Whether by design or coincidence, T and I always seem to have hugely important sessions just before we break for a holiday. They aren’t always positive – we seem to have our conflicts at these times too – but today was different. It was really quite…groundbreaking.
T and I spoke on the phone last night. I tried to hold out, but after a week away on holiday and a very difficult session with A, I couldn’t. A and I are at the end of our therapy now, because she needs me to be self-compassionate. I was very upset about the whole thing, because I just don’t have any interest in being self-compassionate really. I despise myself, and my belief that I’m an evil, worthless, rotten sub-human is so deep seated that it makes me not want to be compassionate. I always feel like I’m on the boundaries of humanity – like I am one of the worst people in the world, and why would I want to give that person compassion? I am a fraud, constantly waiting to be caught out – I’m always waiting for someone to realise how bad I am inside. So, if being self-compassionate is the next step in therapy, last night I was feeling pretty shook.
T was brilliant (she always is), and we managed to get to the nub of my anger. A is leaving me, and the attachment pain is indescribable and unbearable. But instead of looking after my child, soothing and comforting that tiny baby who holds all this intense agony, I’m punishing her. I’m angry with her, I think she must have been born evil for everything to have happened to her, and I can only think of hating her, instead of loving her. T really pushed me on it on the phone, and asked me if I could bring some newborn baby photos of me to our session today.
I took the photos to our session, but I couldn’t look at them. The book sat between T and I whilst she dug and dug until I told her why I couldn’t look at the photos. There were so many reasons that I couldn’t really put words to. The main one seemed to be that I knew the photos would look like nothing was wrong. I knew they would be happy, smiling, full of my parents holding me and loving me. I was terrified that it would make what happened to me seem fake. Why would T believe me, why would she continue to hold me, if she had proof that I was a happy child? We have spent so much time talking about all the secret things that happened, or all the words told to me when nobody else was listening… and she was about to find the ‘proof’ to make her think that I was lying. T spent a long time talking to me about how she would never see those photos as anything other than a snapshot of the happiest times. T has experience of working with children in adoptive services, and she told me of their ‘Life Story’ books – she said they’re filled with photos of these children, who have lived through incredible hardships, smiling. Children are incredibly resilient, she said.
I was also scared that I would want the child dead. I am fighting so unbelievably hard at the moment, I am working my arse off in therapy and it isn’t getting any better. Life is still exhaustingly painful. I spend a lot of time wishing I would be dead – I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to exist a lot of the time. I wish that child hadn’t existed. My mother never wanted me, it was her disinterest in me that threw me into the abuser’s lion’s den. I was scared that seeing the baby would trigger all the feelings I have around wishing I did not exist.
But a little bit of me was scared that I was about to get a huge kick of feelings for something I’ve spent my whole life hating.
T sat next to me and we started with the scan. The scan of me. 20 weeks, 5 months before I even became a person. The scan is so clear – and though I was lost for words, watching T run her fingers over the photo, talking to me softly about how she could see the baby’s face, curled up hand, spine, feet. Mine. She was absolutely mesmerised by the scan, and her awe rubbed off on me. Just a little. I mumbled about it just being a bunch of cells, and T leapt on it – we’re all just a bunch of cells. All of us. And, as T said today, getting from that bunch of cells to a newborn baby is the greatest fairytale of all. Isn’t that just beautiful, to see the process of growing, changing, and entering this world as something beautiful, not as the horror I see my earliest moments as.
Turning over the page, we reached a few weeks after birth. I nearly died when I was born, and mum nearly died too. We were separated immediately, I was rushed to another hospital, put straight into an incubator, and left there. The hospital absolutely saved my life – but T is adamant that all my attachment trauma started, right there in that box. The first photos anyone has of me on the ‘outside’ is weeks after, because I guess nobody thought to take any whilst we were both so ill. The photos we looked at though… the baby is discoloured, bruised by the rough delivery. She is alone in almost every photo, and the ones she is being held in, she’s held at length, wires and tubes keeping anyone from pressing her against them. She is in so many photos in that box, alone. She is me.
T talked so gently about all these things, stroking the photos and turning the pages so carefully. And though I cannot recognise the child, though I have no massive connection to her just yet, I felt very… overcome.
Suddenly, it all seems to make sense. From that very first moment, that tiny baby was pulled away from the warmth and heartbeat of her mother, and put in a box, on her own. I can suddenly see why all these feelings are so hardwired inside me, and why they are entirely unbearable. There are no words, because that feeling was taught to that baby when she had no words. It feels like I am dying because she must have felt like she was dying. I cannot think of anything more terrifying than being warm, cocooned and contained and then suddenly being ripped out and left entirely alone. I can feel those feelings, though. They happen now, every time someone leaves me, even for a moment.
This realisation happened just as her family, visiting from another country, came home. Her nephew is young and was chatting so happily to his daddy about whether to take his shoes off or not – and it was all too much. I crumpled into her, and we sat in silence for a while, my knees up, arms curled into my chest, head buried into her with her arms around me. She held me, stroked my hair and we left the topic of that baby girl behind for now. All the feelings were inside me, brought up because T is going on holiday, and they were so painful. So I hid inside her and we stayed like that until the end of our time.
When I sat up, we had one of those moments that are entirely irrelevant but just so exquisitely sweet. She asked me about where I was going on holiday – I told her and she asked me where in the county it was. I laughed, told her I just put the postcode in the Sat Nav and followed the lefts and rights. She told me she didn’t have a Sat Nav! And we teased each other for a bit on our reliance on our various methods of navigation. Such a small thing, but she is so human. I love her.
We hugged as we said goodbye, and I told her to be safe. You too, please, she said.
Tonight has been difficult. I was so cold when I got in – shaking and covered in goosebumps. I could not get warm, despite winter PJs, her blanket engulfing me, my duvet and eating dinner. I was desperate to connect with her, but could not text knowing that her family are there and she doesn’t want me disturbing her. So I emailed her instead:
I’ve written this out to you in a text about ten times now. It’s late and I don’t want to disturb you and I don’t want you to be cross with me for disturbing you and decide you won’t see me after you come back so I’m really trying I’m so sorry I’m really trying
I am so cold I can’t stop shaking I’m all goosebumpy and I’m trying to be warm and I’m trying to be kind so I’m in winter PJs with your blanket and my duvet over the top and the heater on and I’m still so so so cold
The grief is absolutely overwhelming. What did we start today 😦
I will try to look after her but please don’t forget about me. 14 whole sleeps to forget about us. Please don’t forget. Please come back I’m so cold and you’re my warmth
I cannot bear this feeling
I didn’t expect a reply. So when she emailed me straight back, saying, I will never forget about you. I will be there when you come back from holiday. I am glad you have my blanket. Go gently x I suddenly felt warm again.
It is nearly time for sleep now and I feel like today has been crucial. But what is most important is how loved I feel tonight. She’s seen my very beginning now, and she ran her fingers round the curve of my spine and the tubes in my nose and she still loved me when I left. She knows, but she still cares. And though we now have two weeks apart, I have total faith that she will still be all the wonderful things she is, when we get back from our holidays. So we go gently, until then.
That tiny baby is so very lucky, now.