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You saw me

I reconnected with R this week after more than 18 months without seeing each other. He is an acupuncturist who I have had a profoundly deep, healing, and beautiful relationship with since I was 21 when I first saw him with constant and debilitating head pain. At times our connection has been distorted through transference and projection on both our parts, and at times I have drifted from him and wondered if our work is done, but I have always returned to him. His steady and familiar presence when I message him even after months of not talking is one of the most comforting things I’ve ever experienced. It had been nearly a year of no contact up till the start of December when we have been in regular contact via texts and voice notes. Being with him again felt like coming home and we have agreed never to let it be that long again. But he also understands that I needed to be away from people who knew me last year, so that I could discover who I am . And that is what I did; in solitude, away from the world, I found myself.

He used to tell me he was always here, that we were connected, that he wouldn’t go away from me (over and over and over when I needed it…) but he also told me that he knew the person I was seeking connection with wasn’t really him – it was myself. I felt so ashamed when he said that, as if he was telling me we weren’t really connected and what we had wasn’t real. He wasn’t. I understand it now. I connected to myself last year and now I can see how much I needed that and how much more authentic and livable life is when we are the biggest and most important person in our own lives. None of this made sense to me before but now it does and I can see it takes nothing from our relationship. It adds to it in fact, because, along with K, he laid the foundations for the journey to reclaim myself that finally transformed my life last summer. What a gift he was willing to give me, and what a lifelong connection it has carved out, in my heart and his.

He held me in 3 of the longest hugs I’ve had in years and the first hugs I’ve had since February last year. I burrowed into him like a child, so close I could hear his heart beating, and felt my system beginning to settle as I sunk into his familiar safety and allowed myself to feel his arms tightly around me. He is the only person I allow to really hug me, who I don’t pull away from before I am ready in case I stay too long and give them chance to feel what is inside of me or think I am dirty and broken for enjoying human touch. He is the only one who I can tell how much I love their hugs without feeling ashamed and toxic. He has seen everything that is inside of me and he still loves me. He was there when none of it made any sense at all. He has seen the black, desperate, shadow side of me, and also the light. To be able to see him having changed beyond recognition this past year was indescribable. The years fell away as soon as I stepped into the room and we were connected as we always have been. He shed a few tears as he hugged me. He told me how proud he is of me. When he asked how my sleep had been I said the past few weeks had been bad but generally last year my sleep had been fine for the first time in my life and he stopped me to exclaim ‘Look at you! Look what you’ve done’ and it lit me up inside to know that someone who really knows me could see the change so clearly. I am not who I was but I am also the same. These words make no sense and yet they are the only way I can describe the transformation that has taken place inside of me. A different person and yet more more myself than ever.

I do not know who R is to me, I only know my feelings for him are true and pure and that it means the world to me that he is able to express his love for me. I think small parts of me see him as a father figure and want to clamber into his lap and curl up and listen to him breathing, some teen parts see him as a slightly annoying old person always telling us to eat and look after ourselves, and others just see him as someone wise and loving who is always on the end of the phone when we need him but who doesn’t really exist beyond that. He is part therapist, part teacher, part spiritual guide, part friend, part father figure (but far too wise and compassionate and open to comfortably fit our archetype of even ‘good enough’ fathering and so casting him in this role is odd). In the end I let him be ‘my acupuncturist’, knowing that will never do justice to the depth of attachment and connection we share, and knowing that all that matters is that we know it is real, what we have, and also full of messiness and transference and projection for both of us. And that is okay. I’ve learnt to let him be in his place in my life and not try and work out where our boundaries lie. He lets me go away and come back and every time I return I seem to be able to take in his love a little more.

As he held me I whispered how I felt as though I could see myself through my own eyes for the first time this past year, instead of needing someone else to show me I’m real and that I exist. I said how all the times I text him and K asking if they were still here I was really asking if I was here, because I didn’t feel real if they couldn’t see me. He said of course I didn’t, because my parents couldn’t see me for who I was. My mum looked to me to fill her up because she was empty. Instead of bringing who I really am into existence for both of us she emptied me to try and fill herself. But she was insatiable and there was never enough of me. ‘When I looked into my mum’s eyes I didn’t see myself, all I saw was her pain’. R saw me and K saw me and they helped me learn to see myself. I realised last night that R saw me before I saw myself. And I realised how huge this is, has been, that he really did see me, actually saw me, let himself know me. I wrote this just now that I will share with him next week:

There was a time when I didn’t exist, because the only person who needs to truly see us is ourselves, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t see myself because as an infant no one provided me with a mirror to see and know myself. I grew up feeling invisible and non-existent because I couldn’t see myself reflected back in the faces of those who loved me. They weren’t able to see me so they couldn’t love the real me and so I learnt to keep her hidden so far out of sight I couldn’t reach her either. Even as an adult I only existed when other people could see me and were reflecting me back. Alone I disappeared. And so the me I saw wasn’t really me, it was other people’s versions of me. Fragile and out of reach. An image that dissolved as soon as their light wasn’t shining upon me. You told me you saw me and I didn’t understand then what you meant and how clear I was to you. The truth is that when you can’t see yourself you can’t see others either; I needed others to show me who I was instead of who they were. I was invisible and others were an illusion, a projection. I didn’t know how clearly others could see me because to myself I was always just a grey outline round a scribbled grey mass and others were merely a way of making myself more real. Now I know what it means that you could see me and even though I don’t need you in the way I once did, it seems to matter even more than I thought it did that you are here and that you know me. You have always loved me for who I am but I didn’t know till now how clearly you could see who that person was. Now I know what it really means to see somebody. Now I know that you being able to see me was a sacred knowing of all the parts of me; I was real to you. I was whole. You saw all of me. You saw me before I saw myself. And now I can see myself too, through my own eyes for the first time, and I understand what it was you could see.

We sat in his new practice room in a wooden cabin in the countryside near my house as the light was fading and for 75 minutes we were in our own world and the pandemic and isolation and Nina and my lack of family didn’t matter anymore. I thought it would feel strange and unsettling to see him somewhere new after 15 years in the previous room but it didn’t, it was magical – a magical place and a magical feeling. A new start that felt like coming home. He asked if I would rather be in the old room next time and I said no – that room holds so much of my pain. It feels right this way. ‘Yes, you are different now’ he said. And I am.

17 thoughts on “You saw me”

  1. Wow, CB, what an amazing therapeutic relationship you have there. I can really identify with not being able to peg R in any ‘known’ category, the way you describe it, I’m the same with T. It’s part of what makes it so unique and special.
    I love that the new venue seems to somehow be significant for you; symbolising the new you, and leaving behind all the years of pain and torment behind different walls, somewhere else. I can see how that would feel really different for you. It’s love to read how far you’ve come and how much progress you can see you’ve made.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for this beautiful comment. I’m so glad you can see echoes of this relationship in your work with T because it is probably the most deep and intimate human connection I have ever known – I am less attached to him than I am K, and he knows and understands me less, but he is also able to tell me how he feels about me and be there for me in a less reserved way (probably partly because he’s not a therapist and not every contact with him is paid for), and so it feels more loving in some ways. Thank you for seeing my progress – it blows me away sometimes because last year brought such a sudden change!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. From that point of view, the sudden change was very timely. Had it been later then you’d be in a much tougher spot right now, so it’s great the timing worked out with this beast of a world-wide pandemic. As I was reading this, it struck me how you have at least TWO people who see you in a different light and who you’ve made such meaningful connections with; that’s really special to have. I’m glad you’ve got that.

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      2. Thanks so much! I think the big change was part happenstance and natural timing and part a result of the wretched pandemic itself propelling me into a place I never expected to be. I do feel so lucky to have R and I think he has been able to be more accessible to me via text and phone calls because he’s not been in quite such a central role as K and so he’s not had to worry I’ll message every day forever haha – ultimately I always wanted her over him 😅

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      3. Ah yeah, I can see how remote therapy would fall short of that! T and I don’t hug each other. In our couple of years therapy, we hugged once at his request when he read my blog about husband and issues we had on holiday, and once at mine, when we were in the middle of our biggest rupture ever, and that’s it. I can imagine for people who are used to hugging every session then this would be so much worse for them. I think for me, it’s the whole face to face package deal: the reading of the whole body, the ability to see the minutiae details in facial expressions that the camera misses, the real-tone voice. You can almost feel the vibrations of a person when they talk in the room, it’s hard to explain.
        I guess it’s just as well we don’t hug or it would be much harder in this pandemic!

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      4. Well R does acupuncture too so that would be pretty hard remotely haha. Yeah I’m with you on all the things from being in the room, I can’t do online at all. And I had thought there would be no hugs if I saw R so was reluctant to go and see him this year as it would be too weird, but we decided in advance there would be (hugging can’t be less safe than him putting needles in me can it, because when you hug you don’t breathe on someone anyway!). Holding wasn’t a part of K and I’s work (though I always felt so held emotionally by her that I never even noticed she wasn’t physically holding me, it often felt like she was) but we did hug quite a lot and a couple of times when I was really upset and dysregulated she held me, but R’s hugs are the best so it’s the one thing that makes him not second best to her 😂

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Haha of course, duh! It made me smile to see you say R’s hugs are the best, and in that respect he’s number 1(!) – wholesome hugs are so powerful aren’t they?!

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