I was scanning blogs last night, and I came across a post from a lovely lady at From the Same Sky on the topic of detaching from a therapy relationship. It sort of stopped me in my tracks, not just because it narrates so clearly where I am at the moment, but because it is so overwhelmingly helpful to know that she’s felt this way about endings too – and she survived.
I’m at a weird place in therapy right now. My current provision has to end in June as I am no longer eligible for support. I have been incredibly lucky in that T1 has agreed to take me on privately (that was literally the hardest question I’ve ever asked, by the way!), but T2 and I will be ending for definite. It is a very odd time – as I’m graduating, it’s a time of lots of happy endings and future plans, but it’s got this Perspex screen of sadness over the top. Every ‘wow, I’m nearly finished!’ feeling is followed up by the reminder that we only have 10, 9, 8… sessions left.
I have always known, certainly since primary school, that I have issues with attachment. When I was very small, they manifested themselves as clinging to teachers, other people’s parents, strangers. I remember being I about 7 years old, and a police woman came into school for a talk. I was completely blown away by her – this woman with long brown hair and a pretty smile and a don’t-fuck-with-me attitude. She told us about how she caught the bad guys, fought crime and so on, and I remember being totally infatuated by this woman… Wondering whether if she would just look at me, whether she’d save me, too. I am sure I stayed behind to ask some inane question at the end of the talk, just so I could be close to her, to this entity that represented safety and strength and a way out of the tortuous place I was in. Of course, she didn’t, and this is a blueprint for most of my life really – me needing people in a capacity they could never be.
These issues have remained into adulthood and it is only really now that I am making a conscious effort to deal with them. Previously it had always been my dirty little secret – not helped, I suppose, by attaching primarily to women and considering myself straight. Many a teenage moment was spent concerning myself with whether I was sexually/romantically attached. Children, particularly teenagers, can be harsh and it was always a part of myself I hated.
I sat in a lecture on attachment theory a few years ago and everything clicked into place. My diary from then has pages of what he told us, with arrows and highlighted sections screaming yes! This is me! I understand now! Since then, having a name for how I feel has been so important and it has been much easier to understand why I act the way I do, even if I still hate it.
I could go off into a long tarididdle about who I attach to and why, and maybe I will at some point (lucky you!). But I wanted to write today about the impact my attachments is having on the endings I’m preparing for, and how I’m managing (or not…) to detach.
T1 and I fell together in a most unexpected fashion. My previous T had left without giving me any real warning, and I was reeling from the shock and fairly cut off from the world – T1 was drafted in to replace. I don’t know how she’d recall our first few sessions, but all I can remember is sitting there thinking ‘I do not like therapy and I do not like you’. She was too kind, too experienced and too purple (her favourite colour – a triggering colour for me). I was too angry, too scared and too fragile. In fact, I emailed her two sessions in to say that I thought it was best to stop – I’d found myself crying too much. She was tapping into something that meant emotion was pouring out from me in a way that felt very uncontrollable. She encouraged me to give it a try and I’m so glad I did.
You see, the thing that was cracking the shell of all those tears was a box of plastic animals. I am not 100% sure how much of my pure disgust at the situation she could read – but my head said ‘fuck off, I’m not playing with toys’. I like to think I’m externally quite mature and put together and when she suggested it quite frankly I’d have rather chewed on a rat’s bottom. But because I’m oh so terribly British, I said we could try, whilst even the soles of my feet glowed with embarrassment. And so, sat with my legs crossed on the carpet in her office, when went about splitting myself up into parts. The small part, the angry part, the part that loves music, the part who’s scared, the adult part… And suddenly the tears were flowing and my life made a little bit more sense.
We very rarely play with plastic animals anymore – the last time was when I had a break from her (completely unannounced – too scared to give her notice – but I wanted to try a specialist rape crisis service) and so we sat again, with me blowing snot bubbles and sobbing like a child, acknowledging the parts of me that I knew would have to go away again for a bit. Sniff.
But the point of this story is – T1 is the first person in my life, EVER, to genuinely get me. She understands what I need without me saying a word, her intuition is really strong and her experience shines through in everything she does. She admits her mistakes, she shows me she’s human in really small ways, every session. She laughs with me (and very occasionally at me when I really am being a brat!). She shares tiny snapshots of her history, her passions and fears and what interests her. She never, ever says no to me – no matter what I ask, she finds a way to ‘boundary’ me until we both find an answer we’re safe and content with. She’s incredibly honest. She demonstrates she’s proud of me, she celebrates my achievements and never, ever berates my inadequacies. She will hold Little whilst she’s mid-flashback, but have a laugh with an adult me who’s just had one of those days. She is a constant in my life and I will never, ever be able to explain to her how special she is.
Because of this, I am completely attached to her. My Little, for the first time in my life, has someone who cares about her, and she is completely head over heels in love. We both revel in the parental aspect of T1’s care – Little feels safe, feels heard, feels mothered and I feel like no matter what, T1 will be there. When I first realised I was full-blown, stamp-on-my-heart attached, I did panic. What if she leaves? What if she thinks I’m a freak for feeling this way? What if she shakes me off like everyone does, like mummy did, what if she throws me back into the cold of loneliness? I dropped it into a session, cool as you like, “I’m properly attached to you right now”… And then I waited for the bomb to drop.
Her response? I know. It’s ok. Kah – oh, wait, no boom. Just faith.
It seems ironic that, coming up to an ending (and a big gap, 6 weeks), I am the most securely attached I’ve ever felt and although every week brings new challenges (currently T1 is on a two week holiday and Little is utterly convinced she isn’t coming back), I have complete faith. We will survive, I will be safe, T1 will manage the ending and the gap and wow, this feels incredible 🙂 and so I’m wondering whether this intense attachment is actually the first step to letting go – whether this is the beginning of the end of my career as a serial attacher. I’m not naive enough to think we’re anywhere close to this – we’re not, definitely months but probably years – but how wonderful, for the first time ever, Little and I have someone who ticks every box.
The Same Sky writes:
Over that time those child parts of me that were unable to conceive of being without an attachment figure, once they had found one, were able to receive enough of what they needed, and our interactions gradually shifted towards something different. I began to notice sessions in which I arrived feeling very much in adult, and able to enjoy a different level of relationship that allowed me to leave at the end of the session without feeling heartbroken. Those child parts who were initially desperate to be heard, understood and loved felt secure and comfortable, trusted that I could speak up for them, more or less, and believed enough that I was cared for that they weren’t as activated as they had been previously.
Every hour, she parents the child and hears my adult in perfect harmony. At the moment, Little is vocal and obnoxious – fighting for air time. We’re a messy, loud, frustrating bundle of mess a lot of the time. I’m nowhere near as together as the above blogger is – still in the snot bubble phase. But for the first time ever, I have faith that it won’t be this way forever.
Pretty impressive for a woman who wears purple.