The last time I posted, things were feeling quite painful and negative. I was trapped in a place of grief and guilt – grief that I wanted more from people than they could ever give, and guilt in the same way. It passed, life moved on. My life seems to do that now. A crisis that would have previously taken 6 weeks to bounce back from now takes 6 days. I am healing.
I haven’t posted in over a month because there hasn’t been much to say. I miss writing and I miss the blog world, but I am not sure if I miss the drama that drove me to need to write for hours and hours! Life is simultaneously really quite boring and really very exciting. I think I’ve met ‘the one’, friendships are good, work is good… and therapy is good. Almost too good – I feel a little unsettled.
A few weeks ago, I got a text from T the day before a booked therapy session with her, to say that she was very sorry but she was in Italy visiting someone in hospital and she wasn’t going to get back in time for our session. She offered me various other session times and I knew I should respond, but I didn’t. I put down my phone and walked away. The cancellation didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that she had been away, she’d left where I thought she was, she’d left the COUNTRY, and I didn’t know. I hadn’t been told. My absolute incredulity turned relatively quickly into fear and then anger. How dare she leave without telling me? What if I’d have needed her? WHAT IF?
A difficult few weeks then followed. It took us ages to be able to speak properly when she returned, and then when we next met it was a really painful session, full of mixed emotions. I was particularly upset because I had ‘felt’ her absence during the week, but brushed it off as paranoia. This has happened before and she has not left, so I ignored it, but then felt like a fool. Also, and perhaps more importantly, when we discussed her leaving, T told me that, if she’d managed to get back in time for our session, she would never have told me she had been gone.
This terrified me. Secrets? What else does she keep from me? How am I meant to trust her when she might not even be where I think she is? We went around this panicking thinking for a long while. GP and R helped to keep me stabilised whilst T and I tried to find solid ground again.
Eventually, slowly, we found it. We found security again in T’s promise that if she is ever going to go out of contact (as in, she wouldn’t be able to respond to email or text), she would tell me. If ever she is going to be so far away that I could not reach her, she would tell me. She did not this time, and will not in the future, if she feels she can still be present for me. This reaffirmation of her constant, safe, supportive presence in my life helped me find safety.
A session with R also really helped. We drilled down into what my ‘attachment fear’ actually is. I talk about it all the time, I know when it is bad, I know when it’s been triggered, but I wanted to really set my eyes on the dragon itself. We came at it from a different angle – when was the first time I felt it?
I had a teacher when I was in secondary school. She was the first teacher to spot my eating disorder and the first to know about my childhood. She was also probably my first attempt at making a secure attachment. We used to eat lunch together, meet and talk at breaktimes, I used to write her notes… I was besotted. When I look back now, there were a million and one reasons why this relationship was unhealthy, not least because of how it eventually ended… but what R and I talked about was my fear at the ends of terms.
I was always absolutely inconsolable at the end of term because it meant being apart from her. It meant a period of time when she couldn’t be reached if something went wrong. As a 13/14/15 year old, that ‘something’ was always getting pregnant. Round and round and round in my head would that thought go. What if I got pregnant and I couldn’t tell you? R and I looked at how that must have been my ‘absolute worst case scenario’. I wasn’t even sexually active during that time, but I must have been so petrified of my parents’ reaction and the consequences if I did get pregnant that it was my true ‘worst case’.
R and I discussed the parallels to now. I no longer fear getting pregnant in the same way (although my mother would probably still kill me!), and I guess that that absolute worst case scenario didn’t get replaced by any concrete possibility in my head. When I panic about a distance between T and I, I always come to but what if the world ends and you’re not here? But what if the sky falls in and you’re not here? I can never give any context to that fear – I’m actually a very capable adult and it is a huge credit to myself and the professionals I work with that I cannot think of an actual, real life situation that I wouldn’t at least begin to know how to fix. But this fear isn’t actual. It isn’t real life. It is abstract and fuzzy, the way a child sees a monster under the bed or hiding in their closet. As a teenager, I must have molded that abstract monster into a fear of getting pregnant – but with R’s help, I managed to see it for what it is. An abstract fear.
This doesn’t necessarily change the fact that I still feel the fear, but it has exposed it to the light somewhat, which has taken away some of its potency. This, mixed with my reaffirmation that T is always ‘within reach’ unless she tells me otherwise, has come together to propel me into new territory.
For the last few sessions, T and I have had nothing to talk about. More than that, though… I’ve not really wanted to be there. Not in the sense that I’ve hated every minute of the session or anything… just that I feel quite ambivalent about it. There are other places I could be and we haven’t had anything to discuss. We have talked about nothing for two whole sessions… and that’s felt okay? We’ve also not hugged. We had got into a routine of hugging as the last thing before leaving, but we haven’t. I think I haven’t wanted to, but it’s hard to describe. It’s not a negative emotion, or a punitive one. I just haven’t needed a hug.
T described this shift as me finding a separateness from her. Realising that she had been away and not told me has triggered something. It’s flipped a switch that’s allowed me to see her as a safe person, even when we have separate lives. I’m not honestly sure if this is a good thing or not – we left for Christmas without a cuddle, which worries me for Little – but it feels okay. It feels fine. Sometimes it even feels good.
So, I’m trying not to judge this new feeling of separateness as a negative thing. I’m not hating her, feeling like she doesn’t love me or any other negative feelings that have happened before. I’m not feeling abandoned or forgotten about or unloved. I don’t feel like she’s stepped away from me – rather that maybe I’ve stepped away from her? I think that’s right. It unsettles me because previously in all my relationships, any sense of distance or separation has led to a massive panic and desperate clingyness from me. This feels different. This feels okay.
I said to T in our last session that I don’t want to be in therapy in the same, intensive way as I am now, this time next year. Maybe we will be less frequent, or maybe even the ‘lead’ therapy will shift from counselling with T to mentoring/guidance with R. Who knows. All I know right now is that this positive acceptance of a separation (without feeling a loss of love or attachment) feels like it could be the next building block. It could be the next step. It could be the future.
This is artwork by Claudia Tremblay… as I was writing this post, this image kept coming into my mind. Maybe this is what I hope the next step will look like… fingertips touching still, but enough separation to follow my path.
If I don’t post before, happy Christmas blog world, and the very warmest of wishes for 2016. Much love.