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.

Another year

My darling Jess,

Another year has passed almost. Another year when you are not here to make plans with, laugh with, dream with, dance with, share everything with. I want to tell you I miss you, but those words don’t even come close to the desperate longing I feel to see you one last time, to say goodbye to a person who is alive, instead of the cold, blue, lifeless body I identified as ‘you’ in the morgue. Waves of grief and shock still take me with such force that I struggle to breathe, struggle to see how the pain will subside. It does, of course – I’ve learnt that about grief now – but it has been five years since I saw you and it still feels the same when it hits. And it hurts to know that you were saying goodbye to me, that you had made your decision and knew what you were going to do, but I didn’t know and I didn’t get to say goodbye or tell you how important you were to me. When I hugged you goodbye I thought we would meet in a week or two – you were feeling better and would soon be coming home, finding a different job, getting back to normal.

Except you didn’t ever get back to normal.

Ten days later you travelled to W_____ Bay and checked into a hotel and in the morning, as the sun rose over the sea turning the sky pink and gold, you rolled forward over the cliff edge and fell. You died instantly, of course. There was no doubt in your mind over what you needed to do. No coming back. I remember looking at the pink sky that morning and thinking of you, not knowing that you had already gone. I lived a day in oblivion and then the call came and my whole world fell apart. That night I screamed and howled for hours with a pain I’ve never known before. For weeks and weeks everything was black.

grief

You remain the most beautiful, inspiring, magical person I’ve ever met. Time with you made me sparkle. I thought we had our whole lives to be friends, to grow together, to learn each other’s pasts and share our hopes and dreams. It still takes me by surprise sometimes, that you will never be here again. Today I wanted to talk to you about something I am researching for work and it felt like a blow to the chest when I realised I couldn’t. I never can. I can never talk to you or see you again. We will never dance or go camping or eat chips and drink beer in the summer rain. We will never talk about moon energy or politics or the patriarchy. We will never eat vegan food or talk about our families. We will never go to the beach or the woods again. I will never hear your laugh, your voice, your advice, your fears. I will never see your beautiful face or watch you skudding towards me with your arms over your head ready to give me a hug.

You’ve been gone so much longer than you were in my life and yet the space you have left will never be filled. I used to think this pain would lessen, but the waves still engulf me. There is still so much I want to tell you and ask you, so much I want to know and share and learn. I want to know why, Jess. I want to know what would have happened if you’d been able to tell us how bad things were, what you were planning, how you were feeling. I want to know if things would have got better and if ‘better’ would have been enough. Our connection was forged from a pain I don’t think either of us knew we carried back then, a pain I am even now struggling to understand and assimilate into my life. I felt such a deep connection to you, beyond the love so many people felt for you because of who you were. You were drawn towards the same dark, chaotic world of raves and dysfunction and illicit substances as me, and yet like me had so much more in your life so that we both teetered on the edge together, never allowing ourselves to be fully immersed in that life. I look back and I can see our souls reaching out to each other across so much common ground.

Sometimes you talked to me about the worries weighing you down – your mum’s drinking since your dad’s suicide ten years earlier, your middle sister’s fragility, everyone’s dependency on you. You asked me if I thought people who had lost a parent could ever have children of their own. You shared worries about work and relational struggles and your constant need to keep moving. You shared the darkness that engulfed you near the end. You told me when a switch came on and you could feel yourself coming back, but you didn’t tell me when you lost yourself again. It is heart breaking that no one knew how much pain you were in. You shared so much with me that no one else knew, but you didn’t share enough and I couldn’t help you. 

So many times I’ve wanted to tell you about my therapist, K, and all she has given and found in me. This evening when I was crying over you, over how there will never be anyone like you again, she told me she thinks I was visited by an angel. Spending time with you left me feeling heard and understood, inspired, calm and contained, and truly alive. You saw so much good in me. You wanted the best for me. You let me talk about my difficulties but you knew they weren’t all I was. You taught me how it is possible to feel and be in friendships and left me with a deep knowing about what I want and deserve. What you did got me in touch with the past I tried to bury, it brought me to where I am now, it brought me to a place where I could begin to heal, but I wish it hadn’t taken something so violent and tragic to get me here. You lit up my life in ways you will never know and it is forever darker now you are no longer here.

‘I’m having a complete meltdown unrelated to your move…’

What a day! I spiralled into a hysterical crisis after I wrote this morning and ended up going to K’s an hour earlier than planned. I messaged her when I came off the main road so she could wait outside and show me where to park, telling her I was 9 minutes away and was having a meltdown that was ‘unrelated to her move’ (ahem…). I was crying when I arrived, pretty much yelled at her that I couldn’t possibly do that journey every week (I will be), and then sat on the floor of the new therapy space crying as she made tea, not even able to sit on my normal cushion. She offered me a hug when she brought the tea in and sat on the floor with me where she held me as I sobbed and howled. I’ve never lost it like that with her before and let the feelings out so loudly, and she stayed holding me until I was done and then helped me sit on the cushion with the blanket and drink some tea.

She has been amazing today. We unpicked the time I’ve had since we last met. We talked about all that came up over not being able to see my sister this weekend, and how I just want a family. We talked about how sad and frustrated I feel that PTSD and dissociation limits my life so much. And she showed us the stables and paddock where her rescue donkeys will live and we sat looking at the beautiful view and Miffy asked if other people who are little in a little body would go there and she said no, not at the moment – there are no children and we are the first people to go to the new house which she said was nice (it is, of course). For the first time in a very long time I was freaking out from about 10 minutes into the session that it would soon be time to leave and I would be back on my own with the intolerable feelings I was experiencing for another 3 days until we meet again. (Maybe that should have alerted me to the fact this was crisis was attachment-based…). She said she was available over the weekend so we could work by phone if needed, and to let her know how I was doing later.

I then cried all the way home and for most of the afternoon, stopping only when my Dad arrived to help Nina with her Maths homework before taking her to swimming training. (He pretended not to notice I’d been crying, which a few years ago would have sent me nuts, but I accept that it brings up too much in him now and can forgive his limitations). I text K and she was so kind, said this was deep pain (I think she knew before I did that something bigger was at play today) and used her lovely phrase ‘soup and blankets’ which she said to me the first time she saw me in crisis (our second session), and told me this wave would pass. And she repeated her offer of phone work over the weekend. Then the pain in my head became unbearable and I thought I was going to need to ask my Dad to drive me to hospital for IV painkillers. So I asked if we could speak this evening (oh so wonderful that this is a simple request now and I no longer get stuck in that hellish place of disorganised attachment where I am desperate to reach out and terrified in case I am ‘too much’ and make her go away all at the same time and dither in a shame spiral until it is too late) and we spoke straightaway. Her landline was being connected as I arrived today – perfect timing!

It’s probably the most beautiful phone call we’ve ever had, apart from maybe the one after she told me she wasn’t going away after all and we had a meltdown because even that was too destabilising…. We did a check in and told her how bad the head pain was and that there were a lot of worries that she would go away and that a part kept saying just to not go anymore because if we stopped going it would hurt less than K going away. And K said as soon as we left today she’d been thinking ‘attachment, attachment, attachment’ which was funny because I’d said to my friend that K probably thought it was funny that I’d said in my text that the meltdown wasn’t related to her move… And she said how even though all the things I shared about life being too much were valid, underneath it all was something much bigger and that it felt to lots of young (and not-so-young) parts as though we had ended because there was so much worry that she wouldn’t be there when we got to the new house and that we would have to stop working. She said it was like we had gone back to the old days where there was a constant fear that she wouldn’t be there, wouldn’t open the door, would disappear, would say we were too much. And she reminded me of how deep and extensive my attachment wounding is (which helped, because sometimes I forget and just feel nuts!). We shared a lot, about what we thought of the new house (that it *might* be okay but is much too far away, that it is pretty, that some things were the same, that she was the same in the new house, that we liked it that she met us at the door with Digby on his lead even though we were too upset to notice him). We asked if we could do cutting and gluing soon and talked about the picture we are planning to make, and about donkeys and film nights. She told me how much progress I’ve made, how very hard I’ve worked in therapy, how the damage I endured as an infant and young child is so huge that it has taken us years – 4 years so far – to start to process and unpick what happened to me, and that we still have so much work to do and she is so glad we are continuing to work. And she said how even though today was like before it also wasn’t, because we know this territory now and we know what we are doing. She said how nice it is that we are in a different phase of the work where – apart from today – I can enjoy our time together now with less of an edge for me around being in relationship. We talked about how it was before, when therapy was so painful and speaking to her on the phone when I was in crisis made everything hurt even more but not speaking was awful also, and how now it helps to speak, it really helps – I felt soothed straight away this evening and the pain in my head subsided massively.

And somehow we managed to share how much it hurts when we’re not there knowing that she will soon be starting with new clients now she has moved, because it’s always nice with new people where nothing bad has happened yet, and how this is so linked to feeling invisible and non-existent unless we are extra prominent, and all the painful realisations around this I had whilst we were on holiday recently, that I’ve not fully worked through yet but am still reeling from as it is so huge and sad and limits my life in such extensive ways. I said when we were with her none of those things matter because we can feel how real our relationship is, but that when we’re not there all those other people become huge and we are completely eclipsed. I used to text K constantly asking ‘are you still here?’ but partly I was actually telling her I was still here, because I couldn’t believe I still existed for her when I wasn’t there, and I didn’t exist if she couldn’t see me. Learning I am here is such a huge part of my journey and the work I need to do still. I told her today on the phone that these realisations about why I feel so invisible and am so terrified of being replaced are the most painful realisations I’ve had for nearly 18 months, and I asked if it would stop hurting one day to know why I’m like this, and she said she thinks it will soften and become easier to live with.

I said how hard it was to realise that I still need therapy every week and that even though I cope I struggle without my Monday session. And then I realised that I used to be unable to cope for a whole week without her and now I usually manage that time completely fine, it’s just hard without her for longer. And of course there is shame in that still, but our time together is the glue that holds me together and enables me to do so much other stuff in my life too. We also spoke about my fears that she will say I shouldn’t come anymore and why therapy is taking so long, and she was so validating about why I need it, why I need her still. I said I couldn’t understand before what people did in therapy for DID for so many years (7-10 on average) but I do now, and that I wish I’d known it wouldn’t hurt so much all that time (although I wouldn’t have believed it anyway). And someone little asked if it was okay to always need therapy when things had been really bad for a long time and she said yes, and she has no plans to go anywhere ever now, she is where she wants to be. And if it wasn’t for imminent climate-induced societal collapse I would be so happy to hear this!

The last thing we talked about was her offer to do a double session for only a little more money than I’m currently paying for 90 minutes, to make the journey worthwhile. At first when she offered I was unsure because it will mean I am later home for Nina and will still be an extra £50 a month. But there is something so nice about double sessions, I find them so safe and containing, and I think it will be less tiring to have more of a break between the two 50 minute drives. It also better reflects the stage of therapy I’m in, where it is so much about spending time together and doing ‘nice’ things. I said my friend said I should go for it and that this was my thoughts also – I said how on the way home I’d felt very sharply again how important it is to still prioritise my therapy or I would compromise my ability to work and be involved in Extinction Rebellion. And in the back of my mind – always – is the knowledge that climate breakdown is happening so much faster than we ever expected and it is important to make the most of being able to get to K for as long as possible. I cannot imagine ever looking back and wishing I hadn’t spent money on something so vital for my well-being. I have such gratitude for the journey K and I are on together and all the ways in which it enables me to function and grow.

As we were finishing the phone call she said again how big this transition is for my system and how she will be flexible for me and available by phone over the coming weeks so we can work if things are difficult, until all this is settled. I felt all snuggled and wrapped in a blanket when the call ended and that was nice, but it has dissipated quite a lot now and I am feeling lost and unsettled again. I am so incredibly tired and feel as though I’ve been through a near-death experience today so hopefully I will sleep and can spend tomorrow putting the house and my selves back together again.

 

How do I heal myself while Planet Earth is dying?

This post includes my thoughts about how I will continue to heal from complex trauma as I integrate my understanding of the implications of the current ecological breakdown for us, as humans, in our lifetime, into my life going forwards – how will I continue to heal and grow whilst around me the world as we know it is being destroyed?

I’m putting a trigger warning at the top of this post – I am writing about my struggles to come to terms with what I now deem to be likely, perhaps even inevitable, near-time societal collapse and the possibility of human extinction due to climate change and loss of biodiversity. For some people this will seem a ridiculous and fantasy-based thing to be writing about, akin to the many claims of impending apocalypse we’ve seen throughout human history, but for others who may already be teetering at the brink of this awareness, as I had been for the past six years until it hit me full in the face two months ago, it could be enough to send them over the edge and this would seem unfair given that this is primarily a blog about therapy and healing from complex trauma and dissociation and triggers of this kind are not anticipated. I am also disabling comments on this post as it has taken me a long time to feel brave enough to express my fears and grief openly here, and I know I am vulnerable to getting triggered on this issue.

I want to write about the current environmental breakdown in the context of my personal struggles and how it has triggered my (almost)DID system into a state of panic and despair, and to think about what I will do with my life and how I will continue my healing journey as I integrate this new awareness, but it is impossible to do this in a way that doesn’t engage with the scientific consensus or the research by human geographers, engineers, political theorists, sociologists and so on who have taken the science and started to work out what it means for us, as humans, in our lifetimes and that of our children. I am struggling greatly with how I continue to work on my own healing, how I will be able to feel better, whilst around me the world as we know it is being destroyed. I ended up so terrified on Friday that I text K at 6pm and asked if we could speak – we did a half hour phone session and one of the things she said is that this will become part of our work every week from now. She said whilst it is outside of the bounds of ‘normal’ psychotherapy, it is important for us to make it part of our work, and the way I see it my healing and the well-being of Mother Earth are inherently connected. As a starting point we’ve each ordered a different Joanna Macy book which we will read and swap – Joanna is a Buddhist scholar and activist who writes on ecological awareness and, through the concept of ‘active hope’, has created a framework for personal and social change. I hope her work will be helpful in my own work of grieving what we have lost, will lose, and preparing for the future, whatever it will hold.

I don’t think the fact that we are experiencing dramatic climate change and alarming loss of biodiversity, or that we are killing ourselves and non-human life with pollutants and toxins, is open to dispute anymore (by anyone credible at least). It is clear that we are in the midst of catastrophe – the recent devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, unprecedented wildfires, floods in the US, loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rises, loss of habitats (including human ones), insect populations decreasing by 60%, intense heat waves, children dying of air pollution, plastics found inside people and non-human animals, news reports that a tonne of plastic waste is being dumped in the ocean every minute, the list goes on. The past 22 years have seen the hottest 21 years on record, globally, with the past four being the hottest yet. What scares me most is that all the ‘worst case scenarios’ predicted for 2020 in the 1990s are now coming true – things are at the very worst of the worst they were expected to be, worse even, and still the burning of fossil fuels and industrial agriculture continues. And climate change is non-linear, with tipping points and feedback loops and a huge number of unknowns that could accelerate the warming to the point that the earth is uninhabitable by the end of the century. Whilst some of this is common knowledge, what is less commonly acknowledged is that climate breakdown and ecological collapse threaten our existence; we are in the sixth mass extinction and this isn’t just ‘a pity’ for the species involved – the ecosystems we are dependent upon for food and survival are dying, and with them – so will we. Our current way of life, unbridled neo-liberalism and free market competition, the constant quest for “growth” and “development,” are threatening our existence and yet the powerful elite do not care as long as their riches are protected. As David Attenborough said recently, ‘we are in terrible, terrible trouble’ and ‘time is running out’ – the patriarchal, capitalist separation of humans from nature, of our existence from that of ‘the environment,’ has masked this threat. We talk about ‘saving the environment’ without realising we are the environment and it is ourselves we need to save.

We are nature

Climate change has been on my radar since I was a little girl. From the age of 9 or 10 I would lie awake at night worrying about “the state of the world” and I was really passionate and outspoken about environmental issues, telling my family and anyone who would listen that there was nothing more important to worry about, no point fighting for justice for humans if we had no planet to live on. And lately it’s really hit home to me that climate change and ecological breakdown is not just an environmental issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s an issue of justice – those who have contributed least to the catastrophe are already paying the highest price, and the most vulnerable in our societies also, those with the least resources and support, will be hit hardest when the crisis accelerates (at the beginning at least). Having been vegetarian since I was 6 or 7, I went vegan in 2013 because I realised that we had no hope of reducing climate change without eliminating the meat and dairy industry. (Of course I care about animal welfare hugely too, in fact I see us as no more important than any other species which is why, probably, I find the likelihood of human extinction easier to contemplate than others do – we are not special and if other species can go extinct, so can we). The winter of 2013/14 was especially stormy and wet and unpredictable – it was frightening and I spent much time with my two best friends at the time talking about climate change, and about the skills we would need to help us in the turbulent times ahead. It’s come up in therapy quite a lot, along with fears and anger and frustration over our consumerist culture and over-consumption and how it is destroying our quality of life and the planet, but for the past few years I’ve been taking time to heal myself and my concerns for Mother Earth have been sidelined (though my work is still on related issues of justice so it’s not that I ever stopped caring).

The UK heatwave in February and first round of youth strikes for climate on February 15th triggered me hugely and before K’s break in March parts were really worried and there was a lot of writing in our parts’ journal about the threat of climate change and what it would mean for us and the creatures dependent on the earth for their survival. Whilst she was away we read a lot and really came to understand just how serious the crisis is, and that it’s not a future problem or a problem for people far away, it is a threat to our way of life and our existence right here, right now. Nina and I went on the youth strike for climate on March 15th and after this, rather than feeling hopeful and inspired, I felt utterly defeated and isolated – it all felt so real, seeing thousands of young people fighting to have a future, and yet the strikes just felt as though they were much too little and much too late. For a long time I’d written off my anxiety over climate change as part of my PTSD, pathological in nature, and something that I needed to deal with by staying present and focusing on my own life and security. That evening I googled ‘anxiety over climate change’ and found absolutely loads of resources to help people dealing with their fears and grief over the breakdown of the environment and the implications it will have for human life. Whilst it was a relief to know I wasn’t alone in my fears, it suddenly made the whole issue even more real. It turns out people are going into therapy to deal with fears and grief over the ecological breakdown, and it is known that climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ (this is how the military refer to it, stating that it increases stress on water, food, and energy systems, that can then increase the likelihood of conflict  – domestically and internationally)  so whilst the effects of climate change are causing depression and anxiety, and PTSD for people already directly affected by climate disasters, the stress of climate change awareness also intensifies existing mental and emotional health problems. This is part of the issue I’m having, and unsurprisingly there is nothing written on how to support young alters with climate change – the problem is they know more than I would reasonably tell a child, and are completely freaking out about what it will mean for them. And it is hard to tell scared young parts that the worst things have already happened because I am no longer sure that is true – ‘does starving to death hurt more than being abandoned as a baby?’ they want to know, and I do not have the answers to that.

I’ve been confused and lost for many weeks now, reading reports and journal articles and absorbing myself in the science, the academic research that has grown out of this science, what the activist movements say and, whilst there are different interpretations of what we should do based on the scientific knowledge we have, there is consensus that we are in a dire predicament. And I think, basically, I am starting to come to the acceptance that it is probably too late to avert climate catastrophe, and that with food scarcity in the Northern Hemisphere (another two summers like the last one we had here where grain production dropped by around 30-40%, and we are in extreme trouble from a food production perspective) and drought and famine in the Southern  Hemisphere, will come mass migration, wars over resources, and probably societal collapse. The World Bank reported in 2018 that countries needed to prepare for over 100 million internally displaced people, here in the UK due to rising sea levels as well as further afield, due to the effects of climate change, and this is not including millions of international refugees. 

And so the question for me now is how do I move forward with this knowledge in a way that is meaningful but does not involve getting lost in denial (which includes most types of activism and a lot of lifestyle politics – apparently going vegan and not flying are the only two things that really make a difference, the rest of the changes needed are all things that can only be implemented by world leaders, and I’m already committed to these two things). I don’t have the answer to this question but it is something I will talk through with K to help me begin to forge a path forward out of this madness. I don’t want to fall into depression over this because, as my very wise daughter said, if we worry about it all the time now then it may as well be really bad now. It is more important than ever to stay present and enjoy the safety and security and peace we have now, because things are likely to change drastically sooner than we ever expected. I also don’t want to lose sight of the healing I need. In fact it becomes more important than ever that I become as strong and resilient as possible, and am able to build relationships and community, in light of what is ahead. This is something I struggle with – I want to reach out and find new people who are also awake to this, but relational trauma makes this so very hard. I am scared I won’t be accepted in new communities, even though logically I can see that the types of people aware and fighting for climate justice are likely to be kind and open-hearted.

Despite all the unknowns, what is clear is that change is coming – either this will be an end to global capitalism and neo-liberalism and humans will once again seek out deep and meaningful relationships with each other and the natural world of which we are a part, or it will be societal collapse, catastrophe, mass starvation, and possible extinction. Much as I despise capitalism, it is still this system which enables me to work with K and enjoy a good standard of living, so it is hard to envisage life without it. I asked K a while ago what would happen if the economy collapses and we move to a barter-based system – would there be another way of paying her? She said absolutely, that we would work something out, and it was such a relief that she took the question seriously. This was momentarily comforting, as was her saying on Friday that we are both committed to doing this work no matter what, and so, barring something huge and unexpected, we would be working together with the intention of keeping doing this work. So even if there is war over resources, or no power, or not enough food, we would still keep meeting, in fact especially then as it would be so needed whilst bad things were happening all around. None of this alleviates the creeping fears though. If there is societal and economic collapse she won’t need to work to feed herself. If life becomes purely about survival she won’t gather me close to her as she will her own children. And there is nowhere I feel safe like I do with her. It is that never-ending painful state of knowing that your attachment figure is not your mother – that free-floating state which is uncomfortable and stark and a bit-too-real – rearing its ugly head again. Why is there always something that will take her away from me?

At times it feels like I am lost in a horror story, a nightmare of humanity’s own making. It doesn’t feel possible that we have a fight for survival on our hands in our lifetime. The youth climate strike two days ago felt so surreal – how could I be there protesting to get government to take action to save humanity, to enable my daughter to have a future? How is that necessary? The science is clear now so how are we needing to protest this stuff? It is infuriating and absolutely heart-breaking that corporations are allowed to destroy the planet and the ecosystems we depend upon and we are powerless to do anything. How is this happening? How is it being allowed to happen? How has the wealth of the elite few been allowed to threaten the future of the whole planet and all who live upon it? And what was even more scary on Friday were the looks of confusion and bewilderment from passers by, who have no idea of the ecological crisis or what it will mean for them. I’m not sure where I will go with my activism now, if I want to give up hope and move to the Deep Adaptation agenda of Jem Bendell, or if I want to get active with Extinction Rebellion who share a similar outlook but still think we can mitigate the worst impacts, or if I want to fight system change in some other way, but I know that incremental fixes and individual lifestyle changes are utterly insufficient, and I know that part of my work now will be to raise awareness and focus on getting governments and the media to tell the truth about this crisis. It feels utterly abhorrent to me that as a species we are facing a catastrophe of this magnitude, that humanity is under existential threat, and yet the vast majority of people know nothing about it because it is not on the news or talked about in Parliament. People have a right to know, they need to know, so they can choose how best to spend the time we have left and start to give up the things we cannot carry with us as civilization changes, either by choice and action or by us destroying our home to the point where it can no longer sustain life as we know it.

The only thing that really seems clear and certain is that we don’t know what will happen, there are too many variables, too many unknowns – it is bad and it will get far, far worse, but we don’t know exactly when or how. Sitting with uncertainty is hard. It is something humans are bad at generally and for those of us who grew up in abusive and unpredictable environments it can be especially hard. No one knows what is going to happen or what the best thing to do now is. Should we continue to fight or just enjoy the time we have left, making sure we express gratitude for our comfortable existence whilst thousands are already dying and starving due to climate change? Ultimately, the past few weeks have led me to confront my own mortality, which is something we must all do at some point of course, but beyond that it has forced me to confront my own vulnerability, and the fact that I may not live till old age or be able to protect my daughter from what is ahead. We all live with the vague and uncomfortable awareness that we could get injured or ill or have our life cut short in some way, or suffer a loss we find it hard to recover from, but we have no experience as a species of living through a period when our time on this planet may be coming to an end. It is hard to know what to do. If some of the predictions are correct and there will be a societal collapse within a decade then fuck it, fuck debt, I’m going to rinse loads of credit cards and have a lot of fun with Nina (without flying of course). But if things just get progressively worse and the cost of food rises astronomically due to shortages then having debts will add to my stress, and ultimately could stop me being able to afford to feed us both. So it seems wise to be cautious, whilst at the same time knowing it is impossible to prepare for what may come and that there will be no point being angry with myself in the future for making the wrong choices now.

I asked K on Friday if she was frightened and she said she was, but not like I am. She thinks it’s the presence of young parts making things so difficult, although equally I do know other people who are also crying every day and feeling absolutely petrified by what is to come, so I do think it is a very tough reality for anyone to absorb. We talked about how I couldn’t find any resources for people like me, people with DID and complex trauma, and we agreed that it is unusual for people with such complex mental health needs to be so absorbed in and aware of the environmental breakdown, at this point in time at least – this will change as mainstream media and the public come into awareness I’m sure. This is not meant as a criticism or a suggestion that people don’t care, but, like I was for so long, people with these complex issues are often focused just on survival most days and, deservedly, focused on enjoying their own lives on days where things feel okay. So whilst I could find recognition that climate change threat worsened existing psychological issues, there wasn’t a lot about what to do about this or whether it is realistic for people like me to be able to get involved in activism without losing their minds completely as I seem to be doing regularly at the moment.

I do know that however hard things get financially my therapy will be a priority for as long as possible, even though it does prevent me getting out of debt and saving for the future. I know sometimes I get frustrated that it takes so much of my salary, that it means less money for fun stuff,  but ultimately it is what will help me cope with what is ahead and will help me build the relationships I need to support me in the dark times ahead. On Friday there was an older teenage part thinking that killing myself and Nina was really going to be the only option to save us both – I’ve been there before and I don’t want to spiral into that place again, especially when we don’t know what is ahead, not for sure. And I also know I want to continue to heal and let go of some of the guilt that I could find joy and peace and contentment in my heart whilst our beautiful earth is dying. I know I want to make the most of every precious minute with those I love. I know that spending as much time as I can with my friends who don’t live nearby whilst train travel is still possible is hugely important. I know I want to avoid town and supermarkets because I get triggered by consumer culture. And I know I want to spend as much time as I can in places that are still wild and relatively undisturbed, remembering how beautiful the earth is and how deeply connected to it we all are. And I know it is important to me to live in a way that aligns with my values even if they will not, by themselves, enable humanity to avoid what seems to be coming – avoiding plastic, eating locally-sourced food, reducing waste, reusing as much as I can, buying second hand clothes and other things, not allowing Nina to become absorbed in fast fashion, not flying or driving unnecessarily. And it is important to keep in mind that even if these things don’t help the bigger picture, they are part of me living the best life I can, whilst at the same time accepting I have to be part of this capitalist, patriarchal society – I have to ‘make a living,’ I have to let Nina have new things so she is not bullied at school, the pressures of our society that I resent still constrain me and do not allow me the time I wish I had to live in a way that further minimises my impact upon the Earth. I cannot escape the things that are destroying our planet, however much I wish I could.

When I think about what I want to prioritise in the months ahead, it is clear that they are things I would want to be doing to heal anyway – yoga, meditation, wild places, cycling, time with people I am close to, saying no to things I don’t really want to do, living gently and recognising what is important to me. I want to lead by example, like I do with veganism, and show a different way of life not based on mass consumption and exploitation of the earth’s resources and creatures is possible. Maybe we will not move away from global capitalism as a society until it is too late,, but at least I will have shown it is possible to live and not be consumed by material possessions and the constant quest to buy “the next big thing”. I want to live a gentle life – in many ways the type of life that is necessary for someone healing from developmental trauma is the type of life needed to heal Mother Earth also. In some ways this new level of awareness has helped me shift my reactions and occasional resentment around ‘my busy life’ – I want to gift Nina her joy of swimming for as long as possible, I want to see her glowing face when I collect her after training and she talks excitedly about swimming techniques I know nothing about, I want her to feel strong and secure as we face the unknown together. And I want to find a better balance with my work, work which is important but not enough to save us from what is ahead. I want to keep work in perspective, something which is important to do anyway of course, but the need for this feels even more pressing now. I want to get out of debt as soon as I can at the same time as still enjoying life now. I want to take action but not let it consume me or stop me absorbing and grieving the reality, which is that planet earth is dying, and we are running out of time.

The sting of invalidation

Today a photo of my Mum came up on my twitter feed. She is involved in something in the local community and a public figure I follow had ‘liked’ it. It was a bit of a shock seeing her, and brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings that I am glad I will have the opportunity of sharing and processing with K tomorrow in my session. She is smiling. She looks happy. She looks ‘normal’. She looks like my Mum. I know that underneath it all she isn’t ‘fine’ and never has been, but she does look like a regular person. It makes me question why I don’t see her, how it can have been that bad, whether I made it all up. And it makes me feel sad that she is living and getting on with her life, even though she doesn’t see me or Nina anymore. I know this is illogical – I don’t want her to be hurting and hiding away from the world, I don’t want her to have not accepted my decision and to be hounding me to reconsider or trying to get at Nina in other ways, I don’t want her to be suffering. It still hurts, though, because she has let me go. I am her daughter and she has let me go. I know if she hadn’t, if she was trying to get in touch, it would have been completely horrific, and I know it’s so much more complex than being because she doesn’t care, but it still hurts that she let us both go. I guess part of her knows how bad it was for me and how awful and confusing her behaviour was for Nina, even as her denial weaves a tight and almost-impenetrable barrier around her.

It is sunny today. Spring-like. Aside from the uneasy knowledge that seems to sit with me nearly all the time now that we are heading for climate change apocalypse (we have 11 years to avoid the worst affects now), it is nice to have sunshine and warmth. It helped give me energy and avoid  falling into a hole. Or pulled me out of a hole I guess as the past 5 days have been really hard and energy has been in short supply. I went out on my bike – the first hilly ride of the year and it was beautiful. I felt strong and like I could have gone for miles (which is a change from how cycling usually is at this time of year because I’ve been going to cycling classes at the gym this winter and doing HIIT and virtual trips in front of the big screen) and it has shifted things definitely and given me some perspective. Cycling outside in the countryside when it is sunny always boosts me. I love it so much and if I could I would cycle all day every day.

The worst part was I stopped off to get my Dad to look at something that was rubbing on my bike. I stupidly told him about seeing the photo of my Mum (when will I learn not to turn to him when I am vulnerable?) and he actually said ‘ah, whatevs’. I mean, really!! How is that anything that a parent should be? It stings. It invalidates. It minimises. It makes me feel small and invisible and ashamed and not entitled to have feelings at all. His contempt pours down around me at moments like that. I will never stop seeing my Dad, but seeing clearly how he is now really enables me to see how the combination of both my parents well and truly fucked me up when it comes to being able to feel emotions without dissociating and feeling like a totally worthless person for feeling anything at all. Even excitement has always been met with contempt and ‘foreboding joy’ where he pours dampener over everything good and warns me things will probably go wrong. The combination of my Mum’s abuse instilling intolerable feelings in me which were then met with ridicule, silence or contempt by my Dad is a fucking toxic mixture.

As I said, I will always see my Dad, and I definitely share so much less with him now than I did when I started therapy, but I will be glad when he is less involved in my life because Nina is older, because I rarely leave any interaction with him feeling good about myself. It still baffles me that he would be completely unable to even see that it might be painful for me to see my Mum out of the blue and know she is just getting on with her life. He painted her as a monster decades ago now and has nothing but impatience and contempt for her, but the reality is so much more complicated than that. She is damaged and hurting and mentally ill. And even if she was a complete monster with no humanity at all – it would still hurt that she is my Mum. I get that he can’t understand, that he is limited as a human being because he has almost no cognitive or affective empathy, and so he doesn’t hurt me or invalidate me intentionally. It is just hard seeing how limited he is, how lacking in compassion he is – for me and her. My sister and I often say how if both of our Dad’s (we’re half sisters) had been a little kinder and more understanding of her she may have been able to get help before it was too late.

Anyway, I am glad I can write this out, that I can understand now what happens to me when he behaves like that and how it taps into all the old hurt. And I can understand how complex the thoughts and feelings are around my Mum now and I don’t need to act on them. The worst part is thinking I am crazy for not seeing her and having to go back to all the awful times over the first 34 years of my life to prove to myself I am not and that there was really no alternative but complete estrangement. Looking back hurts but sometimes it is the only way of validating myself and the future I have chosen for Nina and I.

“The mother wound” round 6731

What a fucking horrendous day. It was punctuated by some beautiful moments in the forest with K this evening which I will write about when things have settled, but overall it has been fucking awful. And the pain I was hit with after leaving K was something else. Another level of #themotherwound. At least this time I know it is about my mother, or lack of, rather than about K. Progress?

I have sobbed and wailed since I got home 3 1/2 hours ago and so I am writing this in a last attempt to calm myself without resorting to self-harm. I’m not sure it will work, and I really don’t want to cut, but I have work tomorrow and I just need to be okay.

I still don’t understand why K is so nice to me. Like I know I pay her, but there are so many ‘easier’ clients she could work with and who she wouldn’t need to give a reduced fee to. What she does for me is beyond incredible. And it is not enough. Of course it isn’t. She cannot take this pain away. I know she would if she could, she has told me, but all she can do is hold me in it.

Last year I seem to have handled this date ‘better’ – it was a Sunday and I took myself for a walk on the beach and thought of Jess and my Mum and I found I was able to think of my Mum with love and compassion. I felt sad but also like I was growing. I hadn’t needed to reach out to K that day, and when I saw her the next day I was able to tell her how the day felt spacious and healing (and in many ways it was, compared with the first and second anniversaries where it felt like there was a tightly coiled spring inside me and I was suffocated and overcrowded and finding it very difficult to function). And yet this weekend and today have been a completely different story, and I can see how whilst some of that compassion is healthy, it is also a defence against feeling my own pain at not having had what I needed and having to spend basically all of my life so far dealing with and trying to heal from my attachment wounding. Holding compassion for my Mum is another way of keeping myself safe from her, by making her feelings more important than my own. So last night the anger came, an anger I wrote down and shared with K in the forest this evening as we sat in the dark with two lit candles near us. She thought it was good there was anger there, and that I was going with what was there at the time, rather than some preconceived idea of how I should be feeling.

And this evening I just feel annihilated. The pain has felt unsurvivable. It has no real words, other than ‘it isn’t fair’. It is agony. The wounds left by a narcissistic mother who couldn’t see or love me are agony. It feels as though the pain will kill me. I wish it had killed me when I was a baby and I had been saved all of this, I really do. I sent K a brief and not very coherent text, telling her I couldn’t survive the pain and asking if we could do an email check-in on Wednesday because we are meeting on Friday again this week. She hasn’t replied, but I know she will. As we were parting at the forest she said to text her if things felt unmanageable and we would make a plan. Somehow she seems to know this year is bigger and is letting me really lean on her. She is very receptive and open to me needing more of her right now, perhaps because she can really see the progress I’ve made the past few months and that this isn’t about her but is about me processing really difficult stuff. I don’t feel tangled up in transference, although obviously leaving her earlier and being left alone with this gaping wound was pretty awful. I’m scared she’ll leave me because I’m still not “better” and recovered from this fucking attachment trauma, but I can see that would be mental and I can see objectively that if she hasn’t left so far she is not going to, not when we are doing such good work and I am so much better able to hold my process and actually live between sessions.

I spoke to R, my acupuncturist who I’ve known for 14 years, for an hour this evening and basically wailed and sobbed and was a snotty, crying mess for most of it. Together we remembered that when Jess died it triggered everything in me that had lain dormant for forever, and so I guess the anniversary triggers all that in me again, as well as the very real grief over what I lost when she died. And he said lots of helpful things about the pain of having a narcissist for a mother, and I said how I feel sick when I think of the fact that she is my Mum and then I hate myself for that thought. I said how complex it all is, because I can’t just hate her – I am just a great big boiling pot of tangled up emotions – grief, fear, pity, hatred, shame, sadness, resentment, regret, rage, disgust – and all the emotions are intertwined and it is just utterly confusing inside me. I have no idea what anything is. He was validating and just witnessed my pain and didn’t try to change it or offer crap platitudes. He sees this as process, and I am trying to hold on to that. I cannot stay stuck in this place and I need to feel it to move through it. And I can see that this is coming up now because I feel so safe in my work with K lately – I know she is not going away and I know she enjoys working with me and I know I would survive without her (okay today I don’t, but overall I do feel that now and back in June and July I really didn’t). I am trying to tell myself it is okay to feel this pain on another level now, that these feelings are coming up because it is safe to feel them. It doesn’t change how completely overwhelming it is to be so obliterated by this pain though.

I think I won’t cut now. I will take diazepam and a sleeping tablet and try and sleep. Yuk. How long does this process go on for? How much pain and grief and shock and loss can there be inside one person? I bet my Mum is feeling so sorry for herself, and yet again I am completely invisible. Just as I always have been. I don’t exist for her, I really truly don’t – what a fucking horrifying legacy to leave your daughter.

Too much pain

Today is awful. I can’t keep going anymore. What the fuck happened to my life? When Jess died four years ago I was surrounded by a group of friends and now I have no one. I cannot connect with people, cannot let people in because I just end up triggered and dissociated. I just tortured myself by re-activating my Facebook account and looking through old photos. I wanted to find some of me and Jess, instead I was bombarded with photos of all the fun I used to have, before she died and I split open and discovered what was wrong with me. I used to go partying and have friends round for dinner and go to festivals and go wild swimming. Now I don’t do anything. In my rational mind I can see that a lot of that stuff was dysfunctional and that the groups of people I am no longer part of are too old to be getting off their heads on Class As every weekend, that their lives aren’t really how they look on Facebook, but still – I long to be part of something. Anything. However dysfunctional. I see now why I was so drawn to that underworld of illegal drugs and raves and after-parties. I always had one toe in normality though, with my PhD and my daughter, but I so badly wanted to let that world consume me some days.

It is kicking me that I don’t have a family today. I wanted to hold compassion for my Mum last night but I couldn’t. I feel too broken. Instead I wrote 4 pages of bitterness. It is not even that she broke me, I can forgive that, it is that she cannot acknowledge what she did to me. It is the fact she tells people such awful, twisted distortions about me and why I’ve cut her off that hurts and enrages me. If she would just admit that she made some massive mistakes and damaged me beyond repair it might help a little. Instead she paints me as a selfish, callous, cold and unreasonable person. I am judged and hated by people who have no idea how fucking awful my childhood was and how much it still affects me today despite years of therapy and working on myself. It is this I cannot move past today. My Mum will be feeling sorry for herself today, her 70th birthday, because her daughter doesn’t want to know her and has taken her granddaughter away from her. I know that her inability to acknowledge what she did and how she is is now is all part of the same thing – the denial she has built up around her is more real than anything else to her – but it would make up for it a little bit if I knew she would tell people she understood why I had to do this.

And I miss Jess. I miss her so much it is unbearable. She was so real. Our friendship was beautiful. It was just the right level of intimacy – not smothering, not distant, not-too-serious, not too shallow. It hurts because I didn’t really know the real her, the her who was struggling and suicidal. I knew things were really, really bad, but not that bad. It never crossed my mind that things wouldn’t get better for her. How can she be gone? I have never known anyone like her and I’m scared I never will. I cannot let people in now the way I always used to be able to. Before I knew I was broken and traumatised I could let people in because I didn’t know they were what was triggering me. A very old friend wrote to me recently, when I told her I no longer see my Mum, that she was sorry but that I had always drawn much love to me in the form of friendships and she was sure I would be okay because of this. Where are my friends though? I’ve now deactivated Facebook again (I left nearly 4 years ago and it’s the first time I’ve reactivated in nearly a year – it’s always done at a desperate time and I torture myself for an hour before deactivating again, cursing myself for making a bad time even worse. It’s like self-harm but the effects are even more long-lasting), but all the people who’ve let me go are still hanging in the air around me.

How can 4 years have passed and now I have no family, no friends (and I know this isn’t true, I do have friends, but not a group, not a taken for granted clan like I used to have) and nothing fun in my life. I have worked so hard for 4 years to heal but when does the healing end and the living begin? I don’t want to live like this anymore. I am so alone. I am alone even when I’m with people. I don’t want to live with the fallout of my childhood anymore. It is not fair. It makes it impossible for me to connect with people the way I need to, impossible for me to be fully human. I am half a world away, always.

I want her to come back

I got hit by a torrent of grief over Jess at the end of my therapy session this evening. I’m still battling it now as it comes in waves and leaves me aching and haunted and gasping for breath. I am hanging on though, remembering K’s words from this evening and the safety and holding she gives me, knowing she is there and I am seeing her again soon, that I can message if I need to. She has never felt as safe and warm and loving as she did this evening. And I have never felt as grateful to have her – the years we have worked together were all there in the room between us. She holds me tighter when I wobble now because she knows what I need to keep me upright, and I know how to lean into her without losing my own feet.

We were finishing off a craft project we started last week at the kitchen table. I’d already read out the blog post from last night, and we’d already arranged an extra session for Friday by text this morning because a lot came up over the weekend around Jess and my Mum. And we had made arrangements to meet on Friday next week as well if needed. K also told me she is here over Christmas – we could have worked as normal on Christmas Eve but I said I didn’t think Nina would be too impressed if I had therapy that day so we arranged to meet on the 21st and then we are working as normal on the 31st and beyond. I am so aware of how lucky I am that K has never really taken a break at Christmas. The year Nina and I went away to a cottage by the sea for Christmas we all had a complete meltdown because of the 8 day break even though it was our break. The other years we’ve hardly had a break at all and usually done extra sessions around the anniversary of Jess dying. It has helped me not lose my mind completely, having extra support at that time and I do feel very lucky that she doesn’t take time off at this time of year like so many other Ts do.

I thought K was going to expect me to manage this December without extra sessions or support because we were supposed to be ending and now we’re not, but she didn’t. Not at all. I should have known better really. This will be our 4th December working together and she knows how hard the month is for me more than anyone else – the usual Christmas triggers because it was such a traumatic and horrific time of year growing up, not having much family to spend time with, my Mum’s birthday and the anniversary of Jess dying and the anniversary of the date – a week after she died – when I identified her body at the morgue so her body could be released in time for her funeral to take place on the 23rd. It is anniversary after anniversary.

“My sense is that December and Christmas-time is a tough one for you and with your news about the rheumatologist (I found out today I’m being referred because of the rash and raised ANA levels) you need a bit of support. So let’s allow in the possibility of flexible time if you need it, because there’s always a sense of this time of year being hard for you.”

I judge myself for not being over it yet, for the huge, raw, untamed grief that spills out of me still over Jess’s death, but I should have known that K has even more compassion for me because she has seen the pain this month brings so many times now. She is the same as she always has been at this time of year, because she knows me. It still blows me away that she knows me so well now and she still cares. How can she know me this well and still care so much? How can she have seen all the horrors inside me and still be here, still care? How have I not driven her away? How can she not be tired and bored and overwhelmed by me?

We only had maybe 7 minutes of the session left and I was hit with a sudden wave of terror that I would soon be on my own with the horrifying feelings that were bubbling inside me. I could feel them rising up, a silent scream in my throat, and huge amounts of shock and disbelief that Jess really isn’t here anymore. I somehow managed to voice the fear that I was going to go to a bad place, an un-copeable-with place, in the car when I left because I felt so sad about Jess. And the tears fell as K spoke gently to us all about how we needed to let the pain out and shine a light on it together so the feelings aren’t so frightening. She said she knows how horrible it is but that I need to let the grief be here, and to feel at the same time the joy of what we were making and how well I’ve done today – not harming myself, not binge drinking, not doing mad things to squash the pain down anymore. Accepting her offer of extra time on Friday. Saying what I needed from the session. Honouring myself. Doing healing things while we think about her. Really different from how I was when she first knew me. Each year I honour her and my own pain in a more healthy way.

“Let it be here” said K. So I am letting it be here. Everything in me is screaming to go and buy wine and razors and take diazepam and cut until it doesn’t hurt anymore but I am sitting in this pain instead. Sobs are still wracking my body and my head aches from crying. I know I need to eat and have a bath and get ready for work tomorrow. I will, because I am not where I was 3 years ago, or two years ago, or last year, but it still hurts so much. Even though it doesn’t send me into crisis when it hits now the pain is still so intense it takes my breath away. I still wonder each time I get pulled under by grief’s arms whether I will make it to the surface again. I cannot believe it is still so raw, so intense, so all-consuming. It still shocks me that she is really gone. It is physical agony, a pain so deep and limitless. Waves of grief over someone I loved so deeply and lost too soon, someone I thought would be part of my life forever, not someone I thought would shape my life through her death. Time stood still on that December day 4 years ago and when it began again I was never-again in the land of before. “After Jess killed herself” will forever be the line that divides up my life. And it still hurts so much that I will never see her again. A physical ache, a longing to see her and hug her and dance with her, a yearning to tell her things and hear her thoughts and share my past and present and future with her. It hurts so much that I didn’t know how bad she was feeling, that I couldn’t help, that she told me things were feeling better and I believed her – I didn’t know as I hugged her goodbye on that November afternoon that she was saying her forever good bye to me. I didn’t know she seemed better because she had already made up her mind. I thought she was feeling better but she was saying her goodbyes. And I’ve felt the pain she must have been feeling, I know its murky depths and it has more than once led me to try and go to the place she is now in. After she died I wanted to go with her, to be with her and away from the pain she triggered in me by leaving. Sometimes even now I wish I could do that. I know how proud she would be of me for keeping going, because we both know each other’s pain. And I understand why she did what she did, as much as I ever will I think. There are still so many unanswered questions, about her last days and weeks and how long she had been planning it, but mostly now I can let them be.

K said it is very, very hard to ever constellate properly around suicide, because there is shock and loss in the same place and there was no time to prepare or say good bye. And the person chose to take themselves away in such a violent way. And for those left behind it is really, really tough to try and make sense of it, and it doesn’t really ever go away. She said it will lessen and the feelings will soften and be less raw, but it is hard enough for ‘normal’ people, but for people with little people inside it is such a terrible, horrible, confusing thing to get used to. I’m not sure I will ever get used to this. I hear little voices in my head wanting her to come back and it still makes no sense that she is gone. And K said it is really okay to feel very sad this week. I needed her permission for that. I needed her validation tonight to allow me to feel some of this. She said to be gentle with myself and to lean into her. And I will, I am. I am leaning on her even though she is not next to me. Before we left she asked what I would take from today’s session and I sobbed out that “I am just really glad that you are here” and she said “the universe has twisted things around so that we are still working which is a great thing.

And it is a great thing. I cannot even imagine how I would be coping with these losses if I was losing K in two weeks’ time as well. We had a hug at the end of the session and K said how well I was doing to not be in crisis but to also be letting the pain out. I feel horrendous and not like I am doing well at all, but I can see things are better than they were. I can see I can hold this now in a way I couldn’t before. “We are getting there” said K. And I believe her.

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