It’s incredible how quickly disordered eating behaviour comes back when my attachment system feels under threat. I’ve not eaten since I left for therapy at 3pm on Monday, nearly 48 hours (I’m drinking water). It always starts the same – my tummy is too tight and I’m too shattered inside to eat, and then at some point it morphs into seeing how long I can go without food, to the point where I don’t feel hungry, don’t want to eat, where I start to enjoy the feeling of power over my situation it invokes in me. I’m not worried as I’m sure K and I will speak by phone tomorrow or Friday (how frustrating to have to pay for an extra session because of her strange, made up precautionary measures) and that things will settle and I’ll return to eating. It’s probably silly though, as my immune system needs strengthening at the moment, not depleting, but I just can’t bring myself to eat.
I honestly feel horrendous. My whole body is on fire and my heart is racing. It feels like my life is under threat, that I’m going to die if she doesn’t soothe me, that I already have died, that I survived a near-death experience on Monday. I’ve made it into work and had a meeting and have had a lot of people asking what I’ve done to my head (cringe). It’s K’s birthday today otherwise I would have text and asked to speak today. I also know this is not about her, not really, but it also is – she’s the only person in my life who I would have this reaction over. It scares me a little that she can still trigger this in me, it’s pure torture, but she pointed out on Monday that this used to happen so often for me and I have come so far because it has been so much better lately. It makes me sad that not eating is my automatic way of trying to preserve attachment, denying my needs to try and be safe. I still prefer this response than comfort eating, because starving doesn’t make me feel gross and out of control.
I saw a friend last night, a new-ish friend who I only told a little about the big old mess of my family a few weeks ago, and I told her what had happened on Monday and why I got so triggered. She was lovely and validating (her mum is a therapist so she gets it, to some extent) and is as pissed off as me, perhaps more so, by the irresponsible media frenzy around Coronavirus, but she also referred to K not being able to meet all my needs and that perhaps I need to get some met elsewhere, that everyone has their limitations. And it was like NOOOO, this is not an issue, my therapy is fine. K has behaved like an idiot, frankly, and it is vaguely unprofessional and not good modelling, but generally our work is amazing. It doesn’t undermine that, and it doesn’t mean my relationship with her is under threat in any way. If my friend had seen how utterly crazy I was for the first 3 and a half years of therapy she would see that my therapy relationship is fine, that K is incredible to have been able to do this work with me, that I have come SO FAR, that this was a minor thing, as far as my therapy journey has gone, and really doesn’t change how strong and incredible K and I’s relationship is. We’ve not had a single issue like this for over 18 months and even now I don’t feel this is a rupture (though my anger over her reaction is trying to create one) or that K and I have lost each other, it is that I’m re-experiencing being abandoned and pushed away as a baby. My response is totally out of proportion to what has happened, even though she shouldn’t have done it, and it will settle – we’ll talk on the phone and probably talk it through more on Monday, why it hurts so f*cking much what she did, and it will be okay.
I can feel the anger building over her over-reaction to Coronavirus. It is making me want to email her a list of statistics and real threats and tell her I’m so disappointed that she of all people has fallen for the media hype, but I made it into work today and two colleagues are utterly freaking out and one won’t come within two metres of anyone (which makes me irritated but hasn’t left me screaming and clawing at my head in abject despair), and when you look at the news and see that every single story is linked to Coronavirus, it is easier to understand where she got to. And it was a small change, a HUGE change for a person with attachment trauma, but objectively it was a small change. She didn’t shame me at all for my reaction, for yelling and shouting and screaming and digging and clawing my head. She kept trying to reach me and she met me as soon as I managed to reach towards her, she didn’t let me get lost in that place or give up or tell me I was being ridiculous or get angry with me. She pointed out how far I’ve come that this rarely happens, how it used to happen so much, and she validated that whilst it is a small thing that to me it really feels huge, I really do have that reaction. She saw the young parts and she saw how distressed they were. Listening to the recording from Monday it is clear she did everything she could do to help me not lose my session or our connection – she was gentle and calm and incredibly validating and containing in session, and she was able to do that because she knows me so well and knows how to help me come back enough to connect with her. At the end of the session she told me how well she knows me, that she knows how to hold me and the baby and all the young parts even when she is far away.
Being angry at her feels like a distraction from the huge attachment terror I’m experiencing, like if I can get her to understand her behaviour was mad then I’ll be safe. My need to correct her and have her understand is huge, and it reminds me of being younger and trying to control my mum in an attempt to have some control over the craziness around me. I want to prove to K she was wrong, that she made a mistake and it harmed me, but even if she was it doesn’t change what it triggered in me. How many times has my body responded like this to a perceived threat, mishearing or misreading something, and even after it is clarified within a few minutes I remain lost in the flashback and activated for days? It scares me what it triggered in me – how will I ever manage an actual intimate relationship? I thought I was past all that craziness but it still lives in me.
K definitely should have kept things as normal on Monday and provided me with a space to talk about what will happen if there is disruption to our weekly sessions. I do hope she’s had that pointed out by other therapists. Maybe she will be feeling sheepish, she should be, and maybe she will own this and maybe she won’t. Whatever happens for her though it doesn’t mean there won’t be future disruption – I think that is coming to the UK quite soon and that I need to prepare for phone sessions after Monday. So I really don’t want to make this rupture into something it’s not, I don’t want the extent of my emotional reaction to the perceived abandonment and rejection to take me to a place where extreme levels of anger at her feel justified and I am driven to rant at her how wrong her perception of the threat is and how crazy her decision to work in a different room far apart was, so I am trying to keep my anger at her Coronavirus fears separate from what I am re-experiencing at the moment as that is helping me remember she hasn’t let me down or broken us and that we left feeling connected and have been in touch since.
For now I think I will keep starving myself in an attempt to feel safer, but I can tell this will settle, even though it is absolutely horrendous to be in this place, and it doesn’t require K to realise she’s been an idiot in order for this to happen because that is separate from what is happening now. In the past I have been triggered by so many things she has done and, apart from the bike puncture debacle nearly two years ago, none of them were anything inappropriate K had done. It’s been really helpful to hear how many people thought she completely over-reacted on Monday and that they would have reacted the same, it is validating and comforting and makes me so grateful to have this community of people to turn to for support.