Ending

I sent the email in my last post to K on Monday afternoon. I’ve not heard back from her. She doesn’t work Thursdays or Fridays so I won’t hear till Monday at the earliest now. I actually think, though, that she will package up the things I asked her to send back and post them later this week with a card ‘wishing me well’ and telling me she is not able to do the ending sessions I have asked for (i.e. a celebration of our work that does justice to the depth of the attachment and the profound nature of the work we did together). She might give a reason (‘wouldn’t be appropriate after all this time’ or some such rubbish), or she might not. Either way it will be the very end.

Every so often I think I made a mistake setting out what I needed from the ending sessions instead of just accepting her offer and hoping that when she saw me again she would allow herself to remember me and open to what we were. But honestly if that didn’t happen and the last time I ever saw her was cold and detached then it would break my heart. I would rather not see her again if she is not in a place where she feels able to be warm and open to me. So, if she can’t give me the ending I need, or something close to it at least, then I am better off continuing to let her go as I have been – away from her.

My GP yesterday, who I saw in absolute crisis, said K needs to give me a proper ending ASAP and that she has a duty of care to ensure I am supported to transition to someone new since she can’t work with me anymore. It was validating to hear this and that she understood how hard this is for me. I could email K and ask for this, remind her that we need an ending even though it has been over a year and ask for recommendations of other therapists to continue our work with, but what is the point of seeing her after all this time if it is under duress and she is defensive and unreachable? I honestly don’t want our last interaction to be like that, when I have so many memories of us being so close and feeling so safe with her, loved and cosy and warm. It is hard to hold on to those memories but I know when these awful waves have subsided and I am able to process this loss – again – that I will be able to find them. I’m scared if I saw her and it was ‘weird emailing K’ on the screen that who we were would be ripped away from me too.

We could have had such a lovely ending. It would have been deeply painful of course, not least because our work was really not done when the pandemic struck, but it would have been real and heartfelt and worthy of our time together. If she had contacted me earlier this year when she first realised she was staying online we could have met to discuss whether we could carry on working and then, if not, we could have had a proper ending of at least 6 sessions. We could have reflected on our time together, talked about all the lovely things we did together, remembered how deeply painful the first few years of therapy were for me and how much it hurt me to take in her care and warmth, and then packaged up the things we left on the shelf in therapy last August in a way that would enable me to take them to a new therapist, if and when I chose to do that. Instead I’ve ended up here and it is baffling because she always said how important good endings were for me, with the attachment wounding I have and the profound abandonment I experienced as an infant. Years ago she told me she is ethically obliged to give me 6 months notice if she were to retire or close her practice, but that she would give me a year because of the depth of the work we were doing. Even last year, before the ‘break’ she reassured me this definitely wasn’t an ending – ‘this isn’t how I do endings’ she said. And she said even if I’d come to her and said I wanted to end, she’d have made me do 6 sessions because of how long we had worked together.

I can’t really see why that has changed now and, if anything, a longer ending would be more appropriate, to enable us to reconnect first. I don’t see why it is relevant that it has been over a year since we met. She must know I was expecting to work with her again and so the way she has told me, incrementally over the past 7 months, that our work is over is so hard to comprehend. It feels like she has turned into a different person. I really do hope she gets it together to give me what I need, but I am kind of accepting now that she likely won’t, or can’t.

I’m in kind of an okay place about it all again for now, just immensely tired and dissociated, which is a relief because the previous 48 hours were pretty fucking horrendous. Mostly I feel very angry that she has kept me waiting all this time without being clear – her vague emails in both March and July have meant I’ve been left waiting and wondering what to do for 7 months now. I have been trying to come to a decision that wasn’t even mine to make in the end. That stings. Especially as I decided to take a leap of faith and go back, knowing that to lose her from my life forever would be far worse than going back and finding out things were different. I tried to really feel into what was right for me and I contacted her knowing that leaving our work in the past really wasn’t right for me. I was prepared to take the risk of not being able to work online again, and so needing to end, in case it was actually okay and meant I could continue to get her support and guidance in the way I need.

She should have contacted me as soon as she made the decision not to return to in-person work really, so that we could talk through what this would mean to me and so I could be supported to move on if needed. At the very least she should have thought this through in March, which is when I emailed to ask when she would be going back to in-person work and she broke the news that she wasn’t – in the coldest way possible. I asked her then if this was the end and if I was supposed to pack up 5 years together by myself or if she was still expecting me to come back at some point, and she agreed that my idea of possibly returning to online therapy in the autumn was a good one. She said to let her know my thoughts over the summer. I did this, told her I wanted to, and she again was vague. And so here I am 7 months later, yet again struggling to contain an emotional storm of abandonment annihilation and adult grief over the loss of someone I’ve not seen for over 13 months. It all seems so stupid. Why didn’t she tell me sooner, when a proper ending may have been more ‘appropriate’? Why did she not take the time to think it through back in March instead of being weird and incomprehensible?

Her email to me on Monday was again ridiculous and so poorly written. It was vague around having ‘no appointments for you at this time‘ and then said ‘My work is online and we had agreed that this was not a helpful approach for you’ which is very unfair since 7 months ago I’d said I would be fine to do this. There is such a huge difference between finding online work difficult at the start of a pandemic when all you want is things to return to normal, and online work once you’ve accepted that is all there is on offer and are intending to make the best of it. She then said she was moving into more of a supervisory role in her work and so her ‘sense is that it may be helpful for you consider other therapists’. Again, vague – should I move to someone else or not? Then she went in with the ending talk and the penny dropped. She said…

Although we haven’t met for over a year there is the question of an ending if you may find that helpful. I don’t think that a long ending would be appropriate after all this time but do let me know if you’d like to consider one or two sessions for closure.

I was so tempted to tell her to screw her ‘one or two sessions’ and to point out that, had she made this decision and communicated it clearly 7 months ago, then a proper ending may have been ‘more appropriate’. I didn’t though. Instead I spent 4 hours in basically a freeze state crafting the email I ended up sending – open and heartfelt, authentic, mature, non-blaming, clear about my needs. As I sobbed on the phone to R in my car on Monday night I read him the email and he thought it was brilliant and that if anything could ‘crack her open’ and bring her back to herself/us so she could respond with warmth and we could have a proper ending, it would be my email. Well, it hasn’t so far…

I feel so sad it is ending like this because it didn’t need to at all. I have behaved impeccably this past year, with maturity and insight and self-awareness. I’ve not contacted her in crisis or allowed young parts to message her or challenged her decisions. I’ve been understanding and accepting and not raged at her or been passive aggressive or anything. I’ve not done anything to make myself undeserving of a proper ending. She has no need to try and protect herself from me. R says to hold onto this – that my understanding of the situation is accurate. We were on a break – she made that very clear at the time and she had every intention of carrying our work on. I deserved an explanation when this changed. I am right to be angry and confused over what has transpired.

I’m sure there will be more outpourings of grief over the coming days and weeks, but for now the storm has subsided and I know how to keep moving forward again. I never in a million years would have taken a break if I’d known that it would prevent me from going back – being able to return was the only reason I was able to make the decision to pause things and I feel so betrayed that this has been taken away – but this is where I am and this is what is happening. Things change, of course they do, but to not even feel the need to discuss with me what I should do after such a huge change feels like a betrayal of the profound and depth work we did.

I hope K manages to find me inside herself in the next few days, but I expect she is just going to package up the things of mine she still has and let me go forever. What an unexpected situation to be on and what a tragic and unnecessary way to end all that beautiful work we did together.

The end.

Dear K,

Thank you for your email although I am obviously disappointed that you’ve made the decision to end our work without knowing what is going on for me and where I am in my life now. I’ve really grown into working online this past year and have built strong relationships with a coach and another practitioner in this way. I made the decision to ask to return to online therapy with you after much reflection and feeling into what was right for me because I was as sure as I could be that it would be beneficial for me. I had hoped to be able to build upon some aspects of our work, while leaving behind the things I’ve moved on from this past year. I’ve known since the winter that our work would never be how it was before the pandemic and have processed this, as far as possible, as well as grieving the loss of that time (even though it was so traumatic and painful so much of the time) and the closeness we once had (whilst reflecting upon how far I’ve come as well of course, and how I am able to see myself through my own eyes now instead of always needing a mirror to make me feel real).

Of course I had doubts and was scared I might return to therapy with you to find that what we had wasn’t there anymore, but I reassured myself that we would find each other again because our relationship was strong and special and had endured so much. I had hoped that once you saw me again and understood how far I’ve come this year that any residual doubts about working with me online again would dissipate (and if not, at least then we would be able to go through a proper and gentle ending phase, as would befit the intense and profound work we did together). I have been moving forwards and integrating the healing I’ve done but there are parts of our work I have deeply missed and there are certain – pretty big and long-term – things I wanted to be able to talk through and work on with you, because you would understand what was going on for me around them in a way no one else does. I had hoped we could transition into something more focused on my adult life, but built upon the foundations of what we had and your knowledge of me and my history. I can hold so much for myself now but there are still times when I need help to untangle an overwhelming mess so that I can understand what is going on for me and why. I have not had this experience with any other professional; when I take an overwhelming mess to someone else, I come home with an overwhelming mess. And so I miss your skills as a therapist, and your knowing of me and all the threads that make up the tangled messes I get into, very much sometimes. To know I am losing that forever now is quite hard, especially because I left thinking it would be my choice whether or not to come back and with your reassurances that we had always made times work before and so we would make them work again. I know things change, and the pandemic brought changes that I wasn’t expecting for a good few years, but I still thought it would be a very long time till you were never in my life at all.

You once knew everything there was to know about me, K. You knew every part of me and every part has told you their story in one way or another. You walked beside me in the present for five years and you also journeyed back in time with me, so that in my memory it sometimes feels as though you were there with us in the past too. You hold my story the way a mum should and the person I am becoming is built upon the foundation of all the good things you poured into me for five whole years. Our relationship will forever be among the most magical and beautiful and sacred relationships of my life, paving the way for all that is still to come. To be offered one or two sessions to close our work, if I want them, after being so sure we were not ending last summer and reassuring me that ‘this isn’t how I do endings’ suggests that the depth of our therapeutic relationship or the intensity of the journey we undertook together is no longer present in your heart or mind. It is as though you have forgotten that this is me, CB, a person who you valued and cared for and worked endlessly to steady and show that safety is possible, that safety is safe. You were deeply invested in our work, I remember, and I’m sure you felt sad that a source of such deep connection and growth was cut off for me in the way it was last year, especially because after all that struggle and darkness I’d finally reached a place where I could really be in relationship with you and soak it up – relational healing, healing all the parts of me.

I remember you saying how grateful you were to be doing this work with me, that it was a privilege to know me, and that you thought what we had was rare in the psychotherapy world. Your emails this year have left me feeling that you have forgotten me and our time together and how important our work once was. It is for this reason I am concerned that it would not just be deeply painful for me if we were to have some ending sessions, which is a necessary pain I know, but that it would take away from me what we had and turn it into something else. I don’t want to risk confirming what I have sensed in your emails this year and to carry that into the future with me instead of the you, the us, that I remember. If I am to lose you from my future I don’t want to lose you from my past as well, or to lose the certainty I have carried inside me this past year, even when I felt as though you had forgotten, that our relationship was real and sacred and mattered to us both. I need this so that our work can continue to take root in me and so if you don’t hold what we were inside of you anymore then I am scared it will be taken from me too.

If I am mistaken in this and it is just that something has gotten lost in translation (and I hope more than anything that I am wrong of course, and that you still remember and have a place in your heart for me, for all of us) then I would be pleased to meet and reflect on our work together in some ending sessions. I only feel able to do this if we can do it in a way that doesn’t underplay its significance though, so that it is present, centre-stage, acknowledged as a powerful source of alchemy and transformation, recognised as a deep loss regardless of any growth that has come since. I do not want to leave feeling ashamed for how hard I know I will find it to say goodbye to you for the last time, despite how ‘fine’ I’ve been for so much of this past year, or for you to tell me how far I’ve come without you – I’ve only come this far because of our work and I always assumed I would be able to share my growth and discoveries from this year with you one day, and that we would then take down the things we put on the therapy shelf last August and carry on our work. I knew it would be different of course, but I also thought it would still be the same in many ways because you and me would still be there, and this always was the essence of our work even though I found that so hard to take in.

If you are open to embracing our work fully in the ending sessions then please let me know and, if so, I would like 3 sessions please, or at least the option of this many (which I don’t think is at all excessive, given the unusual circumstances – to be honest, when I have considered what would happen if you didn’t want to work with me again, I had in mind 6 ending sessions as the right amount to enable an element of re-connection before the very end). I can do pretty much any days and times for the next month or so (although earlier in the day so that I have time to process and centre before Nina arrives home from school would be preferable).

Either way, please could you post little yellow [soft toy], my copy of [book], the parts triangles we made together, and any other papers of mine that you have in your room (I think there are all the lists of funny times, cosy times, etc. and some posters and timelines as well). I have one of your books here so I will post that later this week. If you could find it in you to write something for Miffy when you post back our things then that would be much appreciated, but I understand you might not feel able to do this.

I look forward to hearing from you,

CB

What next?

I am at a pivotal moment. Or rather I am not, or don’t feel I am, but I need to propel myself into seeing this as a pivotal moment because I need to decide what I am doing about returning to therapy – again! – and if I am not going back, what I will do instead. It is now September 9th and last time K and I were in contact I said I would email this month so she could let me know of her next available space. I had said I would like to start sometime after 13th September. Do I want to do this?

I really don’t know. Well, I kind of do know. I don’t want to go back to therapy with K at the moment, for complex reasons I think, but I also don’t want this to be the end. I also don’t feel I can let it drift after this month without it being THE END and this being communicated to her. It has been 13 months since we paused our work now. Letting things linger in indecisivenes is not really that good for me I’m sure. I feel so torn and have just been avoiding thinking about it to be honest. Most of the time I am content to let it drift along as it is indefinitely really, as I’m in no hurry to return or bring things to a head, but every so often I become aware that I really do need to decide. And the longer it is the harder it will be to go back to online therapy I think, if that is what I decide to do.

Basically K’s response to me after I last wrote in July saying I wanted to return to online therapy in the autumn was that she couldn’t say yet if she would have space then so we should check back in at that time, but that if I was ‘in need of psychotherapy it might be a good idea to look around for people who work full time’ (yes, sigh, but I’m guessing she has to say this ethically, rather than just saying ‘oh yes, just wait for me even though it could be many months’). The thing is I am not in need of psychotherapy, but I want and need to return to therapy with her. It feels wrong to have cut off such a depth relationship and source of healing and connection so suddenly, without knowing that is what we were doing, and without a chance to reflect or even say a proper goodbye. That session last August is not how we would have ended 5 years of work and it still feels as though it is hanging – suspended, unfinished. So going back is in recogntion of what we had, rather than psychotherapy being something I specifically need right now above all other healing modalities. I’m sure she gets this really.

I have no idea what is the right thing for me to do. This is exactly the kind of decision K would have helped me feel into and work out what is right for me. Without her it is impossible to be honest and I get so lost in the unknowns and what ifs. I don’t need psychotherapy at this time I don’t think. What I think I would benefit from is a weekly space that is held for me where I can process and understand the things that happen in the week, be supported to make certain decisions, and make sense of my internal experiences based on who I am as a person and what I struggle with due to complex trauma. Hah! I know this is psychotherapy, but it is also not attachment therapy and it is not really what K and I were doing before, or only for part of the sessions. I am scared that I couldn’t do this kind of adult work with her without parts getting triggered and all the attachment stuff coming up again. And there are things I am scared to look at again that I know are spiralling in my psyche just out of reach, around my dad and also my brother. I know these will come up when I see her and I don’t know if I want them to, even though I do need to process and move forward around them both. I am scared of this relative and fragile peace I’ve found being disrupted, even though I can’t really say things are that great right now either.

I do know I am past the phase of intense attachment therapy though – I did this work and it was fucking agony and at times I didn’t think I would survive it. But I did and had K and I kept working as we were pre-pandemic then I think it we would have continued to transition into something close and intimate that could only have grown out of those years of struggle and desparate need for her, and the raw, intense trauma work. There was a new softness surrounding our work before lockdown and the trust and safety that was emerging was the most healing thing imaginable for me and the parts, all the more so because none of us, or K, ever thought we’d get to that place. If we had kept working I think the relational healing I was getting – at last – was something that would have benefited me for years to come. Being able to be in relationship with her, at last, wihout wanting to die or feeling I was dying was the sweetest thing on earth for me. Losing that still stings, when I let my thoughts wonder to the past, but mostly I am at peace with the reality that what transpired is my path and the pandemic, despite being so difficult globally and personally, has led me through another period of intense growth and healing to a place of self-knowing. It brought me to a place where I am able to see myself clearly for the first time in my life, without needing someone else to be my mirror, and without disappearing from my own view without someone there to show me who I am. I could never, ever wish to go back in time and for my path to be different, if it meant I might risk never being able to see myself through my own eyes as I can now.

I am scared to go back and find that all of what K and I had is gone and that it is impossible to get it back. It would be better to leave it intact exactly as it was than to risk it being watered down and becoming something else, washing away the past in the process. I can imagine the pain of seeing what we were evaporating into the air in each of our separate rooms, while we look at each other on the screen and forget there was ever anything else. In the room together everything we were and everything we had ever done filled the air around us. It was concentrated, potent, full of life and vibrancy. The memories were usually unspoken but ever present, echoes of the laughter, tears, anger, fear, frustration and love we had shared over the years, along with the surpising newness of the place we reached when suddenly I could take in therapy and what K was giving me without it slipping straight through or not being enough or triggering the pain of what I never had.

To let all that understanding and history dissolve and lose its force, it just feels like such a risk, even though I know the gains of reconnecting could be beautiful and healing too. There are times when I feel that just seeing K again, screen or not, is what we all need and will be amazing and holding and connecting in and of itself. I just don’t want to lose what we had inside myself because it gets replaced by whatever comes next. So a big part of me wants to leave K and I’s work as this beautiful, intense, fucking traumatic at times, contained 5 year period. To box it up and leave it over there, finished and finite. But then to never get to see her again or share memories of how things were and look at how far I’ve come, and to never share this past year with her and the growth and healing, to live my whole life and her not see any of it… I just don’t know.

I wonder if I need a new therapist instead. I know body work is important and is something I do and would like to do more of, but I actually feel I really benefit from the cerebral connection of talk therapy as well and that this has been especially healing for me (especially as K is a core process psychotherapist and so awarenes of the body and emotions and internal imagery and so on in each moment is a core component of the work). However, it would be very hard to have even therapy that supports me mostly on an adult level with someone new because K knows me and would understand implicitly how things were affecting me and why. It would take a long time to build that with someone else and I don’t really want to. And with R so much past still comes up, a past he knows a lot about already but new things still emerge, and I still switch and parts talk to him, and so I don’t think these things would just vanish with a new T. At least with K she knows them and they can just be there.

I do see R every week still and it is wonderful, but when I go with a big overwhelming tangle I come home with a big overwhelming tangle. Our work is best when I am in a period of growth, or when I just need holding because of an outpouring of grief or something. Talking to him doesn’t always help things feel clearer or more settled and less overwhelming. Everything comes out in a jumble and he hears me and reflects on what I’ve said and helps me make decisions or feel justified in my decisions, but it is not psychotherapy and it doesn’t always help me contain things or work through them in the way that would help me. He is not a trained therapist afterall, and sometimes that is really apparent and I miss that type of work. I miss the way K held the session, invited me to share my week so that we could work out what to prioritise and what else needing to be talked about, the way she broke down the time, held it in a magical way so that sometimes it seemed to stretch endlessly and leave us time for everything that needed to be shared. But R holds me and that settles my nervous system and stops me feeling so gross and untouchable, and he cares and knows so much. He is deeply invested in this work with me and being here with me for as long as he can, hopefully until he dies if that is what I want. Choosing K over him? Choosing him over K? I don’t know.

If I could go back to remote therapy with K without stopping seeing R each week then that is what I would do. And if going back to K meant a return to in-person therapy then I would choose seeing K over seeing R (or not seeing him very often at all). But I don’t think I can give up weekly sessions with him for K on a screen, which is what I would need to do. I am left with a seemingly impossible choice again.

I also really don’t feel I can cope with the inevitable destabilisation that will come from connecting with K again, despite knowing it will likely help in many ways as well. It has been a relief to be away from the triggering of my attachment wound or the way that looking at certain things in therapy stirs up other things. It’s almost like if I’m ok, and often thriving, without therapy – why would I go back and risk destabilising things? Only things are not totally okay I guess… There are struggles I long to take to K sometimes so she can help me find a better way forward. But she only works daytimes now, Mon and Wed 10-4pm. I would therefore have therapy partway through my working day, every week. I don’t know how this would be, given therapy’s tendency to disrupt things, or at least unsettle them. I don’t know if that is what I want either. I lose so many days as it is, due to ADHD or lack of sleep or being dysregulated by Nina or something else. I need as much stability and routine and structure as I can get. I am scared therapy will sweep in with a destructive force and unsettle everything again when I’m kind of ok. I’m also not really ok, and not sure how to reach that place without therapy with K and building on what we had to help me reach more of a place of safety and conncetion in my life and in myself. I know there are so many other ways to do this, but I am tired of trying new things and I long for familiarity.

It is certainly a dilemma. And alongside all this is that she could actually say no anyway, and that on reflection she doesn’t think online therapy would work for me after the last time. Whilst I feel different enough now that I think online therapy would be okay, I could be wrong on this. I guess I cannot predict what she will say, and so I need to at least work out what I want and need, which is SO BLOODY HARD when there are so many variables and unknowns and when there seem to be so many competing needs inside of me. My biggest fear is that I decide to go back, we start regular sessions again, it doesn’t work online, or is too disruptive and destabilising (perhaps because it’s online, perhaps because it triggers the attachment stuff again, perhaps both) and then we have to end on the screen. I think that would break my heart to be honest, to bring our work to an end due to circumstances outside of my/our control and to not even get to see her properly to say goodbye. This is partly why it is easier to leave things as they are now, but it is also not something I can ignore forever.

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