Routines, Boundaries, and ‘Simply’


The last week has been truly tough.

T announced she was going on holiday at the very end of our last session – the weekend before I go back to work, which is a notorious crisis point for me. Last weekend was, somewhat as expected (although it always takes me by surprise), a true crisis. My best friend was utterly brilliant; she spent the vast majority of the weekend with me, preparing me for work and keeping me safe. The night times are the worst, and that’s when the crisis team let me down. Majorly.

On Saturday night, I knew things were really bad and my anxiety levels had skyrocketed. I was being sick, sweating through my pjs but being absolutely freezing, upset tummy… I was harming, and the urges to do more were overwhelming. For the first time in my life, I rang the crisis team number. I have never rung them before because I can always convince myself there are people more desperate than me, or they’ll think I’m not bad enough, I deserve it etc. but this time, I had reached the end of my safety plan and I knew I needed to ring before something bad happened. I rang…and the number rang through. No answer, no voicemail, just endless ringing. I eventually rang 111 in desperation, because I thought at least they could tell me how much more medication I could take. It took three and a half hours to speak to someone from 111 – but he did help with medication, and he gave me a different, mobile number for crisis. I rang, spoke to someone who only answered the phone to say ‘what’s your name and number? They will ring you back.’ Gave my name and number… no phone call.

I slept for about an hour, then my friend came and we went into work together. She is as close to a soul mate as I wonder if I’ve ever been – in that, my soul meets hers and they both understand each other. She’s beautifully creative and did a fab job of what needed doing at work. When I got home, I settled to do the last bit of work I needed. Rang the crisis number again, explained to the girl that I had rung but had no reply – same, short ‘can I have your number…’ …..and no phone call back.

I don’t know how I got through Sunday night alive, but I did. I’m always stronger than I think, but I was/am absolutely livid. I managed to drag myself into work on Monday, and the routine has helped a lot. I rang the woman who gave me the crisis number on Monday, to go ballistic. She told me to ring them again and ask – I did, and a very nice man apologised profusely and said their phone number had been broken (which does explain why the number I was given had rung through without answer). It doesn’t, however, explain why someone said they’d ring me back, twice, and didn’t. I can make excuses for them, but as R said yesterday, it’s NOT good enough.

Thankfully, I saw A (GP) on Tuesday, and he was fabulous as always (post here). His strength and paternal care is exceptionally grounding, particularly in a week when T is away and I’m feeling very abandoned. The rest of the week has been okay, mostly because I’ve kept to the routines I had hoped for as part of my New Year ‘solidifying’. I went to the gym on Tuesday, then to therapy with R on Thursday.

R is immensely grounding and she has a way of making me feel brave. I think because she holds total faith in me (which is incredible, for someone who has watched me crash and burn more times than I can count…!), the space with her always feels like a safe space in which to test and practise with my newly forming wings. We talked about the situation with T, and with a bit of perspective on it, I noticed the differences between last time – mostly, that this time I am angry at the situation, but not at T. This won’t look very different to T – there will still be a lot of anger all the same, but it is HUGE for me. It’s the first time that my adult self doesn’t feel personally targeted or like T has intentionally hurt us. Little feels a little differently (she thinks it’s because she’s bad), but my adult self knows there isn’t any blame here. That is huge, as painful as it is.

I hadn’t emailed T at all this week, despite her encouraging me to – there is a certain feeling of punishing her with my radio silence, and I also didn’t know what to say. On Wednesday, she responded to a very old email – perhaps her way of making contact into the silence. Her email said, “I am coming back. I am simply on holiday.” Seeing her name pop up was such a shock, such an unfair intrusion into a week when I felt totally detached from her, and my response back reflected that…

…there is no ‘simply on holiday’ about this. I didn’t know you were going. I had done absolutely no preparation for you going, and I had put nothing in place. I was feeling really safe about starting back into a strict routine to get me through this term, and it was messed up from week one. You are ‘simply on holiday’ over the weekend before I returned to work… it wasn’t fun. It was terrifying.

You may well be ‘simply on holiday’, but that is not what it feels like to live with it. It feels like being left. Again. Actually, it feels like a culmination of all the times I’ve been left before, magnified, wrapped up and fed to me, by you. I’m really hoping that hearing your voice, and you being back, will soften me again – that everything we have both put into the ‘no matter whats’ will be worth it. I am desperately hoping that hearing your voice will calm the anger and we’ll pick up and carry on. But I am absolutely terrified that that’s all I’m feeling. Anger. I don’t want you – apart from 4.30am on Sunday morning when on the phone to the Samaritans, sat in the freezing cold, when I begged for you, I don’t want you. Little is dead. And I just feel resigned to this. There isn’t anything ‘simply’ about this. Working with you is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I hope, so much, that it is going to be worth it.

 I’m fine. I’m fine. Because I always am. I’m not angry at you (though I can feel the venom behind this email) I am just really angry at the situation. I’m angry that I can’t cope with mistakes like this. I’m angry that the weekend was as dangerous as it was. I’m angry that you trigger everything painful and sensitive within me. The storms you create inside me are perplexing, disconcerting, breathtaking, shattering. I’m terrified that you will leave me because of this anger. That you will be away, knowing you are coming back, but not to me. Not to the storms inside me. I’m fine, because I always am, eventually. But there isn’t any ‘simply’ about this.

Please know how much this hurts. Please come back safe. Please come back to me, even though I’m painfully angry.

Having expressed my anger, I could feel myself soften almost immediately, and all those quiet voices in my head flooded back in. I need T, please come back, please don’t leave… I had missed them, in a weird way, despite the noise. The attachment is still there.

Back to R… we talked about how I feel therapy is very one – sided, and how there is that intense dichotomy between what I want for T, and what I want for me. I really, truly want for T (and for R, for that matter) to have a good work life balance. I want for T to have a true break where she doesn’t think about work. I want for her to have beautiful moments of complete freedom where she is who she is, not the professional exterior, or who I need her to be. I want for her to have all the beautiful parts of life. But that’s also unspeakably cruel, because that is in a direct contrast to what I want for me. I want her to be there 24/7. I want her to always have me on her mind. I want her to be wondering about me in the radio silence – I want her to be worried about me. I want her to parent me, and that is not possible when I also want everything else for her.

I said to R how one – sided this feels. T gets breaks from me, but I can never take breaks from her. I am her ‘one in many’ – she is my one. It feels horribly one sided and there is great vulnerability in that. R was insightful and reassuring. That therapists are human – humans who have feelings and feel connections. That she doesn’t know of many therapists who work in the way that T works with me. That there are still some clients she thinks about long after they’ve ‘grown up and moved on’. A reminder of the human qualities of a therapeutic relationship, and of the beauty of the relationship I have with T, was very reassuring.

We briefly touched on boundaries, which I’m sure I’ve posted about before. We both observed our totally 180° opinions of boundaries. I show love and affection by breaking my boundaries – by staying late at work when I knew I needed to leave, by offering to take on another task even when I can’t cope, by taking off my knickers even when every cell of me is screaming no… I give too much of myself, breaking my boundaries, because it feels so natural to me. I guess that’s what abuse taught me. It is fascinating to me that R feels she shows her love/care/whatever by holding her boundaries. That her boundaries in our relationship are to keep me safe, because she cares about me – and to keep her safe, because she cares about herself, too. How her boundaries within family etc are for the same reasons. I found myself slightly dry mouthed and incredulous at the total difference between our feelings around them – and for the first time ever, believing what a professional tells me in a conversation about boundaries. It is unheard of, for me to leave that conversation feeling cared about, and not pushed away. Miraculous.

This led nicely onto talking about routines and the importance to me of keeping them. My routines I want in so far are simple:

Take med every night.
Gym then yoga on Tuesday.
Therapy with T on Thursday.
Therapy with R every three weeks.
Meet with A every two weeks.
Leave work by 6pm every day.
Friday night needs to be spent doing nothing.

They’re incredibly simple, really, but you’d be amazed how frequently I break my boundaries, and thus my routines. Usually, work is the easily blamed culprit – either things that need doing, or just the stress of it – but truthfully, the bigger picture is that it is my lack of self-care or belief that my wellbeing is important. Sometimes there are other conflicts (like, I want to take meds but they make me drowsy and I want to go to work tomorrow) but usually it is my lack of self-care. If I can improve on that, then all those other little conflicts can be worked around or adapted.

R is very good for me in that sense, and I’m feeling quite reassured that this is going to be a good year for putting myself first, and finding myself within the routines and boundaries. Solidifying the building work we’ve begun to do. I just want T back safely now, and then we can begin in earnest 🙂



4 responses »

  1. The process you describe in your essay sounds enormously productive. You have some great people on your side (and, in your best moments, you are one of them). You are learning and growing. Brava!

  2. oh, I felt the anger and hurt coming through in that letter to your therapist. I know that anger! So painful. You’re doing so well though.

  3. I hate that the crisis team wasn’t there for you. 😪
    What you wrote about boundaries really resonated with me. I didnt understand it, or realize it, but I always feel like crossing my boundaries shows others I care. Which makes it very confusing when someone says they are showing their care by keeeping boundaries in place. So thank you for sharing this.
    I hope that this is a better week for you. ❤️

    • They’re just bloody rubbish. I was so cross with them.

      Glad what I wrote helped. I do think it’s really hard when your default setting is to break your boundaries for others, to then recognise that that isn’t how it feels for other people. xx

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