Epiphany

I’ve regained a sense of equanimity this week. K and I are not broken. I am okay. And it turns out I didn’t need her to help me work through the painful and conflicting feelings about my brother, or work out what to do. Turns out I had it all inside me. Turns out every conversation we’ve had about him, and every feeling she’s helped me understand and verbalise and process, was all in there and I was able to draw on it even when I didn’t know I could. I sent a simple email reply in the end, saying I understood and would be in touch next year about returning to therapy as planned. What else was there to say really? I knew I needed to do something that stopped the internal rupture becoming an external one. And I mended it myself by reconnecting with my internalised sense of her.

K will have known how much I was hurting about my brother and how painful I will have found her response. She also knows me and my system inside out and she knows so well what is and isn’t helpful for us. She knew that returning to online therapy so soon wasn’t right for my system or our relationship. She probably also knew that a few sessions, even if she had space, would have caused as much difficulty as they solved. With young alters things are never straightforward, and something that might have helped adult me likely would have triggered young parts and made a mess. I had to dig deep to find the place in me that knew she wasn’t intentionally hurting me or rejecting me, that she hadn’t forgotten me and moved on to the concerns of new clients, that she wasn’t going to say I can’t go back next year, but I found it and hung on tight to it until I came through the other side of the attachment storm and found some kind of peace again.

She was right that a return to online therapy wasn’t right. It wouldn’t have helped longer term but I also think if she’d offered some one-off sessions over the next couple of weeks then it would have soothed me at the time but also may have prolonged things around my brother. As it is, I’ve been able to let things settle around this situation in a way that might have been difficult if we’d had a few sessions booked in. It would have been nice to talk to her about it but I knew what she would say and I’ve been able to move forward with the situation in a way that feels manageable. I’ve also been able to switch off from it again, and it is testimony to all the healing I’ve done that I am not consumed by fear and guilt around him, and that I can sit with the situation and let it work out over the coming weeks and months instead of needing a resolution immediately.I also feel clear and resolute in what I can and can’t manage around contact with him, and that is new for me too.

On Saturday I went to see my best friend for the day and we walked in the woods and it was so beautiful. I want to write soon about how our friendship has evolved through our own healing journeys, and how a friendship that was always so important to me but often left me overwhelmed and dissociated due to our shared trauma history has now become a source of nourishment and connection that I’m not sure I’ve ever had in a friendship before. I don’t get flooded with shame and dissociate anymore when we talk about ‘my stuff’ – it feels like a normal conversation. For me this is wonderful because of what it means for our friendship (she has felt the shift too, in terms of how it is to share her authentic self with me this past year also) but also because it means I now feel safe enough with her to show all of me and not feel ashamed or need to disappear, and so this can happen with the other friendships where I do still dissociate a lot when I share. The day really helped me remember who I am that is not about K or my brother. And it was really lovely to be able to talk about it all and to be understood, but not lose myself in talking about it or let it consume the conversation all day.

On Sunday I was still quite a mess and hadn’t slept more than a few hours a night since Thursday when my sister text, but I felt a change in me and a determination not to spend the next 5 or 6 months waiting for K. I have to accept that we don’t know what is going to happen next year and I have to be okay with not going back, if that is what happens. I cannot put my life or healing on hold. I don’t think I am or have been, but I also need to move forward during this time, even more than I have been. So I made an appointment for a one-to-one TRE session on Monday and it was amazing – the practitioner was so safe and warm and we went really gently. I only did the shaking part for a few seconds a couple of times but will go weekly for a while until I feel safe to do it by myself at home. It feels like the right next step in my healing and it is wonderful to have the resources (time and money and space) to do it now. I switched out for the first time in public for really a long time during the tremors part, probably because we felt so safe with her, and a young part checked that no one was going to shout at us for shaking. It makes me sad how much fear there is around being seen and about how our body responds, but that is a focus for another post as I want to write about the session soon.

It feels empowering to be using this time to try something new. We all miss K so much, every day, and it is so hard knowing we have no idea when we’ll see her again. Getting her email response was so painful. Seeing the news that it could be summer before a vaccine is rolled out is difficult. Not knowing if she’ll have space when we want to go back or she returns to face-to-face is very scary and unsettling. But at the same time I have to be okay with not knowing, with possibly not being able to go back, because life changes all the time and I can’t control K or the virus situation. Since last week I feel liberated from the constant umming and ahhing about returning to therapy now too. I can’t go back to working remotely, I really can’t, and so I just have to hang on until the situation changes. Being able to pay my Dad back next Spring also feels liberating and important. And even though we said a 6 month break and that I would email at the end of February, really if K isn’t returning to in-person work then (which seems likely, given the vaccine situation) how can I go back? Surely it would be better to wait till I can go back properly, when our first session would be in-person with a hug and being reunited with the dogs as well.

And I don’t need K in the way I used to. It hurts but it is the truth and there is healing and growth in opening up to the truth. And I am tired of handing my power to someone else. Sometimes I worry if I grow too much over the next 6 months I won’t need (or want) to go back, but that is so clearly attachment trauma talking and so I have to calm those fears and reassure everyone that if that were to happen – and I don’t think it will; our work feels so unfinished – it would be for our highest good. I have to do what is right for everyone in my system now because the future I am often so focused on controlling doesn’t yet exist.

She said no

K said no because her practice is currently full. She also said ‘I hear your wisdom in wanting to repay Dad and lift that weight financially. I also hear your reminder that online working was unhelpful for you.’

I am quite shocked. I don’t want to get into a discussion on here about whether or not she’s being reasonable because I have no way of resolving this rupture with her for at least 4 months so don’t want to exacerbate it for myself. I could argue it both ways to be honest as I’m not sure returning longer term would have worked and not made things difficult, but it really hurts she wouldn’t want to provide support. Maybe she thinks a few sessions wouldn’t have been enough or would be too hard after a 10 week break. It is just fucking heart-breaking that I really can’t have her support even if I want it now. I thought I had the option to return, but I guess my email sounded like I wasn’t sure that would be best. Which I’m not. But I still want and need her and I don’t know how to work out what to do about my brother without her. And now I can’t go back even if I want to. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s not what we agreed, though I know she couldn’t hold a space for me.

So I guess I’m really on my own till at least at March. And she might not have space then either I guess, or might say no as it will still be remote work then.

I wish I’d never reached out. We had left things well and this has ruined and confused everything.

I want you back

I’ve just reached out to K after getting a text from my sister saying that our brother (well, half brother, we all have different dads, but we feel like full siblings) is really struggling and suicidal. He is 49 and disabled and severely traumatised by our mum. His life was fucking horrendous before the pandemic and now it sounds intolerable for him as he is stuck at home with her all the time and she will be being even more abusive than usual due to lockdown and pandemic stress. He has worked as an assistant gardener for a housing association for more than 20 years and it is the only thing that keeps him going as the guy he works with – Alex – is so lovely and really seems to understand him. I’m not in contact with him because it’s impossible to see him without our mum being involved, which has caused so much heartache and guilt and confusion, but I heard from my sister he was in such a bad place at the start of lockdown without his job. He went back to work in June or July and I thought things would have picked up a bit for him since then.

Not so. The text from my sister suggests things are very bad and that he is suicidal and in risk of losing his job due to being so agitated there. He has been suicidal before. I don’t know if he would act on it but I suspect he would as his life is very hopeless. I have been shaking and struggling to breathe since I got the text from my sister. I also feel very disconnected from it all and as if emailing K was an over-reaction. I don’t think I’ll hear from her till Monday now anyway as she doesn’t work Fridays, and I don’t know what she will say. Things have been pretty shit from a physical health perspective the last couple of weeks, which is clearly emotionally-driven and I think due to not having somewhere to take myself or share my feelings so they’re all getting somatised. So maybe I should go back. I don’t know. And I need K now because this situation with my family is fucking unbearable and it never goes away and she understands the whole big fucking mess and all it does to me and the parts. I love my brother so much but seeing him also feels fucking impossible because of all it triggers in me. Sometimes I wish my mum had just killed us all and saved us from this.

Here is what I sent to K, with the text from my sister:

Dear K,

I hope you are doing as well as possible with present circumstances. I wondered if we might be able to arrange a few therapy sessions? I know we said I’d need to come back to weekly therapy if something happened, and that might be needed anyway as I’ve been struggling a lot as it is, but I’ve had a text from [sister] today about G___ and I don’t know what to do. I had a panic attack after I read it and I still can’t stop shaking. I don’t know if I can do what she’s asking as I’m struggling so much already, but I don’t know how to not either and whether it would even help. Here is the text so you can see it’s very bad – he is suicidal and he might lose his job because he’s in such a bad way:

Hi hon- What are your feelings about having contact with g___. He is really struggling and apparently telling Alex he is suicidal, he’s shouting at mum saying she’s ruining his life as he thinks she’s blocking him from seeing anyone. Alex has said if g___ doesn’t calm down he can’t carry on working with him so must be bad. Says it’s taking an hour each morning to calm him and he’s pacing and muttering throughout the day and it’s got worse over the last year. I’ve spoken to Alex, I chased up his autism services assessment but still another 3 months so will ask gp to expedite. I’ve also got the crisis number just in case. I’m also due to Skype g___ tonight to try and get a sense of how he is but think I’ll need to go down over the weekend and get him on his own. Alex sent me a WhatsApp video of g___ being agitated which is hard to see. Anyway, I know this will stress you out too sorry hon but I don’t know what else to do and thought I should check what you and or Nina feel able to do as it’s all coming to a head xxxx

If we could arrange some sessions to talk this through I think it would really help as you know me and this whole big mess better than anyone. I understand if we can’t do this without me committing to returning to weekly therapy – if this is the case please let me know and I will decide what to do. I really want to pay my dad back this winter, and we were obviously all struggling with remote therapy, but my physical health is bad already, I think because of not having anywhere to take my emotions and thoughts at the moment, and so I don’t know what is best over the coming months.

I know you’re likely not working till Monday now so I won’t expect to hear back before then with what you think is best, unless you’re able to reply sooner.

Best wishes,

CB

Hoax

***** Trigger warning ***** never-ending pandemic *****

Things became really activated and not okay after writing my last post about how I was, mostly, okay. It obviously brought to the surface things that had lain dormant and there were bad dreams about K and young parts were very upset and writing lots and just feeling generally fucked up and attachmenty. And I’m so tired and work is a struggle and more than anything I want K, in-person K, and to be able to snuggle under a blanket on a cushion on her floor and feel her close by.

Mostly I guess I’ve also realised – again – that K and I won’t be meeting in-person in the Spring and going back to how things were before March, not that soon and maybe not ever. Even a viable vaccine is going to take more than a year to distribute, even if all goes to schedule and it’s ready for mass roll out from next summer. And our government is fucking up everything so it’s hardly going to magically roll out a vaccine efficiently. Or even get its shit together over test and trace. Plus we know future pandemics are going to start to come in a big hot mess from now on and we’ll be lucky if a new one doesn’t start before we’ve got a vaccine or treatment for this one.

It’s no good people saying that we have to learn to live alongside this virus and that in-person work will have to resume at some point, because it’s not true. K will – rightly – put her health, and that of her son’s first, above her job, regardless of how important it is and how much she misses face-to-face work. She is doing a good enough job for most of her clients remotely. She works 3 days a week now and I’m sure can find enough clients who will benefit from working with her to fill those spaces, whatever the medium. She doesn’t need to risk her health. Just as I know at work that what I’m providing is different – and inferior in some ways – but I am prepared to do it all remotely to avoid being very ill and experiencing long-term symptoms similar to those I’ve battled nearly all my life. So I don’t judge her, but I do know she is very unlikely to return to in-person work before we have a vaccine or, at the very least a very accurate and rapid test. And by the time that happens, what other threats could humanity be inflicting on itself that will keep us apart?

My only hope is for a fast test that I can buy cheaply or get prescribed and take once-a-week, just as I am leaving for K’s, to confirm I’m not contagious. I don’t even know how likely this is to ever happen or if it would definitely mean I could go back.

And I feel so selfish and privileged that this is my top concern during a global pandemic because so many are suffering in countless ways and all I am missing in my life is K. To be honest, if things stay as they are now I could cope as I am seeing enough people and Nina is in school and there isn’t much I can’t do that I would like to do. Obviously I am finding it hugely stressful watching the world fall apart and people’s livelihoods get ruined and knowing how many are isolated and in despair, and it’s hard wondering if and when I will be stopped from seeing friends, but everything apart from not being able to see K is okay, in terms of how my actual life is now.

What is wrong with me that I can’t do this work remotely when so many others can? It is leaving me unsupported at a time of huge stress and uncertainty and leaving me unable to finish the work K and I started, leaving it and me suspended and unable to move forward. I miss her so much but even if tried to work remotely again I wouldn’t get what I need from her, and I am giving up hope that I ever will now. I don’t see how things will ever change.