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Safety and Shame

Since I last wrote we have moved to our new home. There is so much I could write about it, but basically it is shaping up to be all I dreamed it would be. We’ve only been here two and a half weeks, and I got struck down by a bad cold the day after we moved, so there are still a lot of boxes and muddle, but my bedroom and my study are finished now and it is beginning to feel like home. In fact it feels like it will be more than home, it will be a sanctuary. What is ahead for humanity is going to be difficult to say the least, and having this place as a refuge as I prepare myself for what is to come is something I do feel enormous amounts of gratitude for. And it feels so wonderful to be somewhere so much greener than where we were before, somewhere spacious where the air feels cleaner and lighter, where there is more sky and it is easier to breathe. Cycling home to this place lifts me, even in the rain. There are hills and woods and trees and when I do yoga in the garden I can see the sky.

I’m sure I’ll write more about what this house means to me in the coming weeks, but this evening I wanted to write about something I tried to put into words in my journal earlier, as I was writing in the study (I love having a study! My first day working in there today was amazing – it is small but feels spacious and airy and it is filled with books and pretty things. Having that space to work and be in the evenings when I need some space is another wonderful thing about this move) after my therapy session. (As another aside, I was worried about what it might be like being back with Nina straight after my therapy session now we’ve moved, but so far – two weeks in – it has been okay. Last week’s session was difficult as we had missed a week and I was very dissociated and couldn’t reach K at all – by the of the session I couldn’t remember the beginning of the session and by the time I got home it didn’t seem as though I’d been there at all – but because I’d been in a relatively good space beforehand I managed to hold this and didn’t spin off into panic and so despite feeling unsettled and uneasy it was okay being back home with Nina afterwards. This evening I cooked and then journalled and then we went for a walk before Nina went to bed and it has been mostly okay – different, but okay. And a sign of progress because I used to be SUCH A MESS after nearly every therapy session that there is no way I could have come home to Nina by myself every week. It would have terrified her for starters! I’m under no illusion that there will be times when it is hard, but for the most part therapy these days is a world away from how it used to be). Anyway, I was trying to put into words something that came to me after my session. It was really hard to turn it into something tangible earlier, but maybe I’ll do a better job here…

Telling K about my new home has been lovely, despite how much shame-triggered dissociation I still experience when I try to share good and authentic things with her. It was amazing that when I told her that this house feels different from anywhere I’ve lived before and that it is like none of my home has leaked anywhere else she got exactly what I meant! I guess it feels as though I am energetically intact in this house – all of me is here and nothing has come in that disturbs me. I mean, obviously my Mum hasn’t been here, doesn’t even know I am here, but more than that – she is not in this house at all. K is. It is as though the special spaces I’m creating within these walls are built on her, on us, as the foundations, instead of the person my Mum tried to make me be. It is not so much that it feels as though K herself is here, but that her sense of me is all around; the me she knows, the me she has helped me find, is everywhere in this house and it feels safe to be me here.

Because so much of myself has been tightly bound up in shame for my entire life, it has never felt safe to be me. This is what therapy, in recent months is giving me, now I can tolerate actually being in relationship and close proximity to K without wanting to die –  a sense that when I show who I really am I am not bad or unlovable or worthless or impossible to understand. I’ve never felt free to be me because showing myself, my feelings and thoughts and wishes, was so unsafe as a baby and child, and so every piece of self-expression (even expressing myself to myself, even letting me be known to myself if that makes sense) has been a risky journey of discovery, and this emerging sense that it is safe to feel connected and safe to be myself is because of who I’ve been with K.

So many of the special things I own that make me feel safe in my home remind me of K – not mentally, it’s not a cognitive reminder where I consciously think of her, it’s a felt sense of safety that I associate with those things and that I also associate with her. I look around my study and it feels as though the guiding force that has shaped it is K. It’s so hard to put into words, but it feels so ‘me’ and that me feels so intimately connected to the work we’ve done together and the internalised sense of safety I’ve begun to develop through our time together. And whilst I feel like the same person and I love so many of the same things as I did at the start of therapy, and whilst nothing about me has changed dramatically over the past four years, what has changed is my ability to feel safe being the person that I am. I have grown into myself and learnt not just who I am but that it is okay to be that person.

I think what I’m trying to say is that things that make me feel safe and known, things that enable me to express who I am, will forever be linked to how K has made me feel. Safety and K will always be linked in my psyche on some level now, and because so much of what I’ve needed to learn is that it is now safe to be who I am, this means that any time I am authentically myself or experience feelings of safety and belonging (like at Extinction Rebellion the night I wrote about in my last post) it will feel as if K is with me, guiding me and holding me. I’m guessing this is what having a Mum who makes you feel safe and loves you for who you are is like. And even though it is clear I missed out on so much, gaining what I’ve gained lately in therapy, at 35/36, is so much sweeter and has opened up levels of gratitude in me that I doubt ‘normal’ or securely attached (or even semi-securely attached) people ever even feel. It’s not that I’m grateful to have gone through what I’ve gone through, but sometimes the places it has brought me and the peace it has enabled me to find do feel so much sweeter, so much more deserved, when they are contrasted with the way things were. And there are times I am with K, particularly when young parts are chatting to her and I am sitting back observing, that I feel so lucky and couldn’t possibly wish things had been different because I wouldn’t have needed to do this work with her. Everything that happened to us brought us to here, and there is something so magical about feeling safe inside sometimes after decades of not even knowing what that meant.

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