Call it what you want

I don’t really know where to start with this post, or where it is going, where it needs to go. Thoughts have been coming and going while I’ve been cycling and doing other things this week, but nothing seems too urgent. Big shifts are taking place, but I don’t feel in too much of a hurry to work out what they mean. There is a certain level of resistance too – I don’t really want to think about therapy or the future right now. Yet here I am, writing, feeling like something needs to be said. We’ll see what happens.

For the past couple of weeks I have felt a huge internal shift with regards my relationship with K. I keep trying to work out if it’s positive or negative, but I think that means different things to different parts, and different parts have different experiences of this shift and what it is caused by, so I don’t think there is a ‘right’ answer or way of understanding things. I’ve noticed over the past few months that I’ve been turning inwards and towards my own life for security and safety, much, much more than I ever have before. And then with K’s changed availability due to the pandemic I felt very angry that my well-being still seemed to be dependent on somebody else after all this time in therapy. More than being angry with K for not being clear about the whole Friday email debacle, I felt angry that it mattered and angry that the pandemic had led me to regress in terms of needing her between sessions, and I no longer wanted to be that person. I wanted to be able to take in K’s support during my paid for time and just get on with my life the rest of the time.

Young parts definitely feel defeated lately, with the whole remote therapy thing, but it has seemed as though instead of shutting down and freezing and disappearing, they’ve turned to me, to each other, to their own lives and the things that give them meaning, in order to feel okay. I just feel as though I don’t need K anymore. I can’t tell if this is a defensive shutting down lack of need, or if it’s a more genuine moving forwards and away from her in order to develop more of my own sense of self. I think it could be both. It is hard to put it all into words, and it is definitely fuelled by K not being able to fully give me what I need in my sessions now we are working remotely, but it could be that her changed availability acted as a catalyst for my system to just think ‘enough!’ It is time to move away from her to a certain extent I think, although this could just be that I shift my perspective on therapy and what it is now, compared with what it used to be in my life, and take steps towards myself instead of ending therapy or taking a long break. It does seem as though this is what has changed, as though my mind has pushed her away, but instead of the usual experience of being lost and dissociated and unreal without her, I have found myself a little more.

A while back K was saying again about my fragile sense of self, about how unwell I feel when I don’t feel connected to her. She was kind and gentle, and she is right, but it makes me so ashamed and sad. It’s the reason I went into therapy really, underneath all the other stuff, but the shame is still there. It is work we plan to do when I return from this short 3 week break – thinking in more depth about my ‘loss of self’ due to narcissistic parenting, talking about a book on this we started looking at back in February, before everything went to shit! One of the things that I’m really struggling with is that I feel I am really growing and healing and discovering myself at the moment, but I don’t feel able to share much at all of it with K. This has always been a problem of mine, and it is something we were working on prior to lockdown after I got promoted at work and spiralled into a horrible shame spiral, and also needed others to reflect my success back to me so it felt real. I wish I could share this progress and growth with K, but I find sharing good things almost as triggering and shame-provoking as sharing difficult things, more so now even I think, and so trying to do this via a screen is basically impossible. There is work to be done here, but I hate the thought of not doing it in-person.

There’s also a sense of K being ‘just a person’ that has become very dominant during the pandemic. The pedestal I put her on at the start of therapy has gradually eroded over the years, in large part because of the careful disclosures she has made over our time together about her own life and childhood, and I was definitely past the idealising stage and had come to accept a lot about her humanness, but the past few months have really made it clear that she is just a person with her own messy life and health worries and stressful life circumstances. I’ve bumped up against her perception of the threat of the virus multiple times and it has really highlighted how I have absolutely no control or power in our relationship and she will always put her own well-being and family first (as she should, of course, as we all should). I don’t know if her perception of the threat to her and her son, and her refusal to work in-person for a long time is reasonable or not, and it is irrelevant really, it is more just knowing that it is time I became more reliant upon myself to provide stability and permanence, because she cannot do it. That hasn’t changed – there has never been control on my part, just as we can’t control anyone else, or most things in life – but my understanding and willingness to push against it has changed; I am not able to know or predict what she will do or determine when we will meet again. I can decide not to see her or work with her, but I can’t decide anything else in our relationship. I don’t want this reality of what she is to me to be such a strong determinant of my well-being.

It helps having more time – in some ways, not all – whilst we’ve been in lockdown and I’ve been working from home. It means I can stay in contact with who I am more easily, because there is more time for me and I’m not getting lost in interactions with other people and driving Nina around and so on. This time away from normal life has taught me a lot about myself, more than I ever would have learnt in therapy during this time, and I will blog about it separately because every time I think about going back to ‘how things were’ I panic and feel overwhelmed and I need to find a way of carrying some of the benefits and certainty of this time into the future. I get incredibly stressed and overwhelmed when I think about what things will be like once swimming has started again and school term starts and work gets busy again. And whilst I can see it could be nice to have K’s support with all this, having more time and money could also be helpful during this time. I have to live this stuff, live the changes, to a certain extent. I’m not sure what I can get from K over the next few months that will come close to what I can get from myself.

Over the past week or so it’s seemed as though whether or not I see K makes little difference in terms of moving forward and continuing to heal. In part this is because of remote therapy not giving me what I need, and the likelihood that this will continue for quite some time. I think it is also that I’ve internalised K and the therapeutic relationship a lot, and therefore don’t actually need to see K to continue to draw on the work we’ve done together. There’s work we can do for sure, and Nina and I had a huge argument on Tuesday evening and I definitely wanted K then, but I just don’t know if I want to do it right now, or if I want a break from thinking about the whole thing. I think maybe I want some time to really integrate the healing I’ve done so far. It’s like I can usually work out for myself what is going on now, what I need to do. I am really getting to know myself during this reprieve. I’ve prioritised self-care in all its forms for years now, but over the past 4 months certain things have become even more embedded and habitual. I’ve completely quit sugar and gluten and can already feel the difference. I think this will be a lifelong commitment for me, or until climate breakdown leads to food shortages and scarcity here at least. I am in a very clear routine with meditation and yoga and journaling and creative activities and exercise now, more than I’ve ever been before. All I can see is me continuing to really develop a sense of what I want and need, and then try to live by it, over the coming months and years. It is tough because I can’t live the life I need in all ways, because of work and Nina, but talking about that with K won’t change it.

And I really don’t want to be spending £300 – £400 a month on therapy anymore. I really, really don’t. During lockdown life has been quite a bit cheaper (predominantly petrol – I worked out I’ve saved around £450 over 4 months on petrol not driving Nina around to swimming or travelling to therapy) and I’ve been able to put a little aside and also had some spare cash to replace things that had broken, get some new supplements and things, and get some new-to-me clothes from Depop. It has been nice not needing to watch every penny. However, as life is returning to some kind of normality, and swimming starts again on Saturday, this isn’t going to be the case anymore. And if I wasn’t spending so much on therapy…

Obviously for a long time therapy was an essential expenditure. I don’t begrudge any of the money I’ve spent on it so far. But now? Now things feel different…

And it is scary. Very, very scary. I wonder if I’m ready to end therapy, move to less frequent sessions, or take an extended break. I don’t want to be ready but I can feel an increasing sense that I am, that I need to let go and move forward. I guess it’s why the boundaries in therapy are so important, otherwise we would stay forever, but if I’m not willing to work on depth material or difficult things I can’t have K. It makes me not want her, because I don’t want to look at those things at the moment. I always imagined when it was time to end that I would put into words how huge what we’ve done has been, pull it all together and reflect on how far we had come together. I never imagined it would just drift away and I wouldn’t necessarily want to look back at all the ground we had covered because I had become more central and prominent in my own life and it didn’t matter so much. How can K and I’s journey not matter?! This is the part that makes me suspicious, makes me wonder if I’ve just cut off from her as some kind of defence mechanism… But if I have, it definitely hasn’t caused me to lose sight of myself. Is this the place we are meant to get to in therapy?

Something my sister said a long time ago about working – and ending – with ‘borderline’ clients has really stayed with me. She said that when her work with borderline clients has been coming to an end they often got incredibly distressed and felt they weren’t ready to end at all. It stirred up all their abandonment fears and made them really act out. But when they were asked to complete a follow up survey a few weeks after ending therapy they would report feeling much better, and this tends to continue long after the therapy has ended. So, although I don’t have BPD in the strictest sense, it’s all developmental trauma and I share the fear of abandonment that is at the core of it, and therefore I don’t think I will ever feel unequivocally ready to end therapy. I also know when I decide to, when I try to, I will experience a huge wave of abandonment and annihilation pain, just as I have multiple times this year about not being able to get to K because of the pandemic, each time that wound has been triggered, but that won’t mean it’s not the right time. I don’t think I will be able to end therapy and not feel that way, I  may even need an emergency therapy session after I end therapy to cope with the feelings that come after I end therapy, but I don’t think that will be a sign that I’m not ready. If I wait until I don’t feel that pain to end therapy then I will be in therapy forever.

To make it clear, I’m not actually considering ending my therapy with K. There is definitely still work I want and need to do with her. I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing now is being ready to end but I definitely wouldn’t want to do it remotely. An extended break is a possibility. Or, like I said above, I continue and just accept that therapy’s place in my life has shifted and other things are more important, either on a temporary or permanent basis, and I focus on those things too. I don’t know what I want and I’m not in any rush to decide really. I’m enjoying some time off work and some time away from therapy and deciding what to take there. And I have worries about a break…

My fears are varied. Top is that if I take a break, K won’t be there when I return because she will stop working as a T because of the pandemic and her health (auto-immune thyroid disease). Next is that if I take a break when I return she won’t honour the £10 an hour fee reduction she is giving me from September (less than the discount I’ve had till now, but still £60-£100 a month depending on whether I do 90 or 120 minute sessions) because I’ll have saved money during the break. Next is that she will give my time to someone else and when I want to start again it won’t be available and she won’t have an end-of-day slot I can do. This wouldn’t happen if it was a set period of time, but none of us knows how long she will be working remotely for, or how long I would want to take as a break, and so I don’t see how we can have a set return date. And I’m worried I will need her because something bad happens, and she won’t be there. I’m even more worried I won’t need her – what will this mean for the future of our relationship? Is it over? This is never how I would have wanted to end things but the pandemic has changed everything.

I know if we were working in-person I would continue. There is a healing and containment and emotional regulation I would get from K that I still need and want and benefit from. Things are different now though. I don’t want to cling on to our weekly work during this time if it stops me moving forward in my life.

Maybe I have to take a break and trust she will be there if I need her. But maybe I also have to trust that if she is not there again that I will be okay.

It must seem as though I spiral through this break/not-break place a lot, but every time it is clearer and easier and less intense. I don’t feel caught in that awful place where each option (carrying on/taking a break) feels utterly unmanageable. I know I can do therapy remotely now, so it is more just a sense of not needing it, and being able to work out what will serve me over the coming months, all the time holding in mind that events may transpire to mean K and I don’t work in-person again and I need to be okay with that, I want to be okay with that. She feels very far away and it is heart-breaking really that after this short break we won’t actually be ‘reunited’ – she won’t open the door and smile and say ‘welcome back’ and that it is nice to see me. The familiarity and routine of my therapy time has been taken away, and without it I don’t know what is left to salvage.

Safe and sound

I really don’t want therapy today. Not in the usual way of dreading it because difficult things about the therapy relationship need to be dealt with, but just because I don’t need it. Everything is fine. There is nothing I need or want to talk about. It makes me wonder if I’ve reached the point where I only need therapy to deal with crises that come up.  I’m sure we’ll fill my session somehow, but I just feel a real resistance to talking to K and don’t want to let young parts talk to her either. It doesn’t feel as though this is a defensive position, it feels like it is coming from a place where things really are okay and we just want time and space by ourselves later to just be – writing, creating, being outdoors, cycling – and not to be delving in to things that can just be left alone. If we were working in-person it would be a nice session if I was feeling like this, and healing in its own way to be able to share the good in my life and the content feelings, but through a screen it just feels kind of pointless.

It is making me wonder – again – if there are now better things I could be spending my money on. It makes me wonder about cutting down my sessions. I want to take Nina to Paris next Spring, if there aren’t too many restrictions by then, and just think of the amazing time we could have if it weren’t on such a tight budget… I want to do some things to the house, nothing huge, just re-painting some rooms, but if I could pay someone to do this instead of struggling to do it myself, and with some help from my dad, it would be so much easier… I’m just sitting with these thoughts at the moment, knowing that I don’t always feel this way and that there are tough times ahead with Nina that it will be hard to manage with K.

I don’t know how therapy would have worked out this year had it not been for the pandemic. It felt important. I think I expected it to be taking in what she gave me, internalising safety and the feelings of attunement, now the good stuff was less triggering. The work was in us being together and figuring out how I want my life to be now I know and understand myself so well. As it turns out it feels as though most of the growth and change that has taken place within me and in how I relate to the outside world has happened away from her. So many of the positive decisions and change I have made I’ve not talked through with her. And the past 4 months have involved establishing safety away from her, in my own home, and constantly reminding myself that I exist here, in my life, body, home, space, and not only when I am with her. Lessons I had learnt but then forgot, when the pandemic started.

I can feel that as her availability has tightened up I’ve taken a step back. Again it doesn’t feel as though this is from a defensive place though. It feels more as though it is from a place where I have been able to remind myself – often – that I don’t need her in the way I once did. And I don’t want to need her. I don’t want that anymore. I needed to need her, to heal and stabilise and attach and all those things I needed from therapy, but I don’t now. It is hard, but I am learning to be there for myself more, and learning that I have so much awareness and knowledge and understanding of what I need now. It is a strange place to be in, because I don’t think I don’t need her or therapy at all. I guess part of me wishes there was a little more freedom to choose when I need her.

Anyway, I have annual leave for two weeks from Friday and have decided to take that away from therapy as well this time. It will be nice to see how that is. The sunshine always lifts me so dramatically and for the past few days I’ve felt firmly rooted and grounded into my own life. I love my home. I have great books to read and so much I want to learn and do and embody. On Saturday I cycled to the most incredible and magical Iron Age hill fort (somewhere K took me a year and a half ago in fact, and since has become a special place for me) and yesterday saw one of my oldest and closest friends who I wasn’t expecting to see for at least another year as her husband has CF and has been shielding. I am really looking forward to having some time off work and doing some fun day trips with Nina next week. And I am kind of relieved I won’t have to contend with these ambivalent feelings about therapy for a few weeks also.

I’m also aware that my session in just over 2 hours could drastically change all my thoughts and feelings. I guess this is one of the reasons why I feel so resistant to it, in case it disturbs everything when all of me is feeling okay today. I find it really hard to show K when I’m happy, content, settled, etc. because it triggers a lot of shame, more almost than when I’m really dysregulated and in a total state. I’m sure there is work to be done there, but it almost inevitably takes me to place where I look at how shit my parents were for me to have that level of shame over who I am and the good things I experience.

Red

I am honestly so fucking done with attachment trauma and therapy. I am so tired of being this person – hypervigilant and dysregulated and so sensitive to rejection and abandonment. And I am so bored of living a life where I have to take so much care to not trigger or overwhelm myself. All my energy on Saturday went into stabilising myself and not losing myself in attachment crisis. Over nothing really. Over a short email exchange that, until March, I often really didn’t feel I needed anymore anyway. It is so ridiculous and I hate it. I want to do fun and exciting stuff and actually live. Instead I am living this pathetic and small existence and therapy has become the focal point of my week again, and then leaves me disappointed and alone.

My life is so boring and restrained and suffocating. Lockdown is basically over and yet my life is more closed off and shut down than it ever has been. I cannot keep living like this. It is fucking stifling and killing me. This is not a life. I used to have a life. Where did it go?

My therapy session was pointless because there was a giant elephant galloping around my living room but because of fucking remote therapy K didn’t even know it was there. I kept expecting her to raise the email thing. She didn’t. I didn’t because it’s too fucking scary. So the whole session I couldn’t settle in to what we were talking about or the cutting and sticking we did for young parts because this tension was there, along with a sense of not saying what I actually needed to say, and feeling the session ticking away without attending to the most important thing. And then with less than 10 minutes to go she was reading the parts’ book (which we send photos of each week before our session now, and which for the past two weeks she hasn’t been able to read properly because they are sideways on her new laptop – for fucks’ sake, wouldn’t you work out in between sessions how to download them so they are the right way round, when it is part of your job?) and a young part and teen part had both mentioned the email thing and how triggering it is to be a job, to be hated, to be attached to someone who doesn’t want to hear from us.

She said she ‘hears the hurt’ but seemed to have no real sense of what it brought up when she didn’t reply, or that she has taken away a source of support with little discussion or preparation. She did apologise and said she thought she’d been clear and obviously wasn’t. She apologised that there was a ‘misunderstanding’ and said something about things getting confused around Covid and everything going on. But if it hadn’t been in the parts book would she even have brought it up? How can she think it would be okay to go from contact every week day to nothing from Wednesday to Monday overnight? And it is embarrassing that it is such a big deal, because it really isn’t. I don’t want to be this person anymore.

She said after she’d finished reading the book that we could email on Fridays and she would look at in the Monday session – what is the fucking point of that? That is worse than not emailing at all. She reiterated that she is only working 3 days a week now, and helpfully said that is the case ‘even if you’re in crisis on your holiday’ (I’m taking my two weeks annual leave as time off from therapy this year, which I don’t usually do, but she has said if something bad happens we can work). This fills me with such panic that she won’t be here if there is a crisis between sessions ever again, and we won’t be able to do extra sessions in December this year (which is always needed). It’s not even like I’ve needed many extra sessions in the past couple of years, until the fucking pandemic, but knowing I would have to wait till Monday if something came up is hard. I mean, I think to be honest if something happened with e.g. my mum she would still be there for me, like in February when I heard she was ill and text K and we worked on a Saturday evening, but I don’t know. I hate that.

Anyway, I said it would be worse to email and not get a reply and that having something written was helpful and soothing, and that we like little pictures (emojis – who with young parts doesn’t like emojis?!) so not having anything written would be hard, and she said she understands that and we will think together about what might be helpful written on a Wednesday and talk about it next time. Again – I don’t want to be this person. I just want to turn up to my session each week and just get on with my life the rest of the time. Only my life is shit and isolating and oppressive and I don’t want to live it this way anymore but I don’t know how to make something exciting happen.

It just doesn’t feel as though K is available in the same way now and I hate it. I hate that I need more from her again since the pandemic and she was so available at the start and now that has changed. She said she wanted to support me with Covid, and of course I hugely appreciate that and I understand her thyroid is flaring up and making her unwell, but the worst part of the pandemic is not over for me, and won’t be for fucking ages, because the worst part of the pandemic for me is not being able to get to therapy (and Nina home all the time obviously, but the end of that is in sight now – 9 weeks to go). And it is scary that I might need her and she won’t be available, even though I know I can cope without her. I don’t want to have to cope without her. But also – I don’t want to have to cope without her. I want it to be easy without her. I don’t want this relationship to be so important to me.

I just don’t want this anymore. I am so bored. I want to live and love and to find both of those things easy. I am tired of not knowing who I am, of needing a mirror to make sense of my life, of having to have such clear boundaries and accept my limitations and do so little just to stay afloat. I feel reckless and I want to go drinking and take drugs and just feel alive. I am honestly so tired of therapy, of something I pay for, affecting my life so much. I don’t want my life to be about all this stuff. I want to meet new people but it’s sometimes as though therapy has spoilt me for real connection because nothing else comes close to the way I can feel with K, when we are connected and held and safe. She has taken so much time to truly know us, but the longer we go without meeting the harder it is to remember all that is still there.

I want real people who care about me where I am not just a fucking job, contained in a little box for 166 hours a week, only in existence when I am in front of them. And fucking therapy has spoilt me for this, spoilt me for the real world.

And I want therapy back. I want to be in the room with K, so she knows when there are huge things between us needing to be spoken. I want to be with her. I cannot believe how much longer it could be of this. It is manageable now but fucking hell it is nowhere near what I need, what I want, what I am used to getting from therapy. Even when remote therapy is at its very best it does not come close to being with her in the room.

Everything was working so well back at the start of the March with my double session and the Friday check-in. I knew K was there if I needed extra time and I rarely needed it anymore. Therapy was enough. I was living and growing and healing and I knew I was held in mind and K lived inside me too.

The fucking pandemic has ruined everything and I am so angry after all that work that I had got to a place where therapy wasn’t killing me and it got taken away.

Shake it off

Update: we did text her and asked if everything was okay because she’d not replied to our Friday email. She replied saying she thinks she told me she is only working 3 days a week now and that we could continue with the Friday email until the end of June. This is definitely not what she said, she said we would review it at the end of June and that she definitely wasn’t saying we wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. Why can’t people (therapists in particular!) remember what they’ve said? And how shit that she thinks we would just stop it after 4 years without even a conversation. Hello fucking unnecessary rupture and attachment pain!

Ugh, I have a ridiculous situation with my therapy of the kind that hasn’t happened for several years, in fact since I made the decision more than 3 years to stop texting between sessions because it had served its purpose and was now just triggering to wait for a reply, and I would feel ashamed for reaching out. Since then our outside contact has, for the most part, been clear and scheduled in, and there have been no ruptures over it.

Anyway, K and I have done a Friday check-in for 4 years, just a quick email, and she said at the end of May we would need to review it at the end of June as she doesn’t work Fridays at the moment and doesn’t want to because of her health. We were really triggered and upset and she said she wasn’t taking it away, but that we would review it. I remember she definitely said she wasn’t saying we couldn’t do it anymore. Anyway, we’ve not reviewed it and yesterday she didn’t reply for the first time ever. We are not completely triggered, but unsettled definitely and aware this could cause a rupture which is frustrating as it’s a pretty small thing in the scheme of things. I just can’t believe she wouldn’t reply because it’s July, without discussing it and when it was obvious I hadn’t realised. I voluntarily gave up the Tuesday and Thursday morning texts this week, which we’ve done since lockdown, and to be honest that was unsettling enough to suddenly have that space.

I want to text and ask if she’s okay, but don’t want the rejection of her saying in reply that we’re not emailing anymore. But if I don’t then I’ve basically lost the Friday email. I’m planning to drop my Wednesday half hour soon and just have my longer Monday session again, so I had hoped I could at least do an email on Wednesday if I do that, as it has been very holding to have that space. I’m always careful not to write too much, it’s really just a brief check-in, but it’s nice to know if something big happens there is space to share it or mention it. For young parts a week is still quite long and there is also a something about having written words and emojis – something tangible that speaks directly to young parts and can be taken in slowly with a few readings.

This whole thing is very frustrating. My mind obviously goes to the idea that something bad could have happened. I find it hard to believe she would choose not to reply if it was obvious I’d not realised Friday emails had stopped. Surely she’d reply as normal and we’d talk about it on Monday?

I hate the way that therapy brings stuff up so that such small things become so complicated. She has been so predictable though, she even told me to email on Fridays on Christmas week and when she moved house. Surely she would know that suddenly stopping it would be hard for me?

This feels such a trivial post in the midst of a global pandemic and when people have such difficult things and huge losses going on in their own therapy so I apologise even for writing it. It’s where I’m at though I guess.