I think T saved my life this week.
Since Christmas, when I felt completely abandoned by T (unfairly so) and we had a two week break, things have been getting bad. Really bad. ‘Thinking about suicide with every other breath’ bad. ‘Making sure I’m not making long term plans’ bad. ‘Labelling boxes for when I’m not here’ bad. Initially I tried to ignore it, because suicidal ideation is my mind’s natural protective response to any intense stress – it is as if it reminds me that there is a way out, there is always a way out, and I am still in control. Suicidal thoughts happen at times of stress, and they pass.
Except, these didn’t pass.
I have felt recently that nothing is getting any better, and maybe I have run out of motivation to even try. My eating is back to square one, it seems, with me eating sporadically, or not at all, or eating complete crap because chips or pizza are safe foods. I have been going to my weekly support sessions but watching my tracking sheets getting worse every week, and somewhere along the line I stopped caring that they looked bad. I am losing weight almost all weeks, which is satisfying my urge to disappear, and so really the idea of ‘getting better’ seems like something that only happens to other people; something that won’t happen to me.
My attachment to T has been getting progressively worse each day, and I am back to feeling obsessive over her. Christmas and the operation before had managed to cut away at the invisible yet overwhelmingly strong bonds I had to her – they’ve been fraying and eventually snapping and the connection is weaker and weaker. This hasn’t been a conscious thing, and I really don’t believe it was intentional from either of us, but my god it hurt. And my reaction to hurt, to being abandoned, is to cling. To be a limpet. To be that annoying child tugging on your trouser leg, to be the puppy still playing tug long after you’ve said drop.
I felt back to square one with my eating, and I felt back to square one with my attachment issues. I am so tired of being at square one.
I have minimal internal dialogue going on right now, except to feel the intensity of Little’s feelings for T. I feel shattered, rather than split, and it is like running my hand through a jar of tiny beads, with every bead having a different opinion. A big proportion feel suicidal, but another slightly smaller proportion feels the progress; another feels we should give up, whilst another felt we needed to talk to T, and so on and so forth. Usually I have my adult thoughts, and Little’s thoughts, and usually there are a few options presented by each, but the last few weeks have felt like looking at a beach and knowing that each grain has a different feeling.
I’ve been a total brat to T this week. We met Friday, and talked about how I don’t want to be here anymore. Every time I say that, she pisses me off by saying “what do you mean by here?” because she knows full well what I mean but the professional in her needs to hear it. Anyway, I cried, told her I’m done with ‘being’, she told me she ‘wanted me to be’ and then something really cute about wanting me to be all the wonderful things she knows are inside me somewhere. And yet I still left feeling totally disconnected from her, and intensely clingy. I started my new job on Monday, which I am loving but it was an impossibly stressful weekend and on Saturday night, the flashback I was having boiled over and at 3am I allowed Little to email T to tell her. She sent me such an impossibly lovely email in response to it, mostly addressed to Little, which helped… but by Tuesday I could not ‘feel’ her at all, and couldn’t cope with the abandonment at a time of high stress and emotion (I started my new job on Monday). Tuesday she replied to my text with “I’m here”… bless her… and Wednesday we talked whilst she walked the dog and I listened, in my classroom with my eyes shut, to the ups and downs of her voice whilst it lapped over Little like a comfort blanket.
You see? T has been amazing this week, and I have been a brat. We spoke in some way on 3 days out of the 5 in between my session, and it wasn’t enough. This is my pattern – I get attached, people give. I need more, people give. But I still need more and then people walk away. It happened with people at school, it happened with my parents… and so I’ve been trapped into this awful dichotomy this week of desperately needing to feel her to keep me ‘here’, but
knowing feeling that every time I contact her I’m pushing her away and it is one more step before she snaps and leaves for good.
Through my work, we had some training on attachment disorder this week. I watched as the PowerPoint flicked through everything children with an ambivalent attachment do, and my insides sobbed for T, and for Little, and for me. I couldn’t believe it when I saw in black and white how many behaviours I do with her, even as an adult – the constant testing, the boundary pushing, the inability to see good in myself, the metronomic belief that she will leave, she will leave, she will leave. I left the session feeling like the final flames of hope I had inside had vanished; I am too difficult to be helped. She will leave and I will be alone.
Unless I ‘leave’ before she does.
Our phone call on Wednesday even managed to amaze me. Little was listening to her voice, but I was listening to her words, and hearing her talk of how I will find the secure attachment within myself, but really hearing that she wants to leave, she is preparing me for abandonment. I amaze myself, really I do.
So by Thursday, our session was pretty desperately needed. I left work on time but still managed to be 30mins late, thanks to whole sections of motorway being completely shut off. By the time I turned up I had steam coming out my ears and my stress was pounding in my chest. I hid for a bit until the presence of her and the silence of her room calmed down the monster inside.
Until all the anger and sadness and fear and abandonment from the last month bubbled out. “Why won’t you keep in touch when I leave therapy?” has been a constant question I’ve been fixated on for months. How can she say she cares when really she will watch me walk out of our final session and not be bothered by what happens. “How will it not bother you that you won’t know anything about what happens to me? How can you care but then not care when I leave?” I’ve never felt so angry with her as I did at that moment. All my feelings bubbled out and I was aware I sounded like a stroppy teenage version of me, I was aware I was shouting but it was like the fever breaking, the pressure releasing.
Until she said, “it will bother me, a lot.”
She seemed to feel that we had never had the ‘keeping in touch’ conversation, whereas I feel that we had. She’s probably right, and I’ve just stuck fragments together from what we have discussed. She isn’t against keeping in touch, in a very infrequent way, and just gave me that counsellor spiel about what’s in my best interests (pat on the back for me at not immediately dissociating at that sentence when she said it…). But she didn’t say no.
Then the sadness came, bringing tears with it. I don’t know what I said, really, except that I absolutely do not feel that she won’t leave me any more, whereas I used to believe it wholeheartedly, deep down, despite regular testing. I know I’ve lost that feeling because I am unable to let A talk to T right now – because I am worried A will make her leave. Back when T was with T2, I never believed T2 could make T leave me, so I definitely have lost that trust.
It was also a lot of sadness around me being worth nothing, and being so lonely, and so sad, and feeling like I meant nothing to her despite her being my only safety in my entire week. Sadness over us only having 30mins this week of safety when I have to spend all the other hours in the week desperately wanting her. Just pure, red eyed, in uncontrolled sobbing, sadness. She managed to calm the tears by telling me she does care, she will be bothered when I leave etc.
I had just about calmed when I realised we must be over time. I asked, she told me we had 5minutes left, and I stopped breathing. Huge panic attack, came from nowhere and wow was it sore. She tried to encourage me to breathe but I couldn’t and gulping air was all I had… Until I started breathing again and fell apart. I am so glad nobody was watching as I hid in my hoodie and sobbed… the reality of having 5 more minutes before going back to reality hit me like a kick in the chest and I was suddenly totally aware that I wouldn’t survive the next week, that the loneliness of ‘outside’ was now unbearable, that saying goodbye at her door was the final abandonment straw to break me and This. Was. It.
Three amazing things happened.
The first is that she touched me without my explicit say so. We do and have touched in sessions before, but she will never, EVER touch me without me saying, out loud, what I needed. This has led to a number of sessions where I have desperately needed to be comforted by her touch but it hasn’t happened because I have been without words. Of course, the times I need her physical presence most are the times when I have no words, so it is a flawed logic (but with an obvious professional backing). I just about managed to nod to say I wanted her to come nearer, but when she said that annoying phrase about what I needed, a few times, I had no words. I barely had any air. But, eventually, when I guess she realised I was not calming and I was not going to be able to say what I needed, she touched anyway. Without my explicit permission. And it was entirely, wholly what I needed. Something clicked inside me, that she made a very human decision, sensing what I needed and being human in offering it, ignoring her usual strictly professional boundaries. Definitely reattached a number of those threads.
The second is her telling me she does think about me between sessions. I actually have no words for why that is important. I think because she won’t ever get in touch first, because she never checks in without me doing so first, because I haven’t recently felt like I’m anything more than an hour-a-week with an annoying tendency to need her more frequently…. I can’t explain why it was important to hear. But it was, and internally it reconnected so many of those cut threads.
The third she nearly didn’t tell me because she said I’d say she’s wrong. She’s right, I do think she’s wrong, but I’m glad she told me anyway. This beautiful sentence about her seeing me as gifted, beautiful, creative, brave… that she can see I berate myself constantly but that she knows I can’t see the beauty that she sees in me. She doesn’t ever, EVER give opinions, on anything, but definitely not on me, so this was the first time I have ever heard her actual opinion of me. I don’t believe what she says is true, but I think I might believe her? That she does feel that way? More strings reconnected.
We massively ran over, and she was obviously wanted elsewhere as her phone rang and rang and rang, but she stayed until I was ok. We made a brief plan around suicidal thoughts – any belief that I am going to act on them, and I’ve promised I’ll ring her and wait to speak to her before doing anything. But I think the fever has broken, and two days on, I haven’t has a single one of those thoughts. She suggested to me (during my sobbing fit and cries of ‘what am I meant to do now?’) that I write a story this week, not about me but about another character, which I’m not sure I can do but I might try. Her other suggestion was that I write as if I’m her polar bear cub she gave me months ago – who has been surgically attached to me recently – but she surprised me by not thinking I had him anymore or that he was around much. So I might see how that works instead.
I feel restored. Rebuilt. Her words, her touch, her grounding. I feel… you know the film Up? The house and the balloons and the old man? I feel like she is the balloons and I’m the old man and the house is my life. I was losing balloons and panicking because my house was sinking and soon I wouldn’t be able to walk along anymore to that place I desperately want to be – that happy, healed, healthy place where when we catch up occasionally, I am proud of what I have to tell her and she feels like what we did was worthwhile – I need her so I can keep moving along. I feel like we refilled the balloons this week.
It’s not perfect, I’m still desperate for her, but the intensity has given way to a more stable place, where there is me, and her, the balloons and the house, and we’re moving along to paradise falls, which suddenly I can see again, now the clouds have parted.