Imagining Space.

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Traffic made me late to therapy this week, but when I sat down I was so very grateful to be with T again. This week has been so painful. I felt like we had had some form of contact every single day this week – T disagreed, thought there were at least a few non-contact days, which makes me feel slightly better that I am not driving her insane with my obsessive attachment needs.

None of the contact has been for any crisis reason – just repetitive cries of “please don’t leave me”, “please stay”, “please come back”, “are you still there”… poor T, it’s been months and months since I’ve been this relentlessly pathetic. I was worried that T would be frustrated and worn down by me this week. I asked the night before if she still wanted to see me… “yes I still want you to come,” she replied. “You are welcome whatever mess you feel in.”

I felt quite adult when I started to talk. I talked about the fear I feel when I think that this ‘illness’, the part of me that makes me lose time and feel this awful, relentless agony of attachment insecurity, might ALWAYS be there. I’ve been stable for many months now. In those months, I’ve loved T and missed her sometimes and there has been a lot of upset about her not coming to the wedding, but I haven’t LOST her, or my sense of connection to her. I’ve had a really secure internal belief that she’s there, she’s close by, she loves me too and we’re okay, even when there is a gap. T reminded me that last August we went 6 weeks without seeing each other. 6 WEEKS. I haven’t managed 6 hours without desperately needing her this week.

I talked and talked and mostly didn’t let T speak because I know there are no answers here. The part of me that feels this way is always going to exist because I cannot change the past. Little is a result of the horrendous experiences I had as a child – they cannot be erased, and neither can she. I know there is no answer that would make me feel better – there can be no guarantees that she won’t feel like this again.

This scares me because of how unsafe and vulnerable I am when I am in that place. It worries me that I probably should not trust myself enough to have children – what if I lost time when caring for them? That thought is awful. T reminded me, though, that even in the darkest, most awful times, I have NEVER lost time when responsible for children at work. Even when I’ve been almost totally dissociated around the outside of the working day, when I’ve been the adult in charge, I’ve been okay. She’s right. She’s also right that I know to ask for help when I need it -she said that when I’ve got children, she knows that if the day was rubbish, I would go to a mum’s meet up or spend the day with friends etc… she knows I would do what I needed to be safe. That was reassuring.

We moved on to talking about how my head feels like it is moving at a million miles an hour with all the possible, endless possibilities. What happens when T retires, what happens when T dies, how will I find out if she dies, who will tell me, how will I grieve… I said to T that the feeling this constant, racing, catastrophising thinking leaves me with is the same feeling I get when I try to think too hard about space. You know when you remember that we’re one person, on a planet of billions… and we’re one planet of billions and billions… and that once we reach the end of one space term, like a universe, there’s just an endless expanse on from that… so you keep thinking and thinking and eventually it feels unsettling and makes you feel a little bit sick and dizzy? That’s what I feel like I’m doing with attachment worries about T. I’ve bounced from thoughts about how I will describe her to my children (friend? ‘auntie’? therapist/ex-therapist? None of them are right!), to how I’d find out if she died, to whether I’d be able to tell work I needed time off to grieve……… NONE of those things are ANYWHERE near happening, but that’s the problem with attachment anxiety. It knows no boundaries, it has no finite ends. There are no edges, no sides to the box. It just keeps going forever. It’s like imagining space.

I must have kept saying that there were no answers and T was making some suggestions, like that she would still reply to emails after she retires – but all that was doing was creating a whole other set of expanding questions – “but if you don’t reply then I will find out you’re dead by lack of an email response!”. T eventually gently interrupted my panicked dialogue. “All I know is that all along, all the time we’ve worked together, we’ve gone with what you need,” she said. “Sometimes we’ve spoken every day, sometimes we haven’t seen each other for a month. I’ve always gone with what you need in that time, in that moment. All we can do is trust that, when we get there, I will continue to do my best by you.

I very nearly cried my entire soul out, right there. That promise seemed to cut through so many of the questions, asking for definites and certainties… she’s right. All I can hold on to is that she loves me, and she always has and always will do whatever she feels, whatever we jointly agree is right for me.

Then we needed to end. Usually I have a really good sense of how far through the session we were, but this time it totally threw me – I hadn’t felt like we were much past halfway, but we were – T had even run over to give me the full session even though I was late. “I’m still here, though,” she said. “Even when you’re not here. I’m still here, and the relationship we have here is still the same even when we’re apart. You still remember me and think about me and I still remember you and think about you. I am not leaving and I will be here. Even when the session ends I leave an imprint on you and you leave an imprint on me and the connection continues and I don’t forget you.”

She wrote a very similar response to me this morning, when I emailed her after an awful nightmare where she was drowning and I was trying to swim past every seabased fear I have (sharks, seaweed, the dark…) to save her. I couldn’t reach her but I knew I couldn’t leave her either so eventually I gave up and breathed in sea water and woke up choking. She ended her email with “thinking of you, with love”.

Which made me smile, because I’m thinking of her with love, too. x

Drowning

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Bloody hell, therapy yesterday was a reminder of what therapy used to be like, when it was unpredictable and painful.

I was terrified about going to therapy in the first place because I’d spent the whole of the last session ranting about how awful my parents are…. only to then spend a few days with them and for them to be mostly totally fine! Logically I knew that T knows my parents can change between fine and awful and I logically knew she would never be cross with me… and of course she wasn’t. 

It took a long time for that anxiety to pass, so we spent a long time talking about light things. Wedding things, thoughts about having children in the future… until my tummy had stopped doing flips and I’d stopped feeling like she might leave me because she was mad with me.

When I’d calmed enough to stop talking, T told me she’d found a book she thought I’d like. She came to sit next to me and started to read. It was okay to start with – T was there, next to me and she was reading to me and it all felt… there isn’t a word for the way T makes me feel in those moments. “Whole” is the closest, probably. But then… well. 

The Story in the Book

The book is called “The Day the Sea Went Out and Never Came Back” by Margot Sunderland, illustrated by Nicky Armstrong. There is a sand dragon called Eric. He loved the sea, how it goes in and out. He plays with the waves and dives into the sea. The sea was lovely and beautiful to him. 

Then one day, it didn’t come back. “Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me, you are my everything.” But the sea doesn’t come back and Eric lay still on the floor in an death-like state. Friends tried to help but Eric was still frozen and still. 

In front of him, a flower appeared. Eric realised the flower needed water because otherwise it wasn’t going to survive. He ran and ran to try and find water and eventually he came to a dog called Surf who gave Eric his water bowl. 

He watered the flower which grew and in turn, more flowers grew. Then another and another. Surf helped Eric make a beautiful rock pool. Eric began to cry and Surf comforted him. Together, they acknowledged how much the loss of the sea upset Eric and how lost he felt. They remembered together the beautiful parts of the sea and they placed a sign next to the rock pool, dedicated to the sea. 

The book ends with other people acknowledging how beautiful the rock pool is, and Eric and Surf take a memory of the sea into the warmth together and sit with it together. 

What Adult Me Felt

What a beautiful book. It explains the unbearable loss felt when someone you love leaves, but then it also recognises the process of working hard on that grief to turn it into something beautiful. We had been talking about me having children before, and as T was reading, it struck me that that is what I will do with my children. Turn that unbearable loss into something beautiful, with the support of someone who loves me enough to bear witness to what came before and who is willing to stay with me and work hard with me. If I’m Eric, then T is Surf and my future is the rock pool. What a beautiful book. 

What Little Felt

T is the sea. She is beautiful, she’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever met and she brings me beautiful things. I love that she comes back when she leaves. She always comes back. It is scary that the sea has gone and it hasn’t come back. I feel sick. It’s gone. Eric is sad and I’m sad I can’t breathe my arms feel numb my tummy hurts. T is here but is she trying to tell me she’s leaving? Right now? Other people help but the sea is still gone and it’s not coming back this book doesn’t have a happy ending it’s not coming back she’s not coming back. She’s trying to tell me it will be okay when she leaves because I will have things to remember her by but it isn’t going to be okay it is never going to be okay I will die without her I’m going to die I’m going to die I’m going to die I can’t breathe I’m going to die.

————————-

T realised things weren’t okay and asked me what was happening. I was still present enough to hear her but my body, my mouth, my emotions were all Little’s. I could feel the complete split between loving the book and being totally terrified. T asked me to tell her what was going on… I couldn’t. We sat still, with my forehead pressed against her shoulder and silence around us. My hand found hers and I held on for dear life.

I knew we were near the end and somehow, someone took control enough to start talking and laughing and get us out the door. We left, and that is all I remember. 

I haven’t lost time in months. Possibly years, even. When I was eventually safe at home last night I asked my partner when he last remembered it happening…. he thinks it’s been at least 18 months. What a backwards step. I’ve been enjoying the co-consciousness that has been there ever since. 

L texted T. Please please please really really don’t leave me no matter what please stay please come back. Familiar pleas, not asked for months. T replied. I am here I am not leaving. I am not the sea. But what about if I was a bit of the pond he created. You create your safety supports. The sea is all that you already lost. You created the pond which is a small image of the sea but it gives you joy. The pond doesn’t leave. I replied, Adult me saw the beauty in that image and read it in that way and loved it. L panicked it was a way to tell her you would leave and that you wouldn’t be back and that she’d be okay but she wouldn’t be. She’d die without you, she’s not okay to be left alone, she’d die without you. You can be Surf and she will sit in the warmth with you. Then she’ll be okay. Sorry. Xxxx

I am not leaving, T replied. I’ve believed her for months. Little has been secure enough to not need to take over for months. I’m not sure what happened yesterday, but…. I don’t believe her anymore. I’m struggling to believe her right now and it feels like I’m drowning.

We spoke this evening. The impact her voice has defies all logic…. it is astronomical. Mostly I just needed to hear that she isn’t going to leave me. That she’s staying. This comes with the unsettling knowledge that someday, T will leave. She’ll retire, or god forbid she’ll die. When the latter happens nobody will even tell me. That feels overwhelming and unbearable. It feels horrendous that the day will come when I, adult me, will be able to leave the regularity of therapy, to drop down to email updates and catch up sessions…. but for Little, that is going to be a further trauma. She’s going to be torn away from her beautiful person, her beautiful sea. Again.

Last night I had an awful dream. I was with my ex (why, I don’t know) and I was telling him about T leaving. He told me that he would make her leave me and never come back unless I let him do what he wanted to me. He put his fingers inside me and I felt the awful, sharp burn of the unwanted stretch. I told him to stop and he did… but told me he would take T away. I was so desperate for her to stay that I lay back, let my knees fall to the sides and told him to carry on. The cold numbness swept through me and then I didn’t feel him anymore, just how much I loved her. 

All I’ve got for tonight is to hold onto her reassurances that for now, she isn’t going anywhere. Trying to hold onto the enoughness of last week and the last blog post. Holding on. 

This picture popped up on Facebook today, it’s from a Folt Bolt artist called Sigrid Martinez,http://www.momrocks.com.br/o-mundo-infantil-e-nossa-visao-sobre-ele/ I love it – clouds, sea, night sky, and love through it all. I’m holding on.

X

Enoughness.  

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“So it feels from your emails like this has been a sad week.”

“Really sad. I don’t know where to start.”

“Well, tell me about your mum…”

—-

Therapy HURT. Bloody hell it hurt. Not like an injury, sharp kind of pain but like the pain you feel when you’ve been in the dark and you are suddenly blinded by a stunningly bright light – you know the light is good, but every cell of you feels like it is trying to turn itself inside out to manage the discomfort. 

It was a session of three parts this week, so sorry for the long post! I did start by talking about my mum and the pain she causes me by her insensitive comments – especially those about my weight. I feel like T and I got a bit further forward this time than we have before… we talked about how mum’s words are caused by triggers within herself and how it is helpful to me if I try to remember that she isn’t always saying the things she says with the intention of hurting me. There IS an agenda underneath the comments, but that is HER agenda because of HER triggers and it’s not caused by a want to be malicious. T was careful to check with me that I didn’t think she was trying to say it’s not painful or difficult, but rather that it is less painful to remember that she doesn’t mean to be nasty. I agree (and this conversation was good timing as I am visiting mum this week…). I was fighting Sass the whole time through this conversation – she wanted to scream angry expletives about how awful my mum is – but I am glad she stayed in check as it helped us to have a helpful, adult conversation. 

Then I went quiet. T asked me what had happened and I wasn’t quite sure really. She asked me if we needed to talk about her not coming to the wedding again. I’d totally begged her by email this week to come. Please please please please please… but when I’m with her, it feels harder to have the tantrum I want to have. L wants to beg and cry and scream and promise T the world if only she would come to the wedding. I said something along those lines, and she offered to explain her reasons again but I said I didn’t really need to hear them… I said that it feels like a therapy boundary and that is too painful. 

She immediately said that although there is always some element of a therapy boundary, that was not her reason for not coming. She did then go on to explain…firstly that logistically she is flying abroad so the distance made it impossible, but her primary reason was that she felt she could be more loving and supportive by NOT being there on the day. She talked about this in detail. I heard her, in the moment, and her reasoning made me feel warmed and loved and held tight… and it felt like the wedding would be okay. Then I left the session and her words started to slip through my fingers… I started to lose the love and it began to not feel real. 

I emailed her to ask if she could write down what she said so that I could reread it again and again to try and keep a hold on the love. She did.

Dear (me), 

I feel I can be most loving and caring for you by not coming to your wedding but by being by your side as it were by being able to speak on the telephone and by thinking of you. Not coming is nothing to do with not being there for you. It is about being
there for you.

Your wedding is going to be a very special day with all of its intricacies and I can be most there for you by not being a part of it in the presence so that I am part of the event, but by being in a place that you can reach to when and if you feel that you
need to so that you do have that support. 

I haven’t gone through any other reasons because this is the core reason and the most important


With love, T.

The session plus the email has started to make it feel okay that she won’t be there. She is right – if she was there, she’d be a guest and she wouldn’t be able to talk to me whilst I’m getting ready, I wouldn’t be able to quietly check in with her during the day… she is going to be closer to me emotionally by being further away physically. That feels both hard and better at the same time. 

Towards the end of our session, after this conversation, I kept thinking that I wished she’d just adopt me. How much easier and happier my life would be if I was hers. Secretly, this feeling always comes with a dimension of anger and jealousy because I’ve always been fairly sure that T adopted one of her own children. I’ve known this partially because of things T has said and also from some external sources…but I’ve never been sure, obviously. The guessing and assuming that she did has always brought a lot of pain to me – her adopting me is one of my greatest wishes and I often fall asleep trying to imagine what it would be like if I were hers. 

I have never asked her before but I just decided to, in the moment. Did you adopt your child? T went very quiet for a number of long seconds and then told me she had. My heart sank, my stomach hurt and I had to bite my tongue not to cry. They have you. They have everything I want. If you adopted me everything would be okay. T held onto my hand and said no. Adoption doesn’t heal the hurt caused by being separated from a birth parent. Even the best adoptions cannot heal the primal wound and it’s residual scars. I went silent then but she went on to tell me that her child still struggles with issues around their birth parents – that pain isn’t and cannot be removed by adopting. So they still hurt, even though they have you, I/Little said. That’s not nice for them, but in a way that makes me feel better. That even with you, this would still be so painful. I said how I just wanted to be hers and for her to be mine. She said, how would a piece of paper make this any different? And that felt like enough. That felt like everything, actually. We cuddled for a few minutes, her heartbeat beating loud and large and warm inside me.

For the first time in a while, I feel that this is enough. I am enough and she is enough. The love is enough and we are enough. x

Imaginary Mum.

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Imaginary Mum is so excited about my wedding. All her friends know about it and she has loads of details to share with them because she’s been involved with all the planning. She hasn’t got TOO involved or been demanding, though, because she trusts me and values my opinions. 

Imaginary Mum has lots of little wedding surprises planned. None of them are big or show offy, but they are all deeply sentimental. Some of them she has been thinking about since I was tiny – Imaginary Mum knows this is a huge transitional moment for me and is proud to show her emotions around this. 

Imaginary Mum cried when she saw my dress. She can’t wait for all the photos so she can plaster them all over her office and house and show off about me. She’s not made a single negative comment about my body and was a huge support at all the trials and fittings for the wedding. 

Imaginary Mum is keen to share with me her wisdoms about marriage, and life. Nothing is always perfect but she’s respectful and romantic about her relationship when giving me advice. We’ve had lots of chats, filled with warmth and her desire to build me up as a strong, capable woman, wife and mother. 

Imaginary Mum is immensely proud of me. She tells me, but she shows me too. The wedding is the pinacle of her pride in me so far – seeing me begin my own little family with an amazing man brings her immense pride in me. 

There are millions of little things Imaginary Mum does. She loves to spend time with me, she texts me when she sees things that remind her of me, she comes to be by my side when I am poorly and she always, always shows me her love. Always. Even if we fought or disagreed, and even when we were both busy, her love for me would never be in doubt.

She doesn’t exist, though. And so it is.

Keep Breathing.

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Happy New Year, blog world!

Since the beginning of January, I’ve been back in therapy with T weekly. I’m getting married very soon and it didn’t feel okay anymore, considering all the emotional pain being drawn up from the depths by the different aspects of the wedding, to be without her. The mummy issues have been unbearable and for a while it felt like an impossible choice – stay with her but feel the loss by the constant comparison with mum, and the boundaries and the not coming to my wedding and the reminders everywhere that I’m not really hers…or leave but feel the loss of the alone-ness I have when she’s not close by? When discussed with T, she asked why, when I am already suffering, would I cause myself pain by removing myself from a place and person of safety and love and warmth? She was right, of course. So, back to weekly therapy.

Everything feels very raw. I am not stressed about the wedding itself – I’m marrying the most incredible person and we’ve planned a beautiful day – but the attachment/abandonment stuff is eating me alive. I’m sad, jealous, angry, frustrated… inside me is always a big, knotted ball of unpleasant emotions.

T is being wonderful. She’s listened for hours on end, mostly about the same core emotions. She wrote in an email the other day, I hear the pain and the sadness and the loss and I am here”… and she is. And she’s wonderful. But those people reading who have their own experiences of parental neglect, loss, lack of attachment will understand that it isn’t enough to fully soothe the primal wound. Those people who haven’t, well, I’m not sure you could ever fully understand.

I’m desperate for T (someone, anyone) to say that it’s okay, she knows mum has never been the mother any child deserves, she knows I missed out on so much love. I want her to say that it’s not my fault and I’m worth enough and she loves me enough to fly in and wipe tears, brush back hair, rub shoulders, fix the broken and make it be okay. I want her to say that, even though on my wedding day I know my mum will be in full blown boast mode, she will be in her element despite having NO RIGHT to lay claim in any way to a mother-daughter relationship, SHE will be there. She will be there to love me and be proud of me and to celebrate with me with the warmth and love she is capable of. I know it’s not possible but it’s just the ultimate dream. Someone who will love me enough to stop this hurt. I’m struggling to accept that this attachment pain is always going to be a part of my life. I don’t WANT to accept that maternal love is not something I will ever experience fully. T wrote, “people love you enough to want to stop the hurt and they love you enough to support you in stopping this hurt. And it is your wise adult part alongside your child who needs to grieve and feel all the feelings that they weren’t allowed to feel as a child and in time that will stop it hurting as it does now. It won’t erase the past as I suspect you want to happen. But it will find a way through. And then you will see all the loving faces who want to help you but can’t take it away and make it not have happened, however much they might want to.” The problem is I don’t want to. I want her to love me enough. I don’t want to do it myself. It makes me feel disgusting and broken and wrong, that nobody will love me enough.

I know it is not really about being ‘enough’. It’s just a hideous hangover from the lack of love at the right developmental age. It is proving almost impossible to hold on to T’s words, though – “it isn’t your fault. It definitely isn’t your fault. And you are worth enough for everything” – when there is a voice inside saying, if you loved me enough you’d just come to my wedding. You’d adopt me. You’d hold me. You’d never let me go.

Today in session I managed to tell T I felt angry that she isn’t coming. T said it sounded more sad than angry. I said it felt more like a frustrated tantrum. She encouraged me to let it out with her but I couldn’t. I pulled over on the motorway on the motorway to scream and pound the dashboard repeatedly instead. A slightly more adult version of a foot stomping tantrum.

T is offering so much of herself for my wedding. She will be accessible by phone, all day, if I need her. We will Skype in the morning, definitely. She is going to lend me a bracelet, beads in colours that remind me of her – I am going to have them tied into my bouquet. I am working hard, too – trying to put strategies in place to make this everlasting loss feel more okay. This mostly involves weaving T throughout the wedding in as many ways as possible and also honouring her – I need to feel like, as the true ‘mother’ of my emotions, my wellbeing and my happiness, she has her place, too. Even if it’s not a physical place on the day.

T described this the other day as a journey – “so this is a journey, a journey of love that is growing and learning how to love”. Bloody painful journey. Unbelievably bloody painful. We are holding on, though.

I’ve been listening to this song on repeat the last few weeks:


The lyrics are very apt. They remind me of the important thing – “all that I know is I’m breathing now”. 

The storm is coming but I don’t mind
People are dying, I close my blinds

All that I know is I’m breathing now

I want to change the world
Instead I sleep
I want to believe in more than you and me

But all that I know is I’m breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

All that I know is I’m breathing
All I can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing 

All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

All I can do is keep breathing. T is breathing along with me. All we can do is keep breathing now. X

Gratitude.

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​Gratitude lists are popping up all over my blog reader at the moment. I may well write my ’50 things’ gratitude list for the year nearer to NYE, but seeing as the break from therapy has felt SO hard this year, I thought I’d do my gratitude list about therapy with T instead. So, 50 reasons I am grateful (in no particular order!).

1. She gave me her blanket. Green, warm, loved. When things feel really awful and sleep feels impossible, I wrap it round my shoulders, through my arms and up to cover my nose. The feel of it wrapped around me and smoothing my nose comforts me to sleep.

2. She reads me stories. Children’s books are some of my favourite things. I have no memories of being read to as a child. Listening to her read them to me is incredible and healing.

3. We play. Plastic animals, rabbits, bear cards… Little loves her for her playfulness.

4. She is beautifully colourful. I live my life in blues and greys, she lives hers in gorgeous colour. When I see the colours elsewhere, they remind me of her and make me smile.

5. I find her in nature. She talks to me about clouds, emails about the sea… when I stand and stare at the beauty of the nature in front of me, I find her, always. It reassures me that I will always be able to find her there.

6. She cuddles me. I know that not every therapist will do. I know that I’d never have made the progress in therapy without it. All the professionals who work with me hug and cuddle me – it’s warming and healing. It makes me feel human even when I feel disgusting and ruined.

7. She lets me listen to her heartbeat. This is a young, almost primal thing. When I’m panicked and lost, the calm repetitive beat of her heart is amazing. I’m not sure its possible to record a heartbeat, but I know that if I could only listen to one sound ever again, it’d be her heartbeat I’d choose.

8. When I’m too lost in upset for her to reach me, when my hair is over my face and I’m hidden, she strokes my hair and brushes it back off my face. It’s rare, it’s amazing.

9. When I’m no longer properly ‘in the room’, or when I’m too raw to be held, she asks to hold my feet. I am NOT a foot person, generally I despise anybody touching my feet, but it’sgrounding and comforting when she does it. Usually it gives me enough grounding to be able to come back to the space between us again. 

10. She shares safe knowledge with me. I will never know as much as I want to about her. But part of growing to trust her happened when she shared things with me. I’m sure they’re small, I’m sure she will keep huge things from me all the time, but knowing her favourite colour or where she’s gone on holiday still feels awesome.

11. She lets me sit on her sofa, with my shoes off and my legs up. I’ve sat in so many therapy offices where I’ve felt like I’m in a job interview – sit straight, legs on the floor, keep presentable. It is amazing to be able to sit as I want, to curl up or hide when things are difficult… I love that I’m free with her.

12. She works from home. I wanted a therapist who didn’t – when I was looking, it felt too personal and too unsafe. Once I’d settled into it, it felt amazing. It helps me feel like I know her as a human and not as a therapy robot.

13. She lets her dog come into our sessions sometimes. I LOVE dogs and hugely miss having my own so it’s lush to have her dog in with us. She only comes in when she barks because she’s not seen much of T, but when she does its awesome. The distraction also helps when things feel really painful.

14. She walks and talks. I LOVE phone sessions with her when she’s walking the dog. She’s more relaxed and less therapisty then when she’s in a proper session with me. She talks more than in session – she stops herself in a proper session – if I want to be reminded that she is human and wonderful (or if I want her opinion instead of a therapist answer 😛 ha), listening to her talk to me whilst she walks the dog is totally awesome.

15. She says my name in unique and varied tones. When she’s trying to pull me back from dissociation, when she’s proud of me, when she’s teasing me… each way, different and unique. Hearing my name said in a sentence can sometimes be a trigger for me, but not usually the way she says it.

16. She celebrates my happiness. When big things happen (like graduating, getting a job, buying our house, getting engaged), it is a joy to tell her and hear her excitement.

17. She bears witness to sadness. I read a beautiful passage in Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things, where she writes to a man trying to support his wife who lost her mum. She wrote:[Your wife] is your joy on wheels whose every experience is informed and altered by the fact that she lost the most essential, elemental, primal and central person in her life too soon. It will never be okay that she lost her mother. And the kindest, most loving thing you can do for her is to bear witness to that, to muster the strength, courage and humility it takes to accept the enormous reality of its not okayness and be okay with it. Get comfortable being the man who says ‘oh honey, I’m so sorry for your loss’ over and over again. T is the person for me. She bears witness to the enormity of its not okayness and I love her for it.

18. She believes in change. I’m a very black and white thinker – I catastrophise constantly. I find it hard to remember the inevitability of change – it is comforting (if sometimes frustrating!) that T believes that change is always possible.

19. She laughs at me. When I’m being stubborn and stroppy (consciously or not!), or when I’m being defeatist and catastrophising, she laughs at me. It makes me laugh every single time and makes me love her more every single time, too. 

20. She doesn’t judge – she doesn’t flinch. I’ve told her things that have happened to me that make me throw up, things that make me cry, things I’m ashamed of, things that make me disgusted with myself… she doesn’t flinch, ever. It’s reassuring to tell someone who is stronger than the memories.

21. She holds boundaries. As much as I HATE boundaries, she’s an excellent model for me with them. We’ve had the ‘a boundary doesn’t stop me loving you’ conversation about a billion times… it still hurts every time, but I know the modelling is invaluable for me. After a childhood of either no boundaries or people so boundaried I couldn’t connect, it’s amazing to see them modelled healthily.

22. She breaks boundaries. Sometimes we’ve got a boundary really wrong – mostly to do with contact, when I’ve not been able to cope with the initial boundary set. She will break and change them when they feel too wrong – when she does it makes me feel like she feels I’m important and like she sees me as a person and not a client-robot. It makes me feel safe.

23. She tells me when she’s proud of me. My parents don’t know how to express themselves when they feel proud – it’s not something I’ve ever really heard, growing up. When T says it it makes me feel like I could die of embarrassment but it’s amazing to hear.

24. She tells me when she’s cross with me. This is another of those things that reminds me she is not a therapist-robot. Clearly I hate making her cross, but it makes her human and I value it for that. Usually her crossness is more about concern – I’ve not eaten, I’ve harmed – and when it isn’t, when I’ve genuinely upset her, it’s reassuring to find myself within the boundaries of a real relationship.

25. She reads. Quite often she will tell me of things she’s read, quotes she remembers etc… I love the walls of books behind us when we’re in session, and I love her love of books.

26. She’s got heaps of training, experience, knowledge… I despise therapy speak – “and how does that make you feel?” or “tell me more about that…” makes me want to stab myself in the head – T steers away from this, but I feel comforted and supported by her clear wealth of experience and theoretical knowledge that sits behind her.

27. She’s well supported. As much as I despise the thought of her talking about me in supervision, and I’m mega jealous of her family and friends (and HATE them when they’re in the next room), it’s reassuring that she is well supported. It reminds me that nothing between us will be too big and will push her away.

28. She looks after me when I’m poorly. I’m totally pathetic when I’m ill, tearful and useless! As a child, illness was seen as weakness and was either ignored or punished. T does the total opposite and as much as I’m probably capable of telling myself to eat, drink, sleep, take medicine etc…. it feels AMAZING and loving with T does it.

29. She values the little stuff as much as the big stuff. Therapy is expensive, exhausting and time consuming – for both me and her! I can fall into the trap of worrying that I don’t have enough to talk about, or that what I have isn’t important enough. I love it that T is as interested in the job stress and the friendship updates as she is in the trauma history and the attachment disorder. It reminds me she cares about me as a human as well as as a client.

30. She knows me. In the years we’ve worked together, I love it that she has learned a lot about me. Little things, like that I’m feeling emotionally stressed when I pull Rabbit’s ear up to my nose… it’s like she knows the code to me and that’s awesome. She remembers, too. I’m sure notes help with the big stuff, but I am constantly amazed by her ability to remember names and little details of my life. I’m one of many clients and it makes me feel very respected and loved when she knows who I’m talking about!

31. She is happy to work alongside other professionals. The professional ‘family’ around me is so important to me and finding professionals who will all see me knowing I’m seeing others has been essential. I’m not sure she was totally keen on this to begin with, so I love her for allowing us to try it and stick with it.

32. She makes Rabbit dance to the music she sings. It makes my insides sing, too.

33. She’s predictable. I often know what she will say or how she will respond before she starts to speak. This knowledge of her has been hugely important in internalising her and being able to cope in the gaps between time with her.

34. She’s surprising and refreshing. Sometimes she says things and they’re totally NOT what I was expecting – I love her as much for those times as I do for the predictable responses!

35. She’s hardworking and dedicated. She might be the hardest working person I know – it’s so reassuring to know that she loves her job, she works hard and looks after herself whilst doing it. She’s an excellent role model – copying her work ethic would definitely help me manage my job better…

36. She includes me in her life – I love feeling remembered. When she was in Oz she sent me photos of kangaroos, when she’s away she tells me what she can see… it reminds me she’s still very present in this world.

37. She never minimises emotions. Expressing emotions was ignored or punished when I was little – T never does this. It feels reassuring and supportive.

38. She never overreacts to emotions. In contrast to above, I’ve worked with professionals who have overreacted to emotions, making them worse. T doesn’t minimise them but does keep everything in perspective (even when I’ve totally lost control). It is reassuring to have somebody keeping a calm control over everything.

39. She will sit with silences. Sometimes being with her in silence is enough. There is never pressure for more.

40. She will instinctively talk too. Sometimes I don’t want the silence but I can’t talk – she seems to always know when this happens, and will speak for me until I can.

41. She checks in with all parts. It’s rare we have sessions where only one part of me is present. T is very good at checking in with everyone – she isn’t scared of them or the emotions they bring with them.

42. She doesn’t defend my mother. I have worked with a lot of professionals who have felt it appropriate to try to defend my mum and how she behaved when we were kids. Excuses made and reasons given don’t help. T doesn’t do this. Her acknowledgement that what happened was wrong has been essential to my healing.

43. She stood up for my mother’s place at the wedding. Part of me knows that this was connected to T’s own stuff, but her insistence that she doesn’t want her part in the wedding to overshadow my mum or disrupt her in some way was reassuring, loving and painful. It was a very human thing and felt loving because of it.

44. We’ve tried just about every agreement on contact and none worked. Eventually we have ended up in a place where she responds when she feels she needs to. She responds instinctively and she’s rarely wrong!

45. She is able to be repetitive without (visible…) frustration. We have had some conversations literally millions of times – please come back, please don’t leave, please don’t be mad, please adopt me… she may want to beat me round the head every time I ask her, but if she does she doesn’t show it. The repetition and the repeated answers are soothing and help me internalise.

46. She changes her email sign off depending on what emotional space we’re in. Often the change in sign off is as reassuring as what she’s written in the email. It makes me smile and I love it.

47. She tolerates me not looking at her. We spend probably 90% of our therapy sessions without eye contact from me. I work with children and it drives me mad when they don’t look at me, so I don’t know why she doesn’t want to throttle me… but it’s helpful to be able to still have a connection even when I can’t look at her.

48. Sometimes she makes me look at her. When she needs me to hear her, when she wants me to believe her, she won’t say it until I’m looking at her. It’s really hard but really worthwhile.

49. She is excited and preparing for my future. She made me laugh the other day, getting excited about me taking a pregnancy test (even though it would have been a disaster!). She reminded me the other day that the therapy I’m doing now is investing in my children. She’s excited about my wedding. I love that she is excited about my future as well as looking after me now.

50. She has been the gold that’s put the pieces back together. I went to her, broken and carrying the pieces of me I’d been able to save. Her hard work and love (and my hard work and love) has made the gold, the glue, to stick my broken pieces back together. Though it’s hard to feel like this, what I love about the art of kintsukuroi is the belief that it is more beautiful for having been broken. This Christmas it’s been hard to feel more beautiful for the brokenness – but I know if I’ve managed to internalise even the smallest part of her, any of the beautiful, golden things about her, I know I must be. 

Happy Christmas, T. Happy Christmas, blog world. Much love x 

The UNFAIRNESS of it all.

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Today has been fucking awful. Sorry for the woe is me post.

I’ve spent most of the day in bed. Immobile. Stuck. I texted T last night begging her to call me today, she’s said she would later (even though today isn’t a working day for her) so I spent most of today waiting to be picked back up by her. Literally stuck – frozen – waiting for her to metaphorically come and get me, pick me up, cuddle me.

It’s so unfair. I’m desperate for her to call and I’m also totally panicked about her calling. She deserves her time off, she deserves a break and she deserves a holiday with the real people in her life – she deserves a break from me. It’s unfair because I need her and because she needs to be away from me for a while. It’s unfair that I am totally and completely desperate to hear her voice and yet I am terrified that she is going to be cross with me for interrupting her holiday.

It’s unfair that I feel totally fucking awful today and at the same time like an ungrateful little bitch because there are people who have it SO much worse than me. I’m so blessed. I have living parents, living family, lovely friends. I am SO blessed. Every time someone tells me that other people have difficult Christmasses, I want to cut out chunks from my arms and legs because I feel so fucking guilty for being so ungrateful. There are some people who are going to have a really shitty holiday and it’s unfair that I can’t just be grateful I’m not them and feel better.

It’s unfair that people keep telling me that the Christmas spirit will take over soon and the holidays will be over before I know it! It’s unfair that people keep telling me that other people have difficult holidays too. It’s unfair that people keep telling me ‘oh but no families are perfect’. Or that I’m holding T up on a pedestal – that even her Christmas won’t be perfect. I KNOW THAT. I know that everyone has something that isn’t perfect at Christmas. But there is a HUGE difference between ‘not perfect’ and dealing with the hangover of an abusive, neglected childhood, huge trauma and all the leftover attachment stuff. It is hurtful and it feels minimising to keep telling me that nobody’s Christmas is perfect. It’s a million miles away from perfect. I would give anything, LITERALLY ANYTHING, to be in someone else’s ‘imperfect’ Christmas. To be a part of T’s ‘imperfect Christmas’.

It’s so unfair that I cannot just COPE and be fucking grateful that throughout the whole of the rest of the year, T and GP bend over backwards to support me – out of hours, during holidays, late at night, early morning, when I need them once a month and ten times in a week. The whole of the rest of the year, they do their absolute best to be everything I need them to be. They are amazing. It’s so unfair that I’m being such a little brat for the two weeks in the year that they need me to not be a brat.

I fucking despise myself today. Everything feels so unfair. I feel like an ungrateful little bitch.

Christmas break.

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Whilst I was reading blogs earlier, I read this beautiful letter which says what I want to say so clearly and painfully. I’m not going to manage so beautifully but I need to try because I feel so, so awful. 

From the very first time you sit down with a professional, you know there will be endings, breaks, holidays, goodbyes. It’s inevitable and those times come and go with varying degrees of difficulty. I’ve written many times on here about holiday breaks – sometimes I’ve managed them well, sometimes not!

This Christmas break is feeling totally agonising. I feel abandoned, scared, panicked, unloved. I’m jealous and anxious and I HATE myself for being such an ungrateful little bitch. There are so many people who are grieving friends and family, people who are going to be spending Christmas alone, or ill or dying and here I am, moaning because I’m on a therapy break. I despise myself for my insensitivity, ungratefulness and for how pathetic I am. 

It’s only three weeks. I’ve already had a conversation with T by email, yet it’s not enough. I feel like a baby that’s been put down even though it’s not settled – arms outstretched to the adult walking away, screaming and crying but it making no difference. I feel panicked, like I’m exposed and unprotected from the world. I feel abandoned. I feel unheld, unwanted, unloved. 

I feel unreal. The rest of the year I feel a part of their lives. A small part, I’m not naive enough to believe I’m too important, but I’m an upcoming appointment or phone call. I’m a part, a real part. At Christmas it’s impossible not to feel pushed aside – replaced with the really real people. The daughters. The sons. The loved ones. At Christmas it is impossible not to become a job, a client, something that is pushed away and replaced with the joy of the holidays, the break from work – the break from me. 

This year it’s left me with an unsettling feeling of not feeling quite real. They’re pushing away work but I’m pushing away therapy, too – nobody wants to hear about my therapy amongst the happy, sparkly Christmas conversations. It makes me feel like what I KNOW to be true the rest of the year – I’m loved, they care about me professionally and as a human being, I’m a person and not just a client etc – all of that feels unreal right now. It makes me question my own love for them – how can I feel so strongly for these people who at this time of year are nothing more than an illusion? That worry then unsettles all the core beliefs, the secure attachments that form the basis of our connection.

It’s a reminder that I’m basically faking it the rest of the year. All the love I take from them, all the parenting, all the care and the guidance and the support… all the times that I go to them when I need a secure attachment person. It’s beautiful but it’s fake. They’re not my parents. My parents are still who they were when I was little. I’m still the child left alone, scared and vulnerable. I’m still the adult that child grows into – vulnerable, unsure of myself and trying to do this alone without parental guidance. The rest of the year they help me fake it. At Christmas they can’t.

It’s not that I don’t want them to have a break. It is SO lovely to hear that they have family plans. I love them both and it makes me really happy to know that they are going to be happy. I’m just so, so jealous I’m not part of the picture. I’m so jealous of their children who will have something so special and probably not even pause to appreciate it. I’m so jealous of the people in their lives who don’t get pushed aside for the holidays.

I’m jealous and angry and scared. I’m sad. So, so sad. I’ve been put down and I’m screaming to be picked back up, to be rocked and held. What scares me is that I know, from bitter experience, from Little’s experience, that feeling of love and security isn’t coming back right now. Not for a long time.

My best friend said on the phone tonight that she thinks most of this is about control (or lack of it). I agree – mostly because I feel like I’m having one massive, barely controlled tantrum. Christmas is a time for broken routines, changes and differences. It’s a time when I cannot beg for a session, I can’t ask them to speak to me just because I need them. I feel out of control. Problem is, the two people I rely on when I feel like this are with their real people. The two people who hold me tightly until I am calm are not within reach. They don’t feel real and I don’t feel real. X

Pain.

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It’s pretty rare T sees me cry, even a little bit. In the last six years, this is probably only the third time she’s sat with me while I’ve lost control and sobbed. Sobbed, sobbed and sobbed. 

It took a while for us to connect. Everything hurt inside and she kept asking me to speak but I had nothing to say. I started to cry and still had nothing to say. Then she asked me do you think I love you less by not coming? and that was me gone. When I felt like I was going to die if she didn’t do something I asked her to sit with me and she did, of course. She cuddled until the tears subsided enough for us to speak. Not being there doesn’t change how much I feel for you, she said. I will be thinking about you, I want to see photos. A part of me will still be at your day – more than just a part of me. 

With 5 minutes to go I asked her to read the book I’d brought with me – The Fox and The Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith. 

This book is stunning. Buy a copy and fall in love with it like I have. It is mesmerising.

I only bought it this week by fluke, though I’d seen the hardback copy before – but it felt very appropriate for today. 

It’s about a small fox who has a star as his only friend. They spend lots of time together and play in the forest. Then one day the dark comes but Fox can’t find Star. He looks and looks but cannot find Star. Eventually he hides in his den and feels awful for a long, long time.

After the time to feel bad has passed, Fox is tempted back outside. He strays out of the forest into a clearing which is terrifying… but then looks up to see a sky full of stars. The story ends with Fox feeling content that his star is up there, somewhere, shining down. 

On the last page of the book is an image of the fox, filled totally inside himself with stars. 

There is something very comforting about the book. Right now I need to hibernate and feel awful. But eventually, I hope I will feel okay enough to leave the den where everything feels awful, step forward into the scary place of getting married without her there watching… and take comfort in knowing that she is still watching, taking part, somewhere close by… just not quite in the way I’d hoped.  

This too shall pass, right? I feel awful. 

Absence Makes The Heart Bleed.

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So, as expected, T isn’t coming to our wedding. 

I’d asked her to tell me (confirm, really, I knew I was getting married too far away from her) by email before tomorrow’s session so that I could process the initial, agonising pain alone, instead of exposed in front of her. So she did.

I’m in the bath, bleeding from the tiny, fragile heart cut into my wrist and trying to remember that I knew this was coming and it’s better to know. Trying to remember I will still find her woven throughout my wedding day, just not physically. 

I am so angry with myself for getting married so far away. Little is screaming at me, telling me off. 

I could really do with some support, blog world. I feel like I’m dying. 

x