Leap of faith

This is the email I sent to K the day after our phone call at the start of October. I’ve not heard from her so I assume this means she’s open to a trial of online therapy with me, or at least hasn’t reflected and decided it’s not possible yet…

Dear K,

Thank you for the phone call yesterday, it was helpful to connect in-person and to be able to explain where I am and hear your thoughts. I didn’t feel triggered after speaking and the parts are not going mad, which I hope also helps you to see that things really are not how they used to be and that I would be able to engage with online work in a way I couldn’t last year.

I have shortened this email as much as I can but it feels so very important that everything I want to say is laid out at this time. All I am really asking is that you let me know, once you’ve had some time to reflect, whether you are open to trying online work again. I am happy to wait until you have a space, and I know we would need another discussion at that time to decide how to move forward so I’m not asking you to commit to anything at the moment. I just don’t want to email again in January (assuming you have no spaces before that – please let me know if you do) and find myself in the same position as last week.

After speaking I am even more sure that returning to online therapy is the right thing for me, or that we should at least trial this for a set number of sessions to see how it is. I understand your reluctance to keep me waiting till you have a space only to find out that working online again is a disaster. I am prepared to take this risk though, because it would mean we had tried and then had a proper ending if it didn’t work, and because I am confident that I am in a different enough place now for it to work. I strongly believe that it would be better for me to work online with you than to move to someone else at this point in my healing journey. If you decide that you really can’t work online with me again (and I hope so much that you are open to at least trying) then it would be good to hear from you as soon as possible after you reach this decision, so that we can make a plan together for how to end our work appropriately.

I agree with you that ideally depth psychotherapy requires therapist and client to be in the same room, but I maintain that the level of attunement and understanding I would get from you via online therapy would far surpass what I could get in the room from someone else (I am reliably informed that we spent 550 hours in the room together after all!). Even in our brief phone call, when we’d not spoken for over a year, I could feel you were so attuned and were listening deeply to what I was saying (‘listening with all your ears’) and for me this is a rare thing. I so often experience other people (friends and professionals) struggling to follow or engage with what I’m saying because it does not fit their frame of reference and yet something in you and something between us means you seem to always understand what is going on for me. Your skills and knowledge as a therapist and the areas you have chosen to specialise in, alongside our five-year history – which was not just ‘once a week for an hour’ therapy as you know, it was intense! – and the narrative we have woven together mean you have such in-depth knowledge and understanding of all of me. I trust you to understand things I tell you in a way I’ve never trusted anyone else and it also means I don’t have to go through a whole triggering backstory to explain something that is affecting me now – you hold it all already. I have found so many professionals and practitioners do not understand the complexity of the spectrum of things that affect me and say things that grate or trigger or belie a total lack of understanding about trauma and dissociation. There are also not masses of therapists I could work with anyway, so I don’t even know where I would go – I’ve looked on and off for well over a year now and not come across anyone willing or able to competently work with complex dissociative disorders and disorganised attachment.

I  truly believe that our story is not over – I think I would have let you go already if it was time for me to do that. As I said yesterday, this is not about me wanting to work with you forever but that I don’t want to lose you now, in a way that cuts short our journey and does not integrate the loss as a part of the natural process of our work. I remember your reassurances last summer when I was so scared that we were ending without either of us knowing that is what was happening. You said there would be fears about not being able to come back but that we had to trust that somewhere it would all be okay. I have held onto this trust and the deep knowing we all had at the time that this is not the end. In my view leaving things as they are – suspended and unfinished and with open boxes everywhere – and then letting our work drift and fade into nothing would be far more damaging to my psyche than for us to try and fail and need to end anyway. At least then we would know we had tried and would be able to draw in the threads of our work and reflect together in a way that honours our journey, before saying our final goodbyes.

I do understand your reticence to work online with me again because you’ve not yet witnessed the changes in me that would make this possible. For my system at that time, with the world crashing down around us and no idea what was going to happen, it was heartbreaking and terrifying to not be able to physically reach our safe space with you. As I hope you could tell, I had to do a lot of work around processing the end of our in-person work earlier this year – I knew I had to do this before I could even contemplate returning to online work. I want something different from therapy now because I am not how I was and in the past 18 months we’ve created so much safety inside ourselves and in our home and we are able to come back to that when we need to (it takes a while sometimes, but it is always there now). The certainty I have that it is right for me to continue working with you therefore comes from a very adult place and is a voice I am learning to trust.

Please know I would not put myself through something detrimental for my well-being; if it wasn’t working or wasn’t helping me then I wouldn’t cling on at all costs. We would both see what was happening and we could then have a proper ending while I considered what to do next. 

There are also big things ahead in my life that I always assumed I would have your support through (most especially deciding what to do around seeing Mum as she gets older/ill/near death, decisions around [my brother], things that are arising for me in terms of Nina and my dad that are not urgent but are lurking and in need of attention at some point, and the possibility of entering a new relationship one day (which I am in no hurry to do with a 14 year old at home, but will want one day I think). I think I always imagined if we were to end before I had confronted these things that we would at least have tied up some ends, put things away more neatly into their boxes, and then considered how I would best be supported with them in future. I would honestly find it devastating and detrimental to my healing to never be able to talk to you about these things again because they were such a huge part of our work and we talked of how important they would continue to be. I would want to really draw together all we uncovered together around the various themes in my life, so that it all made as much sense as possible and I knew what could be left in the past and what still needed work.

I’ve taken a leap of faith and been as open and honest as I can be with you in my last two emails and on the phone yesterday. I hope the basis on which I am asking for us to trial working online again is clear and that you can see it is not a misplaced wish on my part. As agreed, I will email again in 3 months but please do let me know if you have space before then to start a trial (if you are in agreement that we could do this, once you’ve had time to reflect on our conversation yesterday). I can do any time and day and this will not change as I’ve been through Occupational Health now and have a reasonable adjustment in place around appointments like this.

With warm wishes,

CB

In the room

I realise I never wrote about the phone call K and I had, six or seven weeks ago now. It was short but connected and reassuring and K was so attuned – I could feel how deeply she was listening and holding what I was saying, how much she cares still, the warmth she feels for me and that she holds it all just as I do. She was K again, not weird-emailing-K, and everything we were was still there between us, despite it being nearly 14 months since we had spoken. I won’t say too much about it now, but she let me say all I needed to about what I wanted and why, and I advocated for wanting us to agree to 6 trial sessions to see if we could work together online again. She explained her initial concerns and where she’s at with things (she said she thinks I really need therapy in the room with someone and she told me she’s actually moving into doing more supervision as she doesn’t think depth psychotherapy can really be done online, so I guess it is at least reassuring that she doesn’t think it’s okay, how she is working now) and said she could tell how far I’d come in the past year and that I was ‘less reactive’ (lol) and more mature. I could sense her reassessing as we spoke, so I’m beyond relieved she suggested a short phone call to find a way forward so that she could remember who I am and trust where I am now is not where I was before.

I know she was open to working with me again – or at least trialling online – when the call ended, and after speaking I felt more sure than ever that returning to work with her is right for me. As an example of how important our history is to me, because I have to tell a whole backstory and risk dissociating or getting triggered in order to get to a place where someone else can even vaguely understand what I’m telling them, I told her that I’d seen my brother for the first time in 4 years in the summer. She responded with ‘oh wow!’ in her K-like way and I was like ‘see! I say that and it is all there for you already, you know what it means and what it would have brought up for me, there’s no explanations needed. You already hold it all.’ She got it. I know she really got everything I was saying and that it landed deeply for her. It has been hard to hold onto the certainty I felt after we spoke, the knowing that it is still real and her feelings haven’t changed, because #dissociation, but I voicenoted R after we spoke and so he reminds me when I forget.

She did leave me in limbo again though. She basically said we are left with the logistical issue that she has no spaces currently and doesn’t know when that will change, so suggested we check-in again in a few months and that in the meantime we should both reflect deeply on whether it feels right to work together again. It will be the start of January that I contact her again, unless she has a space before then (unlikely, who ends therapy right before Christmas?!) but I really don’t know what will happen at that point. I find it impossible to hold onto the certainty I had after speaking that she has my best interests at heart and we are still connected and she is the same, so I can’t help but be scared that the same thing will happen again. She said on the phone that she doesn’t want to keep me in limbo, waiting for her to have a space, and then for us to start working online again and it be a disaster. I told her I would want to try though, and then have a proper ending if it doesn’t work. I actually sent a follow up email the next day because I really don’t want to get another horrible, cold, distant email from her again in January – I’ll post it here after I’ve posted this.

Anyway, life moves on and I have continued to move forward and think about what I want and need in my life. For a while I’ve been wanting to do some more journey sessions with a psychotherapist also trained in journey therapy that I worked with briefly after my friend Jess died, and then again over the summer before I started working with K. Basically inner journeying is the bridge between Shamanism and therapy and is a way of accessing our natural healing, wisdom and insight – it’s really powerful and enables the accessing of deep wisdom and unconscious processes and the retrieval of split off parts of the soul. It’s just amazing really. It was in those sessions that I first identified some of the parts that had split off due to trauma, though I didn’t have the language to understand it all then. I always planned to go back for more journey therapy sessions at some point, but then therapy with K began and was so much more intense and enduring than I ever could have anticipated and now here we are, more than 6 years since I started work with K. Long-term readers of my blog may remember that I also considered working with this therapist, L, after K dropped her ‘I’m taking 2019 as a sabbatical, we need to end our work’ bombshell, back in the summer of 2018. I had one session with her at that time where I basically sat sobbing and wailing because she wasn’t K. Fun times. How much has changed since then.

Somehow this time it seems to matter less that she’s not K. In fact it really hasn’t come up as a painful feeling or sense of lack at all. I feel adult and contained going to my sessions and there is something that is so deeply holding about being in the room with an actual therapist again, after all this time. It is so comforting and reassuring and so different from my time with R, because the conversation is gentler and more focused – it doesn’t leap all over the place with me spilling stuff and not getting consistent help to contain it. I mean, it’s therapy basically, which is not something R is trained in of course and even though I get so much from him I had missed therapy. A lot. It’s also really nice to reconnect with someone who I met before I had access to memories of abuse and neglect in my childhood and who saw how badly Jess’ death affected me and how it triggered all the unresolved trauma I didn’t even know was there. It feels like L has witnessed from afar this incredibly intense and difficult journey I’ve been on since we first met and has heard some of the drama over the past 18 months with my loss of in-person therapy and all the confusion and vagueness that has occurred. So to sit there as a responsible adult with a child who’s happy and doing well despite the struggles I’ve had while parenting and despite the fact that she is 14 (argh!!), with a stable life, a good job, a home of my own, and the insight and ability to explain so much about myself and my world. It really illuminates how far I’ve come. It’s a wonderful feeling.

I had emailed L last summer when I learnt K wasn’t planning to work in-person anytime soon and asked what her plans were and we emailed back and forth for a while with the possibility of doing some outside work but it ended up not feeling like the right time for me with the break from K and so on. I then emailed her again back in March after crisis number 376 over K not returning to work in her room and asked about working with her to process the grief around this abrupt ending. She said she would be returning to in-person work in the summer and would let me know so we could make a plan. She basically emailed me the week after K’s last email back in October (the one offering me ‘one or two ending sessions if I may find that helpful’) and said she had been delayed in returning to in-person work due to family events over the summer, but was now in a postion to offer two sessions per day in her room and would be pleased to work with me in-person if I hadn’t yet found a new therapeutic home. I replied saying her email had come at a serendipitious time for me and briefly explained what had transpired earlier in the week.

We arranged a series of sessions from 1st November to 6th December, with a journey session booked in as well. This was all before K and I spoke and the possibility of working together online was raised again, but it’s actually working really well as an interim thing. L and I did a 30 minute phone session before we first worked together in-person. In that we talked a bit about what her role would be for me and came up with the image of her as a bridge between my previous intense work with K and whatever comes next, whether that is returning to a different type of work with K, moving to work longer-term with someone else, or deciding not to have therapy at all for a while. I like the idea of her walking beside me as I cross the bridge from one place to another, guiding me and supporting me in my uncertainty over where I am going, yet holding me in my certainty that my path is unfolding as it needs to, as it is meant to, despite how painful it is at times.

It’s strange because I probably only did 8 or 9 sessions with L back in 2015, but I do feel comfortable with her and her room is familiar, so it is like catching up rather than starting anew. And even though I know she likely doesn’t remember much of what we talked about, and it was before most of my memories came back anyway, it still feels like she knows me and has a good sense of who I am as a person. Maybe knowing someone isn’t about knowing every detail of their life and thoughts, but about the imprint they leave you with and how you feel about them when they are not there. I also feel like I don’t need her to know everything in order to be able to talk about things now with her. She may not know everything that has happened to me, but she knows what it has left me with and how intensely painful the therapeutic journey has been for me at times. I remember years ago in an email her saying that she was very fond of me and would always be pleased to hear how I was getting on. So we have a history of sorts and I know enough about her as a person to know she is a good and safe person for me to work with as I draw together the threads of K and I’s work (and maybe even allow young parts to express some of their feelings over the sudden changes and loss and disempowerment that have occurred since March 2020).

L and I actually met while we were both doing a course on goddesses with an amazing female shaman/witch back in the winter of 2014. There was some deep sharing in that group so I got to know who she is at her core fairly well during that brief time. This was the winter that Jess died so I stopped attending the monthly workshops and L reached out and offered me a free journey session to support me with my loss. That journey remains one of the most profound experiences of my life and so when memories started coming back from my childhood and I realised I needed to reduce contact with Mum and stop Nina being alone with her, I contacted L and we worked regularly over the summer with a mixture of journey and talking sessions. It was powerful work but ultimately not enough and I realised I needed ‘proper’ psychotherapy with someone new so I found K and moved to work with her.

L is really so understanding about how hard it has been to lose my therapy with K so suddenly and before we had reached the stage where it was time to start planning for an ending. She understands how deep and transformational the therapeutic relationship is and that K has been like a mum to me in so many ways, holding my story and giving me the nurturing and guidance I needed so badly. She knows about needing to go slow and not jump into hard topics, and I trust that she won’t let me get flooded or dissociate too much. And I don’t feel I need to worry that she will disapprove over how long and how intensely K and I worked together for, or how far outside the traditional therapeutic frame she often ventured with me, like I might with some other therapists. I also love that she is vegan and is a deeply spiritual person as I know I would find it hard to work with someone who doesn’t embody those things in their life and work as a therapist.

So I feel like I have some holding and containment and support to tune into my highest self over the coming months, so I can move forward in a way that best supports my healing, whether or not that ends up being with K. We talked today about my ADHD diagnosis and she asked me to explain how the ADHD affects my life (everything! It affects every aspect of my life I said. And how I wish I had this knowledge before, but how grateful I am to be where I am now with it). I said how helpful I am finding it to learn about my ADHD brain and how forward-facing it feels, to be learning how I am and how to live with my brain deficits so they affect me less, and how it is leading me to re-evaluate so many things I thought I knew about myself and the world. And we talked about Nina and our house move and I when I started to stray too far into talking about the estrangement from Mum as context for why we needed to move she guided me back to where I was headed, so I didn’t get triggered or dissociate. And she said about working together, her and I, to really anchor all my work with K and the nourishment and internal sense of safety I have received from her. I told her how I still draw on K’s voice and tune into what she would have said, her pride and belief in me, and that her voice has replaced the voice of my mum inside my head now.

L thinks seeing her is a really good chance to formalise and anchor the work I’ve done with K, so that whatever happens it is internalised in me and I won’t lose it. I do feel deeply that K and I’s story isn’t over, but I am left wondering if learning to hold our work and all it’s given me, and letting it take root and blossom in me for myself, is the reason it’s not over rather than it being because we will work together again. I no longer know if the deep knowing I have that K and I are not over is because we will work together again one day, or if it means that our story will never truly be over because it will always live in me and I will build on it forever, no matter what. I don’t know what I want but I know that I need to do whatever is best for me, even if attachment trauma has other ideas.

I feel as though I’ve really connected with my inner wisdom and higher self in our session today and there is just something about being in the room with someone else who is deeply listening and attending to your process that is so nourishing and soothing. It is 22nd November and I am astounded that December and Christmas just aren’t on my radar. I don’t feel lost in the depths of winter and the time of year hasn’t yet entered my psyche. This is so liberating and empowering, so different from how it was because of my mum’s obsessions over Christmas and how difficult it was every year. Even if it hits soo n, which it is bound to, it is a relief that it will be much more time-limited than in previous years because it has started so much later.

It is the anniversary of Jess dying on December 10th which is actually really soon. It was so much easier last year than in previous years and I hope that is the same this year, though I’m aware there wasn’t really anywhere to take any feelings about it last year because I’d not yet reconnected with R. L said today that the way I am now means I’m much more able to process feelings as they come along – acknowledge them, and allow in enough so that I can feel it but not so much that I get really overwhelmed – titration – and so this will make it easier. I had been wondering recently whether my sense that I don’t dissociate big things as much and then suddenly get hit with a flood of huge feelings and flashbacks was real, so it is really reassuring that L had seen that in me so soon after we had started working together again. The progress I made with K really is real and profound and enduring. It is nice to be assured of that. K used to talk about her hopes for me to be able to ‘live more fully’ through our work together. I still don’t feel fully alive but I don’t feel dead inside all the time anymore and I wasn’t sure it was even possible to reach that place. It is incredible how far I’ve come and I feel so fucking lucky to have had so many wonderful people guiding me over the years, on this journey back home to myself.

Everything and nothing

Dear R,

It feels so unnecessary to be missing you when I saw you 5 days ago and it is only 9 days until I see you again, but I miss you in a way that I usually don’t because I’m scared that really you’ve gone away and won’t be back, that things will never be the same again. I am scared this change will take you away from me forever and you only tell me you are not going away because you don’t know you’ve already gone. Things change all the time and so often something is already lost before we are even aware that a shift has begun. Things that we thought were permanent show themselves to be as transient as the colours of autumn leaves, and temporary changes etch themselves into the fabric of our lives until they become simply the way things are, erasing all that came before. This is a change I cannot put into words because nothing tangible is different from how it was last week, but it feels as though everything is upside down and torn apart and that you will never again be there in the way you have been.

I love you for letting me know how you are so we don’t worry, for reassuring me you are still here and not going away, for fitting me back in for the session I had cancelled next week so I don’t have to manage three whole weeks without a hug when I thought it would be only two. And I am angry with you for catching Covid, for not being careful and getting too close, for being vulnerable to something I thought you were too tough to succumb to. I am angry with you for being sick and in pain and just not here. I need you to be steady and stable and always the same. I need you to be invincible, infallible, indestructible, unbreakable. You have shown yourself not to be these things and I am scared because I know that one day you will not be here and that when real sickness and destruction come knocking on your door you will batten down the hatches and take cover with only those you are supposed to love. At this time I will cease to exist for you and this knowledge breaks me.

I am scared I will get sick too and will have to inhabit a world stripped of your love and warmth for even longer because I am unable to hold onto you like I usually can. Your absence has been thick in the air around me the past few days. I cannot escape it. I am losing myself through the spell my mind has cast over us; obliviate. You will go away and forget you ever knew me and even though I will forget you too, the forgetting will hurt me because I will have another empty space where you used to be. When you go away you will not notice you’ve left me behind.

You reassured me again recently that I’ve got you for the duration, always, that you don’t want to ever go away. I don’t know what always means though or where it exists. You say there is no separation, no distance between us, because we are connected on a heart level, our roots intertwined, and time and space don’t exist in this place. But I feel this separation between us today and I don’t want to be connected to you only inside of myself, or in some ethereal realm I cannot see or touch. I want to know that you will always make time to sit next to me and listen to who I am. Always isn’t enough if I cannot ever be with you.

I am scared you won’t get better and that when you return to work you will need to keep me more tightly in my box so that I don’t overspill and drain all your energy through the effort it takes to contain me. K sometimes said we made her tired. My mum said I was going to kill her with my needs. I am scared I wore you out and made you ill too. I am scared you haven’t yet realised this is my fault but then when you do you will tell me I have to go away. Today I wanted to message and tell you I can’t see you anymore because it hurts too much being connected to you. I want to go away before you tell me you are leaving me behind, but I am not strong enough to cut myself away from you and so I sit and wait for you to break it to me that I was only ever living on borrowed time.

I don’t know what has changed but for me it feels like everything is different. You will think everything is the same and that you are just ill, that you’ll be back next week, and all will be well between us. For me it is a painful reminder of who I am to you though. And who I am is an irrelevance. I am nothing to you. Just a client, a patient, an outcast, an untouchable. An outsider who snuck in and claimed a place inside your heart but who you now need to evict so that your warmth can be poured only on those whose stone-cold existence won’t extinguish your light.

It is you who is in isolation and yet it is me who is all alone. Time stands still and the 9 days until I see you are endless. The hours are not passing slowly, they are not passing at all. It is always the present moment, past and future no longer exist. Stuck in a perpetual present I tell myself this is trauma taking away my ability to sense the passing of time, but my words provide little comfort and I am scared that I get so lost still and that being away from you when I wasn’t expecting to be is so agonising. It makes me scared for the future and leaves me wondering if I’ll ever be free of this attachment curse. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, the pain of being attached to someone who is not mine in the way my mother should have been circles above me, a constant, looming threat. Your words and your arms around me soothe the ache but they are never enough to break this curse. Attachment and pain are wired together at the centre of my being and I am unable to tolerate the human connection I need to untangle it all and start again.

Unexpected

Dear CB,

I hope you are well. I wonder if it would be helpful to speak briefly to find a way forward. I could do that at 3 today or 11 tomorrow.

Let me know if you would like to do that.

Warm wishes,

K.

So this was an unexpected text to receive this morning. I had just got back from my morning bike ride, committed to not checking my emails until I’d showered and meditated as I knew hearing from K could set my day off course again, and her text was there when I looked at my phone. We are going to speak at 11 tomorrow. I don’t know if it will be to discuss how to end our work appropriately, or if it will to consider whether we could try working online again for a few sessions and then end if it doesn’t work, but either way it is better than the alternatives.

I am trying not to be hopeful but I really don’t want to end our work and I can’t help but hope that maybe she is open to at least trying to work online again. If not, I hope she has been able to at least take in how damaging it would be for our work to end in this way given the depths we went to together, and all the open boxes left on the therapy shelf, and that we would need more than one or two sessions to close things appropriately.

Who knows what she is thinking though? This year she has behaved in some pretty surprising ways!

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.

Returning to therapy in the autumn (I hope)

I decided I need to go back to online therapy with K in the autumn, for all sorts of reasons and also only one; it would be beyond damaging for all different parts of me to not go back and to have left things hanging on a break as we did. It will be different and weird and perhaps unsatisfactory in some ways, but it will be K and me and we will find each other again. She holds my story, she knows me better than anyone else in the world, and she is probably the only person whose perspective on attachment trauma and narcissistic parenting and chronic pain and a million over things chimes so closely with my own. I feel as though she really understands my past and my present because she has lived my experiences with me, both in real time and also the past we shared with her and built a narrative around together. I find talking to anyone else, even R, grating at times and triggering at others, because I get so easily invalidated by people seeming to imply that ‘everyone is a mess’ and ‘everyone has trauma’ (even though this is not what R means to do at all). So I just want to sink back into the ease I had with K at the end, an ease that was bloody hard won after years of triggering and crises, and that I never got to reap the benefits of before the pandemic set in.

I am not sure how it will work on screen and with 50 minute sessions but I am committed to trying and to taking what I can from it while accepting what it is not (and also what I do not need therapy to be anymore). As my post on letting go explained, I am in the process of leaving the first phase of our work in the past and moving forward without her in the place beside me that she once had. I still want her in my life in some way again though, and I know that her input and guidance and support will be very valuable for me over the autumn and winter and maybe even beyond. I miss her and the perspective she brought to things. I miss her way of always putting my wellbeing centremost and her unwavering support and belief in me. I miss sharing progress and good news with her. It is not a crazy, intense missing, but when I think of her I think of how nice it will be too see her, even on a screen. And the thought of never seeing her again is really too much for young parts to cope with when things were left with such certainty and clarity that this was just a break, not an ending.

I am also painfully aware that if I really can’t manage therapy via a screen, and all kinds of dissociated hell breaks lose, that we will need to work towards an ending, which would be heartbreaking to do online I think, but also necessary if it just wasn’t working. I am hoping I’m in enough of a different place that it won’t come to this, but with parts and attachment trauma there is never any guarantee of this!

I just hope she doesn’t say no. I have decided to send the email below later this week and not go into any detail on why I think it will work online and what I need and so on. I just hope she trusts me still and knows I’ve not made this decision lightly. I hope she trusts that I am intending to re-enter online therapy and make it work, even if it is still painful at times. I can see she might be worried that it will be a mess again, so I guess I am prepared for her saying no. At least I will know then.

Dear K,

I hope you are well. I am emailing as discussed to confirm that I definitely wish to return to psychotherapy in the autumn. I would like to start back soon after 13th September. I understand you can’t hold a space open for me if one comes available before then but I still thought it would help for you to have a date in mind from my end.

I could write an essay about all the reasons why I want and need to do this but I am trusting that you know me well enough to understand that I’ve thought this through properly and that it is the right thing for me to do. If you want me to explain in more detail I’m happy to though, just let me know.

It is likely I will be working from home every Monday and most Tuesdays next term and so could do therapy one of those days (my SL was postponed until next January, so I will be working at home every day from mid-December as well). Wednesdays would be trickier but not completely out of the question. I know you don’t work Thursday and Fridays anymore.

I look forward to hearing from you with what you think is the best way forward.

With warm wishes,

CB

And then will come the painful time when I have to give up weekly hugs with R to see K on a screen, but I am trying not to let my mind go there yet…

The light floods in

This is my first day on stimulant medication for my ADHD. I wasn’t sure if I’d notice anything today as it is a v low dose to start with. Then as I was driving back from dropping N at school I felt it kick in and just… wow! I’d been feeling stressed and agitated because school emailed late last night to say there was a positive LFT in her year group and they needed to stay off till the student had got a PCR test done. Then they emailed at 8.10 to say it was a computer error (more like a parent ticked the wrong box when logging the test result late last night!!) and they could go in after all. By this time N’s bus had left so I had to drive her to school and she took ages to get ready so I had been snapping at her and feeling flustered about the day ahead, and then…

Then the fog lifted. I could see. I could see the world, even though it was grey. Everything came to life and there was colour and it was 3D. I never have this kind of mental clarity but on grey days it is usually really, really foggy inside my head and I can’t see or think properly (because sunlight helps us produce norepinephrine, which along with dopamine is super deficient in ADHD brains, and so for me grey days have always meant fog and dysfunction and a total inability to focus or think or feel energised).

Suddenly everything inside went eerily quiet. I felt calm. I noticed I was having one thought at a time and I could finish that thought and then move to the next. In fact, I physically couldn’t start another thought until one was finished. I was calm inside, settled. In my house everything looked clear and my brain was calm and focused as I looked round and was able to take in one thing at a time. I typed a text to R to tell him and I was able to watch my fingers typing the words and finish each sentence before thinking what to write next. ‘Everything has slowed down’ I wrote to him. ‘I’ve never felt this calm and slow in my whole life’.

Midsummer’s Day. The day when light flooded my life.

I asked if I could phone R because I needed to share this moment with someone who gets it and has been beside me on this journey of waiting for meds since mid-April, but also the other huge journeys that make up my life so far. When we spoke I could listen to what R was saying. Actually listen to it. I could focus on it and take in what he was saying, picture it, pause, decide how to respond. My mind and body felt slow and calm, not restless or agitated or flooded with an urgency to do and say and think something else. I could imagine being with him next week and not having anything to say because there was nothing that needed saying (in which case we will just hug, he said). It feels impossible to dredge up concerns that don’t matter at this moment in time because they can’t be dealt with now anyway. Usually my brain floods with everything at once because ADHD brains lack a filter for incoming stimuli, including our own thoughts.

After the call I remembered I needed to phone DFS because N spilt smoothie on the sofa yesterday. Normally the thought of finding the paperwork and working out what to do would mean I avoided this for days and sometimes weeks or even forever (there is still a different stain on it I never got round to claiming for). I went straight upstairs, found the paperwork, went to the website and was able to read and follow the instructions. I could read each word at a time without jumping ahead or trying to absorb everything by osmosis. I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I worked out what to do and made a call. When the call handler put me on hold I was able to just sit there, calm and still. I didn’t feel the need to fidget or open a tab on my laptop or wander off somewhere. I felt calm and patient. I could then listen to what the man said and wait till he finished before speaking, or even thinking of what I would say.

I was able to make a plan for the day without getting overwhelmed or flooded by what needs doing and when I should do it. I think of something I need to do and then I just do it. For example, getting a glass of water (which I usually procrastinate for hours, even when I’m so thirsty I can’t think of anything else), using the toilet, writing something down. I saw something on the floor that shouldn’t be there and instead of walking past it I picked it up and put it where it needed to go.

I meditated and I was able to sit perfectly still easily. No restlessness in mind or body. No fidgeting. I could focus on each breath one at a time and it wasn’t like someone was scribbling snatches of words and images and urges to do things inside my head. I didn’t get bored or restless or need to keep checking how much longer was left. I’ve meditated practically every day for nearly 9 years and it has never felt like that. I’ve had calm and peace and even euphoria, but never stillness in my mind and body like that. I’ve never had just one thing in my mind at once and no restless energy in my body.

I am about to start work now as I’ve given myself some time to let this sink in and I need to shift my focus (I can tell it is going to require work to ensure I focus on the right things each day!). Already there is no frantic switching between tabs on the laptop and apps on my phone, seeking out stimulation to provide the dopamine my brain needs to function. Having one thought at a time means I can focus on what needs doing before moving to the next thing. I don’t feel agitated typing like I normally do because my fingers can’t keep up with the thoughts in my brain and I can’t finish a thought before moving to the next. I can type each word at a time and just let my brain provide one word at a time. My brain isn’t flooded or overwhelmed.

It’s no wonder I have felt overwhelmed all the time when my brain was flooded like that, with every thought, every possibility, every memory and every plan jostling for attention and with my brain constantly seeking stimulation because it couldn’t function without dopamine and so I was stimulation-seeking and ending up more overwhelmed. I wonder how it will affect my sensory overload and auditory processing issues…

I know this feeling of brightness and newness won’t last. I know the effects will die down or not feel as pronounced after a week or two. I don’t feel euphoric though, which often happens in the first couple of weeks of ADHD meds and leads to people feeling let down when their brain adjusts and feeling ‘normal’ becomes normal, I just feel blown away by how different this is. Clarity and calm and stillness. Is this really how so many non-ADHD people feel? No wonder they get so much done and function so well. And for me the main thing is that it means methylphenidates will work for me and I just have to hope I don’t get intolerable side effects. I know they might not last forever for me, but I can see how much healing this state of being, for N and I, is going to bring to our relationship and how much better able we will be to do all the other things we both need to manage our ADHD (and for me, I know I will be able to do the things to heal from attachment trauma more easily now). So even if they work for a few years then that is fine by me, although there are people who’ve been on extended release methylphenidate for nearly 2 decades and it still works fine so there is no guarantee it will stop working.

It won’t cure my ADHD. I will still be forgetful and have a lack of working memory and issues with distractability and getting started on what I actually need to do. I will still have executive dysfunction and will need to work hard at other strategies to make sure I prioritise and get started on things I need to do (instead of hyperfocusing on this blog post haha – it has been so easy to write this and really focus on it and not get distracted and go and do other stuff, but it is not what I should be doing right now!) but it feels as though these other strategies will actually be able to take effect now I’m on meds. I can imagine responding better to yoga and meditation and yoga nidra and other healing things now because I will be able to actually focus on them! And of course now my nervous system will be calmer I will have less stress chemicals constantly flooding my body, meaning my health will improve in this way too.

Wisdom is that meds for ADHD are the bottom line and enable all the other positive lifestyle changes and therapy and coaching and so on to really take effect. So I guess I’ve kind of done things the other way around and it will be interesting to see if these things begin to actually work more now I’m being treated. It also explains why after decades of healing in different ways I still felt the same a lot of the time – overwhelmed basically, and unable to do things or listen or focus and just feeling agitated and chronically irritable, and foggy and slow and lacking in energy (not attachment pain and emotional flashbacks as they are a lot better, but all the other things that make my life so hard).

I can’t wait to do yoga at lunchtime and see how it feels, or to read a book or watch TV and see if there is a difference. I can’t wait to be with my friends and to be able to listen to what they are saying without having to try really hard to pay attention, or constantly interrupting them or zoning out and having to ask them to repeat themselves multiple times. I can’t wait to see how it affects me over the next couple of weeks and then longer term. There are so many changes I’ve wanted to implement but the ADHD got in my way!

Edit: to add – I ate my lunch just eating. Still. Not looking at my phone or feeling bored or restless. Just eating. And then I did yoga. OMFG!! No wonder non-ADHD people find yoga so beneficial. I could stay still in each pose. It’s like when you throw a block of wood down and it beds in where it lands. My body was like that. I set the pose and it felt solid and then I could stay in it. Perfectly still. There was a constant crawling restlessness inside me before that I never knew was there till today. Even when my body was externally still (rare) there has been a restless energy rushing through me. I thought it was my mind that was agitated but it was my body too. Nothing inside me has ever been still and my body has never, ever felt like this before. And during yoga my mind was also still and empty. If a thought came, a single thought now, not hundreds at once, I gently nudged it away. I wasn’t bored or restless or anxious to move to the next pose. I didn’t have to try really hard to be in my body. I was in it the whole time, effortlessly. It’s not hard to see that yoga will have a more beneficial impact when it is done in this way!

I can’t wait to live and not feel overwhelmed emotionally and cognitively nearly all the time – for me this was the symptom I heard about that made me sit up and notice what ADHD is, and how it is not what we think it is (it is not an ‘attention-deficit’ at all) back at Christmas – ‘a constant state of overwhelm’ yep, that sounds like me! And then when I read about executive dysfunction that stops ADHD brains actually doing the things they not only need but want to do it all fell into place. I’ve lost so much of my life unable to do things even though I want to, feeling overwhelmed but also totally unable to do anything. Not being able to do things I want to do, even when I have the time and space, has been such a loss and I hope I might be about to be able to change this.

So anyway, here we are. I hope the positive effects last, even if they fade into the background a little over the next few weeks, and that this is the beginning of something huge and wonderful coming my way! I’ve read so many positive stories of ADHD meds being absolutely life-changing for so many people the last few months, enabling them to take charge of their life and stick to habits and meet goals, helping them be less impulsive and agitated and to feel more emotionally regulated and less foggy and lethargic. These stories have kept me going while I waited to start meds, and I can’t believe this day is finally here for me!

Time to let go…

So much change is taking place inside me and in my external world at the moment. Shifts that would be imperceptible to observers but for me, from my vantage point, are profound and life-changing and very, very welcome. I wonder about the future of this blog and whether I will keep it going, because even if I go back to therapy with K I won’t be doing attachment work with her anymore and that is the journey I set out to record here. I will see how it goes over the coming months. I just feel a strong pull to be living again, moving into the future, instead of picking over the past and my relationship with K, as I needed to do for so long. I am not sure where blogging fits into that or whether I even have things to say that people want to read anymore. Do people in depth psychotherapy even want to read about life after that intense work is done? I think for me it was triggering to think that there would come a time when I didn’t need K because of course I couldn’t imagine feeling differently than I did back then. There are still threads to draw together, and I like the cohesive narrative blogging enables me to weave, and so I feel that blogging is still an important part of my life. I guess I’ll just see what happens…

Being diagnosed with ADHD and learning about it has been utterly transformational for me. I’m finding so many missing puzzle pieces that are enabling me to make sense of my brain and life in a way I’ve never been able to before. It’s like all the pieces of me are inside a kaleidoscope and the patterns being made are now entirely different than they used to be – clearer and more vibrant – because every aspect of me is in there now. I can see myself in a way I’ve not been able to before. I am beginning to accept that my brain has deficits because of ADHD and to live my life in recognition of this. I am learning how to make life easier for myself as someone with an ADHD brain and it feels SO GOOD. I’ve also only just started on this path and so I am really excited by what is possible in the months and years to come, especially when I start medication in 6 weeks’ time, but also through coaching and learning and trying new things. (To clarify, ADHD is hell to live with most of the time, I totally reject the ‘neurodiversity’ movement and I don’t ascribe to the view that ADHD is a gift or a ‘difference’ – it is a disorder, a deficit, and it causes pain and suffering and addiction and leaves those with it dealing with some truly difficult, and usually misunderstood stuff, but I do know that for me there is freedom and growth in embracing it and using my knowledge and self-awareness to make real change in my life.

The other huge change is that I am starting to integrate the reality of experiencing chronic pain into my life and to actually tell people close to me about it. This is huge after years of basically not telling anyone I am in pain. My first dose of the Covid vaccine triggered an absolutely huge flare of pain and other physical symptoms. It has lasted 2 and a half weeks now and is only just beginning to ease (though I had two better days on holiday last week) and at times it was completely debilitating and left me nauseous and vomiting and unable to even lie still it hurt so much. If I was ever in any doubt about the state of my nervous system, and the chronic inflammation present in my system still, I am not now.

There is a lot I want to write about pain and ADHD so I’ve decided to split this post into three and write about these latter two aspects separately, because they are deserving of their own posts I think.

And so to K. What does all this change mean for the future of my work with her? Is she in my future? Right now life is expanding and I am enjoying that and I know whatever happens in September I don’t want to go back to how things were. Even if we could work in-person again, for 2 hours each week, I wouldn’t want to go back to how we were working in March last year. I am not the same person and I want to keep moving forward because I am enjoying this part of my journey so much.

Generally I rarely think of K these days, but she was in my mind last week as we were on holiday in the same place as we were when I first spoke to her on the phone about starting therapy. It is such a special place for me, a place where Nina and I have returned many times, a place I spent lots of time with my dad as a child and teen and young adult. It is the place where I have found so many pieces of myself over the last 9 years and where I learnt so much about the simplicity and beauty of life that brings me joy and peace. And it is a place I later found out K used to live and that is special to her too. It is a place that had so much meaning in our work. And while I was there I felt sad because that work is in the past now. I had a really strong sense of wanting to go back in time to August nearly 6 years ago when I was just about to meet her and to be able to start working with her again, knowing I had 5 years and 550 hours in the room with her ahead of me. It is over though. That part of our work is in the past. Whatever comes next it will be different and not how it was at all.

During my treatment today R said he could sense I was ready for something. I knew what it was as soon as he said that because it was on my mind and it came up last week in kinesiology too. It is time to let K go. It is time to move forward in my life without her. What the shape of this will be I don’t yet know, and whether it will mean the end of my time with her or the start of something else remains to be seen, but I know that it is time and I am ready. Last week when we were away, and when we returned home to our lovely, calm house that I have worked so hard in so many ways to bring into reality for us, I had such a deep sense of being an adult now, living an adult life, and finding joy in ways that are authentic for me. There are struggles and Nina is incredibly difficult to parent at times as a teenage girl who also has ADHD, but there is so much growth and change and moving forward for both of us at the moment. I am giving her tools and a language to understand herself as I learn more about myself and my ADHD brain, and, as they are for me, I imagine her ‘limitations’ will become less limiting as she embraces them and integrates them into who she is. It was a wonderful feeling, to be so fully grounded in my own life, and even as the intense pain has flared again this week, I’ve been able to hold on to this feeling.

K and I won’t work how we used to ever again. We won’t do parts work again. We won’t delve into my past together. We won’t do craft or read stories or watch films. I don’t need to do these things anymore. If we work again it will be to help me manage my life as it is now, and any obstacles that come up over the months and years ahead. My path for the next couple of months is to let go of what we once had together. First I need to hold it gently. Bundle it up and keep it close to me. Take in how special and all-consuming it once was. And then I need to let it go.

And from there my path is open. My kinesiology session last week brought up things around K and how I must do what I need instead of what I want when it comes to making a decision over whether to return. I want her but I don’t need her and I don’t know if I can get what I need in my life now from her come autumn anyway. Psychotherapy is so disruptive. It’s hard work. It stirs things up and brings them to the surface. It churns things up and then we work through them and eventually things get better, but it rarely makes things better in the moment. I don’t know if I want to go back to that or if I need to. It put my life on hold. I am ready to live now. I think the test if I go back will be if I can take anything from it without losing my ability to live. I don’t want it to consume me. I want it to support me in being me and moving forward and learning to live with ADHD and the remnants of my childhood. I wonder if another medium is the best way to make the changes I need now, as they feel so practical and ‘of the world’ and different from the work I used to do with K.

I’m scared in going back I’ll either lose me or I’ll lose what K and I had. And while I know I need to let go of what we had for all those years, perhaps to then be confronted each week with how different things are will be too much and will bring a pain that is unnecessary. I don’t want everything to turn to shit again when therapy’s place in my life has shifted. I want – need – any healing work I do now to enhance my life because the time when I needed it just to make it possible to live at all is past.

I wanted to transition into something softer with K, when the time to end our depth work came, but that softness may not ever be possible when we cannot be in the room or in nature together again. And I’m just not sure I want to go digging again. I’m not sure what psychotherapy even is without that though. What is psychotherapy if not digging and uncovering and making meaning? Part of me wants the K who knows me back, the K who empathises with my struggles and takes pride in my progress and career and all the changes I am making. Part of me can’t wait to share all I’ve done and learnt and the ways I’ve changed in the past year with her, but part of me knows that is old me needing her to know everything. New me likes to keep things a little closer and to have aspects of herself that are not shared with others and dissected and made to make sense.

My favourite part of the week always used to be telling K about it.

I am not that person anymore. I want to be living my life instead of simply observing it.

What K and I had was incredibly strong and special. It won’t be like that again. Part of me thinks it is better to leave it as it was when we started the break in August – intact, bundled up, a discrete and special period of my life. Going back and it being lacking in some way could hurt so much more than letting it peacefully recede into the past. I’m scared going back and not having the depth we once had will take away the past, stop it feeling real. I don’t want that. I want to keep our past intact somehow.

I am sad we missed out the final stages of our depth work. I am sad that I couldn’t spend more time enjoying being close to her before the pandemic hit. I am sad we couldn’t integrate our work together, but as my kinesiologist said last week – the pandemic is your path, not being able to see K is your path, it is all your path. And it is. I trust my path. I trust the universe to bring me the healing I need and want, even if that means not working with K again. I suspect those of us in long-term therapy doing depth attachment work will never feel it is done or that we are ready to end, because our attachment wounding doesn’t just disappear even when the depth work of psychotherapy is done. We have a lifetime of healing ahead, but not all of it needs to be done, even can be done, in the context of that unique and strange relationship. I know I will always struggle with attachment and I am under no illusion that the difficult excruciating disorganised attachment feelings will rear their ugly heads from time-to-time in my relationships and that I will experience abandonment flashbacks and confusion and untameable feelings.

I have come so far though and I don’t want to go backwards. So instead I sit and wait and watch to see which path emerges over the next few months and if there is a way of working with K that carries me forward without breaking my heart at the same time. Either way, it is time to let go and I am ready for that.