I forgot that you existed

I’ve not written for such a long time, maybe 6 or 7 weeks. I hope all my readers are keeping as well as possible. For the most part I’ve not written because I’ve not needed to and have been okay – in many ways my nervous system has experienced a period of deep settling during lockdown, with no decisions to make, places to go, rushing around taking Nina to swimming training nearly every evening, social interactions, meetings and shops and so on. My brain hasn’t been buzzing, I’ve not felt over-stimulated more than once, and I’ve been sleeping well apart from the odd sleepless, panicky night about the future which I’m sure is the same for most people at the moment, mental illness or not. I’ve also completely cut out gluten and sugar (am already dairy-free as a vegan) which I’ve been meaning to do for ages due to the absolute havoc they wreak on brain chemistry and neurotransmitters and the endocrine system, and their role in causing the chronic inflammation that leads to auto-immune disease (which, touch wood, I’ve been lucky enough not to get yet, despite chronic pain and other physical symptoms but which I’m of course prone to due to chronic developmental trauma). I’ve not had the space to do it properly till now, so I’m hoping over the next few months (a year…?) when I’m mostly at home I will be able to get into good habits with it and find substitutes. It’s going well so far and I can tell my gut and nervous system are benefiting already.

I’ve felt very introvert, but mostly in a good way. Of course there have been some difficult times too – Nina got a recurrence of a kidney infection at the end of April and I ended up having to stay up all night waiting for the out of hours doctor for her. The next day I was an overwhelmed mess and had to speak (howl) on the phone to K from my car. There is worry about my work and if I will have a job next year or if I will be able to afford therapy due to pay cuts, as my sector is expected to be the hardest hit in the long-term by the pandemic. It’s scary times, but I’ve mostly been able to stay present, look after myself, enjoy the reprieve from normal life, and I’ve loved having more time for bike rides and walks and just being at home. A lot of time the difficulties I’m experiencing are because I get this sense of dread over going back to how things were (apart from therapy, obviously) because it wasn’t until this period of enforced slowing down that I saw just how unsustainable what I’ve been holding over the past few years has been.

I’d wanted to write a post about that, about how I’ve grown already through this process, but that is not what I am able to write today. For the past week I’ve really been spiralling. Last weekend was an absolute disaster. The tiniest thing was sending me over the edge, Nina and I had a huge row when I was already exhausted, which was then even more exhausting (though necessary) to repair. Even being able to do a few extra things (walks with a friend, longer bike rides) over the weekend had sent my system into overwhelm. I was struggling with how much there always is to do at home as a solo parent and frustrated beyond belief that Nina has so much free time at the moment (2-3 hours school work a day maximum, most days it’s more like 90 minutes) and I’m trying to work at home full-time in a job that has become even more demanding than usual, and then still doing nearly everything at home.

When K and I spoke on Monday as soon as she answered I realised my brain had erased her. I couldn’t remember her AT ALL. It was like talking to a stranger. She wanted to know what I could see in my room to resonate with before we arrived in the session together and I said I couldn’t tell her anything because I didn’t know her. I had no memories at all. I don’t even know what happened after that, apart from her saying she knows me, all of me, and has tonnes of memories – explicit and implicit – of our time together and she would hold it for both of us. I just ended up sobbing and howling about Nina and work and that I couldn’t relax at home because I felt as though I needed to be ready to sell it in September if I get made redundant (I couldn’t get another job locally that paid anywhere near enough to pay my mortgage – despite having a PhD I’m not trained to do much else than my job without moving to London (not happening!) so it would be nearly impossible to keep my house if I lost my job, but I really don’t think I need to be worrying about this at the moment). Everything felt utterly unmanageable, and not being able to get to her is just more than my system can cope with on top of everything else. She said she thinks my window of tolerance has really shrunk over recent weeks, which makes sense because I’m definitely flipping faster than I’ve ever flipped from ‘completely fine, calm, happy, content, peaceful’ to a complete dysregulated mess. This is shit for Nina to be around, because it makes me snap and roar at her out of nowhere, but it feels utterly out of my control. Obviously since realising what is going on I’ve cut back to doing even less, accepting that at the moment I really need to spend most of the time at home even though we can go out more here now.

I think maybe I settled again but then yesterday at the start of our session K and I had to change our session and contact structure going forward. We have been splitting my double session between Monday and Friday, with brief email contact on Wednesdays. She isn’t working Thursdays or Fridays at the moment though (she’s lost half her work with the pandemic, but she has a fuck off huge house and her partner owns properties in Portugal so I’m sure she’ll weather the lost income just fine) and I didn’t want her to lose her day off because of me as it’s even more important than usual that she looks after her health at the moment – it must be so stressful for therapists holding everyone else’s worries at the moment when they are sharing so many of them in relation to their own lives. I also knew it would be hugely triggering changing the pattern we’ve settled into over the past 10 weeks, especially because making a new plan means we are not going to be meeting in-person any time soon. I suggested doing a longer session (90 mins) on the Monday and then a half an hour check-in later in the week, which I do think is a good idea because hopefully my system will be able to settle more with the extra time (it’s why we’ve done double sessions for so long), and she agreed, but then can only do the half an hour on Wednesday (and has reluctantly agreed I can email on Fridays still till the end of June and then we will review aka she’ll take it away even though we’ve emailed on Fridays for 3 years). I was triggered and yelling about wanting to die, that I couldn’t live with this much pain, and why is there no one who cares about me who I don’t have to pay? It was pretty awful. Eventually she told me that she is really ill at the moment, with a thyroid flare, and that she isn’t sleeping well and is getting fatigue and feeling generally unwell, so that’s why she needs those two days without work. So obviously I felt like a selfish shit, but the feelings I experience are so real and it really is unbearable that we can’t meet in-person and I didn’t know until she said.

It is not helped by the fact that I know other Ts in our county are now resuming face-to-face work because they can maintain safe social distancing at their practice, and some are offering to work outdoors. K could do both these things, but her regulatory body still says to work remotely ‘where possible’ (whether or not it is actually possible for certain types of trauma survivors is a separate issue!) and I’m not sure how much autonomy she has. And of course I’m not sure how much autonomy she wants to have. I know she hates remote working as much as I do, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t think it’s what we need to be doing. I emailed her yesterday afternoon and said that I’ve seen that a number of therapists in our county are now working in-person again, and could she let me know on Monday whether the UKCP have issued any guidelines and what kind of timescale we are looking at – it would help me to know if I need to hold out for weeks, months, or even longer. In the county we are in (around 800,000 people) there honestly couldn’t be a safer time to meet with distancing, especially outside. We have way less cases than when K and I last met in March and only a handful of reported cases in the past week, and if we are worried about safety then it is safer now than in a couple of months when schools go back. I don’t want to push her though. It would be unfair of me to do that. I just want to know – if she’s thinking we can’t meet till we have the elusive, and perhaps impossible, vaccine then I would need to stop working with her because I can’t keep working remotely. It’s only worth doing if it provides me with an experience of constancy during a difficult time and therefore leads to bigger healing. And the government advice is likely to be that those who ‘can’ work from home continue to, indefinitely – what does this mean for therapists? Theoretically they ‘can’ work remotely, but I don’t think they are able to work as effectively. And it is mad that Ikea will be open next week and hairdressers able to start back up over the summer, but people can’t access essential services like therapy in-person.

This isn’t really the problem though. The problem is the descent back into absolute disorganised attachment hell that I am experiencing. I am stuck in the push/pull, move closer and die/step away and die dance again, where my fight/flight response and my attachment response are activated at the same fucking time and I am caught between needing to stop therapy NOW because it is killing me and not being able to stop therapy because that will kill me too. I cannot believe I am back here. I’ve not experienced this since summer 2018 and it is crushing to be in this again. I feel so angry that I had worked so hard in therapy to reach a place where this didn’t happen to me, where I was comfortable to reach out to K when needed without shame and as a result needed her so much less. I had settled into what our relationship was and could be, rather than constantly obsessing over the boundaries and all it wasn’t and couldn’t ever be. Her family didn’t matter, her friends didn’t matter, her other clients didn’t matter, all that mattered was her and I in our two hours together every week. I was finally healing in relationship, having learnt to tolerate the pain of connection and move past the constant terror and panic and body memories of grief that made being around her and away from her both completely unsafe.

Yesterday when Phoebe (15) was yelling about being her job and how unbearable it is that no one really cares, she reminded us all that we’ve been here before, but that is the fucking worst part – we had moved past that place of shame and rage that we have to pay someone to care (and even then couldn’t get what we need), and then it has re-surfaced because of this fucking pandemic. It is like all the progress has trickled out of us over the past 10 weeks – all the trust and connection and safety. We are left feeling fearful, suspicious, ashamed, distrustful, and constantly fucking aware of K having loads of other clients, and then people in her real life that she actually loves and cares about, that we are just one of many like us to her, whereas to us she is our special person; the most important relationship we’ve ever had. I can’t trust it’s real, can’t trust she cares, can’t believe any of it. And the shame is immense – we are feeling poisonous and toxic and damaged and that we need to be kept at arm’s length and shoved in a box so we don’t infect K’s real life. I honestly thought we were past all this the past two years, and for the most part , since K announced she wasn’t taking 2019 off after all, therapy has been such a beautiful thing. Even with K’s house move in September I didn’t lose her, didn’t lose our connection, I trusted it was there and that I would be able to connect to it when it felt safe again. I knew she was there and that we were in it together, that she was there holding our space till I could move into it again. And at the start of the pandemic I was experiencing horrific attachment pain, but it wasn’t disorganised attachment pain – I needed her all the time but it didn’t feel shameful. I wasn’t caught in that awful push/pull of needing to reach out but not feeling able to in case it pushes her away like I am now. I am so disappointed that not meeting face-to-face, with no clear idea of when ‘normal’ therapy will resume, has set me back. It means the thousands I’ve spent on therapy feels totally wasted and I wonder why I bothered if this can still happen to me. What hope is there for me to ever have an intimate relationship when I cannot tolerate this one even after all these years?

I wish I could be someone who benefits in almost the same way from video or phone therapy as in-person, but I just don’t. I need proximity to feel safe. I’m triggered already by not being able to get to her, that in itself is plunging me into flashbacks and causing stress and dissociation, and then when we have a session by phone or video call and I can’t take that in either, it is just fucking agony. We have had some good sessions, definitely, but nothing like what we would have in-person. And they don’t leave me feeling full up and connected and contained. And sometimes the sessions trigger me because I’m relatively fine and then there is the painful reminder of not being able to reach her and not knowing how long this could go on for.

I wish I could take a break and trust she will be there when I come back, but I can’t. I can’t trust any of it. I get worried she’ll make me start back in a different slot, take away the Friday email, stop my discounted fee, or just decide to stop being a therapist. This is of course compounded by the thyroid issues she is having at the moment. She says she is keeping working, but who knows. As many of us will have been painfully reminded recently while reading about the heartbreak of a fellow blogger, our ability to continue the most important relationship of our lives is dependent on so many things that are completely out of our control, even more so at the moment than ever. I don’t know if a break would help anyway. I’m basically just holding out for when we can meet in-person again, but the end doesn’t even seem to be in sight right now, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this. Would I settle without her, as I’ve been able to do so much of the time over the past 8 weeks, or would it trigger an absolute abandonment tidal wave?

And of course this isn’t the only difficult thing in my life right now, obviously, so it doesn’t feel the right time to take away my main source of support for the past almost-five years. The world is free-falling into disaster. Nina is home for at least another 3 and a half months and likely to be only in school part-time for most if not all of the next academic year, my work is going to be super stressful next year if I survive the jobs cull in September, stuff has come up around both my parents that I need to work through (I’m not doing trauma work remotely so we are waiting till we are in the room together to do this work if possible, but stuff still comes up that needs sharing and processing), Nina is fine but also experiencing understandably huge emotional waves I have to help her hold, so I still need K’s support with these things over the coming weeks and months. I just don’t know if I can keep working remotely. I want to but I also want to stop and it is hell being caught between two painful and impossible options. I wish I knew how much longer it would be like this, and whether I will get back to how I was in therapy or whether all that work is lost forever.

29 thoughts on “I forgot that you existed”

  1. I am so glad you wrote this because I feel exactly the same way as you, but couldn’t even find the words to explain it. You’ve done that job perfectly and it feels immense that I’m not the only one here. I don’t want to give it up but I hate therapy online, I have the same hunger for face to face. I knew it would be like this. We’ve had some brilliant sessions but like you said it leaves a terrible hunger. I’ve thought about stopping for the same reasons and been afraid I might not ever get a slot again for the same reason you’ve outlined here. All of it I can relate to. So thanks for being so specific; you’ve given me my words to explain it to myself, and almost permission to admit it to myself!

    I’m sorry I can’t offer any wisdom; I don’t have any to offer myself, other than I’m hanging in there, holding my breath, willing this all to pass and pass SOON.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Argh, I’m so sorry you’re feeling this too. If we knew how long it would be I’m sure that would help to decide if a break was best! But then if we knew how long it would be then we could at least count down! I’m worried K will think I’m pressuring her to go back to face-to-face but it’s more just wanting to KNOW how long!! Yes, let’s pray it ends soon, I’m dreading K saying she’s going to stay working like this indefinitely 😬

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Guy said quite a few clients decided Skype wasn’t for them and decided to take a break, but I told him I still have to live inside myself and can’t escape my thoughts so might as well continue because I’ll be thinking of it anyway. I didn’t mention the attachment side of it but think that also plays a part. But I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t! Same as you’re feeling about it by the sounds of it.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. K has said a couple of times that it is my right to take a break if I want to (once on Friday when teen parts were YELLING about how they can’t do this anymore because it hurts TOO MUCH lol, and the other a couple of weeks ago when I was pranging out about losing my job and having debts and no savings!) but I don’t want that, I just want things to go back to normal! At least with therapy anyway. Has Guy given any indication of when in-person might resume?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. He hasn’t, I broached it a couple of weeks ago when I said I thought people should take their chances now as I’ve had enough (wouldn’t think that if my family died though) and Guy talked about people he is concerned about in his own family and sounded quite protective, which made me think that until school is back in then he won’t be even doing walking therapy. But I’ll broach it again after half term I think. I suspect he’s waiting for the next stage of lockdown release from the government, but again, he hasn’t actually said that.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Oh wait! I’ve just remembered – when Boris Johnson made that big announcement the other Sunday – Guy said he thinks we’ll be able to do the walks again before you know it. So maybe it’s not a total write-off. 🤞🏼

        Liked by 2 people

      5. I was thinking of you and the dog walking when BJ made that announcement. Fingers crossed. I’ve seen Ts in Devon offering outside sessions now (not that I’ve been trawling the internet for clues, obv!) but that would be precarious in case it started pouring with rain and had to cancel last minute . I asked K after BJ made the announcement if I could go and see the dogs (who came back from Portugal 2 days after I last saw her, and then she got ill and had to self-isolate even though it wasn’t covid in the end, so I didn’t get to see them) and she said we needed to slow things down and she would think about it. I also mentioned working outside when it’s sunny and she said she’d need to ‘talk to some people’ and I’ve not brought it up again. But judging from Friday’s conversation I’m not thinking she’s expecting to see me anytime soon!

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Thanks, I’m touched I came to mind like that! Guy said it’d have to be proper tipping it down for him to abort (that was before lockdown) but we reckoned we’d have enough warning before I set off, so we could skype last minute. If she said she’d talk to people then it might give you a clue if you chased it, but I could equally understand you not wanting to know the worst, I might feel like I was sticking my head in the lion’s mouth and inviting trouble!

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Oh god yeah, that’s such a good way of putting it 😂 at least at the moment I can live in happy denial that it might only be another month or so 😬

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Yes I think denial does have a place, maybe not long-term but certainly for a while. I learned that in my nursing training 😁 never thought it would be so applicable to my own life! Also never thought that I’d advocate for the use of denial, being a realist and all that!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Hah! I think it also maybe helps with staying present too in that it stops us catastrophising and imagining the worst 🤷‍♀️ Plus there is so much uncertainty – no one really knows what will happen at the moment!

        Liked by 1 person

      10. No, it’s the blind leading the blind and I just want it to all go away! I’m still hoping it’ll just fizzle out and the virus will run its course and disappear…

        Liked by 1 person

      11. It’s a bloody minefield isn’t it!! Part of me thinks they shouldn’t work with clients if they can’t see their own families yet, but then I think of all the millions of people who are still going out to work and not seeing their families. And obviously I don’t want to endanger her at all or make her feel unsafe. I’m honestly so done with the whole thing! And I wonder if I’d be handing the uncertainty better if I wasn’t in therapy in the first place, because there is no one else I’m desperate to see – I miss my friends that don’t live locally, but have been meeting my friends who live near for walks and there’s not much else I’m missing tbh, apart from time alone in the house…

        Liked by 2 people

      12. Guy did actually say that (about not seeing family) but I think so many people have created their own ‘bubble’ now, and if he’s done that too, he might not have that same guilt. Technically we’d be allowed to as you’re allowed to see one person so long as you social distance. But then, last week Guy talked about worrying over peoples health if they catch it, so I dunno. I am guessing he’ll wait til people are released in July or something. Ugh. Hate that idea.
        I’m not missing other people either. It’s like all my missing-ness is in one pot: the therapist one!

        Liked by 2 people

      13. Yeah, I thought K and I would be good to meet outside as soon as we were allowed to meet others outside for exercise, but when she said she’d have to ‘talk to people’ I assume she meant supervisor people and other Ts, and realised it’s not the same as meeting a friend or family member because it’s still them working, which really sucks! I really hope you can do a walk soon!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think that you are being unreasonable by needing an idea about when you can see K.
    I mentioned face to face sessions to my therapist in my session on Wednesday. I was wary because I don’t want to put pressure on her. I was very anxious about it because I had been on a livestream thing on Tuesday night with a therapist who has a YouTube channel and she said that she is not resuming face to face sessions this year. There was a collective ‘woah’ in the chat from the people watching! She said that the lease on office is up and she only has a few clients.
    My therapist said that she has been advised by her professional body that face to face sessions can resume but it sounds like they have given specific guidance about social distancing. As desperate as I am to see her I still think it’s too soon. I’m in the North West and T is in Yorkshire, both of which have been quite hard hit.
    Hopefully K will give you more of an idea when she is feeling better. I can’t offer any wisdom either, but I can assure you that you’re not alone. I have tolerated online therapy but I’m pretty much over it!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the support and validation! And woah! about the T not resuming face-to-face this year – that’s full on! It doesn’t really make much sense either – there’s no reason next year will be better than later on this year, unless a miraculous cure/vaccine is discovered. I am learning during this whole thing just how little control we have over other people’s choices and assessments of risk and so on though, and accepting we are all making sense of things in our own way.

    I can definitely see that if we were somewhere hard hit I’d think it was too soon, but I do think in a week or two it would definitely be safe here, especially as K has a huge garden and I’m used to working outside with her in Summer. But… I don’t want to pressure her whilst she’s ill, esp as she could snap and say that she won’t be working in-person till there’s a vaccine/cure/it’s eradicated from the UK. My fear is that we don’t meet over the summer when we can work outside and then there is a second peak and we don’t get to meet for months and months and months. I’m glad you were able to ask your T and hope you can see her before too long!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. I think it’s a bit extreme myself. She is in the US though. Yes I definitely think that it shows different sides to people.
      Yeah. I hope that she wasn’t just saying it to make me feel better. Although she is a rational person so I doubt she would do it without the evidence to support it. We discussed it at the start of lockdown and both thought that things would probably reach some normality by the end of June so all being well, I will see her again in July. She has always said that this would pass and we would see each other again so I have tried to remind myself of that.
      I hope that K doesn’t snap. Maybe you could suggest it in an email. Perhaps a phased return where you have one session online and the next one face to face outside. It might seem less pressurised in an email. My last session was on the 23rd March and T gave me a ant-bac wipe for my hands and she had the window open to keep the room well ventilated so it is possible to do it safely. It’s a valid question that you are entitled to ask as a client. K will have to make a rational decision at some point and I totally get the need for face to face sessions in case of a second peak later in the year.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, I have to say I do think people will have to start weighing up the actual risks a bit and see the risks of continuing lockdown, but it’s easy for me to say that when no one I know has been physically affected. I don’t think your T would say that if she hadn’t meant it. K and I were expecting to meet in mid-June too but when I said that’s what we were counting down till so why are we making a plan for remote working beyond June she said none of us knew how big this would be, so 🤷‍♀️ I did email on Friday and asked her to tell me on Monday a timescale and whether UKCP have issued guidelines, so I guess she’ll tell me her sense of things tomorrow, though part of me would rather not know 🙈

        Like

  4. I wonder, reading all your comments, how long it takes to get rid of this attachment thing and needing therapy, as it seems to go on forever. I’m on the waiting list for NHS therapy and I know with them there’s a time limit because of funding and I don’t think they can allow you to ‘need’ them in that kind of parenting type way. It would probably be outside of their remit.
    I think I’ll probably have to talk about it and find strategies to manage it without allowing myself to live out the attachment need with them, so to speak.
    Do people actually have to live it out with a therapist for months/years to heal it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My experience is that yes they do, but medium-term NHS therapy can help people become more functional and heal some of it (my sister is a counselling psychologist with the NHS). I got to a much better place (present pandemic-induced episode aside) after 3 and a half years of intense therapy, but I have almost-DID (no amnesia between parts/alters for the most part) which is obviously v complex to work with so I think it’s possible to do it sooner. I also don’t think I need K in a parenting type way, or if I do that is not what I get from her – it’s amazing but v boundaried and clear. Remy Aquarone who set up the pottergate centre estimates 7-10 years of therapy is needed for DID, which isn’t generally available on the NHS but should be! I imagine NHS therapists for complex trauma will help with ways to contain the attachment longings between sessions but I can’t think they won’t arise as that is the work, as well as stabilisation and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My sister specialises in complex trauma and personality disorders (hate that term but that’s what they call it!). I think it’s unlikely they’d refer you to someone without complex trauma training if that’s what you’re referred for. I really hope it goes well for you!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It won’t let me follow it but I saw your post about your assessment and I’m glad you have a second one after she’s seen your form and knows your background x

      Like

      1. Thanks for your kind comments. I’ve managed to change my settings after some wonderful advice from another blogger, so it should link straight to my site now. You might have to “like” one post and it will then show you the follow button. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: