Therapy with R is so brilliant at the moment. Seeing each other every 3 weeks/1 month means that our sessions are solution focussed and they take a more birds-eye view of my life. T and I can quite often get bogged down in the ins and outs of day to day life, but R and I seem to (mostly…) float above those things.
Yesterday, I wanted to talk to her specifically about coping strategies for when I feel overwhelmed. Because of Sass being so present at the moment, and me being back at work which is super stressful, there are lots of times when I am feeling panicky and getting all those awful feelings associated with being overwhelmed – chest pains, racing heart, gasping for breath, need to vomit etc.. It’s not much fun when I’m at work, and it’s even less fun when I’m at home alone, because it is very hard to manage when I am so scared.
In R’s true fashion, she dug straight down into the heart of these feelings. We discussed specific situations where these feelings have happened, and without fail, I was saying things like, “I shouldn’t be feeling that way”, “it was stupid for me to be so upset”, ” I completely overreacted”, and the most common, “it doesn’t matter”. I say so often that it didn’t matter, I shouldn’t have been feeling the way I did, and generally trying to minimise or diminish the way I felt and the importance of it. R repeatedly said, “it does matter. It does matter. It does matter.” until I got a bit choked and tearful at the thought that yes, of course it does matter.
One specific example we worked through together was the cross words that T and I had with each other on Monday this week. I had been trying to get hold of her to speak since Friday morning, and she had been too busy to talk. We eventually spoke at 5.30pm Monday night, and T was busy, stressed and very short with me. We both said some pretty cross words, and I was left feeling very unsupported, quite triggered and certainly not soothed in the way I had been hoping for all weekend. But as I retold this to R, I was repeatedly blaming myself. I shouldn’t have needed T, I should have realised she was busy, I shouldn’t have been upset by her words, I shouldn’t have been angry when she shouted” etc, etc, etc. Blame, shame at my emotions, and a constant effort to punish myself for feeling the way I do, for not being able to manage them.
R helped me reframe these thoughts. It IS okay to be feeling sad that I had needed T to be supportive, and she hadn’t been able to. It IS okay that I felt upset because I felt abandoned and the attachment pain was really high. It IS okay that I had had a really stressful day at work and I just needed comfort, and when I didn’t get that I felt sad. All of those things are okay, and I don’t need to hold blame or shame for them happening. We also talked about how there isn’t necessarily blame on T, either. It is possible for a situation to be blameless, and for it to be okay that we both felt the way we did in that moment. So one of the big things I want to work on this month, between our sessions, is trying to stop constantly blaming myself, and instead just allowing myself to feel what I feel, and allowing myself to know that it does matter. Constantly berating myself for the way I feel, and repeatedly blaming myself for having feelings at all, is only ensuring that the emotions get bigger and more unmanageable, and thus overwhelming (linking back to the initial conversation about getting panicked by them).
What I love about R is that she isn’t afraid to tell me what she is thinking. As I paused after this opportunity, she offered up the suggestion that a lot of these thoughts are hooked around involuntary, but very very strong, thoughts I hold. They leap into my head immediately, at the slightest suggestion of a trigger, and they cloud any rational reactions that I have to situations with their potency. I felt so uncomfortable even talking about these thoughts, it made my feet go all tingly and my heart race. These thoughts are somewhat tricky to discuss with R, because the cause of them is often rooted in trauma. But what we can do is try to catch them, become aware of them, and then try to reframe them. So the second part of my ‘homework’ between sessions is to start to note these thoughts down, as they happen, so that we can look at them together next time. R suggested a limit of 5 a day, as I didn’t want my journal to become completely filled with negative thoughts! So I am trying that. I feel nervous at the idea of showing R these thoughts, but then that’s in a way giving me even more motivation to be brave and share them. I am sick of the power they hold over me.
Unfortunately, this needs to also be done in conjunction with T and I working on my deep-rooted knowledge that I am worthless, dirty and disgusting. We need to start doing the work needed on developing my self-compassion, but that’s not happening right now because of where we are. That stuff is for another post, though.
Anyway, I have started thinking about the thoughts that happen to me automatically, and trying to write them down. Quite often they’re not so much thoughts as intense punches of feeling, but I’m still trying to record when they happen, so that we can talk about them. R says she’s going to bring some worksheets for me to do next time as well, so we’re on our way and I have absolute faith that she is beside me, every single step of this journey. Bless her. Because these things do matter.