You need to calm down

I’ve not written on here for ages, it must be about a month. I had some incredibly difficult news 10 days ago but couldn’t find the words to write about it here although I’ve journalled lots. I’m not going into it now, but will just outline it as context for the complete state I’m in today. I heard via text from my sister the weekend before last that our Mum has been really ill with a pulmonary embolism and multiple blood clots in her lungs. She wanted to know what I would want to do next time as she wasn’t sure whether to contact me. She said Nina should also make an informed decision over what to do at such times in future, in case Mum were to die. This triggered an absolutely massive emotional storm, as to be expected given the complexity of my family situation and the fact my disabled brother, who is 49, still lives with Mum and I am scared shitless over what will happen to him when she dies or if she gets very ill for a long time. K was amazing and we spoke on the phone on the Saturday evening after I found out and she was very supportive in our session last week. Maybe I’ll write about all it brought up at some point, as there are big themes and decisions I will need to make for future, but not today.

I did manage to stabilise although was struggling with a lot of somatic stuff in the last part of the week and over the weekend. I was holding out for therapy and being able to ask for a hug and talking it through with K again. On Friday in our email she had said we would agree a policy on a Monday about Coronavirus to keep us both as safe as possible (I’d said I was going to ask my GP about pain medication in case I get the virus and get a huge pain flare like I did when I had norovirus and needed IV morphine in hospital, although generally I’ve been impressed with my ability to stay present and take the threat of disturbance due to the coronavirus one day at a time). I was surprised K thought we would need to talk about it – obviously if I got it or needed to self-isolate I wouldn’t go and we would work by phone if possible. Likewise if she got it. It had occurred to me that it could cause a major disruption to therapy for quite a few months, especially if each of us end up needing to self-isolate for 14 days multiple times, but that is not yet and there is no point getting worried about it before it happens.

So I was really taken aback when I arrived yesterday for my session, already feeling anxious because I’d had a difficult morning with work and was finding it hard to focus because of feelings of panic over the amount I have to do over the next 4 weeks, and she said we were working in her sitting room because of the Coronavirus. She said there was hand gel “if I wanted it” and I could use the toilet as normal (yeah, thanks K!) and I then became completely triggered and panic-stricken when I went into the room whilst she was making tea and discovered the chairs she had set out for us were 4 or 5 metres from each other. I was completely gobsmacked because as far as I know this is not how it’s spread and it seemed like a total over-reaction which I really wasn’t expecting from her at all. I mean, I could pass it or catch it from the mug of tea, from the parts journal she reads every week, from touching door handles going to the toilet – there are germs everywhere all the time and it’s hard to avoid them so we just do the best we can with hygiene and keeping our immune systems strong. She came back and I absolutely lost my shit and spent the next 50 minutes screaming and crying and howling about how she was too far away and I hated it and I felt as if I was in an abyss and was dying while she was in a huge glass cyclinder a million miles from me. I yelled that I couldn’t even hear her and when she said she was here and she could see me and how distressed I was someone just kept shouting ‘you’re not here, you’re not here’. It was complete hell and I clawed and dug my nails into my head so badly that I’ve now got a huge red lump with no skin on it and a big scab forming. Like a true fucking mad person. (And when K asked what had happened I yelled that she couldn’t see because she was so fucking far away!).

K was really kind and patient and only spoke firmly twice when I was really challenging her that this is not the way the virus is spread and wouldn’t make any difference, defending her right to have made this decision, but I am still absolutely incredulous that she didn’t hug me or move closer because of this ridiculous reaction to the threat of Coronavirus (there are no cases in my place of work yet and I’ve not heard of anyone near here with it at this time) and just left me sitting miles away from her with young parts out of control and screaming and crying and really distressed. It still hurts so much and feels punitive and rejecting and completely unlike her. We did manage to calm down and make some use of the second half of the session (thank goodness we have a double session!) and managed to connect to her a bit and take in what she was saying and how kind she was about how much distress we were in, but we left feeling all the terror of abandonment and annihilation and since then things have been awful. I’ve not been this triggered for ages and ages. I’d forgotten how completely unbearable it is to be feeling like this and to have 6 days to wait till my session.

My friend who also has attachment trauma was really validating and said it would have felt rejecting and caused that kind of reaction in her too. And I can really see that my extreme reaction was irrational and based on past experiences and that what K did was perhaps a little bonkers and over-the-top but not totally beyond the realms of the normal, but I also think K was wrong for implementing this without discussion and before we’ve even been told to implement social distancing measures in the UK. I mean I’m still working as normal and so is everyone else I know. In a couple of weeks we’ll be told to work from home where possible I’m sure, and schools and universities might be closed, but I’d assumed I’d still be able to go to therapy because the guidance would be to avoid infected people unknowingly spreading the virus to dozens of people, but I can see now that K will make us work by phone for the duration.

I don’t want this to turn into a post slagging K off. I can see that my reaction was triggered by things from the past and that if anyone else had said they were sitting further away from me because of Coronavirus (unless vulnerable or immunocompromised) I’d have just thought ‘what an idiot’ and gotten on with my day. I can see that it came at a time when I was already overwhelmed and needing closeness and a hug and not to feel pushed away. I can see all this and yet I still can’t move past what she did. It still feels so unnecessary and hurtful. Even if we’d had our session in the normal room and she’d told me next week we’d be in the sitting room it might have been better (though I don’t imagine she thought for a minute I’d get triggered by being in the sitting room, 4 or 5 metres from each other instead of 2!).

There are just 12 cases in the county we live in, out of a population of around 800,000, and yes it will increase but none of the guidance is telling us to keep away from people or change our normal habits beyond extra hand washing. She said it is spread via close contact between people and she didn’t want to work in a small room without a window that opens to keep everyone as safe as possible, so I screamed that I felt the most unsafe I’d ever felt there. I also told her Carolyn Spring of Pods had emailed therapists on Sunday and asked them to model to clients a healthy response to the threat and that here she was totally over-reacting. She said she doesn’t think it’s an over-reaction and that it was either this or remote working – ‘what, till September?!!!’ I yelled. She said she’d been ‘reading and reading and reading and reading’ about it over the weekend (when I’m getting lost in the climate crisis stuff she tells me it’s not helpful to keep reading, but clearly she is allowed to get lost in all the Coronavirus hysteria for days despite the threat being so much less than that!) and this was the decision she had come to in order to stay safe and keep working. She says it not about whether I am infected but that she could have it as she comes into contact with people who work in the NHS, but then surely it is my choice whether I expose myself to the risk, not hers. I honestly do think that therapists have a responsibility to model calm and a proportionate response and to help clients keep perspective if they are worried (which I wasn’t, only about the disruption to therapy – I’ll probably get it and have a bad pain flare and then be fine again) by pointing out all the other threats and how the media is creating fear and panic. Instead it seems as though she has been reading The Sun and The Express and had totally fallen into a state of anxiety over it. (I know therapists are human, but I’m pretty sure she should at least be pretending she’s calmer than she is).

I saw my GP this morning (who now thinks I’m utterly bonkers as she wanted to know what had happened to my forehead (where I had repeatedly dug my nails into it and clawed at it to leave a huge, inflamed patch of skin and a big bump) and had to look at it with the torch to check it’s not infected) and she laughed and was totally gobsmacked when I told her what K had done. She said it is not in line with any of the current guidance or information about how it is spread and won’t make any difference anyway – if one of us has it it will likely be passed on regardless if I’m in her house for 2 hours, so sitting further away from each other will make no difference at all because it’s not airborne, it’s passed by respiratory droplets. She said she could see why it had triggered me so badly when I needed her to be safe and calm about the threat and that it really doesn’t help when professionals start making up their own precautionary measures. It was so validating that she thought it was a total over-reaction at this point in time as well.

I mean, reading online I can see why K may have reached the decision she did as it does say in some places that it can be passed on by sitting 2 metres from someone for 2 hours if airborne droplets land on them from an infected person, but I still don’t think it was something she needed to implement at the moment. Think of all the hundreds of thousands of office workers just in the UK who are sitting next to each other in windowless spaces for 8 hours a day! And if she is really that worried then she shouldn’t be working because her precautionary measure won’t help in the event she does have it or a client has it. Maybe it is not for me to judge what she has decided to do about it, I’m just surprised that out of all the people I know it is her who is freaking out whilst the rate in the UK is still quite low. I have friends with health anxiety who I am really proud of for not getting swept away by fears over this. Nina has mild asthma so of course I’m apprehensive that she’ll get it, but I also know she has plenty of inhalers and has only needed to be nebulised once when she had a respiratory infection that triggered an attack. I have a friend whose husband has cystic fibrosis and would likely die if he got it as he already has compromised lung function and an extremely low immune system, but the family aren’t panicking and self-isolating and taking the kids out of school, and he’s still living normally as far as I know. I obviously won’t see my Grandma for a while if there are cases near where we live as she is 83 and is currently having chemo for non-Hodgkins lymphoma and it would definitely kill her. My sister has really bad OCD over germs and I know she’ll be freaking out as she is a counselling psychologist in the NHS in London where there are cases, but I can’t imagine she’s been asking clients to sit that far away from her (and if she did, she would own it as her own anxiety instead of pretending it is a proportionate response at the moment). K has asthma so I can see she would rather avoid it but if she’s that worried she should do something that will actually prevent her getting it i.e. not go out for a few months.

I do feel utterly crazy for reacting like this. Even though K was so nice and talked gently about abandonment being my biggest trigger and how all this belonged in the past, and she didn’t get angry with me, it’s still so embarrassing to be a grown woman who is taken over by young parts screaming because they have to sit in a different room than they are used to. I’ve honestly not had a reaction like that with K for so long, and I was proud that I manged to yell and that I let young parts out so they could scream and sob instead of withdrawing (it’s only the second time this has happened, and is partly why it hurt so much that she didn’t move closer or offer a hug like she did the last time this happened). I really don’t know if I can get used to working with her whilst sitting that far apart. It feels so unsafe and rejecting and like I am dirty and tainted and untouchable. I cried yesterday that no one ever held me when I was upset when I was little and she said she was holding me, that she knows how to hold me now, but it didn’t feel that way at all. It was so hard to even feel she was there at all when she was physically so far away from me.

To be honest I’ll be glad if the Coronavirus peaks in a couple of weeks here, as the news is currently suggesting, because the thought of months and months like this is awful. I know this sounds selfish because if the peak is delayed for a few months it will ease pressure on the health system and potentially reduce the deaths of vulnerable people, but my outlook to life is non-selfish nearly all the time and on my blog I’m allowed to express all my thoughts! It’s also infuriating because this is the level of response that is needed for the climate and ecological crisis and yet governments and most of the public don’t give a f*ck about that. I’ve been really good and only watching the news once a day and not googling, but last night I spent ages reading stuff online trying to see how K had come to the decision she came to at this point in time. All the advice I can see says hand washing is the most effective thing we can do. I’ve not seen any other therapists, like massage therapists or other alternative therapies, deciding not to treat people because of the threat. It just seems so important to keep living normally and not giving in to fear, and I’m not sure pulling away and distancing from attachment-traumatised clients fits with that. (I do realise I’m still in a very triggered place and that those reading this may think K was completely right to do what she did, I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on this!).

Also ref the title of this post, I don’t think K actually is in a state of panic over this – I’m trying to use a Taylor Swift song title for every blog post this year and this one seemed to be the most fitting today!

41 thoughts on “You need to calm down”

  1. UGH SO ROUGH!! i hate this panic and how it’s making everyone act totally bonkers, and I can see how thoroughly rejecting all of this would feel to you. I wish she had shown up better, and modelled that calm. I hope she takes it down a notch. and I also hope things peak and the virus dies out sooner rather than later…. also, sorry to hear about your mum, there is a way in which the health of our abusers allows them to remain in the role we need them to be in to heal ourselves, or at least not bring in these sorts of huge decisions that need making. love to you CB

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    1. Thanks so much SG! It is making everyone bonkers, I’m so surprised she has been taken in by it after she tells me to keep away from news over climate breakdown. I’ve text her the advice from my GP this morning which is just to sanitise hands and get clients to do the same and told her sitting further away won’t make any difference (I added this to a text telling her my GP said not to worry about a pain flare, a medic would drop strong pain meds to the house if necessary and they would believe me over how bad it was because of my records, not just out of the blue as it would seem argumentative!!). Thing is if she catches on that sitting further away won’t help she’ll just say we’ll work by phone, so I don’t want to push it. How is it where you are? I hope your T manages to model a calm and proportionate response! Love back at ya!!

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      1. so far, only one case reported in my city and the person is coming-out of quarantine. no measures yet, but we assume they are coming — i am preparing to do my job online, though i am hoping that i can be spared online teaching as term is almost over and i will just have them work on things at home. i am not looking forward to being quarantined with an old person living in my house and two active, school-aged twin boys! hope the peak comes soon and the decline is on the way. but like all of us, T is on my mind as the thing I’ll miss doing in person the most! ps i also totally thought of Taylor Swift when i saw the title!

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      2. Yeah I’d have to work at home but luckily Nina is able to entertain herself mostly these days – twin entertainment sounds intense. My understanding is we’ll still be able to go out unless we’ve been exposed to it, if schools and universities shut. But yeah – I can cope with any of it apart from a disruption to therapy. Especially as the minute schools shut K will say we have to work by phone. The more I’ve thought about this the more angry I am that she’s fallen for the media fear-mongering. I’ve been looking up all the stats for all the things more people have died of in the past month!

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  2. Its a total overreaction on her part! Our therapist had hand sanitiser in our session, but she still sat 2 metres away from us, she still did the tapping on our hands during our EMDR, hugged us etc. I’m sorry Kay has made you feel so rejected. Hugs!

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    1. Thank you for the validation! It’s good to hear it’s not just me who thinks she is over-reacting. And I’m so glad to hear Elaine was normal and not over-reacting and still gave you a hug. I needed a hug so badly yesterday and couldn’t believe it when K said what was happening and clearly wasn’t coming anywhere near me!

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      1. I can tell you know that if Eileen did that to me I would feel totally on safe and rejected and like I was bad or didn’t deserve any support or a hug, I’m so sorry she made you feel that way

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      2. Yeah, we all felt untouchable and abandoned and like she was pushing us away because we are contaminated 😦 I really don’t know how we will get used to working there so far away from her. It’s such a common theme for trauma survivors to need Ts to be close to us. I’m sorry for getting Eileen’s name wrong also!!

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  3. Woah this is terrible and the worst timing.
    I definitely think that K is overreacting and should have warned you about the change in seating arrangements. Unless you have been knowingly exposed then the only precaution needed is the hand sanitiser. Also K should know that you wouldn’t go if you had any symptoms or had been exposed.
    I have been wondering myself about the impact this will have on therapy and this is the first impact I have seen. My therapist doesn’t watch the news and she is super rational so I’m hoping she won’t be too distancing.
    Sorry to hear about your mum. Just when things had settled down job wise too. I can imagine all of the uncertainty and complicated feelings it triggers. x

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    1. Thank you so much for your support and validation. Yeah, I had been anticipating some disruption at some point in the coming weeks and months, but this came out of the blue as there are so few cases here at the moment. She said it’s more about keeping everyone safe and that she’s not saying I’ve got it, it could be her, but it doesn’t feel that way. There is no way on earth I would go if I thought there was the slightest risk to her, I always offer to work by phone even when I have a mild cold, so it is all such an over-reaction and makes me wonder what she will do if/when it really does take hold here and how long we’d not work if either of us got it. And thank you re my Mum – it has brought up so much difficult stuff which I will try and write out at some point. I imagine your T will be fairly balanced about the coronavirus, K is the only person I’ve heard of making up her own precautions, but I hope it doesn’t cause too much disruption to you or too much anxiety in the meantime.

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  4. K is really overreacting yeah, sorry. My T’s clinic, we run as usual just that anyone with symptoms / travel history / contact with those quarantined has to reschedule or do online therapy. T still sat in her usual spot and everything. She’s even offering pro-bono / reduced rate online and in-person sessions for healthcare workers and frontline staff battling covid-19

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    1. Yeah it’s a total over-reaction. I can’t see how she could have thought it’s rational or okay. I hope she tells her therapist friends what she’s done and they laugh at her!! That’s nice your T is doing that. K does pro-bono work for climate activists (though I’m guessing not if they’re exposed to Coronavirus!!).

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      1. That’s such a nice suggestion. I actually text this morning and asked if our little yellow Miffy who she’s taken on holiday with her before could sit close to her on Monday and she said that was a lovely idea 💛 (I have a 5 year old part called Miffy). Better idea would be to go back to normal though!

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  5. When I first read your title I burst out singing Taylor Swift.
    Then I started reading and it hit me how this virus has the potential to impact therapy and I’m absolutely certain I would have the same reaction as you.
    Luckily we currently have zero cases in our community and toilet paper and water are not flying off the shelves in abundance….although I will admit I’ve stocked up on toilet paper as I do every year for the sole reason that I am absolutely terrified of getting Norwalk. :/
    I do feel it’s overkill the way people are reacting. Here in Canada, the government is basically telling everyone to stop being crazy and don’t get all hyped up about it. Of course, we’ve only had one elderly person with underlying medical issues die so far, so maybe that’s why. Personally, dying of something like this has never been on the top of my worry-list anyways.
    It’s like ‘wash your damn hands and don’t touch your face’. Did everyone simply forget basic hygiene? or were they not washing their hands before?
    I’m sorry you had such a hard time with the session. Hopefully K realizes that she’s overreacting and settles down a bit before your next session.

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    1. Ha, yeah – I’m really enjoying the Taylor song challenge (and hoping the Coronavirus freak out is done by July when Nina and I are going to see her!). I’m glad the Canadian govt are being measured. I don’t understand why everywhere has sold out of soap – were people not washing their hands before?! Yeah, this has the potential to disrupt a lot of people’s therapies and I really feel K should have been responsible by trying to keep things normal for as long as possible. We have 12 cases in our county so it’s not at outbreak level yet! I hope it stays that way where you are xx

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  6. Ugh this sucks, I’m sorry to hear it. My therapist has a slight cough (like always- I’m pretty sure she has chronic allergies or something) and she rescheduled me and suggested we do a virtual session this week. I immediately could tell I didn’t like that idea, so I hope her cough resolves by tomorrow (our rescheduled time). I was also worried about how this will affect her presence in the room.

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    1. Ugh sorry to hear you’re experiencing disruption too. I hope the session tomorrow is what you need and there isn’t any distance. At least your T sounds to have more of a justification for worrying and hasn’t just been reading the scare-mongering tabloids!

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  7. look, as the ancient saying goes ‘sometimes in life one must claw oneself in abject despair’ and there are simply no 2 ways about it. I am sure K is feeling VERY sheepish 🐏🐑 right about now. in the meantime you are safe and you are loved corona or no corona 💖💖💖

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    1. Lmao 🐑🐑🐑 she better be! She needs a primary school lesson on fake news and the role of the fear-generating mass media in modern society. That is my favourite piece of ancient wisdom. Do you reckon ancient people’s clawed themselves or only prophesied about the days when humans would be this evolved?

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  8. Wow, that’s surprising and not super professional. I can absolutely see why that was triggering! But to the degree you can reassure yourself, especially the young parts, that it’s not at all about you (or them), perhaps you can reduce your own suffering just a bit?!? I hope so.

    E hasn’t changed anything in her office—oh, except for adding a giant container of hand sanitizer. But she did talk about the possibility of Skype sessions if needed.

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    1. Yeah, giant hand sanitiser is definitely the way to go, and a conversation about how we would cope without face-to-face sessions for a while if needed later on, not what she did! But I can see her over-reaction is separate from how triggered I was, because I wouldn’t behave like that if someone else did it, so I’m trying to work through my anger at her getting taken in by the hype and fake news about it without talking to her about it. I really don’t want to have to talk it through with her, especially as a break is likely to happen soon, because I’m not sure she’ll realise how ridiculous her decision was yet (and working with what it brought up for me is ‘the work’ 🙄). Hope you are starting to settle x

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  9. Ahhh ouch! I felt for you in this. I’ve been pondering the impact of coronavirus on my therapy for a couple of weeks. I’d thought about asking Anna if we could come up with a plan. I’d rather to phone sessions than have distancing in the room sessions. And I’d wondered if she wouldn’t hug over the next wee while. I guess I’ll find out on Saturday.

    It sounds a bit like this is K’s ‘thing’. I guess they’re all human… the cvirus has triggered something in her. I did think that she was trying to protect you though, but understood why you’d feel like she was trying to protect herself from you. What a horrible feeling. 💔

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    1. It really sucks doesn’t it! I was planning to ask for a hug on Monday after an awful week and knowing she’d probably take that option away soon. I think you’re right it was about protecting me but it didn’t seem that way and to be honest loss of attachment for me is more terrifying than getting the virus so it wasn’t helpful. I actually think she feels closer on the phone than that far away in the room so maybe that would be better. I keep looking to see how long Italy will be in lockdown to get a sense of how long it could be without sessions. I hope you get a hug on Saturday – I think social distancing won’t be the policy till next week 🤞🏻🤞🏻

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      1. We’ve been told to prepare for shut down at work but hopefully we have a week or two. In fact my boss thought it wouldn’t be til just before the Easter break but I’m in Scotland and things aren’t as serious here YET. I can understand that loss of attachment is the worst thing ever. I’m sorry you had to experience that and I really hope you guys can repair it soon 💖

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      2. Thank you! I’m hoping I’ll be able to have my Monday session as we are planning cutting and sticking and stories for young parts and then we might have to move to phone sessions – for how long?! I was thinking therapy would carry on if just schools and universities shut to stop large scale transmission but I don’t think K will see it that way… I might try and get infected so then I can get it over with and only miss a month 😂

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      3. I think first it will just be closure of schools and universities to prevent dozens catching it from one person, and then total lockdown would come a bit later. In Italy people are still meeting but are staying a metre apart, but as soon as measures are out in place here I think K will say phone only. Thank god for photos and internet hey – in the past I’ve sent her photos of the writing in our parts’ journal ahead of phone sessions and she sends photos of things to stay connected.

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  10. I think when we trust someone to help us, it’s very difficult to take in new information that suggests they may not be so wise after all. Absolutely, she would know it would trigger you and knew it would make you feel dirty. She very successfully transferred her feelings of fear and vulnerability and neediness onto you. Why she might do that to her clients, I don’t know. But I do think some therapists get into this line of work because they want to see their anxieties on the outside and not on the inside. It limits their effectiveness.

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    1. I honestly don’t think she thought it would trigger me, she was very surprised that I was angry about the change and she was very validating over my extreme response. It was surprising that she’s been taken in by the media scare-mongering definitely, and there is an element of let-down that she didn’t model a proportionate response, but she was calm on Monday and I think thought it was a way to keep me safe as much as her (she works with people in the NHS as well). It was a big mess but I don’t think it undermines her effectiveness hugely – we’ve worked together for 4 and a half years and have a very solid relationship in which I’ve come a very long way.

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