I have so much to write about yesterday’s phone session with R. I am so full of all that I need to process that I could explode… but I’m going to start here. Endings. Next week is our final session, so the challenge of an ending comes around for me again.
Recapping a little, when T2 and I were preparing to finish, we did a lot of work on grief and the intense emotions I feel around endings. Here is the post I wrote at the time. Somebody commented on that post last night, and it made me re-read it and realise, with some pride, how well I managed the ending with T2. 9 months on, and there was never a crisis. I grieved, yes, but I survived the crying and all the emotions by allowing myself to accept them as part of the process. There was no crisis. All this time later, I still re-read the letter she wrote me, and I still think of her certainly every other day, but it is as if I’ve internalised her so I hear quotes of her, rather than just a blinding whiteness of intense emotions. I said at the time that I thought it was the first genuinely positive ending of my life, and it has proven itself to be over time. There are still moments when I crave her, but I survived. I grew around it.
R and I are ending next week, and though I am not panicking, I am feeling quite overwhelmed by it. Working with her has been beyond amazing, even if I’m not sure she can see how much she’s done. In the last month, I’ve survived T being away (which I never thought would happen), I haven’t self harmed and my eating hasn’t disintegrated – all things which I thought might happen. R has described our sessions a few times as a ‘holding space’, and all of these things are evidence that she has safely held me through to T’s return. However, it has been so much more than that, and much more than I expected. Our sessions have felt quite negative, I’ve got really upset. But I was upset because R has this way of getting the darkest of truths out of me – she always could do this, but I had forgotten how well she supported me into feeling safe, until I was spilling my guts about all the evil inside. Our sessions have felt negative, but they have allowed me to go away afterwards and process, evaluate, and make plans. That’s me as an adult, not me as a child. The emails I have sent to T are incredible to re-read. They’re full of processing and adult discussions and decisions about my therapy with her and my life in general. I don’t suppose R can recognise how much progress I feel I’ve made in 5 weeks, because much of the positive has happened outside of our sessions – but the shift has been dramatic and very encouraging.
About midway through this process, I panicked that I was with the wrong therapist. I am pleased I went through that ‘oh, shit’ moment, because it allowed me to evaluate my therapy with T. I’ve come full circle, and decided that T is the right person to be working with right now. We still have a lot of work to do on attachment, trauma and coping strategies, and I know we’re not done yet. There are some things I want to change about our therapy, but I trust T to work with me on those. I panicked because R and I were focussing so much on the present and the future; it felt amazing to leave my past behind for a while and to see how I could be growing up into an adult. There is an intermediate step I need to go through first, though, and that step is with T.
R challenged me last week, that my thinking about therapy was very split. T for past, R for future. Yesterday she said the same, and questioned why T, or her, couldn’t do both. This is for another post, but I found out yesterday that she didn’t know about any of the abuse, which might partially explain why the split seemed so vast to her, whereas to me it seems like a safety mechanism. But I guess it’s more than that. Right now, I need mothering, and through everything, T is doing an amazing job at making me feel cared for and guided and safe. I need that right now, but I really want there to be a process of growing up over the next few years. I want to be able to move from a mother to more of a mentor. I think R thought I meant past stays in past, future in future, but I’m not hoping for that at all – it’s unrealistic to expect all of my history to be ignored and as R told me yesterday, my past got me to where I am now. But I am envisioning a change from being in a therapeutic relationship built around hand holding and warmth and grazed-knee wiping, to one where I am, for the most part, doing all that myself, and my therapy relationship becomes more of an evaluative and monitoring process than a fire fighting one.
I asked R if she would ever want to see me again after next week. My abandonment fears are monumentally high this week because T has been away so long and R only just knows about the abuse stuff. She laughed at me and was super cute about wanting to work with me again, but did challenge me on whether me needing to keep these options open is my way of protecting myself from this ending.
It is, of course, in a way. Next week would be a very different experience if it was the last hour I could ever spend with someone who I value so much. Knowing we can or will speak again blurs over the twisting pain of endings. Particularly after a very exposing month, where I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time feeling very naked in front of her, knowing that she isn’t now totally disgusted by me (and thus is running for the hills) is pretty important.
But it’s more than that, and I’m actually surprised this didn’t come up more when I left T2. Saying goodbye to her next week feels like saying goodbye, even just momentarily, to a force of change and growth in my life. It feels a little like closing the door onto something so intense but so positively focussed and it’s a little like acknowledging that I’m not quite grown up for this stage just yet. I would absolutely love to work with R again, in a very similar way, because the way it has tossed everything up and helped me reorder and evaluate has been absolutely amazing. But, while there are still days when Little sobs for the whole hour as she relives a flashback, or whilst there is still a need for late night reassurance phone calls and sessions where I’m only hearing her through her touch because my head is trapped inside a torture going on 18 years previous, R isn’t the right person for me to be with full time. I trust completely that she would cope with this, but it would be different and wrong. Until I am more supported by my own box of coping tricks, R isn’t right full time. But acknowledging that is overwhelmingly painful, because it means letting go of her. Or, her letting go of me.
Wanting to know if she’d work with me again is a way of wiping the tears from my eyes and sticking a plaster over the really sore bits. But it is also allowing myself to keep an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. It allows me to see T’s work as a stepping stone, and not a ‘forever and ever’ thing. I am sure that the next steps will be just as hard as these ones – of course they will, but just in different ways. I just have this step to finish my work on first.
I’m not sure if this is making any sense at all. I just want it to be clear in my mind that there are steps to my recovery from my childhood, into a happy and successful adulthood. The first steps were picking the scabs off all the old, infected wounds and opening them up to the air. I’ve passed that step. This current step feels a lot like trying to stem the bleeding, and perhaps a mother teaching me how to stem the bleeding myself. The next step is going to be about letting them heal over healthily this time, and then learning to live with and in spite of them. A friend sent me this picture yesterday, it made me laugh:
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…and the next step will be a lot of learning to sail my ship, through all sorts of storms. But I will be sailing it. The amazing thing is right now, I feel like I have one foot solidly on the stemming blood step, but maybe one toe on the learning to sail step, which is why working with R has felt so completely amazing because it’s been supporting the toe, not the foot. Trying to make that leap too soon though, will mean it all would come crashing down around me. The thought of Little breaking down in front of R absolutely horrifies me, particularly if there was no T anymore so we had to deal with me. Strong foundations are needed before leaping up the steps, and T and I have a lot more work to do on securing the place we are – of secure attachments, secure (or more secure) feelings of worthiness, secure knowledge of what happened but a secure rein around that being in my past, not happening right now, as it can so often feel. I’m still building security at this place, but we’ve done so much amazing security building that I can have one toe on the next step now.
R said last night that she trusted me to know what I need. I think, right now, I do. I also think that in the future, that need will be different, and I am pretty desperate to know that when that time comes (because the last few weeks have shown me that progress and growing up will happen), she will be there to see it, and to walk by me if it’s right for us both. The leap up to the next step is a huge one, and I have a real sense that there is going to be a process of rocking between both for a while, which is why the idea of being able to see her in short term bursts seems most appealing. It isn’t that I’m trying to keep past and future separate – just that I know I will grow from this phase to the next.
If I didn’t have all the hang ups about my mother, T could be the therapist for both of these steps. But I am always going to be sore about it. I am confident that I will reach a point of acceptance, but (and this is much like my eating disorder), put too much temptation in front of me and I will always revert. I will always bask in any parental attention anyone gives me, and so staying with T forever and ever sounds like a pretty good way to let myself get stuck in my role as child. There is a role for mentoring, guidance and care in between this parenting process and true independence, though. One that I really hope R, or someone who works in a similar way to R, will fill.
This post is a mess, but it is full to the brim with my certain hope that I will heal. Optimism, maybe, but more so that I want it again. I want to keep moving up the steps. I want to learn to sail my own ship. This goodbye, hopefully temporary, is just a sting in the process. It is going to sting like fuck, though. Deep breaths.