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Shame and survival

I survived yesterday. Hopefully things will start to even out now, although of course Christmas is approaching fast so maybe that is wishful thinking. It’s been very hard with young parts because I could feel them getting excited for ‘Jess Day’ when she might come back, when of course that’s not what the anniversary is at all. It was also my mum’s birthday yesterday. I didn’t think of her much, but it is all there somewhere. Yesterday was a rubbish day. I was so triggered I barely slept on Monday night so yesterday I was incredibly tired and carrying huge levels of dread and anxiety due to all the big feelings squashed up inside me that I don’t have space to feel and probably couldn’t access even if I wanted to. I had to come in for meetings in the morning but worked at home in the afternoon, though I didn’t achieve much. I struggled through parents’ evening at Nina’s school and spent some time trying to understand the new GCSE grading system as her target GCSE grades do not sound to me like they are anywhere near her capabilities, and then headed to bed as soon as Nina did at 9.30.

I am often aware of an internal pressure around difficult times to do things in a particular way – to write, ritual, find the lessons from the loss, do something special and sacred to mark the process and progress, and I know I feel like I failed somehow yesterday for not doing this. I am catching those thoughts though, and reminding myself that surviving is all that matters. I did cope better than last year – there were some tears, but it didn’t totally take me over this year. And K and I are meeting for an extra session after work tomorrow and doing some kind of ritual for Jess then so there will be some way of marking it and maybe closing down this difficult time for now. I identified her body on 17th and then the funeral was the 23rd, so there are a lot of reminders still to come, but after Friday life will be a little more spacious and I hope that will help me take better care of myself and begin to uncover and let go some of the shame that gets tangled up with the grief at this time of year. I text K yesterday morning and said something along the lines of how I wished I could just feel pure grief over Jess instead of it being so enmeshed with my childhood and trauma and this deadening shame which seems to eat me from the inside whenever I experience big feelings. And I find shame so hard in itself, but it also triggers complete and utter panic and dread in me because young parts are terrified of how bad they are. It’s a vicious cycle that it’s hard to step outside of.

K said on Monday that it seems that whenever I feel very bad, i.e. lots of negative emotions, it sends me into a very dark place where I am convinced I am bad. And I split and lose sight of everything good about me, so that all that exists about me is bad and evil and abusive. I’ve really descended into a place of horrific shame and complete panic over how bad I am the last few days. This has manifested as being convinced I am just like my Mum and have utterly destroyed Nina’s self-esteem. On Sunday evening I was in such a bad place that I had thoughts of killing both of us again, which I’ve not had for years. I can see that I do embody my mum in some ways some of the time, that I will have impacted Nina of course through my own unresolved trauma, but I can’t hold onto all the good I’ve done at the same time, all the ways I am different from my parents, all the ways I’ve healed myself and in turn healed her. My need for space is so powerful and it is so hard as she descends into teenage years and doesn’t go to bed until 9.30/10. K says it is so important that I express it as ‘needing quiet time upstairs to do X’ rather than needing time away from her. I try to do this, but there are inevitably times when I explode, when I am over-stimulated and completely at capacity with my own feelings, when I have no space for her inside my head, when I yell and say things I wish I hadn’t.

Monday’s session was consumed by my shame and fear over how bad I am, as a mother and person. I wanted to know when we would know if Nina was okay and K said we already do know. She tried to remind me of all the good I do, all the ways I’m not mum, but I’m too scared to voice most of the ways in which I feel I am the same so how could she really know? She said I’m not a narcissist, that I’m real and genuine and have an open heart, that I’ve done something my mum would never have done in going to therapy and looking at myself and changing what I could, bringing awareness and understanding myself. I said that 95% of the time I think I’m the mum I want to be,  but that 5% feels as though it totally eclipses all the good work I do, that it would be less confusing for Nina if I was just awful all the time. She disagreed. One of the struggles of course is that Nina and I have so much time together at home (this is also the lovely part of being just the two of us – we are very close) and there is so much time for her to observe me and how I am and what I do. I try incredibly hard, and always have, not to overshare my feelings and concerns. I think I’ve done a good job of that. I’ve definitely not parentified her and I’ve respected her growing autonomy and need for privacy. I’ve told her how much I value her as a person and not lived through her and her achievements. I’ve started a list of all the ways I am not my mum, but when I go to that dark place it’s like none of that stuff exists.

I spoke on Monday about how much Nina triggers me because she is just like my mum, not because Nina is abusive but because my mum is a child still – what Nina does is normal teenager stuff, but it triggers me because it is all so familiar from when I was growing up and it hits those old and unhealed wounds. K said the past few days I’ve been re-experiencing my childhood, that’s why it all feels so bad. And she said to assume that for a teenager their parent doesn’t exist beyond just being their mum, that Nina will have no empathy or ability to see me as a person or awareness that how she is being may hurt me. She said really I, as a person, am invisible, just there to fulfill Nina’s own needs, and that we just need to assume I will get nothing back from her for a while now on an emotional level (so it’s an added bonus if I do). And I sobbed ‘just like my mum’. And that is so true, it’s why it hurts, because I was ‘mothered’ by a person who couldn’t see me, who I didn’t exist for, who had no awareness of me as a person with my own needs and feelings. It is no wonder Nina’s behaviour hurts me. I am very apprehensive about the years ahead and what they will do to me. I don’t want to have child parts having to live with someone who hurts them without meaning to. I think it is very important to understand what is happening though, and to keep taking care of myself and making myself visible to myself, so that Nina has less of an impact on me.

I am really so glad that, all being well (or as okay as possible at least), K and I will be working in the years to come, as Nina enters teenage days. I do not want to be engulfed by shame. I don’t want to be triggered by her. And I certainly don’t want to behave how my mum did when I was a teenager and I would hate for Nina to ever experience feelings like I did then and continue to now. I am so frustrated that the anniversary of Jess’ suicide has left me dealing with such big stuff and feeling so much shame, but I can kind of understand it. I want to be able to believe K that Nina is okay, that K would know if she wasn’t, that I’m not like my mum (all the time at least), that I might behave like her at times under pressure, but I don’t see Nina as an extension of myself, but I feel so bad inside that I struggle to take in her words. K said she would have contacted social services about my mum had she known what was happening and I know she’s never had concerns about my parenting so I should be able to believe her, but it is so hard because everyone thought my mum was wonderful and I struggle to work out what even it was she did that was so bad some days.

I am working on writing out what happened after Jess died and trying to understand why I experienced such a huge storm of emotions that made me do things I’m not proud of, and I’m hoping if I’m brave enough to share it with K once it’s finished it will start the process of separating my big feelings of grief over Jess from this pervasive sense that I am a bad person for feeling that way, because I can see that it must be this that has triggered all this shame and terror over my parenting. I can sense huge feelings inside over Jess, but over the top of them are layer-upon-layer of shame and panic and despair and dread and so I can’t reach them or let them just be there, pure grief for someone who brought so much light and magic to my life.

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.

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.

Missing

I miss my mum this evening. It pulls heavily at me. I wanted to google her, although I know seeing her face on anything online would break me. Seeing her obvious insecurity and self-doubt in photographs fills me with dread and horror and guilt and shame. A toxic combination of emotions rooted deeply in my psyche from before I was even born. I still so badly want this to not be real, for her to not be my mum. It still hits me sometimes that it is real – I will probably never see her again. And I question if it was really that bad that I have to do this, even though I know no one would willingly choose to do what I have had to do.

It seems mad sometimes to be blocking her out of my life. What a crazy thing to do to your own mother! I could pick up the phone and she would come round, I know she would. And for a few minutes it would feel okay, but then everything would be the same and I would be trapped, unable to break away again because it would hurt her all over again. I still dream I am back in contact with her and I know it was a mistake but that I have to live with it because I can’t do that to her again. I wake up drenched in sweat, sobbing and shouting, feeling panicked and trapped and unable to escape. I know all this, know there is no other way, but it is still so hard. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of that horror that lives within me, barely made any headway with feeling what she is and how it was for me because of her mental illness.

In December I was crying with K “how can SHE be my mum? How can she be my mum and have done those things to me?” And K gently asked if it wasn’t time to change things round now, so that I start to say “she IS my mum, she DID those things” and I start to feel all that this really means and has meant to me. I agreed. But going there is scary. I prefer the disbelief than the resolute acceptance which I know must come, and the feelings that must be felt before I get there.

Sometimes I feel crazy to be missing someone who damaged me so much and wounded me so deeply, but I do miss her – she is the only mum I’ll ever have and she tried so hard. She wasn’t evil, she wanted to love me and give me what she never had, she just didn’t know how else to be. She couldn’t love me. How fucking awful for a mother to lose her daughter after losing her own parents so young. What a fucking awful existence she has had. If I could have sacrifiecd myself to save her I would have done, but I couldn’t make her happy and fill her up however much of myself I gave to her.

I miss her. I can’t go back, it has to be this way, but I miss her so much. Knowing she is out there, just 5 miles away, living her life as best she can without me and Nina, trying to get used to the hole we have left… It hurts. I hurt for her and I know I need to hurt for me but I can’t. Feeling her feelings is still safer for me. There is work to be done, but for now I am trying to just sit with the grief and remember that this wave will pass and there is light ahead of me.

missing

“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.