Everything has changed

***** TW talk of suicide ******

Things continue to be incredibly difficult. I’ve been searching for how to buy cyanide online and how quickly it kills, not for now but to be prepared. To make matters worse Nina is really struggling – she has gone from someone who reports ‘feeling happy at least 95% of the time’ to feeling flat and hopeless and experiencing huge outbursts of rage. I’ve told her it’s amazing she’s never felt this way before, but of course it means she has no resilience to it and no sense that it will pass. So I am trying to hold myself and all the freaking out parts, but also her. I had been feeling as though parents of young kids would be struggling so much more than the parent of a teen, but at least they love parental attention and are possible to entertain, it’s just hard work and monotonous for the parent. With a teen they just want their friends and however hard I try I cannot be enough. Plus she has a sense of time and knows we are in this for the long haul. She is being sent work from school this week which will hopefully help, but then it is 2 and a half weeks Easter holidays and after that who knows how long of this strange new life we all find ourselves living.

Because there are so many selfish shits in this country totally ignoring government guidance we are going to end up in lockdown soon. This will mean Nina can’t spend some of the time with her Granddad and we will be together 24/7 probably till September at the earliest. At the best of times this would be a very tough proposition but whilst in mental health crisis this feels like something I just cannot handle. I will not even have time on my own in the house to fall apart and put myself back together again, as I’ve relied upon ever since I became a parent. It will all be holding it together and holding someone else together too. It feels absolutely impossible to cope with, especially without my weekly escape and sanctuary with K, where I can breathe and let it all go.

There are so many memes about how to make the best of this time and loads of advice for parents who ‘suddenly find themselves home schooling’. It is such bullshit and clearly not written by people with shredded nervous systems who will also be trying to work full time at home. I honestly don’t know how I am going to manage when I go back to work from this sick leave on Monday. My whole system feels totally broken and hyper-sensitive and I don’t know how I will cope without time in the house by myself, with a teenage daughter who goes to bed later than me and is going to be struggling with such a huge change and loss herself. She was swimming 10 hours a week and just getting her independence with her friends, so to have all that taken away overnight, I’m not surprised she is struggling so much. It doesn’t help that most of her friends’ parents haven’t got the memo about social distancing saving lives and are letting their children have sleepovers and get togethers. Hopefully this will stop soon.

K and I will be working by phone this afternoon but an hour just doesn’t feel enough to connect and settle this storm. In addition my neighbours are clearly spending their first day ‘working from home’ having a massive party and have music on really loud and I find it impossible to focus on anything when noise is intruding on my space, but particularly when I feel this way. It’s just incredible that so much has changed so fast. It is two weeks since I thought K was over-reacting by making me sit further away, but she really wasn’t. Already our NHS in London is overwhelmed, 30 and 40 year olds waiting to be treated in intensive care, facing death because there are not enough ventilators. I am trying to hold on to this being temporary, trying to believe people who tell me we’ll get through this as a country and things will go back to normal, that weekly face-to-face sessions with K will resume, but I don’t really believe it, not because I am catastrophising but because our economy will be in tatters and the climate crisis was already threatening collapse.

I keep getting these huge waves of panic and grief and despair. I don’t know how to survive this – I scan every development to try and work out what it means for my therapy, for my recovery, my ability to survive this. Half the country is freaking out and the other half have no clue because they don’t read the news. Both of these are problematic responses to live alongside. I worry for the physical and mental well-being of all those who are confined and separated from those they love and rely upon. Reading what is happening in Italy helps me keep things in perspective and remember that this really is a life or death situation, and that I want K to stay safe even if it means we don’t meet for a year and so I will do my part in that. It is really f*cking tough though, and if one more person tells me ‘therapy isn’t stopping’ or asks ‘can you contact your therapist by phone instead?’ I will kill them.

A light in the darkness has been the NHS local crisis support line I was given – after I rang the first time I was given a number I can call 24/7 but also can keep contacting their line 6pm-midnight each evening. The woman I first spoke to has been incredible – she understands DID and attachment trauma and the importance of the therapy relationship, she is compassionate and kind, reassuring but also full of practical advice and makes sure I don’t try and be too positive or fall into total negative thinking. I’ve spoken to her twice, on Thursday and Friday evenings, and she texted with a young part on Friday and Saturday evenings too and helped us to go to bed. It is so unusual to find someone who ‘gets it’ so this has been such a blessing. She says the other people on the helpline are lovely too, but she wasn’t sure on their knowledge of DID. She is working this evening so says if I’m triggered after speaking with K I can call again. It really helps us all feel less alone and I wish it was available elsewhere in the country too. I haven’t been able to ring as often as I’ve needed to because Nina has been here, but knowing they are there is a real lifeline.

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!

Me

Over the weekend I was reflecting in my journal how long it has taken to have a true sense of who I am. I remember writing something around 5 years ago, when I was very actively trying to heal myself but wasn’t yet in therapy, about who I am as a person, but looking back I can see it was all about how I come across externally and how I fitted into the outside world. It was positive, it was about me being a good person, but reading it now it is clear that it wasn’t written from inside me. It wasn’t about what made me happy, what is and isn’t right for me, what brings me joy and peace and how I want to spend my time. I don’t think I had a sense of who I was at all back then. A huge amount of my time was spent doing things to escape the insatiable pit of need inside me. And I had no idea what I wanted or enjoyed because I was so busy twisting myself into all kinds of shapes to fit what other people wanted and expected of me. I was reading about the enneagram over the weekend, which is a fascinating addition in my journey of self-discovery, and I realised how much I like being at home and having cosy, quiet times with a blanket. I used to want to make the most of every minute I wasn’t being a mum – seeing friends, going out, getting things done. Turns out what I really needed was time to just be, at home, by myself. In a life that is often a whirlwind of things needing doing and places to go, over the past six months I’ve realised how precious time by myself at home is, and how much I love so many of the things that are already part of my life.

I love comfort – blankets, cuddlies, snuggling up, zoning out. I love nature and sunshine and being outside in wild places. I love deep, intense conversations and one-to-one time with special people. I love reading for fun and escapism. I love being on my bike. I love laughing at simple things and finding people to share my dark sense of humour with (not thinking of anyone in particular here #amber). I love my research and writing and imparting my knowledge and new ways of seeing the world to others. I love the bunnies and just being in the garden watching them. I love days when there is nothing to do and the possibilities are endless. I love when I make a new friend I really connect with and when they tell me they feel the same about me.

I hate making decisions. I hate conflict. I hate scary films and people arguing around me. I hate being in big groups of people I don’t know that well when my role is not clear and I don’t know what’s expected of me. I hate cramming too much into a day. I hate supermarkets and having to go into town. Right now in my life I hate cooking and preparing food because sometimes it feels like all I ever do.

I love making my home a clean, tidy, spacious place to be. I love calm and quiet time at home alone. I love cancelled plans and unexpectedly having time to myself. I love candles and incense and crystals and the moon. I love reggae and techno and house music and banging bass lines. I love dancing as the sun comes up. I love meeting new people, making new connections, and having conversations just for the sake of talking. I love it when all I can hear is silence. I love healthy comfort foods – dahl and soups and homemade bread. I love Cornwall and coastal paths and walking by the sea. I love tree tunnel lanes and paths by the river, stepping stones and picnics under trees. I love magic and fairy tales and glitter and the colour purple. I love flowers and trees, hearing running water and listening to the sea. I love playing cards in the pub with a bag of crisps. I love having meals cooked for me and trips to the cinema. I love finding common ground, people who are vegan for the animals and when someone tells me they are also a feminist.

I hate multi-tasking and too many competing demands on my time. I hate when the house is messy. I hate it when my views are undermined and people misunderstand me. I hate unexpected invitations and changing plans and clutter around me and feeling suffocated by too much stuff. I hate asking for help, admitting I’m struggling, feeling overlooked and left out, being minimised, people normalising my trauma. I hate washing up, traffic jams, wasting time, things taking longer than I expected. I hate seeing people unexpectedly when I’m out, uninvited visitors, loud noises and interruptions.

I love coming home to an empty house, having Friday nights to myself so I can hide from the world after a busy week. I love making my home clean and tidy on a Saturday morning. I love snuggling with a blanket to watch a familiar film, comfy clothes, putting my pyjamas on, early nights. I love skating, climbing, running, swimming in the sea. I love buying a whole pile of books in a second hand bookshop. I love fairy lights, twinkly things, sparklers and glitter. I love camping and starlit skies, watching the moon rise and paddling in the sea as the sun goes down. I love learning new things about ancient belief systems and how they apply to my life. I love having straightened hair and shaved legs and wearing dresses in summer. I love frosty mornings and seeing the pink streaks of sky as the sun rises when I am cycling to work. I love rollercoasters, people who make me laugh uncontrollably, and being able to share my growth and process and discover new things about myself through talking to those I am close to. I love rainbows and stormy seas and the smell of the woods when the sun comes out after it has rained.

I read this list to K earlier and she said it was really beautiful and that it is astonishing that I have so much that I love, and that it is perfect that so much of what I love contradicts. And she pointed out how when I’m in a very, very bad place I can’t see these things or feel them at all, but they are always there, and that there is so much I appreciate and that I truly, truly do love being part of this world. And she is right – I do, when I can hold onto all these beautiful, simple things that make me happy and feel alive then being me is really a wonderful thing. Everything I love is so uncomplicated, so attainable – it is all right there already. And seeing what I hate and knowing why and owning it instead of pretending I’m okay with it has been one of the hugest parts of all the healing I’ve done in the past few months. I honestly feel so amazed to look back on all the growth and healing of the past few years and how it is starting to give me a true sense of who I really am inside and what I want more of in my life. After years and years of having no sense of who I was beyond what I was moulded into and the societal norms I tried to fulfill, coming to life in this way feels so special and freeing.

A place in this world

So another year draws to a close. I’ve grown past the need to make grand declarations about all the things I will do in the new year to make myself a better person, but I do think it is a good time to reflect on what has been and the lessons learnt, and to draw a line under that which no longer serves us and can be left behind as midnight passes. K and I were laughing yesterday that this time last year I decided my word for 2019 would be glow, because this year has been unexpectedly really quite bad and that word doesn’t reflect how the year ended up being at all. I was thinking a few weeks ago that when I look back on this year it seems very jagged and tangled – I was expecting it to be a much smoother year than previous years where I would be integrating the healing I had done so far because I had now done the work with K (not all the work by any means, but ‘the work’ – people in therapy for attachment trauma will know what I mean by this), but in fact it has thrown up a lot of things I wasn’t expecting about how I am and how I live my life. And so whilst I’ve learnt a huge amount about myself in recent months, I’ve not yet been able to integrate this new awareness into my life in any meaningful way or use it to make things easier for me.

Moving house took up a lot of time and energy in the first half of the year. It’s easy to lose sight of what a huge achievement it was to buy and sell at the same time whilst working full time and looking after Nina. This time last year our old house was on the market and I had no idea where we would end up or if we would even be able to move at all. The place we’ve ending up living wasn’t on my radar at all at that time and I’m so grateful for all the twists and turns that led to being where we are now. I love our new house, I love the surrounding area and how calm and peaceful it is, I love the new friend I’ve made here and through her I am excited to meet other new people this year. I love how safe it is to let Nina go out and play with her friends and that she can cycle and explore and go paddling in the streams near our house. The stressful self-inflicted summer I had and then the past 4 months of hell at work have meant I haven’t been able to take all this in as much as I would have liked to, but Nina and I walked in the meadow here and had a drink at the local pub this afternoon before she went to her friend’s for a sleepover and it was so lovely and still and there were birds singing everywhere and it really reminded me how far I’ve come to get us here. I made a good decision and I made it happen and I am incredibly proud I did that. Next year I hope to spend less time frozen in my house and more time uncurling in the sunshine and riding my bike in new places around here.

Fully waking up to the impending climate and ecological apocalypse – and just how close it is – also took up a lot of space this year. I fully immersed myself in Extinction Rebellion from April onwards and I’m really grateful I did that as I know I have made a big contribution and meeting others who are awake to the catastrophe most people are sleepwalking into was very empowering and I met some truly special souls. I over-committed myself and although I caused myself a lot of stress because of this, and it meant I headed into the busy time of the year at work without having had a proper break over the summer, I don’t regret it because it helped me uncover some long-standing patterns and, more importantly, the reasons behind so many of the habits I so easily fall into. Back in September I said to K that I didn’t see how I would move past them, and she said she thought bringing them into awareness would be most of what was needed. I was sceptical as it all came down to the fear of being invisible, and needing to be extra visible in order to exist at all, as another lovely legacy of narcissistic and abusive (traumatised) parents, and it felt impossible to move past something that has been so huge in my life, but actually I’ve taken a break from Extinction Rebellion till the Spring and I know I am still held in mind there, and I’ve realised that the most important thing is being visible to myself and this is something I’m continuing to work on. So, as usual, K was right.

Beyond this wish to make myself bigger in my own life next year, I really want to find my comfort zone in 2020. I was talking to a friend on Sunday and I said how there were so many posts on insta at this time of year about the need to push out of our comfort zones in order to experience true growth, but that I would be happy to find mine and stay there forever. I don’t think it had ever occurred to either of us that other people have a comfort zone, a place and way of being where they feel safe and at ease. I mean, I knew comfort zones were a thing, but I’d never thought about what it meant to have one or taken time to notice that I really don’t have one. We were also both confused at to why someone would want to push out of something that sounds like such a nice place to be! I do know there are times when I feel truly present and content and at peace with myself and the world, and I want more of that, but I also want to create a space inside me and a place in the world where I feel safe and at ease. K and I talked about this yesterday and she agreed it was a good goal for 2020 and that we would spend time working out what my comfort zone is, what feels okay and what doesn’t, because I am so used to pushing through everything and it has been hard to see what is genuinely okay and what is dissociation. Since the summer I am starting to really notice so many things that are not okay for me and that I need to leave behind and whilst it is hard accepting the limitations of my life because of my childhood, it is part of acceptance and for me growth seems to be very tied into finding this elusive thing known as a comfort zone.

It is only in the last few months of this year that I’ve really begun to understand how traumatised I am. I know this sounds silly because I went to K knowing I had CPTSD but it was only this year, when things were so much better from an attachment perspective and I wasn’t lurching from one crisis to the next, that I had the space to be able to see just how shredded my nervous system is because of relational trauma. And I think it is this that is making it so hard to keep going at work and in my full on home life – it’s not going to miraculously get better. More than 4 years ago, when I’d only just started therapy, I was worrying about whether I’d be able to keep working and K said that I might want to look at reducing the number of hours I worked in a year or so’s time. I remember being confused, because I had been planning to be recovered by then (ha!), but I can see now what she knew then that I am only just waking up to; healing from attachment trauma is a lifelong journey and the work is never truly complete. I need a different life than the one I envisaged for myself but I am not able to have that right now. It is hard knowing that I cannot make the big changes I truly need, that I will have to keep struggling through at work for the foreseeable future, but it is important to accept what is and not create more stress for myself by resisting it. I know that what I really need is to spend more time healing and caring for myself. Ideally I would work 3 or 4 days a week somewhere calmer that I can leave behind me when I go home so that I could spend more time doing things that help me heal and grow. This is not my reality and can’t be, but it is good to keep in mind the ideal I think, and then work at fulfilling the parts that I can for now, whilst holding in mind that I don’t want to live like this forever.

Realising how traumatised my brain is has shifted things, because I can see that whilst things will get better than this, I will always need a more gentle life than someone without CPTSD and I will always need more time for doing different things to nurture my system than someone without alters/parts. And whilst I have kept going despite work and therapy being horrifically hard the past 4 and a half years,  I am now really reluctant to continue doing this year in year out, barely hanging on at work, because of the longer term impact it will be having on my physical and emotional health. I am so aware of the statistical likelihood of me getting an auto-immune disease, something like lupus or MS or thyroid disease, and the amount of stress my body is under really isn’t good for me in terms of triggering something like that. I do lots of things to take care of myself – vegan diet, alcohol free, exercise, time in nature, yoga, meditation, therapy, avoiding over-stimulating situations, the list goes on – but the amount of toxic stress chemicals so frequently flooding through my body worries me. It is no longer sustainable. It never has been but I have been surviving and getting through every year, and as I wrote back in October, I can’t keep doing that now I know that the reality is I won’t suddenly not have PTSD anymore. I don’t want to keep surviving and pushing through exhaustion and being triggered by overwhelm and an endless list of too many things to do. Life is short and time is precious, and the climate crisis really throws this into sharp relief. We don’t know how long we have left of being able to live like we are now in this country, but this year has really taught me that I can’t just hang in there until Nina grows up and I can work less and have more time for me. I need to live now. I want to live now.

I have had horrific anxiety about returning to work ever since it became obvious last week that two weeks off wasn’t going to be enough to replenish me and reset my nervous system. I was expecting the break to help, but I’ve had a virus for two weeks now and I know that come Monday I won’t be feeling refreshed and ready to go back for another crazy three months. Yesterday morning I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it at all but my session with K last night really helped settle things and I am planning to spend the next 5 days getting myself in as good a place as I can for going back. K suggested last night that we spoke about short, medium and long term in relation to work, and where I could see myself. We talked about why I do what I do, that I love so many aspects of my work and how I’ve said for the past 9 years that even if I won the lottery I would keep doing the same thing, but I said I couldn’t handle the way things had gone in the type of institution I work in and how corporate it now is. I cannot handle the pressure, the administrative load we now have to deal with on top of the actual work we have to do, and how many different things we are expected to hold in mind all at the same time. I could rail against that and dream of the good old days when things were different, but it doesn’t change the reality and therefore it is not somewhere I feel able to work for the rest of my life. I will find out next week (I hope) if my application to come off probation a year early has been successful. If it is I will be so relieved. At the moment I’m thinking I will need to take some time off sick then, but K and I both said this may change as I may feel very liberated knowing I’ve met my targets and had my appointment formally confirmed (after 4 years!) and this may create some space to start saying no to more and doing less that will make it feel more manageable. So we will see. I also need to be prepared that my application won’t be accepted and I’ll have to wait the full 5 years, but I will deal with that if and when it happens. And in the medium term I just need to keep going, because I need money and Nina is only 12 and there are no other jobs that I could do where I would earn enough to pay the mortgage and continue in therapy, but I hope that I will be able to end probation and that this will enable me to make some different choices with regards the shape my career takes now and find ways of being there that mean it doesn’t consume me so fully as it has the past few months. The longer term is harder because best case scenario we have another 30 years before scientists and other academics predict our civilisation will collapse due to climate breakdown but many are predicting it will be less, and so I cannot make a plan for what I will do when Nina leaves home and I have more time and need less money because I’m not sure the life I expected to have five years ago when that time came is realistic, but if I hadn’t read the science and didn’t know what was ahead then I would be looking to change direction entirely and stop doing what I do now forever. So this is the goal I will keep in mind, because I think part of staying present, for me at least, means switching off from the fear of what may one day come to pass and assuming things will continue as they are forever. And I want to make decisions based on love not fear as that is the only way I can see of getting out of this mess humanity has got into in the first place.

So in many ways next year will be the same as this one, which pleases me and horrifies me in equal measure, but it does look clearer and more stable and peaceful, with no huge changes, and I am learning every year a little more about what I want and need and opening to the possibility that I deserve these things and I deserve a place in this world where I feel comfortable and safe and at ease.

And I will finish by wishing a happy and healthy new year to all my readers! Thank you for following my journey this year and taking the time to provide support and insights into what I share here, it is so very appreciated. I wish you peace and joy and strength in the coming year.

Making sense of what was lost

Five years ago today was the day I identified Jess’ body in the morgue. It was the worst day of my life without a doubt, though there are many others around that time that compete for the same award, but I’m not going there now. Instead I am going to balance today with some light and write a little more about our friendship, but also about the things I am beginning to piece together in therapy about why our friendship was so special to me and why it caused me to lose my mind quite so spectacularly when she died. I’ve questioned for so long whether my attachment disorder meant I over-reacted to a loss that shouldn’t even have impacted me, especially as quite often after it happened and in the years since I’ve been so dissociated at times that it hasn’t meant a thing to me, and then the self-criticism has really set in. Jess’ Mum has said to me she knows the two of us had a very special connection, and I’ve felt it sometimes I really have, but at the same time it’s so hard to hold onto something after a lifetime of doubting my feelings and intuition.

I think K saying ‘we will ritual around this every year’ a week or so ago really helped, gave me permission to *still* be finding her suicide so hard. And a very helpful and wise comment on my blog last week helped a huge amount too, about how with a suicide the shock prevents the grieving process from being completed, so in many ways it may never feel real for me and young parts. Another thing that helped in a weird way was a text from a friend, Cath, who knew Jess but wasn’t close to her like me, about something random on the day of the anniversary last week – when I replied with a lovely photo of her and Jess on a night out and said ‘thinking of all those who loved Jess today’ she replied saying she had forgotten it was the anniversary. She ran a half marathon in Jess’ memory the year after she died, and I’ve often felt triggered by her talking of Jess as if she knew her really well when they only met a few times, so I have to be honest I found this exchange quite validating; that date is etched on my memory forever now, there is no way it could ever pass without me noticing it, and even when I don’t consciously think about it my body always tells a different story, reminding me it is there.

I told K it felt validating in some ways that Cath had forgotten because it confirmed my connection to Jess was real and that my irritation in the weeks after Jess died when she tried to compare our grief was kind of justified. K said how my experience of friendship with Jess was hugely different from Cath’s because it was such an important attachment and profound friendship for me that really stood out compared to other friendships that I’ve had. “It has really different qualities, the meeting of two beings, where you truly met each other and you saw the best sides of each other, but at the same time you weren’t afraid to share the edges, and although she subsequently didn’t share the final shadow and difficult part of her mind, she did share some of it with you, didn’t she?”

As my posts from last week revealed, I was in such a shame-filled place around the anniversary of Jess’ suicide. In my Thursday session I said to K how I wished this time could just be about being sad for Jess, instead of it all getting tangled with shame and leaving me in this horrible place where I feel like I am the worst person in the world. K says for her it makes sense that my big attachment feelings and shame over who I am are triggered by this grief and I end up in a place where I cannot see anything good about myself; they are linked and we can’t separate them, not yet at least. And she explained the ways this loss is linked to my attachment difficulties in a way that enabled her words to land in a different place in me than they have before. She spoke about how important attachment is for me because of my traumatic attachment, and how my relationship with Jess has proved to be one of the most important relationships in my life because I truly felt met and seen and heard and able to give back in a way that is very rare for me. It’s true – we shared so much of what we loved and it was a light and fun friendship where I felt able to be truly myself. And then this very profound attachment ended because, as Miffy says, ‘she died on purpose’ and on a very young, unconscious level it triggers me into feeling bad and feeling shame because she chose to go away.

So you have this amazing meeting place. Jess comes into your life and she is like a shining star. She brings out the best in you and you bring out the best in her. And you finally realise what it’s like to really, truly love someone and want to spend time with them. And then you lose her. And so of course your grief is compounded by attachment issues because for you it can’t not be, because for you attachment in many ways is a bigger deal than a death. So she dies, you’re triggered into attachment loss, you feel like you’re dying and that it is all your fault.

I am working on the post about my process and disintegration in the days and weeks after Jess died which I hope will help me heal some of the shame I feel about what it did to me. I will post it when it is done and I’ve shared it with K. I read what I had written so far to her on Thursday, after she had told me about women in my home city in the day facility for EUPD who repeatedly break their own bones and throw themselves down stairs and bang their heads against walls and drink far too much and get hospitalised to express in some way that they are full up with very, very toxic and complex emotions. She talked about me having the same process as those women and it really, truly helped to hear that, not because I am better than them because I am more functional, but because she sees how huge my feelings are, and because she reminded me that those women and me all feel like this and are totally emotionally dysregulated because of childhood abuse and neglect. And we spoke about how in some ways it would be easier to be like that because it is such hard work holding it all together. I know I am grateful for my work and daughter and ability to contain myself, but it is exhausting. Knowing K sees that huge level of pain in me even when I don’t externalise it through self-harm or crazy ranting emails or desperate texts, and knowing she must truly know what hard work it is to contain all those feelings and all that process, was so healing.

She said how we would never think those women are bad, so it is funny that I think I am bad, especially because something really, truly bad happened when Jess killed herself and so it is no wonder that it spilled out a little and made some mess. I told her about the annihilation hole that opened up whenever I was alone after Jess died, every time I tried to sleep even when someone was next to me, and how I must have been repeatedly re-experiencing being left alone to die as a baby and young child. And I remember saying over and over again how I was losing my mind and “this isn’t me” because I was so dissociated and had no idea what was happening or what my feelings were. I didn’t have any idea I had complex trauma and alters back then, I had very few memories of my childhood at all and no real sense of the abuse I had experienced. So now I would know why I was feeling what I was feeling and might be able to explain to people I had complex trauma and what I needed (no alcohol or weed would have been a good start) and things would be different. I know they would be different now but the shame I feel is still so intense even though I know I cannot help that I didn’t understand back then.

I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself or be able to let go of the fears over what people must think of me for how my emotions spilled all over the place in the first two months after Jess died. I was an absolute wreck. My biggest memory from the time is being utterly baffled by how everyone else was able to carry on as normal at least some of the time – even Jess’ Mum and sisters were eating and sleeping and going for walks – rather than being totally immersed and consumed by the pain. I can see how it must have looked like I thought my pain was bigger than other people’s but I didn’t – I thought everyone must be feeling how I was and I couldn’t understand how they were able to contain it and function and not just totally lose their minds too. On the day of the funeral everyone was leaving the wake to go and get ready for Christmas in two days’ time and I was so confused that they could carry on with normal life when this had happened. I understand so much of this now, but it still fills me with shame that I will never get to explain to other people why I was how I was. K said it doesn’t matter because we know. And I can see this is the end goal – self-forgiveness and letting go of the shame because I did not react how I did because I am bad, only because I was in so much pain. And I also know that after 5 years this loss is finally starting to fit with all I know about myself around attachment trauma now, and maybe in understanding I can start to forgive myself a little too, but it is a long and hard road facing all of it instead of burying it for another year.

Jess-shaped hole

I am really struggling with the upcoming anniversary this year, more so than last year which has taken me by surprise in some ways. There’s something about five years, about how long that is, that I am finding really very difficult this year – it hasn’t ‘just happened’ and yet the loss is still so real and raw. There is a Jess-shaped hole in me, and there always will be – time doesn’t fill it, it just makes it harder to believe she was ever here. I sometimes doubt our connection, worry I made it up and that she didn’t even really like me that much, which I guess is the legacy of a narcissistic mother who made me doubt my own reality. I need to constantly remind myself that it was real, otherwise I feel ashamed for finding it so hard that she is gone, as if I am totally over-reacting and have no right to these feelings.

Last year wasn’t fun by any means, but it was also much more tangled with my estranged mother’s 70th birthday (which is the same day as Jess died). This year I’m barely thinking of my Mum, it’s all about Jess, and it feels very raw and quite frightening if I’m honest. I think there is still a lot of shock and disbelief around too – it is still so hard to comprehend that she really won’t be back. K said how, without that chance to say goodbye, the mind never has chance to catch up with what happened and, especially with the level of dissociation I experience, it might never feel real for me. And she said how it feels so other, that when I describe her with her arms up ready for a hug, and her liveliness (she was so alive) then it is truly shocking that her physical body is no longer here. And I know that I agreed to identify her body so that it could be released in time for the funeral in part so that it might feel more real, but I can never really match up the image of her so alive – dancing, cooking, riding her bike, laughing – with that cold, blue, bloated ghost in the morgue, so it didn’t really work in many ways.

And every year young parts have some kind of meltdown because they can’t seem to get what has happened. I can feel them getting excited as the anniversary approaches, because it is ‘Jess’s day’ and it feels like we are getting ready to see her again – they just can’t understand that we are not going to, that this is not what anniversaries are about, that we never will see her again. I hear little voices asking when she’s coming back. It seems to make it harder than ever, because of course we have to go through the whole ‘she’s dead’ ‘is dead forever?’ thing all over again. This makes me worry I sound crazy, but it is what it is. Having young parts complicates everything (a lot). It was actually the first anniversary of Jess’ suicide, 4 years ago, when we’d been seeing K for around 3 months, that I first really knew that she understood and would be able to help me. We’d only just started to figure out I had alters, and I remember her saying how hard it was for very young parts to understand something as huge as suicide – a sudden death was bad enough, but when that person chose to die it makes it so much more complicated and shocking and incomprehensible. At that point everything shifted for me I think as I began to understood my own reactions and behaviours and experiences and I realised K was capable of really understanding and helping us all.

K and I had an extra session today and we have one next Thursday as well (the actual anniversary is the 10th). I worried that me asking for these extra sessions was unnecessary this year, but I was so grateful after work to have those 90 minutes with her and to be able to put down some of the heaviness and let her hold some of what I’ve been carrying. I’ve felt so tightly coiled the last few days, aware of this pit of grief and loss and confusion inside me but having nowhere for it to go except into my physical body, which aches and hurts from being held so tightly. I’ve managed at work and it’s been kind of fine and kind of awful at the same time, but it’s hard keeping everything inside at work and at home.

We talked a lot about Jess and suicide and my mum’s mother’s suicide when she was 12. And we talked about my own suicidality and what happened for me after Jess died. I have so much shame over how losing Jess affected me and how lost and dysregulated and unable to cope I was. It is a shame I cannot shake, the worst shame I experience, and nothing seems to loosen it. It feels like it is eating me from the inside and I want to cut out of my skin to be free of it, to be someone else, someone who is good and doesn’t do bad things. I managed to share a little more with K than I have before about that time, and she was very validating and compassionate about how much pain I was in and how I didn’t know back then that I was dissociated and had complex trauma and young parts, but I feel so disgusting inside about it. I feel like I really need to write about it and share it with her, to loosen its hold and begin to let some of the shame go, and I would love this year to be the year I do this, but I am so scared to face what’s inside me over that time. I know she will make me feel better about it, I know that shame is healed in relationship and that sharing it will begin to dismantle its power, but the thought of sitting down and writing about that time makes me feel so bad.

K and I talked about how far I’ve come since we first met, when killing myself and Nina seemed not only to be the only way out, but also an entirely rational option given the pain I was in, the transgenerational trauma, the horrors I must have inflicted on her and what a painful future was ahead of her. It took so much work to get to a point where I could see Nina was happy and secure and safe, that I had been ‘good enough’, and that I couldn’t take her life. It’s good to see that progress, and to see that, for the most part, I can trust that Nina is okay, but it feels incongruous at the same time for my grief over Jess to still be the same size as it was back then.I really don’t want to go to work tomorrow or next week. I really need some space and time to myself to write and think about Jess. I wish I didn’t have to work. Or parent. Not forever but for a little while. I need to see the sea and walk and feel close to Jess again.

The road you’ve taken leads to the stars and for a while you’ll dance ahead,

But I know my soul will find yours there in the place where you have led.

Together we’ll stand still in time, friends forever – come what may.

And as kindred spirits we’ll dance again; our mortal years will fade to grey.

All that matters

As my blog has alluded to, I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed lately, by all I am doing and all I am holding. On top of the attachment crisis following K’s move, which doesn’t feel fully over but has definitely settled, I’ve been bombarded on all sides by work and Extinction Rebellion (XR) demands, not to mention parenting and running the house and looking after the pets. Plus I also saw my Mum in town when I was marching through the High Street for Earth Strike on Friday, from a distance and she didn’t see me, but it caused another near-death experience and has brought up a lot around the guilt I feel for wishing I had a different Mum. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what I’ve been doing, because that’s not the point of this post, but I think it is finally beginning to become apparent to me in a very real, practical way that my life is and always will be limited by complex-PTSD and I know I have some difficult decisions about how I spend my time, and what I will and won’t be able to tolerate, to implement over the coming days and weeks.

Going to K’s new house still feels very, very weird and not right at all. It still feels like her and I are not real there, or that the space isn’t real, like we are suspended somewhere we are not supposed to be. It’s getting gradually more familiar though, and the sitting room does look very warm and cosy so we are looking forward to our next film therapy night in a month or two. We are going to start a craft project next week too, probably using glitter glue, because K thinks it would be a good idea to do this and to feel into it being safe enough there to make something together. And we are doing double sessions now and that feels so much safer and makes it so much easier to settle into the space and into K’s presence. The difference it makes is beyond merely an extra 30 minutes of therapy, the longer session has a profound impact on me and the young parts and I feel so grateful that K is offering me a hugely discounted session to enable this, and that – for now at least – I have the means to pay for this.

There is no doubt that the prospect of societal collapse due to climate breakdown is looming large in the space between us. I can’t shake the fear, or help young parts with it, because we know what is ahead and it will mean losing K, or ending our work at least, only we don’t know when or how many years are left, or what it will look like, and it could be that my life is very different by then and it feels more okay than the thought of it does now. These fears and the whole theme of ‘too much’ were both really reflected in the sand tray we made this evening in our session. K said she’d never seen such a full sand tray!

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It was basically a tired and sleepy 14 year old me, desperate for rest, buried underneath all the people and demands being thrown at us as people desperately try to stave off climate breakdown. And little me feeling sad trying to get people to stop eating animals, and other people with their heads buried in the sand as species go extinct and ecosystems collapse, and we couldn’t reach K, partly because of the imminent collapse, but also because of all the demands, because they stop us reaching her because our head gets too full, and because they keep us in a future where her and I don’t exist. And because the scary part is that if we achieve the systemic changes needed in the face of what is coming, then it will also mean losing her, because we won’t have privately owned vehicles and life will be more local and there won’t be money for therapy. And if we fail to act and adapt and mitigate, then food and fuel shortages and war and collapse are what we have in store. How things will unfold environmentally and societally are big unknowns in many ways, but climate breakdown is accelerating and the latest temperature prediction models to be released this week show that under the business as usual scenario – which shows no signs of changing at the moment – we are on track for a 6.5 – 7 degree average temperature rise by 2100, so much worse than what was predicted by the IPCC in 2018. 2 degrees is locked in already, and that will lead to catastrophic and irreversible consequences for life on earth, so all this stuff is very real, but I don’t want to live in this terrifying world before I have to. 

After K had taken a picture of the busy sand tray (which she won’t put on the internet, we checked!!) she asked what needed to be changed to represent me having a rest. And we scooped all the things off that were covering us and weighing us down, and shoved everything else away to the other end of the sand tray – all the people eating animals, and all those demanding too much from me as they frantically engage in activism to stave off climate breakdown (and probably to distract themselves from the horrifying reality in many ways), and the barriers that collapse will put up between me and those I love. And then we put very little me with teen me under a tree, because young parts need more time at home doing nice things, and a hedgehog to represent Nina, and K, her donkeys and Mr Raposa, in a circle with us, really far from the pile of other stuff. And someone said ‘really those are the only things that matter – trees, young parts, you, and Nina’ and we put a row of hearts between these things and all the pile of stuff; ‘we can love those things but still look after ourselves’. And K said this is so important, and reminded me that I already do more than most people with being vegan and not flying and cycling to work and not buying unnecessary things.

And she asked how I felt about the transformation and I said ‘better, because those are all the things I will never regret doing with my time’. And she said how powerful the wave of stuff coming down the other end was, and that the barrier in the middle was now filled with hearts instead of rocks, and the whole room feels softer and at ease, and she said ‘I hope you feel also that you’ve got a place to rest, you have to have rest in your life’.

Those are all the things I will never regret doing with my time‘ – this is so true and is what I am taking with me on the Autumn Equinox, on the day when there is light and dark in equal measure and we are invited to seek balance in our lives. K always tells me I am enough, but I want to feel that, and I don’t want to lose myself in activism to the point where I lose myself, in part because I think it’s most likely too late to avert catastrophe and collapse now and so the focus needs to be on adaptation, including community building and self-healing, and in part because Mother Earth cannot heal while we continue to live such toxic and demanding lives. And I may look back and wish many things, but I will never regret the time I spend with K, with Nina, in nature, and replenishing and healing myself, whatever happens, whatever comes.

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Collapse and terror

I’m ‘trigger warning’ this post as it is about ecological collapse and societal breakdown again, which I know I find deeply triggering at times. I thought about posting it on my other blog, but the therapy relationship and young parts and complex trauma is so central to what I’m struggling with that it needs to go here, and there are young and teen parts around that need to have their say too so I expect this post will have some switching so we can all get our words out.

It is hard to find the words to express the level of terror my system is experiencing right now about what is ahead for us humans and the planet that is our home, about how it will affect us personally and the reality that, once the environmental shit really hits the fan, we will not be able to see K anymore. This fear feels so primal. At times all I can feel is blind panic at the idea of being left alone to die (ring any bells…) and the acute pain of being abandoned. My greatest fear about the societal collapse that is being driven by intensifying climate and environmental crises is not being able to get to K, and of course this has been triggered – again – by the news of her house move. It had settled for a while again, awareness of the crisis had been mostly integrated into my daily life instead of surfacing in waves of shock and horror and subsiding, and healthy grief had surfaced. I had – for the most part – settled back into the present again, and had connected with joy and beauty and found solace and affinity in spending time with new, like-minded, open-hearted people. Then K’s impending house move came along and totally obliterated everything and sent my system spiralling back into utter madness over the prospect of near-time societal collapse.

Today has been so fucking hard. I have felt all smashed up inside, have barely done any work, have dissolved into sobbing grief over the loss of the house and all it symbolises, have text and emailed K with questions, and am now waiting for tomorrow when at least she will hopefully know where exactly she will be living in 5 weeks’ time. All of these things, these worries, can be resolved by settling into a new pattern, getting to know a new place, learning that she is the same in the new house, and so on. They are worries that can be soothed and can subside, but underneath all of that is the creeping, debilitating fear of societal breakdown and being taken away from her, being unable to reach her as the planet burns and wars rage, and crops fail, and water runs out. And this is not a fear that can be soothed away because as irrational as it seems, it is also a rational fear based upon what science and experts are telling us. We are in the sixth mass extinction and a million species are threatened with near-time extinction. We are running out of time to avoid mass starvation and displacement on a global scale. These fears are so young but they cannot be soothed by evidence of K’s care and commitment because they are fears of what is very likely to come to pass, whether it is in two years, or five or ten.

K will only be about 26 miles further away than she is now when she moves, but those 26 miles make all the difference between being able to get to her still after societal breakdown (whilst there is still food and water at least), and not being able to get there at all.

Now – 13.3 miles: a 70 minute bike ride

After the move – 39+ miles: a 4 hour hilly bike ride

Even with a skill to swap as we (hopefully) transition to a skills-based economy, that is too far to do regularly, perhaps even ever if things really go to shit. The horrors we envisage, the horrors we know will be unleashed as the crisis intensifies, are beyond comprehension, and the thought of not having K there as it unfolds is literally the worst thing imaginable some days. So yes, there is worry about adding 60-90 minutes of travelling each week to an already busy life when K moves, but beyond this there are fears of what this change means in the face of the collapse which is coming, even though we don’t and can’t know precisely when.

Ecological collapse-induced societal breakdown is not far off. Some would say it is already happening. Things are happening so much faster than expected – The Arctic is literally on fire, pouring the equivalent of Sweden’s total annual emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere as it does so, permafrost is melting 70 years sooner than was expected even relatively recently, fascism and the far right are rising as environmentalists predicted would happen with the declines in the Earth’s resources, the list goes on. And we have to phase out cars if we are to survive as a species and I am invested in that, but I will need my car to get to therapy once K moves, and I am invested in that too. I am deeply invested in this aspect of the status quo even as I rebel against it. It sickens me. If we manage to salvage parts of this civilisation as it goes down maybe there will be some kind of transport available to get me there, but if not then 40 miles between us might as well be 400.

And it terrifies us. Not being able to get to K while the world is burning and everyone is dying fills me with genuine terror. To survive, maybe communities will be built and some people will transition to a gentler and kinder way of living, but even so her community will not be mine. She will not gather me in and scoop me close to her as the horrors unfold – even if she wanted me in her tribe she could not do that. And there is no one to talk to about this. So many people think societal collapse is an irrational fear or cannot comprehend it at all, despite what the scientists and experts are saying about its likelihood, despite the food shortages, droughts, famines, wildfires, storm surges, flooding, earthquakes that we see all around and are told will worsen to the point of catastrophe as the planet warms and the ecosystems collapse. And those who ‘get’ the horrors that are ahead wouldn’t get what the fear of being separated from a therapist is like, or what it is like to look like a grown woman but to have a host of freaked out child parts living inside you, peering out in horror at the future they envisage. I am scared there is not even time to build a community or fall in love with someone who will love me back and hold my hand through all this. And I am so fucking furious that my life is finally basically how I want it to be and I am in a place – physically and emotionally – that I could imagine being in for years and years, and yet it is being taken away from me. All those years wanting to die and now I want to live, I want a life, and yet all the time the ticking time-bomb of environmental and societal collapse is counting down. I am finally getting what I want and I cannot keep it. And I am finally in a place in therapy where I really believe that K will not go away and we can work together for as long as I need, and yet she could so easily be taken away by forces outside of our control. I literally fucking hate the fact that I am alive during this time. Out of all the times to be alive the one where the future is disappearing in front of our eyes as we look on powerlessly is actually the worst imaginable. I literally want to fucking die to avoid what is ahead.

No matter what

Unexpectedly (for her as well as me) K has finally sold her house and will be moving on 5th September. She is moving to the countryside the opposite side of the city we both live near at the moment, so it will be an additional 20-30 minute drive each way, on top of the existing 25 minutes I already travel, for me to get to her new house. This should be fine. It is not a big deal. We will still be able to work (although it might need to be a longer session every other week when work is busy because the drive is longer and the traffic can get really bad going that way) and everything will be the same and the room will have all the same things and be set up the same as far as possible (we know because we have checked and asked lots of questions in our session today!) and yet it still feels like a catastrophe is unfolding. It is such a small change in the scheme of ‘things that could happen‘ (i.e. last summer when we were ending for at least a year and maybe forever, or the spectre of her moving to live in her Portugal house permanently which loomed over us for years, or sickness or a bereavement, or some other horrifying thing that would take her away from us), but it is still so unsettling and there are parts who are definitely having a near-death experience right about now. We have sobbed and sobbed this evening. It is not how it was. We are not losing it and slashing up our legs (or even thinking of doing that) or buying wine or anything else mad and destructive – there is an adult present and I will make food for everyone later and we will get a blanket and watch Netflix and all will be okay. But it still hurts. It seems silly that something like this could be so hard to deal with, but K was so validating so I guess I need to validate everyone too, and acknowledge that if she acts as though it is a big deal for us all then that is because it is a big deal.

It brings up so much, any change like this. Inside it feels as though she is going away, even though she is not. And even though I know this is old stuff and parts are having a meltdown over nothing, over things that have already happened, it still feels so difficult to comprehend. We love her house and garden and our room so much. They feel so central to our healing, the place we have slowly learnt to hold in our hearts when we are far away and struggling, or needed something external to steady us all. It is the first place we ever felt safe, the first place we knew what safety even was. We have done so much work there and it really hurts that we won’t be there anymore, that other people will be in our room, that we will not drive down the lane to her house that we have driven down more than 300 times, week in week out, over the past four years, that we have just 4 sessions left and then we will never go there again. It was some comfort to hear K say today that we have been in that room more times than anyone else, spent more hours in there with her than anyone else has (by quite a number I would imagine, as she’d only just moved there when we started going 4 years ago). And she says we will spend some time talking about the new space together and how it will be before she moves, to integrate the old and the new, but the most important things will be the same – her and I –  and she will be the same in the new house, except maybe a little happier.

K says it will be okay, she is not leaving [county we live in] and will be staying here for the rest of her life now. There are two possible houses she will move to and she doesn’t know which she will get until later this week, but if it’s one of them it will be the house she dies in she says, and if it is the other then she will still be staying in the same area even though she may move again. She will be 40 miles from me at the most, which really isn’t much. We will be able to go for beautiful walks together and she will be happier and the energy of the new village is nicer and softer than where she is now (where people are very right wing and go fox hunting and voted to leave the EU). She said ‘the most important aspects will still be in place, no matter what’, because the most important things are her and I. And I believe her. I do. Even though parts are having a meltdown because it feels as though she is actually going away, adult me knows she is not. I know we are lucky, so incredibly lucky. All that pain last summer brought me to a place where I could finally really take in all she is able to give me, where I could settle into the support and love and care she gives me, instead of always wishing it was something else or being terrified it would be taken away, and I feel so lucky to have done, and to be able to continue doing, this work with her. Two and a half years ago, in January 2017, when I was having one of the toughest times I ever had in therapy (there were quite a few of these, but this time was particularly horrific I know) I remember being so full of terror and grief knowing that one day she would not be there and that it would really, really hurt when that day came. She told me we both just had to hang in there, even though it was intolerable, and even though I didn’t see how that pain would ever transform into something else, we hung in there, her and I and the parts, and it did get better. And even then I remember thinking ‘what if I get to be one of the lucky ones who gets to keep their therapist as long as they need them, what if I get to finish this work with K, but I spend the whole time terrified that I won’t?‘ And here I am – one of the lucky ones. It does feel incredible that I’ve been able to do this work, this big work, all with her, that I’ve done ‘the work’ now and we will be able to finish this process together over the coming months and years. I have been one of the lucky ones. The big work is done now, and getting to do the rest with her is like an added bonus.

I am worried about how the winter will be, when the busy time at work starts again and it is dark and grey and my energy drops and then I have an extra long drive every Monday to get to therapy and back. K is trying to make it as easy as possible for me – giving me a fee reduction to cover the extra petrol we will incur, saying we can work later if I need to, that everything will be the same and that we can still be flexible and do extra sessions and phone sessions if hard stuff comes up, that we will fit in with what I need and allow time and space so I’m not rushing to get there and back. And she is not going away, she is working, and she is moving to the place which feels like her spiritual home which makes me happy for her and relieved for us because she doesn’t ever want to leave there and we don’t ever want her to leave either.

I could really feel her care today, could feel how hard she was trying to make this easier for us and answer all the dozens of questions which came tumbling out because she genuinely really cares and not because she wanted to avoid ‘a fuss’. Being able to feel this care and love is something that is so different from how it was for so many years. I think in part it is because I am able to be open to it, able to feel it and allow myself to experience it now, instead of being so triggered and certain I was being abandoned that I couldn’t feel anything else except that old and well-worn pain. But I think it is also that it is so much easier for her to care for me, and offer me extra support when I need it, when I’m not a triggered state nearly all the time – it must overwhelm her so much less to be working with me now, and it must be easier to offer extra support from time-to-time knowing it is because of something that is unusual now, instead of the next in a near-constant stream of crises. She said this week was different and that we could be in touch via email before Friday and to message this evening if I needed. And in her reply to the inevitable message from young parts when we got home she said ‘I hear it all and somewhere it will all be fine‘. ‘Because no matter what?’ we asked, to which she replied ‘No matter what dear CB’ (with some emojis of course). And even though there is so much fear over what will happen and how we will make it work when life is already so busy, I also know an hour’s drive instead of 25 minutes will be okay, that we will make it work, that she is committed to this work and so am I, and that I am so lucky that she will be walking beside me on this journey for as long as she possibly can, because she wants to be here, and because it is important to her too.

Does she know?

Does K know what she has given us? Does she know that the reason I increasingly feel safe inside myself and safe to be myself is because of her? Does she really know?

She has given us the greatest gift it is possible to bestow on a traumatised child, and there are 23 of us!

Consistency

Validation

Time

Space

Warmth

Care

Respect

Safety

Concern

Consideration

Understanding

Predictability

Security

Availability

Compassion

Interest

Stability

She has listened, heard, watched, seen. She has held me up and steadied me. Even now I am finding my feet, still she is always there.

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