Four

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For four years we’ve watched the seasons change from the window of our room, as we’ve journeyed together to collect all the scattered shards of me that were discarded across the years. Sometimes I can’t believe we made it through those darkest of dark times, when death called out to me nearly every day and the hope you held for me grew thin and weary. And other times I know it couldn’t have been any other way – it’s all worked out exactly as it was meant to, and the path ahead of us glitters with the promise of all we’ve earned by hanging on tight together when the road was rocky and we both doubted that I would ever get to where I am now.

When we first met I was an absolute mess, to say the least. The day I first contacted you R’s words had triggered me deep into a despair-ridden, shame-filled emotional flashback and I knew I needed more help and expertise than he was able to offer. You were the first therapist who came up when I googled complex trauma therapists in __________. We spoke a few days later, when I was on holiday with Nina, and arranged to meet the following Wednesday – a date that will forever be engraved on my mind, the date that I took my first tentative steps towards relational healing. As I waited for our first meeting I reassured myself by looking at your website and at the principles of core process psychotherapy. I remember reading what you had written on your site about clients who are experiencing ‘significant dissociation’ needing to come twice a week in the middle part of therapy and thinking – “I’m a mess but at least I don’t dissociate”. What little I knew!

When we met I felt at ease with you straightaway. You said your family followed an almost-vegan diet and that you loved cycling in wild places in nature too – I had no idea how important both these things would be because I had no idea how important you would become to me; I thought therapy would be all about me, but for the most part it has been all about you, all about us.

The day before our first proper session, a week later, I ended up stuck in my office in such distress that I couldn’t leave until the evening came and the building was deserted. I text R asking what happened on a soul level if someone killed themselves and their child because the damage was too great to ever heal from. For the next two years this remained a rational and viable option in my mind. As we began work my attachment wound opened up in a way it never had before and I honestly thought the pain would kill me. I harmed and drank and needed you every minute and I couldn’t see how things were ever going to get better. The parts came flooding out and all kinds of crazy unleashed – chaos filled me for so many months as we both tried to make sense out of my system and what was going on, why they were how they were. There were brief periods of respite, but mostly we lurched from crisis to crisis for more than three years. It was only 18 months ago that you said we’d be stuck in the same relational ruts for as long as we worked together – I’m so glad you were wrong!

Therapy feels so different now. Probably I needed to go through that hell on earth that was last summer as it is then that I finally managed to – mostly – internalise you and the safety you’ve given to all of us. I’m not sure either of us knew the full power our relationship would have on me, but suddenly things shifted and I can finally take in all you have to give me, all you’ve always given me, and bask in its warm and steady glow. I plan to soak in this relational healing for as long as I possibly can – I feel as though I have earned it after those years of agony and despair, when therapy seemed to be making everything worse and I couldn’t steady myself however hard I tried. It was less than 18 months ago that moving to one session a week sent my system into such an extreme crisis that my GP wanted to refer me to the CMHT and you were concerned that you weren’t enough for me, that we had made a mistake by working together, and that I needed 24/7 crisis support on the NHS. I wondered if I just couldn’t ‘do’ therapy, if I was just too broken and would always be this way. So much has changed since then – it feels like a lifetime ago. Our work and your presence steadies me now. I hold our time in the back of my mind during the week and I don’t yearn for it the way I once did, yet I know it is there. And I cherish the time we spend together each week now more than ever.

Our 4 year history is so precious to me and all the parts. When I look back I see laughter, comfort, bike rides, time in the garden together, stories, making things, glitter, sparklers, bubbles, sharing funny stories, film nights, our trip to the woods, the dome, bunny visits, sunshine, blankets and, of course, the dogs. I see enough memories to make a childhood. I have experienced more happy times, more moments of safety and connection, with you than I have with either of my parents. It feels as though a whole life has been woven together since we first met – you have helped me find who I am meant to be and given me the courage to be her. You have given me what I always needed and never had. It used to hurt so much to have a little taste of what I never had; it was never enough andĀ  it slipped straight through me. I thought it never could be enough, but gradually it filled me up and now I can keep hold of all you give me without it falling right through all the holes in me.

There are no words for all you’ve been to us and for the gratitude we feel. I’m not sure either of us thought we’d get to here and that there would come a time when therapy wasn’t keeping me alive and killing me all at the same time. You saved my life K, in more ways than one. I have no doubt that if things had continued as they were I would have killed myself and Nina – I was so convinced I’d broken her and I couldn’t bear to think of her going through what I needed to in order to heal. And I came to life under your gaze, we all did – the parts unfroze and told you their stories and you listened and believed every word. You saw and heard what no one else had, and in doing that you enabled us to begin to let it all go.

I know working with us all hasn’t been easy (understatement!) and there have been many times when holding my process as a sole practitioner has been really hard and exhausting, and this makes me so grateful that you hung in there when things were really so hard and hopeless. I hope where we’ve got to now makes it all worthwhile for you too, now we are both able to see all I’ve gained from our work, our journey, and our relationship, now I am beginning to settle and branch out and build a different life for myself, one built on the foundations of you and I, instead of my toxic childhood and all that followed it. I am the same person as I was 4 years ago and yet at the same time everything about me and my life is so different.

You held hope and light for me during those dark years. You supported and encouraged me and held me steady when I wanted to give up. You believed in me. You trusted me. You saw good in me. And you have stayed walking beside me every step of this journey – you were always there even when I couldn’t feel or remember you at all. My heart fills with gratitude and love to thinkĀ  of all you’ve been and all you are and all you will still be, and to know that (climate and ecological collapse aside) you will be here for as long as I need. And whatever happens you will always be part of me. No matter what.

Thank you K, from CB and everyone x