The story of us

I didn’t sleep much at all despite meds, and woke up at 5.30 with such intense emotional pain it was hard to lie still but felt equally impossible to get up and do anything. I managed to get up and meditate and shower and get dressed a couple of hours later though, and have arranged for a friend to come over after work to go for a walk. I think she’d feel safe to give me a hug and I know she’s being careful so I would feel safe to have one with her too. I really need that so much – when you have children you give a lot of hugs, but it is a million miles away from getting a hug yourself!

I spoke to my sister and another close friend last night and also to people on here and on WhatsApp. And I have thought a lot too, turning stuff over and over in my mind. I have decided I really do want to try and make therapy work this way, if I possibly can. I think I am in shock that K likely won’t be working in-person again this year as I had really assumed we would at least be in-person over the summer, even if measures had to be re-introduced in the winter. I think (hope) this shock will settle and then I need to see if I can do this work remotely, take in what she is giving me, see if I can take it in at all on a weekly basis or if it is just too hard and painful for me. I am giving myself a month to try and do this and if not I will need to take a break because how things have been are unsustainable.

K and I did a half hour phone session this morning and I managed to share what I needed to and where I’d reached for now in terms of whether to continue working or take a break. I told her I felt if I moved to work with someone else in-person I would just spend the whole time grieving her, which I don’t feel I need to do because I do strongly believe we will work in-person again one day (plus there’s no guarantee that this person would be able to continue to work face-to-face, if we go back into lockdown or there are local outbreaks, plus there wouldn’t be a huge number to choose from because not everyone will be resuming face-to-face (a psychotherapist K knows has said he won’t be working in-person until there is a vaccine, which K agrees is very extreme!)) and not many can work at this depth level and with parts and dissociation in the first place). I said that in many ways knowing a likely timescale helps, because I have been exhausted from scanning the news for information that might determine when we will meet again and waiting for her to tell me. And I said that I don’t think our in-person work is over, I really truly don’t, that I had felt we had as long as I needed to work together now (pre-pandemic) so we didn’t need to rush and I do want to get through this time so we can continue that. I said how it may not seem that way to her all the time, because I’ve still had struggles and some times when I can’t connect or remember her, but for me since around February last year therapy has felt completely different and has not been the torturous process it used to be. It is deeply sad to be back in that place, but I can see myself coming out of things quicker now and I’m able to be open with K about my feelings for her in a way I never could before, I think in large part because I know I’m like this because of attachment wounding and abuse, and not because of her.

And I said I’d been thinking about what someone on my blog wrote last night, about how maybe K and I could really deepen into the work around why not being able to be physically close to her hurts so much, but that it was hard to do that with Nina home all the time and the whole world crashing down around us all. She agreed though, that is where the work is, and that in many ways the pandemic was forcing us to go to a place that we wouldn’t otherwise have gone. So we will do some of that work, but not every week because it would be too much. In many ways we can’t not go there, if we continue working, and I said I need to be able to tell her how much it hurts to be away from her and that there is a lot I need to grieve too, in terms of what I’ve lost from being with her every week, and the Spring and Summer with her, and the time to transition in and out of session, and the holding I got from being close to her. I need to grieve that, even if we are both holding hope that this time apart is temporary. And I need to be able to take in what we have now because if I lose my job, or our pay is cut by more than 10%, I won’t be able to see her at all, so I can’t spend the next 6-9 months (or more) paying to either be triggered or get nothing at all from my sessions.

I said how much I appreciated her telling me about her son, because I wouldn’t have been able to reach a place where I understood where she is coming from if she hadn’t. I said I still feel angry with the UKCP for not issuing proper guidance and accepting they are semi-front line at this time and it was a very privileged position to be in to say they wouldn’t return until it is ‘safe’, but that I could hold that separately from her decision now because I understood. And she did say that most private psychotherapists are just not working with this level of need and so have no sense of what they are doing as being essential at a time like this.

It honestly is absolute agony to be away from her and to know it is many, many months till that will change. I still don’t know if I can do this work remotely, if it will be possible or if I’m just going to keep cycling through endless triggers and attachment pain that make it hard to function at a time when life is throwing up so much and I am not able to be with most other people in my life either. So I guess I just have to see how it goes for the next few weeks. I just hate how fucking broken and wounded I am, because it is obvious just how deep all this goes. What the hell happened to me that I am like this? And it hurts because I thought I was past this stage and now I am finding the time between contact with her complete agony again, and I a dreading the end of June when we won’t have the Friday email to sustain me either.

She has also just given me notice of a pretty massive fee increase from 1st September. She has always given me a concessionary rate that has enabled me to do more than an hour a week, but since she moved further away last year I’ve been doing a double session for £77 when her normal hourly rate is £60. She has lost masses of work due to the pandemic and can no longer offer long term work at such a heavily discounted rate, so it will be £50 per hour for me from September, which is basically an extra £23 a week if I continue with 2 hours a week, which is £100-£125 extra month. At a time of likely pay cuts where I work, and the uncertainty of my job in the medium and longer term, this has come as quite a blow despite clearly knowing where she is coming from and appreciating that she is giving me a reduction still. So even if I do carry on, I will need to decide over the summer if I can afford £100 a week on therapy, or if I need to reduce to fortnightly sessions or 90 minutes per week. I love the safety of double sessions, but if we are not working in-person it makes less difference I guess. It is very hard to justify spending so much money on therapy sometimes, especially at the moment when we are heading into the worst recession for over 300 years, but I just have to try and remember I’ve come so far and hopefully there is still some healing ahead of me despite the horrific pain of being separated from K due to the fucking pandemic, and that it is good use of money while I have it. The thought of having less therapy at a time when I need K every minute because my attachment system is so activated feels horrific and unbearable, but hopefully if that settles I will be able to make an adult decision over what to do.

 

 

 

Sad Beautiful Tragic

This time of year is precious to me. Spring marks the end of ‘the busy time’ at work and there is usually more space and a reprieve from just ‘getting through each week’ for around 5 or 6 months. I tend to not need to work evenings and weekends and my energy picks up and my health improves when it’s lighter and sunnier. And because work is less demanding I have more capacity for seeing people and going places. It is strange this year (for everyone obviously, not just for me) because I have a combination of this familiar spaciousness alongside serious limitations and restrictions, but actually so much of what I love to do at this time of year is possible now (bike rides, walks, the sea, yoga in the garden, sitting and watching the bunnies) and I actually have even more time to do it, without driving Nina around to swimming training and competitions all the time. I am also used to working mostly at home from the end of March until mid-September anyway, so it doesn’t feel that different really although I do miss seeing my colleagues on the odd days I am in over the summer, and I miss my lovely office where I could work in peace and quiet (and wasn’t disturbed by a thirteen year old demanding help or having a meltdown about having nothing to wear, sigh, as if it even matters when we are in lockdown and she isn’t seeing anyone anyway!).

So in many ways things aren’t that different from normal for me whilst it is nice weather and we can meet people outside, other than not being able to go camping or see my friends who live further away. And in many ways life is easier and my shredded nervous system is starting to settle away from the forced social interaction and general rushing around doing too much that my life seems to have entailed since Nina was 3 and I started my PhD. So, aside from the general fear, sadness and anxiety over the future and all the suffering in the world presently, which I must and do manage to switch off from, what exactly is missing from my life right now? The obvious answer is therapy, but I am still having therapy, K is still here for me, and we still have contact every week day at the moment, and until the end of June at least. So what is the problem and how do I get past it, so that I can stop feeling like my life is on hold in some way, when in fact in many ways it is moving forward and I am growing hugely during this time?

I was saying to K in our half hour session on Wednesday how much I have missed watching the Spring with her this year, especially as her new home is in such a beautiful area. Her move back in September disturbed me a lot, I was attached to her old house and scared that she was moving so much further away, and then it was a slog driving the 70 mile round trip for therapy each week in the cold and wind and rain over the winter months. She kept saying how much I would appreciate it there when Spring came, that I would see the magic of the place and how special it is. We had plans for things we would do and places we would go when the weather improved. As well as being an easier time of year for me work wise, it’s always been a really special time of year in our work, when things are more spacious and we spend more time outdoors and I need less support with daily life so our work has a different pace and energy. And it is exciting for young parts because they get more time because there is less adult-life fire fighting, and lots of the things we do are healing for them, things that K might have done with us if she’d come and rescued us when we were little in a little body.

Losing this time with her is painful. I actually think I’d be finding it easier to do remote therapy over the winter – which may well happen if our bloody government don’t get testing and tracing sorted – because that is a time I am usually wishing away anyway so another reason to hang in there and wish the time away wouldn’t be a problem. I don’t want to be wishing this time away and then find it is autumn and then winter again and I’ve lost this time and life is hard and I haven’t settled enough over the summer to sustain me through those hard, dark months. I don’t think I am losing it entirely but without the rhythm of my weekly drive to K’s and my two hours with her I feel very untethered at the moment, suspended and floating outside time and space, with nothing to ground me into my weeks. My thoughts are too frequently on K and the future, and I am constantly having to bring myself back to my own life, my body, my experiences, the present moment, and remind myself I am here and I am okay right now.

When I was parking the car earlier after dropping Nina at a friend’s garden (lol) I realised how much I miss driving to K’s and parking outside, feeling that sense of relief to have made it there and to have an undisturbed time with her where I can unpack and unpick my week and settle into the undivided attention she gives me for two hours in my week. My time with her is sacred and of course extends beyond what we talk about in the room – so much healing takes place even when we are sitting in silence together. I also said on Wednesday when we spoke how the journey to her old house, once, twice and sometimes three times a week, for 4 years was a huge part of my week – where she lived before was also beautiful, in a different way, and the drive punctuated my week at the same time as I witnessed the seasons change month-by-month. Nature has always been such an important part of my life and sharing this with K is one of the reasons we all love her so much. It was always lovely to arrive or have her tell me via email about a new arrival or new growth or a special bird she had seen from the window. And every time I got to the lane near her old house I would feel safe, knowing that however terrible I was feeling soon I wouldn’t be on my own with it. It has been huge, the containment that my regular sessions offered me, and it is also huge to have lost that proximity and limbic resonance which is such a big part of learning to feel safe and being able to trust her. I was looking forward to being able to create memories in K’s new house and garden this Spring and Summer, different memories, of a time when therapy didn’t hurt anymore and I could take in what it gave me in a way I never could before.

For years being in the room with her physically hurt me, like salt was being poured on my attachment wounds or my skin was being burnt by her presence. Leaving her felt like I was dying and my abandonment terror set in halfway through every session as I sensed our time ticking away, knowing it would soon be time to leave her and struggle alone again. Sometimes I had to stop the car down the lane after I had left to let young parts scream and sob, before it was safe to drive. It hurt to be with her and anticipate her leaving or one day not being there, it hurt to leave her and not know if I would ever see her again, and the time between sessions was unbearable, even when it was just a few days and we had contact via text or email. It was agony. I counted down in hours some weeks because things were so difficult and time passed so slowly. I remember her saying years ago that she hoped that one day I would be able to exist in the week knowing my space with her was there waiting for me and I wondered what the hell she meant! I didn’t exist without her and she didn’t exist if she wasn’t right in front of me. It was hell and I was a wreck. I am still in awe that we made it through those days. And I am extra sad that we made it through and now the measures against the pandemic are keeping us apart, because I really did reach a place where I could feel my space with her throughout the week and use it to sustain me and comfort my system until I saw her again.

It feels incredibly unfair to have done all that work, endured so much, come so far together, and then not to be able to enjoy sitting in a room with her without it hurting, to not be able to leave her house and feel okay because I know I will be back next week and I can feel her with me even when we are far apart. I think it would almost be easier to have this separation from her before I got to that place, because before it was really tough anyway and I was just surviving in the best way I could. I stopped surviving and started living and it feels as though this is what I am desperately scrabbling to stop myself backsliding into.

When we are working by phone (which I still prefer to video calls) there is too much space around me, she is not there drawing a boundary around ‘my stuff’ so I can see it clearly. It is like my words and emotions are spilling out of me and floating into the air, rather than being processed and reflected back to me in a shape I can contain and understand. I don’t want to keep going if it will be like this indefinitely, but I don’t want to stop either. It is hard. And again and again I wish it didn’t matter. I wish I could take in that she is here, take in what she is giving me still. I think if I didn’t constantly worry that our work is finite I would have more patience to endure. I mean, of course our work is finite, but I am worried we have less time than I was expecting (her health, my finances, other factors), and that this is such a huge and horrible waste of our time working, for it to be second best and not enough and re-activating some kind of painful disorganised attachment dance.

This time of year has been special in K and I’s work, but it’s also special for me and I don’t want to lose it, wishing it away so that K and I can be together again. So much about my life in this moment is okay, despite the spectre of pandemic. I was re-listening to an Elizabeth Gilbert podcast (have I mentioned I have fallen in love with her over the last couple of months?!) from near the start of lockdown and she talks about the difference between empathy and compassion, and how, at this time of empathetic overload, it is really important to distinguish between the two – empathy being where we take on another’s suffering to the point that we are suffering too and cannot help anyone, and compassion being recognition that another is suffering but that we are okay. She talks about the tremendous courage it takes to sit alongside someone and witness their suffering and not get drawn into it, but this is the only way we can be of service. It is definitely something that got me thinking as I tend to completely unravel when I allow myself to acknowledge the scale of the human and non-human animal suffering occurring at any one time and then my grief and overwhelm is so enormous that I am just adding to the suffering and am no help to anyone. It is easy to feel guilty at the moment to have a home, food, a job for at least the next few months, and her words, and that distinction, got me thinking how it really is okay to be okay even though others are most definitely not okay, and that this is the only way we can truly help.

So I am okay a lot of the time, though not all the time of course because… teenager at home full-time, mood swings, irrational anger, constant mess and nagging, and when I am in my adult, K is less prominent in my life – she fades into the background and becomes just someone who knows me (really, really) well and who I look forward to spending time with each week. But when my attachment system is triggered, not seeing her really does feel like life or death – in those moments I would rather die than not see her again. Right now, when I am feeling relatively adult and contained, I am okay with waiting till she is ready to work in-person again. I have to be. I am trying to remind myself it is not about me, actually, but her – her vulnerability, her perspective, her priorities. It is not about her pushing me away and rejecting me and wanting to keep me at arm’s length. I know she hates working like this, so she will not extend it just to make a point or force me to cope in order to build my resilience. At the moment UKCP guidelines say therapists should continue working remotely. Much as I hate knowing other people are meeting with their therapists soon, I have to sit with my lack of control over this and what her regulatory body decides to do when. All I can hope is that K’s therapist friends will start meeting for outside sessions or move back to in-person because their practice can do this safely with distancing and she will follow suit. I can’t control it though, and I don’t want to push her. If she doesn’t feel safe it is not for me to force her or challenge her or refuse to work with her till she changes her mind. It is not for me to make her feel bad and guilty for wanting to keep herself safe or do what her regulatory body are telling her.

What I *think* is my intuition is telling me that I am not going to see K anytime soon. Maybe this isn’t my intuition and is some kind of defence mechanism preparing me for the worst, I don’t know. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. I remember ages ago a part telling her that they were worried we would resume face-to-face and then it would be taken away again. She said ‘what, if there’s a second peak do you mean?’ which I guess suggests she is, or was, planning to return to face-to-face when she can, before the inevitable second peak (because our government is shit), but everything is changing so fast and her thyroid wasn’t pranging out then. I think we all thought cases in the UK would be much lower before lockdown was eased and it means the level of risk isn’t really going to decrease from where it is now. It is K’s decision and not mine what she determines to be the risks for her personally and the people she knows, though of course nothing can change until the UKCP change their guidance…

Anyway, the point is all this is irrelevant; I don’t want to be second-guessing what she will do and when I will see her. It is exhausting and pointless. For now I am committed to continuing to work remotely with her, and if it becomes apparent that this is not ending any time soon then I will think again about whether this is the best use of my money right now. I don’t want to lose the next months, and possibly longer, of my life pining for her, not when I had come so far and she is not actually going away. There is a vague fear that she is going to prepare me for an ending with her soon, but she is only 51 and I’m pretty sure she can’t afford to stop working now, so I hope this is not my intuition. In my heart I can feel we will work in-person again one day, and I am really trying to be patient and hold on to that feeling, and accept things are as they are right now and that I am lucky she is still here. It doesn’t feel like a ‘real relationship’ to me without proximity (I have had two long-distance relationships since I was 19 and I can see now why I struggled so much with them!) but perhaps this is a good opportunity to show my attachment system that people can be constants in our lives even when we don’t see them.

Cruel summer

I think a certain level of acceptance of how long we will be living like this is gradually settling around the country now. I’ve known in my heart for a while [I say a while, it’s probably been a week, time is moving so strangely at the moment and it feels like years have passed every time I sit down to write. It is like this for so many I am sure] that it will be many, many months till K and I resume face-to-face sessions, till Nina returns to school, till life goes back to some semblance of normality. I am constantly having to push away fears that K and I will never see each other again, or if we do it will just be to say goodbye because weekly sessions are no longer feasible long-term. It is always hard to know what could be real. I am trying to trust that we will come through this challenge and our work will go back to normal, because it is all there is to do. It is hard though.

Last night I watched a beautiful sunset from the country park where we live. The sky was wide and open and I felt free for just a few minutes. Life at home is stifling but we are doing okay in some ways. I feel more restless than overwhelmed. Either a calm acceptance or a huge amount of dissociation is engulfing me, who knows. There is a lot of worry that if the bunnies get ill during this time we won’t be able to get them vet treatment. This seems to be where the anxiety is being channeled today. Yesterday it was mostly freaking out that my job really isn’t safe. I text my old Head of Department and asked if our jobs are safe in the medium term. He says many institutions like ours won’t survive this, but that we are among the top and so in a strong position and I don’t need to worry. He knows a lot about how our institution works, and particularly its financial position, and it did reassure me. It’s just hard to shake the sense that this is how our world, here in the UK, will end, that this is just the start of the great unravelling that is well under way in many parts of society and across the globe already.

One of my friends also triggered me last night when I mentioned the fear of redundancies where I am, as she responded that we need Universal Basic Income – of course we do, I know this and I think it is coming, but I don’t think losing my job and having UBI would leave me with enough money to pay for therapy, or for the car I need to run to get to therapy. My mortgage is astronomical. I have zero savings and still more than £6k of debt to pay off. I have spent a TERRIFYING amount on therapy over the past five years, it makes me feel quite sick. I try to tell myself it was needed, still is needed, that probably we would just have a slightly bigger house, a newer car, memories of a few more holidays, had I not spent the money on that. I also try to reassure myself also that had I not done the work I’ve done with K I could (would!) have totally screwed Nina up and possibly even killed us both as this was my plan when I started therapy in August 2015, but it is hard to shake the sense that I have been really stupid spending so much money on that when I could have been saving for the end of the world. To be honest, I don’t really understand how UBI works, I just know that as things were (still are for me, it is important to remember – my job isn’t immediately under threat) I would be out of debt by August next year and able to save a little amount each month and pay for therapy too. I am so careful with money. I just wanted a little time where I didn’t have to be, before the climate crisis sweeps across the UK and life as we know it drastically changes…

K has always said I’m the person who reminds her most often how important it is to trust in the universe, to not have a scarcity mindset that attracts the very thing we are all so fearful of, but it is hard to hold on to this trust when all around us is panic and fear of everything running out and disappearing and no one having enough (loo roll stock-piling really epitomises this dominant mindset!). And at times it feels like such a privileged way to be living, to be able to trust that money will work itself out and to use evidence that despite difficulties during my PhD and the uncertainty of getting a post afterwards, it always has in the past, and that the universe is on my side because once I started to trust it, it has always brought me the right houses at the right time and brought me K, because not everyone has these luxuries I know, but at other times I think a safe home and a therapist who knows how to work with the identity fragmentation that follows childhood abuse and trauma isn’t really a luxury at all. I don’t know. I do want to trust though, that K and I will carry on working during this challenging time and pick up face-to-face sessions when we can.

I feel so angry that this is happening, sad that we are losing the Spring and Summer, fearful for those who are not safe at home due to abuse or neglect. I am angry that China are continuing to lie and have been giving us all false hope. I am apprehensive about how work will be for the next year and how rather than getting less stressful as we enter ‘the quieter time’ it is about to get even more stressful and reactive there. I nearly lose my shit when I see people talking about how living like this, physically distant from each other, will become ‘the new normal’ because it can’t – we are being deprived of the basic necessities of a life worth living. It is vital for now, of course it is, but virtual connection will never be as good. We are relational beings – we need regulation from others, we need companionship, we need community, and we cannot get these things through a screen. They are obviously important to help us manage through this time but they can never replace what we get from each other and being part of the world – natural and man-made, and I do really hope people never get used to this new, and hopefully temporary, way of being. It is not that I want to be surrounded by people all the time, but that I enjoy being part of everything so much, and solitude is something I value highly only because it is such a rarity for me and helps to bring me back to myself.

I have also been wondering what it is about my particular brand of attachment trauma that means that without meeting I don’t feel K is my therapist anymore and I don’t feel we have a real relationship. I am aware on a cognitive level that we do, that what we have endures across time and space and distance, that I am held in mind and in her heart, that she knows me and that won’t stop because she doesn’t physically see us, but at the same time I still feel somewhere deep inside that I am losing her and that as the months of phone and Skype go by she will slip further and further away and that she will let me go. I see others who are struggling with what is happening around us but are able to transition more easily into working remotely, and I am unsure why not being able to physically get to K is such a huge trigger for me and activates my attachment system so extensively. Of course there are concerns that I won’t have privacy for our sessions because Nina will be here, but it is not just that which is causing this.

After crying all afternoon on Friday I reached out to K by text, explaining that I wasn’t going to manage until Monday without contacting her so was doing it before the proper weekend started. We had spoken earlier that day but young parts hadn’t been reached. It is so hard finding time for everyone when life is so utterly crazy. You really know you have a complex dissociative disorder when you have parts getting triggered by not having ‘time with’ your therapist despite a phone call! In our phone session I had told her that the text exchange on Tuesday and Thursday mornings was really helping. She was pleased to hear that and said we would need to review it – we panicked and she said ‘no, not to take it away’, but that I might need more support in a month. This is scary. Every time she mentions the length of time we could be forced to work like this or says the C word we feel jarred and triggered – it makes it all feel much too real, that she is talking about something that really cannot possibly be happening. I asked in my text if we could talk about putting more planned support in place for a while, particularly for young parts, and said that I would look at money…

She said of course we could make a plan. I know she wants to support and hold all of me and to be there for young parts throughout this. More contact time is definitely needed at the moment but I’m not sure in what form or if it would even help. What would be enough right now? I prefer speaking by phone as it feels closer and I know K feels she can listen and hear much better on the phone than with a screen that sometimes freezes and so on, but I think Skype is also needed and I think a time that is dedicated to young parts is needed – when we work in-person young parts are settled just from being with K, but I don’t think they get the benefit of phone contact unless they are being addressed directly. It’s weird, but I think time they know is theirs, to ask questions and have stories and maybe do some ‘remote crafting’ would be helpful.

I feel so conflicted over needing and planning extra support. Part of me is thinking if I have the means to pay for a little extra support and contact during this time I should, and I do have the means for now because obviously some outgoings will reduce for the next six months (refund on tickets for Taylor Swift in Hyde Park, sob). But then there are parts who are fearful that we should be saving money for what comes next, that spending too much on therapy now could mean Nina has to go without food in the future, or that I can’t afford to see K at all. I can’t work out what are adult worries and what are young worries, what is adult caution and what is a young part trying to exert control over something that is ultimately impossible to control. And of course always is the need to balance what I spend on therapy with the fact that for an extended period of time now it has kept me ‘stable enough’ to work. Without therapy during a global pandemic I sense that my ability to work would be severely compromised! I also feel selfish because whilst I’ve donated some money for PPE for NHS staff and will donate money to a food poverty charity tomorrow when I get paid, I could obviously be helping a lot more if I wasn’t spending so much money on therapy.

Every so often I think it would be easier to take a break from therapy, from K, for the whole 6 months or more that this shit show lasts for because it is too triggering to have contact with her and not be able to physically reach her. There is some sense in this, when so much of my overwhelm is due to not being able to reach her. I could forget about her, stabilise somehow, maybe. I don’t think it is the answer though. Too much is coming up, my family situation is too present, my dissociated parts too present, my old unhealthy coping mechanisms too activated, to suddenly plunge us all into a life without K or therapy. So I am left wondering what to do, whether I can afford another half an hour session per week to help contain this crisis, and whether even if I can it is what I should be spending money on…

There, brain dump over! Thanks for making it to the end of this post if you did, and hoping my dear readers are coping as well as possible during these turbulent times.

Stay stay stay

I’m in the worst attachment crisis I’ve been in for over a year and a half. It is utter hell and because it’s in large part being driven by the disruption caused by the Coronavirus outbreak it seems impossible to settle it, because it is based on real things that are unfolding and I can’t reassure myself that K and I will be continuing to meet and she isn’t going away because that just isn’t true right now. We don’t know what is happening when or how long the measures will last. We worked by phone again yesterday evening – I’d had an overwhelming day at work as we are moving everything online and so there was loads of stress over how to do it and levels of anxiety among our international students in particular were palpable as they decide whether to fly home and risk not being able to get back here, or not being able to travel on to their home cities once they land. Every adult decision I had to make and thing I needed to do was triggering young parts further and further into attachment panic.

The call was fine but didn’t settle things, which I think K could tell, and then I self-harmed a lot after we spoke not because the call was triggering but because it wasn’t enough and didn’t land and then I was by myself again. I was really feeling as though I needed the crisis team or to go to hospital, so to be honest if cutting helps me manage things a bit then it’s okay – not ideal, but okay. My friend came over and I managed to distract a bit while she was here (didn’t tell her about the cutting because I think it sounds more dramatic than it is, for people who don’t get it) and I slept with diazepam which was a relief.

We text K first thing this morning and said we are basically in constant terror but also already in annihilation flashbacks so it’s like both our worst flashback states together (I can’t even explain but it is like the body memories of total annihilation and death due to loss of attachment whilst being in constant fear of being abandoned whilst feeling that bad) and she said she hears it and she is here. She said on the phone yesterday that she can’t see that anything will stop us meeting on Monday and that we will still work if after that we can’t meet face-to-face, but it’s not the lack of work that bothers me, but that not being able to physically get to her triggers all my attachment stuff and then I cannot seem to ground into my life and connect with all the things that aren’t K that make my life safe and okay. The attachment fear takes over and becomes the only thing that matters. On Thursday she had explained how my attachment system works and why it is only her that can soothe it, and that has helped a little with lessening the shame over not being able to just do other things that are important and helpful to me.

I made it to see one of my oldest and most special friends today – she moved to a city that is 80 miles away a couple of years ago so I drove up there for the day. It was lovely to see her and we had a nice walk in the woods and talked about lots of things and she was so understanding about what this f*cking virus has triggered in me attachment-wise and totally gets that it’s not that K is the only thing in my life, but that when it feels like my time with her is under threat it totally takes over everything. I would honestly rather die than lose her when things are this bad and it means every f*cking thing unfolding globally becomes a trigger for a potential loss of connection with her.

I picked Nina up on the way home and have reassured her that if we end up at home a lot over the holidays and with school closures afterwards we will build a routine and not just sit on our phones all day and that we’ll be fine, but I don’t feel capable of following this advice for myself. I’m scared if I do things to distract I’ll lose K, so I’m basically stuck in this awful place. I’m still not eating, though K has told me I need to and I said I would (‘because you won’t go away if we eat, that’s silly?’ said someone little on the phone yesterday, but I’m not sure they believe it). My mouth is constantly dry with a rancid taste regardless of how much water I drink because of all the toxins. I will probably cut again. I honestly seem unable to stabilise and am scared this crisis will last for months.

I am hoping it will become easier now I’ll be working at home until at least early May and can avoid all the fear and anxiety people at work have been experiencing and also once I’ve seen K face-to-face on Monday, but I am worried I’ll get into a total state again when I see her and especially being in the different room again and with the chairs so far apart. When will it stop being so hard? I really hate that my experiences as a baby have left me with this forever, that I actually feel this way in the present as a result of things that happened so long ago. I am so cross that I feel perfectly capable of handling what this virus is throwing at us and yet it is still triggering the hardest feelings imaginable in me because K is my attachment figure but not my family and however hard she tries, she may not be able to preserve our therapy in the face of what is ahead.

Breathe

I had reiki this morning which really calmed my system, like everything inside softened away from the surface where I’ve been clinging on for the past few days and I settled and expanded deeper into myself. I text ahead and said I’d been in a huge emotional storm since Monday and was still very activated and that it helped for me to know she knew that before I arrive. The reiki master, Sophia, I’ll call her as I’m sure she’ll come up on here again, is very stabilising and grounding, and it is nice because she doesn’t know my history, only what has been relevant to share, and we are really careful around boundaries because I’m in therapy obviously. The first thing she said was that she imagined I was struggling, like her, as an empath with the amount of fear and anxiety in the world right now. I said yeah, how at work yesterday lots of people were so anxious and it felt more harmful than the threat of the virus. And I spoke a bit about what happened on Monday with K (she was also surprised by the distancing thing but knew that the focus really was on what it created in me) but said I wanted to be careful not to get into talking about my therapy with a third party.

After my session I felt much calmer and more contained and K and I had a phone session planned for as soon as I got back and I felt it was good that I was a little less agitated going in to that. It was a really huge struggle not to reach out to K yesterday because it was her birthday, so I text asking for a phone session at 8.30 and she replied straightaway. (Towards the end of the call she says she’s here for me so just to text and I said how hard we found it not to contact her yesterday so we text as soon as we could this morning, and she laughed and said she had noticed and that she appreciated it).

The call started with breathing and a body scan and I said I felt like I had died and also was about to die, like I was completely broken but also on the edge of an abyss, clinging on so I don’t die, but not in a good place to die in the first place if that makes sense – broken and in agony and then left on the abyss edge. I said ‘I just want to feel like our attachment system isn’t under threat – not a big ask then!!’ and she said it was good because it was clear and showed awareness of what was happening for me. And I managed to tell her that sitting so far from her when I was so upset on Monday and that she didn’t move closer or offer me a hug like last time was absolute agony and she really understood that.

It was kind of awkward when we were talking at first because I talked her through the last few days but didn’t want to open up a debate about Coronavirus. I said it had helped seeing my new friend because she shares the same anger as me at how the media has whipped everyone into a frenzy that was causing more harm than the virus itself. I said I knew that disruption is ahead but that until Monday I was managing to stay present and just see each day that is not disrupted as a gift, which we should do every day anyway. And I said it had helped me to turn the news off and to look at the actual statistics and to remember that the numbers of people infected, even in Italy, are pretty miniscule, and that the fears are mostly over what it will do to the economy. K said it helped hearing my perspective because she’d said she’d thought it likely that I would be totally freaking out about it. She also said she’s not actually worried about her own health but about the elderly and vulnerable people she comes into contact with, and she said she thinks of me as someone who would be very vulnerable to getting very ill from the virus because of my pre-existing conditions. I found that interesting as I had’t put myself in that category at all – I think it’s likely I will have a lot of pain if I get it because my nervous system is over-sensitive, but I’m not systemically unwell – but she had and that was partly why she did what she did on Monday – she had thought I might be relieved she was taking precautions. I do maintain that what she did on Monday was mad and clumsy, but I do think it was well-intentioned, and was in part a way of making sure she can keep working if/when things escalate here.

She said it’s clear we have slightly different perspectives on the Coronavirus, and that this doesn’t matter as our work is to support what it brings up in me. I think that actually we don’t – we agree that there is going to be a big period of disruption ahead, I’m definitely not disputing that, but I don’t think the virus itself is a huge threat compared with everything else going on in the world, and I think the media is being really irresponsible and making it seem a lot worse than it is (there have been 1.1 billion news stories on the Coronavirus (most of them really scraping the barrel for things to write about) since the outbreak started – that is utterly bonkers!). And I also don’t think the level of cases means that plans and behaviours should be changed at the moment – let’s make the most of things being normal while they are. Anyway, this post is not about the Coronavirus and whose perspective is right or wrong – as K said, the outbreak has actually caused a huge disruption for me because of the threat it poses to my therapy, and that is what we need to work together with.

I kind of skirted around stuff and was slightly combative and she asked if I was grown up Charlie and I said ‘yes!’ and then ‘no, there are lots of parts around (clearly a teen part being argumentative and a little supercilious!) and everyone was very noisy and there were definitely little people and then someone little managed to say that we are not scared of anything about the Coronavirus apart from not being able to get to therapy – we can handle ANY disruption apart from that, but that makes us want to die because it is TOO SCARY. And then the screaming and wailing and sobbing started again (though managed to refrain from clawing and digging my face this time!). We were nearly at time so she suggested we worked for 45 minutes instead and she said to let it out and that it was so helpful that I could articulate that fear. I said all of us would rather die than not be able to get to therapy and it really doesn’t feel like an exaggeration. Even though we are not in the thick of the work now, and I am so much more stable and only have one session a week and rarely need extra support between sessions, I really don’t do well at all without therapy and the thought of not being able to get there AT ALL does feel life-threatening.

It’s honestly so completely ridiculous to see it written like that, but that is how it is. I can see from what happened on Monday that when I’m triggered into that place I am completely unable to regulate and it really frightens me that I will be in that space and not able to go and see her. It actually has helped knowing that even if we can’t get there it won’t be an abyss with no contact, it won’t even be a therapy break with planned contact as she will be home and if there’s a crisis (e.g. Mum dies or gets ill) then extra support will be possible. She said she’s seen me in some states about things similar to this before so was expecting that this time, and I pointed out that the terror over climate breakdown and the ecological collapse is, at a basic level, just terror over not being able to get to her. (I do feel a lot of grief over what humanity has done to our home, and a lot of apprehension over what is ahead, but it feels manageable from an adult place, whereas loss of attachment just feels life-threatening). I still don’t feel I could survive without her, particularly if it happened suddenly. She totally understands that, and she knows we’ve never attached to anyone like this before. She knows how scary it is to be that attached to someone and have the fear of them not being there, and she says she’s here to provide as much support as I need over the coming weeks as she thinks this heightened anxiety will last a while as things unfold in the UK.

So anyway, her plan is to keep working throughout the outbreak, just with extra precautions, and the only time that would change is if the government says we are not allowed to leave our houses at all (or one of us has to self-isolate obviously). So this is a big relief as we won’t stop working if schools and universities close, or even if we go into lockdown like Italy, because that would just be to stop lots of people being together and risking infecting lots of people, and there are just two of us. And she says if for any reason I couldn’t get there we would work by phone and probably more often, and that we could try Skype so that we can do cutting and sticking together and things that we might do in the room together. And we will have a big hug as soon as this is over (which I still think is over-cautious for now, I’ve not stopped hugging other people, but my friend says at work today people have been throwing used tea towels into the recycling and wiping down staplers with sanitiser, so I guess there is a lot of fear around and a real need for control that is just not possible for us to have). She also says on Monday I can have something transitional from the room like the Eeyore and little yellow Miffy (who has stayed with her a few times and even went to Portugal with her 3 years ago!) is going to sit close to her (and stay with her too though she doesn’t know that yet, just in case of any sudden changes).

I said that this is the worst attachment storm I’ve had since June 2018 (the ‘I’m taking a year off and we are ending’ debacle) and then we told her we’ve not eaten since Monday and we talked about how it happens in order to try and preserve attachment when we feel unsafe, and she said I do need to eat and take care of myself even more at the moment because of what’s happening. So I have to text her later to tell her I’ve eaten and been out and looked at nature. And then we can work by phone again tomorrow if needed or I can go for an extra session. So I feel very agitated still but also heard and held. We asked K if she feels sick knowing we are attached to her and she said not at all, that it’s a good thing because it’s healing. ‘And we are joined together?’ ‘Yes’. ‘And I am not a limpet?’, ‘No you’re not a limpet.’ It really is such a relief to be able to tell her exactly how bad it feels to not be able to reach her or to worry that we won’t be able to, that it really does feel like a life-or-death situation, because for so long it just felt too terrifying to be that vulnerable with her (though she knew by the constant crises of course). There is so much less shame over that now, although still fear that she will go away because of it, but that’s usually alleviated easily now, and the fact this hasn’t happened for so long when it was basically a weekly occurrence for the first few years of therapy, is testimony to how hard we’ve worked.

I hope other people who are worried about the disruption to therapy because of the stupid virus can get some reassurance from their therapists soon too. And let’s hope this whole thing blows over soon!

You need to calm down

I’ve not written on here for ages, it must be about a month. I had some incredibly difficult news 10 days ago but couldn’t find the words to write about it here although I’ve journalled lots. I’m not going into it now, but will just outline it as context for the complete state I’m in today. I heard via text from my sister the weekend before last that our Mum has been really ill with a pulmonary embolism and multiple blood clots in her lungs. She wanted to know what I would want to do next time as she wasn’t sure whether to contact me. She said Nina should also make an informed decision over what to do at such times in future, in case Mum were to die. This triggered an absolutely massive emotional storm, as to be expected given the complexity of my family situation and the fact my disabled brother, who is 49, still lives with Mum and I am scared shitless over what will happen to him when she dies or if she gets very ill for a long time. K was amazing and we spoke on the phone on the Saturday evening after I found out and she was very supportive in our session last week. Maybe I’ll write about all it brought up at some point, as there are big themes and decisions I will need to make for future, but not today.

I did manage to stabilise although was struggling with a lot of somatic stuff in the last part of the week and over the weekend. I was holding out for therapy and being able to ask for a hug and talking it through with K again. On Friday in our email she had said we would agree a policy on a Monday about Coronavirus to keep us both as safe as possible (I’d said I was going to ask my GP about pain medication in case I get the virus and get a huge pain flare like I did when I had norovirus and needed IV morphine in hospital, although generally I’ve been impressed with my ability to stay present and take the threat of disturbance due to the coronavirus one day at a time). I was surprised K thought we would need to talk about it – obviously if I got it or needed to self-isolate I wouldn’t go and we would work by phone if possible. Likewise if she got it. It had occurred to me that it could cause a major disruption to therapy for quite a few months, especially if each of us end up needing to self-isolate for 14 days multiple times, but that is not yet and there is no point getting worried about it before it happens.

So I was really taken aback when I arrived yesterday for my session, already feeling anxious because I’d had a difficult morning with work and was finding it hard to focus because of feelings of panic over the amount I have to do over the next 4 weeks, and she said we were working in her sitting room because of the Coronavirus. She said there was hand gel “if I wanted it” and I could use the toilet as normal (yeah, thanks K!) and I then became completely triggered and panic-stricken when I went into the room whilst she was making tea and discovered the chairs she had set out for us were 4 or 5 metres from each other. I was completely gobsmacked because as far as I know this is not how it’s spread and it seemed like a total over-reaction which I really wasn’t expecting from her at all. I mean, I could pass it or catch it from the mug of tea, from the parts journal she reads every week, from touching door handles going to the toilet – there are germs everywhere all the time and it’s hard to avoid them so we just do the best we can with hygiene and keeping our immune systems strong. She came back and I absolutely lost my shit and spent the next 50 minutes screaming and crying and howling about how she was too far away and I hated it and I felt as if I was in an abyss and was dying while she was in a huge glass cyclinder a million miles from me. I yelled that I couldn’t even hear her and when she said she was here and she could see me and how distressed I was someone just kept shouting ‘you’re not here, you’re not here’. It was complete hell and I clawed and dug my nails into my head so badly that I’ve now got a huge red lump with no skin on it and a big scab forming. Like a true fucking mad person. (And when K asked what had happened I yelled that she couldn’t see because she was so fucking far away!).

K was really kind and patient and only spoke firmly twice when I was really challenging her that this is not the way the virus is spread and wouldn’t make any difference, defending her right to have made this decision, but I am still absolutely incredulous that she didn’t hug me or move closer because of this ridiculous reaction to the threat of Coronavirus (there are no cases in my place of work yet and I’ve not heard of anyone near here with it at this time) and just left me sitting miles away from her with young parts out of control and screaming and crying and really distressed. It still hurts so much and feels punitive and rejecting and completely unlike her. We did manage to calm down and make some use of the second half of the session (thank goodness we have a double session!) and managed to connect to her a bit and take in what she was saying and how kind she was about how much distress we were in, but we left feeling all the terror of abandonment and annihilation and since then things have been awful. I’ve not been this triggered for ages and ages. I’d forgotten how completely unbearable it is to be feeling like this and to have 6 days to wait till my session.

My friend who also has attachment trauma was really validating and said it would have felt rejecting and caused that kind of reaction in her too. And I can really see that my extreme reaction was irrational and based on past experiences and that what K did was perhaps a little bonkers and over-the-top but not totally beyond the realms of the normal, but I also think K was wrong for implementing this without discussion and before we’ve even been told to implement social distancing measures in the UK. I mean I’m still working as normal and so is everyone else I know. In a couple of weeks we’ll be told to work from home where possible I’m sure, and schools and universities might be closed, but I’d assumed I’d still be able to go to therapy because the guidance would be to avoid infected people unknowingly spreading the virus to dozens of people, but I can see now that K will make us work by phone for the duration.

I don’t want this to turn into a post slagging K off. I can see that my reaction was triggered by things from the past and that if anyone else had said they were sitting further away from me because of Coronavirus (unless vulnerable or immunocompromised) I’d have just thought ‘what an idiot’ and gotten on with my day. I can see that it came at a time when I was already overwhelmed and needing closeness and a hug and not to feel pushed away. I can see all this and yet I still can’t move past what she did. It still feels so unnecessary and hurtful. Even if we’d had our session in the normal room and she’d told me next week we’d be in the sitting room it might have been better (though I don’t imagine she thought for a minute I’d get triggered by being in the sitting room, 4 or 5 metres from each other instead of 2!).

There are just 12 cases in the county we live in, out of a population of around 800,000, and yes it will increase but none of the guidance is telling us to keep away from people or change our normal habits beyond extra hand washing. She said it is spread via close contact between people and she didn’t want to work in a small room without a window that opens to keep everyone as safe as possible, so I screamed that I felt the most unsafe I’d ever felt there. I also told her Carolyn Spring of Pods had emailed therapists on Sunday and asked them to model to clients a healthy response to the threat and that here she was totally over-reacting. She said she doesn’t think it’s an over-reaction and that it was either this or remote working – ‘what, till September?!!!’ I yelled. She said she’d been ‘reading and reading and reading and reading’ about it over the weekend (when I’m getting lost in the climate crisis stuff she tells me it’s not helpful to keep reading, but clearly she is allowed to get lost in all the Coronavirus hysteria for days despite the threat being so much less than that!) and this was the decision she had come to in order to stay safe and keep working. She says it not about whether I am infected but that she could have it as she comes into contact with people who work in the NHS, but then surely it is my choice whether I expose myself to the risk, not hers. I honestly do think that therapists have a responsibility to model calm and a proportionate response and to help clients keep perspective if they are worried (which I wasn’t, only about the disruption to therapy – I’ll probably get it and have a bad pain flare and then be fine again) by pointing out all the other threats and how the media is creating fear and panic. Instead it seems as though she has been reading The Sun and The Express and had totally fallen into a state of anxiety over it. (I know therapists are human, but I’m pretty sure she should at least be pretending she’s calmer than she is).

I saw my GP this morning (who now thinks I’m utterly bonkers as she wanted to know what had happened to my forehead (where I had repeatedly dug my nails into it and clawed at it to leave a huge, inflamed patch of skin and a big bump) and had to look at it with the torch to check it’s not infected) and she laughed and was totally gobsmacked when I told her what K had done. She said it is not in line with any of the current guidance or information about how it is spread and won’t make any difference anyway – if one of us has it it will likely be passed on regardless if I’m in her house for 2 hours, so sitting further away from each other will make no difference at all because it’s not airborne, it’s passed by respiratory droplets. She said she could see why it had triggered me so badly when I needed her to be safe and calm about the threat and that it really doesn’t help when professionals start making up their own precautionary measures. It was so validating that she thought it was a total over-reaction at this point in time as well.

I mean, reading online I can see why K may have reached the decision she did as it does say in some places that it can be passed on by sitting 2 metres from someone for 2 hours if airborne droplets land on them from an infected person, but I still don’t think it was something she needed to implement at the moment. Think of all the hundreds of thousands of office workers just in the UK who are sitting next to each other in windowless spaces for 8 hours a day! And if she is really that worried then she shouldn’t be working because her precautionary measure won’t help in the event she does have it or a client has it. Maybe it is not for me to judge what she has decided to do about it, I’m just surprised that out of all the people I know it is her who is freaking out whilst the rate in the UK is still quite low. I have friends with health anxiety who I am really proud of for not getting swept away by fears over this. Nina has mild asthma so of course I’m apprehensive that she’ll get it, but I also know she has plenty of inhalers and has only needed to be nebulised once when she had a respiratory infection that triggered an attack. I have a friend whose husband has cystic fibrosis and would likely die if he got it as he already has compromised lung function and an extremely low immune system, but the family aren’t panicking and self-isolating and taking the kids out of school, and he’s still living normally as far as I know. I obviously won’t see my Grandma for a while if there are cases near where we live as she is 83 and is currently having chemo for non-Hodgkins lymphoma and it would definitely kill her. My sister has really bad OCD over germs and I know she’ll be freaking out as she is a counselling psychologist in the NHS in London where there are cases, but I can’t imagine she’s been asking clients to sit that far away from her (and if she did, she would own it as her own anxiety instead of pretending it is a proportionate response at the moment). K has asthma so I can see she would rather avoid it but if she’s that worried she should do something that will actually prevent her getting it i.e. not go out for a few months.

I do feel utterly crazy for reacting like this. Even though K was so nice and talked gently about abandonment being my biggest trigger and how all this belonged in the past, and she didn’t get angry with me, it’s still so embarrassing to be a grown woman who is taken over by young parts screaming because they have to sit in a different room than they are used to. I’ve honestly not had a reaction like that with K for so long, and I was proud that I manged to yell and that I let young parts out so they could scream and sob instead of withdrawing (it’s only the second time this has happened, and is partly why it hurt so much that she didn’t move closer or offer a hug like she did the last time this happened). I really don’t know if I can get used to working with her whilst sitting that far apart. It feels so unsafe and rejecting and like I am dirty and tainted and untouchable. I cried yesterday that no one ever held me when I was upset when I was little and she said she was holding me, that she knows how to hold me now, but it didn’t feel that way at all. It was so hard to even feel she was there at all when she was physically so far away from me.

To be honest I’ll be glad if the Coronavirus peaks in a couple of weeks here, as the news is currently suggesting, because the thought of months and months like this is awful. I know this sounds selfish because if the peak is delayed for a few months it will ease pressure on the health system and potentially reduce the deaths of vulnerable people, but my outlook to life is non-selfish nearly all the time and on my blog I’m allowed to express all my thoughts! It’s also infuriating because this is the level of response that is needed for the climate and ecological crisis and yet governments and most of the public don’t give a f*ck about that. I’ve been really good and only watching the news once a day and not googling, but last night I spent ages reading stuff online trying to see how K had come to the decision she came to at this point in time. All the advice I can see says hand washing is the most effective thing we can do. I’ve not seen any other therapists, like massage therapists or other alternative therapies, deciding not to treat people because of the threat. It just seems so important to keep living normally and not giving in to fear, and I’m not sure pulling away and distancing from attachment-traumatised clients fits with that. (I do realise I’m still in a very triggered place and that those reading this may think K was completely right to do what she did, I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on this!).

Also ref the title of this post, I don’t think K actually is in a state of panic over this – I’m trying to use a Taylor Swift song title for every blog post this year and this one seemed to be the most fitting today!

Tentative steps

I think we managed to reach K a teeny tiny bit last night, managed to take in just some of our connection and her presence again. I felt different when I woke up this morning. More settled and less overwhelmed and ready to face the day and all that I knew it would bring. Lighter. More spacious. I felt sad on the way to work, a deep sadness around my Mum and my childhood and the chronic pain and emotional distress I’ve had to learn to live with, but it was from a place of self-compassion and not an overwhelmed “I can’t keep going, this is too hard” sadness. It felt under control and also a needed sadness, if I am ever to release the shame that binds me so tightly inside my harsh internal world where on some deep and primal level I don’t feel I deserve support and understanding because it is my fault how I am. I felt less cut off from myself and K felt just a little closer in time and space. And I was curious to note how those tiny steps back towards her helped me also be in a space where my life isn’t quite so overwhelming. My life is objectively too much for a person with CPTSD and a dissociative disorder and chronic pain, but the feelings of overwhelm and not being able to continue are also attachment-based – without a sense of ground beneath me and safety inside me I lose my way and lose sight of myself in among the chaos so quickly.

I cried early in our session yesterday about the fear of not being able to reach her again, and what it would be like to leave her if that happened , how awful it would be and how it would feel like I was dying again – “you are right there and we can’t reach you” someone whispered. And sometimes it still really helps to hear K explain why this happens; her explanations are so soothing and it releases some of the fear that I am broken for not being able to reach her and for feeling like I don’t know her at all. She said how attachment doesn’t happen overnight, that it comes through trust and deep attunement and empathy and all sorts of modelling of ways that didn’t happen very much for me when I was very little. And she said how at various times in our therapy journey it was very hard for me to be around her, because it was so painful to be around some aspects of the things I missed out on. “And very frightening to be in contact, but it’s also very frightening for you not to be in contact. So we’re holding an incredibly fine line between what it’s like to feel abandoned and really empty and the fear of feeling very close”. And she talked about how for a long time it was like that, but then it settled and we weren’t in that territory so much, but her house move has been a big psychological breakdown in terms of connection so we need to build up trust again, and we can’t rush it and so need to try and be okay with it taking a while longer.

She talked about how her move had brought up profound fear for me, so deep that we didn’t even know it was there, so deep that it was hard to put into words and stirred up things for me on a very different level than the things we talked about in terms of her moving further away and it being a pain to get there. “I’m talking about what it is like for a baby, or a toddler, or a pre-school person to have grossly missed trust and no holding that makes sense. So I think it has stirred up something really deep in your psyche that is hard to even name”. And she said then we throw in the autumn term and the fact I’m a parent at the same time and it’s clear why this is a really difficult time, and ideally we’d be meeting more right now to feel into that trust again but “you’ve got a heinous week full of grim things to do” [LOL so true] so that is not possible. It helped though, just her saying that we need to be meeting more often at the moment, but can’t, because I wish we could and it is just not physically possible but it helps to know my wish is reasonable given the circumstances. And as we approach the worst month of the year for me with my Mum’s birthday and the anniversary of Jess’ suicide on the same day [December 10th] and just as Christmas, season of perpetual triggers and emotional flashbacks, is pulling me into its claustrophobic cage, I wish so much that I could go twice a week to try and further settle things before we reach December. We’ve always met extra in the early part of December but I looked at my work calendar today and it is scary how hard it is going to be to fit it in this year.

It was a really full session. We talked about so much, about the time after my overdose when I was 22 and what was needed back then, about the physical pain that has dominated so much of my life, since I was really very small (and continues to, though never as bad as it was for the decade from when I was 20), about the lengths I go to keep it hidden (consciously and subconsciously), about how on some level it’s because I feel responsible for what happened to me as a young child and, particularly, for the way my body and nervous system responded. There is so much I want to write about because I have gained so many insights and so much self-knowledge in the past few weeks, but I am tired and tonight I really just wanted to write about how by the end of the session, after we’d had a Mog story and made plans for a film night next week to try and feel cosy in the new house, things felt a little more settled. It felt as though a little bit of whatever has been keeping us away from K had dissolved inside me so there was space for a little of what she gives me to reach me too. When she feels near, even when she is far away, everything feels just that little bit more stable, and I really hope we can reach her properly and feel filled up of nice things again soon.

Reaching

I couldn’t reach K again today and now I’m home and it feels like my insides have been ripped out. How after so many months of feeling so held and safe and connected am I here again for so many weeks now?

I read K what Phoebe wrote last week. She said it’s amazing because it sums up the block between us that is happening right now and that is about something historical that has led to a special shape within me, a pattern that says that most things are not safe (what a fucking sad statement of fact).

‘I can’t reach you’ I managed to whisper.

‘Yeah, I know’ and she sounded sad, like she really knew how fucking painful it is to be a metre from her and also a million miles away. And it surprised me that she knew straightaway, she knew I couldn’t reach her, because I was behaving ‘normally’ and pretending all was fine, and she is still the only person who sees through my mask and knows I’m out of reach.

‘Well… I think it’ll come back’ and I started to sob and she said ‘don’t worry, you know what  – this went on for a long time with Mum, years and years and years. So right now there’s a patterning that’s saying don’t trust. We’ll get through it. I’m confident it’ll come back.’

She said how important it is that we don’t pretend it’s normal, like I had to as a child, and that we let it be there and let things be difficult and authentic. She thinks it will settle of it’s own accord over the next few weeks, if we sit in the storm with it and don’t force it.

‘And I’m here, no matter what. And it’ll be alright. I’m convinced it will be okay’.

‘It’s hard without you’ I said quietly. (And it is so hard, to be without her after months of feeling her with me all the time, whenever I looked for her).

‘Yeah, and I’m here, waiting in the wings.’

And we talked about Phoebe again, and how she didn’t used to have any words. About how she was mean all the time because she was scared of K and how much she hated all the other parts for attaching to K. She was the last, shame kept her far away and angry and defended for so many years. And it hurts so much that she wants to connect and can’t. But she knows K hasn’t done anything wrong now and she knows K doesn’t hurt us deliberately and just wants to help. The blocking is automatic and it comes from us, not K.

So things are different but also the same. Or maybe they are the same but also different. I’m not battling K. We’re not falling into horrible relational re-enactments and locking horns. I’m not accusing her of being different or convinced she hates me. I know she’s there and that I can’t reach her. We can talk about what’s happening now, even though we cannot make the connection come back however much we both wish we could. And inside me is a gaping pit of emptiness and I want to die/cut/take drugs to fill it, but I know this hole is not caused by K but by my parents who couldn’t love me, and so whilst I want to die I can also hold on tight to her belief that I will reach her again. I just really hope it’s not much longer because I miss her. I missed her even while I was in the room with her for 2 hours earlier. Everything internally and externally is very hard at the moment and I need her with me and it really fucking hurts when I can’t reach her.

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