ve built the foundations together, and I am finally starting to heal.
When I had shared the post from last week towards the end of the session today, K said it is really lovely to see how well I am doing, how this healing is transformational now and I am moving towards a space where things [aka us, our relationship, our connection] can be taken in and felt authentically, instead of me always pushing it away or worrying if the relationship is real, or what will happen next (aka being constantly ashamed of how important she is to me and utterly terrified 24/7 that she would go away). It is huge, what we’ve accomplished together, the emotion swept me away and I felt the shock hit me. Those dark days are behind me and I can’t imagine ever going back to how it was now. I get flashes of course, like I did two weeks ago, but it wasn’t the same, I could unpick it and let it be there and then it moved through me.
And therapy can be used to heal now because it reaches a different place. K said how lovely it was to hear that, and how there had to be all of that struggle to break through it almost, it had to happen. And I thought that would be the work. I thought that when I had internalised K enough and could tolerate being in relationship with her we would be done, but whilst it was the work, it wasn’t all the work. And K said that now I need to drink in what it’s like to be able to be in relationship, to feel safe enough in relationship, and start to feel that it is alright to feel safe in relationship. “That’s a whole piece of work, isn’t it?” said K. And it is, she is right. It’s like I need to learn that it is safe to feel safe, that I can sink into this place and it won’t get ripped away and prove that all my fears were valid.
It feels now like some big pieces of work can be done and I will hold steady. I realised this evening as I shared the posts with K and the room filled with laughter and the echoes of times we had shared that I have more happy memories with her than I do with my own mother. And yet she is not my mother and we will not be together in her old age laughing about those times gone by. I will not be able to share with my grandchildren memories of K and I, even though they are as formational to who I will be and the life I will live as the scars imprinted on me by my parents. It is bittersweet to be healing because it means really feeling all that K is not. I know all of us in therapy say we know our Ts are not our parents, but I also know that in my own experience this is something very hard to truly grasp. For me, being estranged from my mother means that I am motherless. There really is an empty space all around me. It is not like she has died and I can draw on happy memories to support me through my grief. The space around me is too much at times, because I still lack the relationship which stabilises and grounds so many. There will always be a hole in me and a hole in my life and K cannot fill it, she can only help me to fill it, and I don’t always want to fill it myself because that feels sad and futile at times, and brings its own grief too.
So now I feel strangely lost, as I try to process those first three years of therapy and let the trauma of those days leave my body, or start to at least. I honestly can’t believe I survived and that K and I were able to hang in there for so long, whilst therapy felt like torture. I was terrified all the time. I was caught up in the push/pull of disorganised attachment nearly all the time, needing to move towards K to survive but going into fight/flight panic every time I took a step closer. And every time I showed how I felt or what was inside me, good or bad, I dissociated or was flooded with shame and a loathing which felt like it was coming from her but was actually living inside me. I’m not sure either of us really thought things would change. I know this time last year K was feeling very hopeless and thought we’d be playing out the same relationship dynamics for as long as we worked together. And it wasn’t that I didn’t do any work those three years and was just constantly re-traumatised, I obviously discovered what was ‘wrong’ with me and how broken I really was and why. I discovered my alters and got to know them. I began to learn who I was and what I wanted and needed. I cut contact completely with my Mum. I began to understand my past and how it affects me still, why I’ve done what I’ve done and why I do what I do. All of this was work, progress, but in the background was always the attachment pain and panic and searing pain of being connected to someone I felt ashamed for being connected to.
Now therapy is mostly a stabilising force in my life and I can imagine it helping during difficult times instead of triggering my shame response and making everything a hundred times worse. I’ve said before how I need to go back to many painful times in my life now and feel them from my own perspective, from within my own body, instead of focusing on my Mum and what she was doing and feeling. I feel ready to do that now, because I know K won’t leave my side if I do. I needed to find a peace of sorts in my relationship with her first or the shame of feeling would have swept me away.
We ended our session with me saying how K did exactly what she did with Mr Raposa with us. She agreed. And I feel absolutely blown away because I never thought I’d get to a place where the therapeutic relationship didn’t hurt me hugely. It stings sometimes, it fills young parts with longing still, but it doesn’t set me on fire and make me want to die anymore. And that has to be a sign of progress!