R, meet Sass.


Argh, I am so frustrated with myself. I had a horrid session with R this morning, which feels really unfair because I really could do with a break right now. I really needed it to be positive, and I ruined it and now I’m scared it’s all over.

There is a bit of background to this.

I’m still in a probationary year at work – it was due to end in December, but because of a huge mess, it was extended. The mess was entirely created by my employers – however, life isn’t fair and even though it was their mess, I’m equally as responsible when it comes to helping clean up.

Since being back in January, work has been harder than ever before. My boss is never more than two steps behind me – constantly watching, judging and making notes. He was told off for the mess he made, and I cannot help but feel a little punished by him for being the cause of his telling off. So, I’m in this horrible situation where I’m having to prove myself against a set of standards, when the judge, jury and executioner is my boss, and I’m not his favourite person. He is now supporting me in all the ways he should have been doing for the last year, but in amongst all that good are times when I’ll spot him just watching me working without announcing his presence, or he’ll ask for paperwork with no warning etc… This would be stressful for anybody, but for someone with a trauma background, it’s torturous.

Add to that, that work itself is hard. We’re expecting an inspection any minute now, which piles a whole other heap of pressure onto my already unbearable workload. Everyone at work is stressed beyond belief, and it’s bloody horrible. Then add to THAT that my head has been a dark, dangerous and upsetting place to live for the last few months… to say I am drowning would be an understatement.

This week, I met with the mental health nurse person, and then my GP. We have all agreed that I need to start taking antidepressants, so I left my GP yesterday with yet another prescription for yet another pack of drugs. I was meant to start taking them this morning. I didn’t. And this is where R and I started our session. We talked a little about routines. Building routines into my life was one of my New Year’s goals (post is here), and whilst R and I talked a little about them last time (mostly with regards to taking regular medication), I have spectacularly failed at it.

My life has always been, even as a very small child, chaotic and messy. I am not a naturally tidy or organised person, and though I think my parents hoped it would be something I would develop as I matured, I’m still a chaotic tangle. It doesn’t help that my life has so many strings to get tangled – work, friends, therapy, mental health, inner parts who all have different needs… but I definitely need to be more organised. More structured. More routined. And one of those routines is taking regular medication.

I’m a pharmacist’s nightmare – I never finish an antibiotic packet, I forgot to take the pill more often than I remembered, and I stop and start medication like a London tube train. I’ve been very lucky so far in life that I haven’t ended up with an antibiotic resistant bug, or a baby… but these antidepressants need taking every day. If I don’t, they won’t work, and A was very, very insistent that I must take them regularly or the side effects will be horrid. I need to take them, but I didn’t.

It is really hard to remember how the session went wrong because after the beginning it got a bit hazy… but I think this is what happened.

R asked me why I hadn’t taken the meds this morning – why I don’t take meds regularly. I honestly don’t really know – we thought about it for a bit, and I think it is a mixture of my lack of interest in self-care (which actually looks more like active self-destruction, most of the time), and a fear that I am absolutely at rock bottom with nothing else to give, and if the meds have side effects then I will be unable to cope. It is probably more truthfully the former, but the latter allows me to consider it a fear, rather than a total lack of regard for my wellbeing and safety. I haven’t really touched on my self-destruction recently in any therapy, because things have been mercifully stable, but this has brought back to me just how incapable I am of being kind to myself.

Actually, that’s unfair. I can be kind to myself now. I book massages and go for walks and allow myself hot beanbags and snuggles with T’s blanket and Rabbit. I do lots of kind things, that I didn’t used to do – but I am not yet being kind to myself over an extended period. I don’t consider myself, my wellbeing and my happiness on a daily basis. I might look after myself in a real low point, or a point of crisis, but I am not consistent. I fight fires, now, which is better than watching myself burn to the ground, but it isn’t anywhere near a place of prevention and consistency.

Anyway. I think R asked me why I think that routines will make things better. How do I know? My only experience of being in routines is when other people do it for me. When I’m at home with my parents, or staying with my best friend, I eat and do all those little routine things that adults do with ease. But when I am on my own, I cannot sustain that. My wellbeing is noticeably better when I am in a routine – when I am eating regularly, for example, I can function so much better than on days when I have forgotten to eat, again, and the last meal I ate was three days prior. R was, I think, trying to prevent me from having entirely unrealistic expectations of the benefits of a routine. Particularly because I am so low right now, I think it is very easy for me to get trapped in a cycle of ‘I must do this, then this, then that’, and to be constantly setting myself unattainable goals which inevitably lead to punishment and unhappiness (all my own). Things were getting pretty hazy by this point. I think R asked me if I actually wanted my wellbeing to improve? Because if I did, surely that would be enough to make me take the meds? I babbled that yes of course I did, and she stopped me, asked me to really think about it. I got upset, because no, I probably don’t. I am so tired, and I am so broken, that the thought of having to live anymore of my life is so unbearable that I spent every day considering whether it’s The End. So, no, I don’t really want my wellbeing to improve, because I don’t want to be alive anymore – but though I feel like I am heading to an inevitable end point, I am not stupid enough to kill myself without having exhausted all possible avenues. One of the last avenues I have to try is medication, and routines.

I think that might have been the point when Sass took over, because I don’t remember what happened clearly. I can remember R suggesting that maybe instead of setting myself huge goals, just working on small steps is the way to go. R asked me what I thought was the easiest routine to put in place – I know I snapped at her, said that none are easy but the one I absolutely had to do was start taking medication. I could sense myself getting really panicky because taking medication in the morning means I have to eat breakfast, and I don’t ever eat breakfast without throwing it up. Panic set in because the smallest act of taking a tablet has a huge effect; it means I need to eat breakfast, it means I can’t be sick because I can’t throw the tablet straight back up with my food. As with everything in my life at the moment, once you pull one tiny thread, the whole ball of wool comes with it and I cannot separate the plan out into baby steps. It all just feels so overwhelming. R suggested that starting with setting my alarm clock for the same time each day (we must have talked about that earlier in the session) was a good start, and she is right – but again, the same wake up time relies on the same bedtime, which relies on no nightmares or anxiety the night previously…. and then I need to have some sort of routine in the morning which includes breakfast and tablet taking because now that has to be done… I can feel my fingers running away with me as I type, and that’s what my head was doing too.

I think I stopped talking, because R was talking and I was very aware that I could hear her, but not hear her. I wasn’t there any more – my head was half me, and half Sass, but my body was all Sass. Full of panic disguised as anger, fear hidden behind I’m fine and whatever. Feeling like Sass is very odd – I can’t describe it, but she feels noticeably different to the way I feel. Her body is so different to mine.

I said to R that I wasn’t there, and she asked what we needed to do. That’s a marginally better phrase than the ‘what do you need’ one, but it still triggers, because I am unable to ask for what I need and it makes me panicky to be expected to. Sass pulled me together, shifted in her seat and said she didn’t want to talk about it anymore. R paused, said okay, and then said that she just wanted to acknowledge that I was angry with her and that’s okay. I’m not angry with you, Sass replied, angrily……. because of course, she was. Hugely.

Sass has been surprisingly quiet since this whole work situation kicked off. She hasn’t been around through any of it, and I have been a little shocked that she hasn’t reacted to the unfairness of it.  Once, on the phone to my best friend this week, I’ve been aware of her, and then in today’s session with R, she totally took over. I’ve always perceived her to be quite mature – she certainly has the foul language and the intensity of emotion to be quite grown up. But today, with R, I had much more of a sense that she’s younger than she seems. She’s triggered by fear and panic, which presents itself as her outspoken anger, her ‘don’t fuck with me’ attitude and her ‘whatever’ filled way of interacting with people. This whole work situation is so overwhelming, and my head is just so low, that I think she’s almost been shocked into silence with it all. I’ve spent the last month working my butt off, but very much as an adult – lots of late nights and form filling and studying. It feels a little like the trauma of the situaton has finally caught up with Little (hence this post and sessions like this one), and also with Sass. It would explain why my adult head knows that I need to be taking meds and working harder and sleeping longer and doing all those things that need doing… but Little and now Sass are totally frozen with the fear and the panic and the unknowns.

One night this week, I got stuck. I got in quite late, dumped all my stuff and sat down at the piano. Stuck. I couldn’t play the keys, couldn’t even move my fingers, nor could I decide to get up and go back to my room or even do anything, really. It was like when a computer blue screens you – I couldn’t do anything. It took me forever to ‘unfreeze’. It had been an awful day and I think I just got so overwhelmed I needed to dissociate completely away from reality. Scared the shit out of me though.

R was fab. Reminded me that it is okay to be angry with her. That she will have triggered something and that it was okay, we’d look at it again. That this has happened with T countless times before and it is okay. She offered me the space to tell her what was happening, but I didn’t know – I just knew that Sass was in control and we needed to get out of the room – to escape, escape, escape. That’s all the kid knows how to do, and though I really didn’t want to leave R for another three weeks without resolving this, I had no choice. I packed up and fell towards R for a hug. R hugs like she means it… and we cried then. I’ve never had a sense of Sass’ tears before – I have never known her be upset. She does angry, she does swearing, she does eye-rolling, but I have never known her shake with tears in the way she did. R said a dozen times that it’s okay, but I am not sure I believe her. Sass wants to believe her – desperately so. I am not meant to be upset with her – we were meant to be deciding on routines, not sobbing with fear into her shoulder. I am not meant to dissociate with R, and I am worried that now she will leave. She can’t leave. I’m so scared.

I ended up in Waterstones after our session (because there is pretty much no greater place in the world than a bookshop), reading picture books and trying to find some calm. It took me a longgg time to be safe enough to drive home, but I’m home now and about to go over to a friend’s for the night.

The urge to cut is immense – it’s a need to punish, to turn undamaged skin into a canvas on which to paint the way I’m feeling inside. The need to see blood that won’t stop and damage that won’t heal is all Sass’ – I can sense the riotous way in which she expresses herself and the dramatics that come from her fear. I am trying not to allow her to, but she is holding all my fears about this never getting better, this hurting like this forever, me losing everything, me losing R, me being alone… it is unheard of that she feels upset in this way. I have never known her feel anything except poisonous anger. Sass is very drawn to R, much more so than she is to T – R’s sense of humour, her no-nonsense way of working with us, and that she is absolutely beautiful… they’re all big draws for S. She’s worried she’s broken it. Yet another thing to have gone wrong. I’ve never known Sass pine before, I’ve never known her feel attachment, or ANYTHING that isn’t just anger. She’s so worried R will leave her. I’ve never known her care before.

I’m still not quite sure what triggered the anger today. I think it was a sense of being overwhelmed, and nobody being able to save us. If someone could tell me to take the pill, if someone could feed me breakfast or be there on the nights I can’t sleep, or set routines for me, then this wouldn’t be so hard. But it is hard. Unbearably hard. Every day. And my panic that this isn’t going to get better, or go away, translated into anger, I think. Especially the panic that I am drowning and I need to change something but it’s all so hard. I want someone to save me, or for there to be a magic cure, like setting a routine. But I’m so overwhelmed I’m frozen, and I don’t know how to do tomorrow, or the next day, let alone a routine that has to happen every day. If Sass could have stayed inside R’s hug for the rest of the week then she would have done that, because that is always the answer to the ‘what do you need’ question. I’ve never known Sass to pine for anyone, but my god she’s doing so tonight. I need a hug. I need you not to leave. I need to not be in this alone. Please don’t leave. Please find me the magic cure. Please make this stop hurting. Please don’t leave me. I’m sorry I was bad. x


10 responses »

  1. Beyond hanging in there, it sounds like you are more aware of who Sass is — how young she is. That knowledge is positive. When “objectively” simple tasks are not simple at all — like having breakfast and taking pills — it raises the question of whether there is agreement among the parts to do these things. Just something to consider or set aside for therapy.

    • Managed to take the first pill this morning, but I spent the night with my best friend and she supported me in it. I wish I understood why I just don’t do things like that… I am sure that it is rooted in my lack of self care.

      Thank you, as always. Your thoughts are always very insightful x

  2. There’s so much in here that I relate to, it’s mind blowing. I’m not good at making people feel better (understatement) but i genuinely hope things get better for you. This post has made me feel less alone in my huge dependence on my therapist.

  3. It just isn’t fair, is it? When part of you is so young that it really does need looked after by someone else. Yet because your body grew up, you’re expected to do these adult things all by yourself.

    • It is unbelievably unfair!!! R hasn’t replied to my email and I’m absolutely terrified that she’s leaving and I’ve ruined everything. But of course, because I’m meant to be an adult, I’ve having to try and sit with it rather than running to her to check. It’s killing me though.

  4. I think consistent meals might do more for you than the medication, actually. I would also have been angry at the way R was insisting over and over that you must take the meds or the sky will fall. But I realize it was a complex conversation.

    Your work situation sounds completely horrendous. You must be very strong that you can cope with that.

    • Sorry, maybe I didn’t actually express myself very clearly. She wasn’t at all angry with me – she was just encouraging me to explore why I struggle to do them regularly because this is a constant thing for me. And my GP was very insistent, but that is because the side effects if I stop taking them without a planned ending will be horrid, and I really can’t take any more right now!

      Work is horrid but hopefully it will be relatively short lived. I can’t really survive much more of it.

      • Yeah, if you are already on psych meds and have been taking them for a while, you do need to taper off them, not just stop suddenly. A fact that I was not told when I was taking them. Tapering on to them is also a good idea. For me, they all had side effects, and weren’t helpful, though I spent an awful lot of money on them. I do wish you a lot better luck than I had with the meds. That’s just my own story. I hate people insisting I do a particular thing, so that’s probably why I read your post as I did.

        BTW, you already have routines, just not the ones you want. Our brains naturally seem to want to repeat things that we’ve done before. For instance, coffee breaks at certain times might be a routine. Or showering. Etc. I personally eat the same breakfast every day, because it’s the path of least resistance. If I had to think about it, it would be too difficult.

        Good luck to you.

  5. Pingback: Button Pushing, Perfection, and PJ Days. | Understanding Me and Her

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