The last week has been really tough for T and I. After this beautiful session, we had a session where I was really quite adult and it was very conversational and light. They’re frustrating sessions. Usually they come after an intense session, when we both need a breather and to reconnect, except that this time I felt distant from her again and I couldn’t really explain it. I felt like I had my protective shield up, and being adult was a way of preventing my insides being hurt, because I felt disconnected from her. I was scared that despite that most beautiful connection the week before, it still hadn’t been enough. I was protecting myself from her, and that didn’t feel right.
A few days after our session, I emailed her with boring stuff about my ED treatment. My email ended with a wobble about A calling T, because I am fearful that A will persuade T to leave me. It was only a tiny wobbly….
….but T’s reply felt full of anger and shouting and ouch. I was completely knocked sideways by the abrasiveness of her reply, totally flabbergasted that my embodiment of safety who NEVER raises her voice at me could be so hard in an email. She was trying to remind me of all the times she had told me she won’t leave, and that eventually I would just have to accept that as a truth, but I felt like I had been slapped.
I sent my reply back, hot and spiteful and angry. Then I sobbed, and sobbed some more, until no more sobbing was possible. I threw my guts up in my bathroom, sat curled around the toilet bowl making myself sick until nothing was coming up but my own fear, speckled with blood from the force of my self hatred. I texted a close friend to share my fears that I had ruined everything; I was sure I had succeeded in pushing T away. How ironic; her trying to prove to me she won’t leave, resulted in an argument that I felt might end our relationship!
Thankfully she replied to the email and managed to diffuse the situation enough to dissipate some of my fear around seeing her, after she had shouted. I don’t think she actually meant it to read as shouting; she said in our session that she was hoping to be firm, to remind me and reassure me. But it brought up such intense memories of my mother from when I was younger; her tone of voice would be merely the starter for the whole world of suffering you would experience when she got you behind closed doors. I was so terrified of seeing her, before her email response, but thankfully I could hear her usual tone in her response; T managed to diffuse enough of that angst for me to find the strength to turn up to our session.
In her response, she asked me to bring my anger to the session. We had our session, but I couldn’t be angry with her. I care about her far too strongly to release my anger. I don’t feel like I’m holding it back; rather, it just vanishes in her presence. Being with her reminds me of all her wonderfulness and my anger dissipates until it feels rather childish to have been angry with her at all. I feel like she thinks it is important I am able to express anger, but I struggle with her. I feel so wrapped up in her warmth when I’m with her. I can get stressed with her by email, and even on the phone, but with her? Nope, it’s not happening.
The crux of the misunderstanding between us was that I cannot truly believe she won’t leave me, and she cannot do anything else to try to prove it to me. She was honest enough to suggest that perhaps she responded to my email when she wasn’t in the right frame of mind; I also haven’t helped the situation, because I am not referring to previous evidence to help me. I feel so young, right now, I don’t feel like I have the capacity to refer to previous conversations with her. I need to know NOW, I need to hear her NOW, I need to feel that connection NOW, anything from before doesn’t satisfy that intensely painful attachment need. I have been taking her for granted, though, so this is something to be mindful of.
It was helpful to share my fears around why she would leave. I work with attachment disordered children, and also with adults who work with these children one to one, and it is desperately stressful. I sit in the staff room and hear as they talk about wanting to quit, how the stress effects them mentally and physically. They talk of anger they feel, all the different range of emotions that the children provoke in them. Then, I go and sit in a therapy session, and act like a complete brat, and expect T not to leave? How can she possibly not?
I think, by the end of our session, I have believed that she genuinely intends to stay with me for as long as I need her. She is imploring me to believe her, and I think I do. I really feel that she is naive, that I am so evil she eventually will want to leave, but that is linked to my intense self-hatred and possibly something we can work at.
It was helpful to consider how she doesn’t always have to like me, to stick by me. I said that I don’t ever want to be the client she dreads seeing – I don’t ever want to be her least favourite person. I still don’t, but her view on it was slightly different – even if sometimes I am, even if we’re at a really low patch, that doesn’t mean it will always stay that way, or that she would leave me. She would work through it, and I always do. I listened to her talk about how the clients she finds difficult are the ones who will not connect with her; she said I was easy to connect to, even at my lowest, so that should protect me from being her least favourite client.
It was really important to be reminded that conflict doesn’t have to mean the end. We can be cross with each other, we can be tired and snappy and reply to emails without thought, we can have weeks where things aren’t great, and yet still work together successfully in the long term. Short term conflict is ok; it’s normal in any relationship, but particularly one with so much intensity in it. I can be angry at her, and yet still adore her. She can be stressed and tired and exhausted by my neediness, and yet still know without doubt that she is in my corner, fighting my battle, for the long term.
I sat in our session, let her words sink into me, and appreciated her with every ounce of my being.
We spent the rest of the session talking about the logistics of my starting ED treatment. I had asked in my email for her to think of any potential bumps in the road, for me. Turns out, she knew of a pretty big one..! She is going to Australia, for three weeks, in a few months time. I absolutely freaked and shut down away from her, ignoring her pleas for me to talk to her, to share with her my feelings and what was happening inside my head. All I had was ‘aaahhhhh’, and when I said that she told me to scream! But I can’t, I have to internalise. I actually really needed a hug but I couldn’t ask for it.
She warmed my heart with her consideration for how I would cope. She is happy to do skype sessions, or respond to her emails, and she is happy to see me really soon after she gets back. I liked being the only/one of very few clients she was considering in this way – it helped, considering our previous conversation, to know that she was thinking this through from my/Little’s perspective. Despite hating that she is leaving me, I was very warmed by her preparation for telling me.
The shock lasted until I was about halfway home, when I had to pull over and sob! I HATE her being away from me, I hate it when she is too far away to be a physical presence (strange comment, I will elaborate when I understand myself why her being within physical reach is so important!), and I am terrified of her not coming back or being hurt or killed when she’s away from me. We spoke on the phone when I was home. I sat on my bed and giggled whilst she teased me about being unable to be angry with her, whilst she reassured me that she wasn’t going anywhere, and whilst she told me she wouldn’t bring me back a kangaroo, even if I promise to feed it and take it for walks! Meany! I love talking to her when she’s walking the dog, she loses some of her therapist face and is so openly human, such a small difference but it is one of my absolute favourite things.
It was lovely to check in by phone after our session, a reminder that what happened in our session was true 🙂 I am so, so grateful to her for being a constant. She isn’t leaving, the first person in my life to stay through everything, she is wonderful. I am radiating with the warmth she brings to my life, even in my coldest of days.