Gratitude lists are popping up all over my blog reader at the moment. I may well write my ’50 things’ gratitude list for the year nearer to NYE, but seeing as the break from therapy has felt SO hard this year, I thought I’d do my gratitude list about therapy with T instead. So, 50 reasons I am grateful (in no particular order!).
1. She gave me her blanket. Green, warm, loved. When things feel really awful and sleep feels impossible, I wrap it round my shoulders, through my arms and up to cover my nose. The feel of it wrapped around me and smoothing my nose comforts me to sleep.
2. She reads me stories. Children’s books are some of my favourite things. I have no memories of being read to as a child. Listening to her read them to me is incredible and healing.
3. We play. Plastic animals, rabbits, bear cards… Little loves her for her playfulness.
4. She is beautifully colourful. I live my life in blues and greys, she lives hers in gorgeous colour. When I see the colours elsewhere, they remind me of her and make me smile.
5. I find her in nature. She talks to me about clouds, emails about the sea… when I stand and stare at the beauty of the nature in front of me, I find her, always. It reassures me that I will always be able to find her there.
6. She cuddles me. I know that not every therapist will do. I know that I’d never have made the progress in therapy without it. All the professionals who work with me hug and cuddle me – it’s warming and healing. It makes me feel human even when I feel disgusting and ruined.
7. She lets me listen to her heartbeat. This is a young, almost primal thing. When I’m panicked and lost, the calm repetitive beat of her heart is amazing. I’m not sure its possible to record a heartbeat, but I know that if I could only listen to one sound ever again, it’d be her heartbeat I’d choose.
8. When I’m too lost in upset for her to reach me, when my hair is over my face and I’m hidden, she strokes my hair and brushes it back off my face. It’s rare, it’s amazing.
9. When I’m no longer properly ‘in the room’, or when I’m too raw to be held, she asks to hold my feet. I am NOT a foot person, generally I despise anybody touching my feet, but it’sgrounding and comforting when she does it. Usually it gives me enough grounding to be able to come back to the space between us again.
10. She shares safe knowledge with me. I will never know as much as I want to about her. But part of growing to trust her happened when she shared things with me. I’m sure they’re small, I’m sure she will keep huge things from me all the time, but knowing her favourite colour or where she’s gone on holiday still feels awesome.
11. She lets me sit on her sofa, with my shoes off and my legs up. I’ve sat in so many therapy offices where I’ve felt like I’m in a job interview – sit straight, legs on the floor, keep presentable. It is amazing to be able to sit as I want, to curl up or hide when things are difficult… I love that I’m free with her.
12. She works from home. I wanted a therapist who didn’t – when I was looking, it felt too personal and too unsafe. Once I’d settled into it, it felt amazing. It helps me feel like I know her as a human and not as a therapy robot.
13. She lets her dog come into our sessions sometimes. I LOVE dogs and hugely miss having my own so it’s lush to have her dog in with us. She only comes in when she barks because she’s not seen much of T, but when she does its awesome. The distraction also helps when things feel really painful.
14. She walks and talks. I LOVE phone sessions with her when she’s walking the dog. She’s more relaxed and less therapisty then when she’s in a proper session with me. She talks more than in session – she stops herself in a proper session – if I want to be reminded that she is human and wonderful (or if I want her opinion instead of a therapist answer 😛 ha), listening to her talk to me whilst she walks the dog is totally awesome.
15. She says my name in unique and varied tones. When she’s trying to pull me back from dissociation, when she’s proud of me, when she’s teasing me… each way, different and unique. Hearing my name said in a sentence can sometimes be a trigger for me, but not usually the way she says it.
16. She celebrates my happiness. When big things happen (like graduating, getting a job, buying our house, getting engaged), it is a joy to tell her and hear her excitement.
17. She bears witness to sadness. I read a beautiful passage in Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things, where she writes to a man trying to support his wife who lost her mum. She wrote:[Your wife] is your joy on wheels whose every experience is informed and altered by the fact that she lost the most essential, elemental, primal and central person in her life too soon. It will never be okay that she lost her mother. And the kindest, most loving thing you can do for her is to bear witness to that, to muster the strength, courage and humility it takes to accept the enormous reality of its not okayness and be okay with it. Get comfortable being the man who says ‘oh honey, I’m so sorry for your loss’ over and over again. T is the person for me. She bears witness to the enormity of its not okayness and I love her for it.
18. She believes in change. I’m a very black and white thinker – I catastrophise constantly. I find it hard to remember the inevitability of change – it is comforting (if sometimes frustrating!) that T believes that change is always possible.
19. She laughs at me. When I’m being stubborn and stroppy (consciously or not!), or when I’m being defeatist and catastrophising, she laughs at me. It makes me laugh every single time and makes me love her more every single time, too.
20. She doesn’t judge – she doesn’t flinch. I’ve told her things that have happened to me that make me throw up, things that make me cry, things I’m ashamed of, things that make me disgusted with myself… she doesn’t flinch, ever. It’s reassuring to tell someone who is stronger than the memories.
21. She holds boundaries. As much as I HATE boundaries, she’s an excellent model for me with them. We’ve had the ‘a boundary doesn’t stop me loving you’ conversation about a billion times… it still hurts every time, but I know the modelling is invaluable for me. After a childhood of either no boundaries or people so boundaried I couldn’t connect, it’s amazing to see them modelled healthily.
22. She breaks boundaries. Sometimes we’ve got a boundary really wrong – mostly to do with contact, when I’ve not been able to cope with the initial boundary set. She will break and change them when they feel too wrong – when she does it makes me feel like she feels I’m important and like she sees me as a person and not a client-robot. It makes me feel safe.
23. She tells me when she’s proud of me. My parents don’t know how to express themselves when they feel proud – it’s not something I’ve ever really heard, growing up. When T says it it makes me feel like I could die of embarrassment but it’s amazing to hear.
24. She tells me when she’s cross with me. This is another of those things that reminds me she is not a therapist-robot. Clearly I hate making her cross, but it makes her human and I value it for that. Usually her crossness is more about concern – I’ve not eaten, I’ve harmed – and when it isn’t, when I’ve genuinely upset her, it’s reassuring to find myself within the boundaries of a real relationship.
25. She reads. Quite often she will tell me of things she’s read, quotes she remembers etc… I love the walls of books behind us when we’re in session, and I love her love of books.
26. She’s got heaps of training, experience, knowledge… I despise therapy speak – “and how does that make you feel?” or “tell me more about that…” makes me want to stab myself in the head – T steers away from this, but I feel comforted and supported by her clear wealth of experience and theoretical knowledge that sits behind her.
27. She’s well supported. As much as I despise the thought of her talking about me in supervision, and I’m mega jealous of her family and friends (and HATE them when they’re in the next room), it’s reassuring that she is well supported. It reminds me that nothing between us will be too big and will push her away.
28. She looks after me when I’m poorly. I’m totally pathetic when I’m ill, tearful and useless! As a child, illness was seen as weakness and was either ignored or punished. T does the total opposite and as much as I’m probably capable of telling myself to eat, drink, sleep, take medicine etc…. it feels AMAZING and loving with T does it.
29. She values the little stuff as much as the big stuff. Therapy is expensive, exhausting and time consuming – for both me and her! I can fall into the trap of worrying that I don’t have enough to talk about, or that what I have isn’t important enough. I love it that T is as interested in the job stress and the friendship updates as she is in the trauma history and the attachment disorder. It reminds me she cares about me as a human as well as as a client.
30. She knows me. In the years we’ve worked together, I love it that she has learned a lot about me. Little things, like that I’m feeling emotionally stressed when I pull Rabbit’s ear up to my nose… it’s like she knows the code to me and that’s awesome. She remembers, too. I’m sure notes help with the big stuff, but I am constantly amazed by her ability to remember names and little details of my life. I’m one of many clients and it makes me feel very respected and loved when she knows who I’m talking about!
31. She is happy to work alongside other professionals. The professional ‘family’ around me is so important to me and finding professionals who will all see me knowing I’m seeing others has been essential. I’m not sure she was totally keen on this to begin with, so I love her for allowing us to try it and stick with it.
32. She makes Rabbit dance to the music she sings. It makes my insides sing, too.
33. She’s predictable. I often know what she will say or how she will respond before she starts to speak. This knowledge of her has been hugely important in internalising her and being able to cope in the gaps between time with her.
34. She’s surprising and refreshing. Sometimes she says things and they’re totally NOT what I was expecting – I love her as much for those times as I do for the predictable responses!
35. She’s hardworking and dedicated. She might be the hardest working person I know – it’s so reassuring to know that she loves her job, she works hard and looks after herself whilst doing it. She’s an excellent role model – copying her work ethic would definitely help me manage my job better…
36. She includes me in her life – I love feeling remembered. When she was in Oz she sent me photos of kangaroos, when she’s away she tells me what she can see… it reminds me she’s still very present in this world.
37. She never minimises emotions. Expressing emotions was ignored or punished when I was little – T never does this. It feels reassuring and supportive.
38. She never overreacts to emotions. In contrast to above, I’ve worked with professionals who have overreacted to emotions, making them worse. T doesn’t minimise them but does keep everything in perspective (even when I’ve totally lost control). It is reassuring to have somebody keeping a calm control over everything.
39. She will sit with silences. Sometimes being with her in silence is enough. There is never pressure for more.
40. She will instinctively talk too. Sometimes I don’t want the silence but I can’t talk – she seems to always know when this happens, and will speak for me until I can.
41. She checks in with all parts. It’s rare we have sessions where only one part of me is present. T is very good at checking in with everyone – she isn’t scared of them or the emotions they bring with them.
42. She doesn’t defend my mother. I have worked with a lot of professionals who have felt it appropriate to try to defend my mum and how she behaved when we were kids. Excuses made and reasons given don’t help. T doesn’t do this. Her acknowledgement that what happened was wrong has been essential to my healing.
43. She stood up for my mother’s place at the wedding. Part of me knows that this was connected to T’s own stuff, but her insistence that she doesn’t want her part in the wedding to overshadow my mum or disrupt her in some way was reassuring, loving and painful. It was a very human thing and felt loving because of it.
44. We’ve tried just about every agreement on contact and none worked. Eventually we have ended up in a place where she responds when she feels she needs to. She responds instinctively and she’s rarely wrong!
45. She is able to be repetitive without (visible…) frustration. We have had some conversations literally millions of times – please come back, please don’t leave, please don’t be mad, please adopt me… she may want to beat me round the head every time I ask her, but if she does she doesn’t show it. The repetition and the repeated answers are soothing and help me internalise.
46. She changes her email sign off depending on what emotional space we’re in. Often the change in sign off is as reassuring as what she’s written in the email. It makes me smile and I love it.
47. She tolerates me not looking at her. We spend probably 90% of our therapy sessions without eye contact from me. I work with children and it drives me mad when they don’t look at me, so I don’t know why she doesn’t want to throttle me… but it’s helpful to be able to still have a connection even when I can’t look at her.
48. Sometimes she makes me look at her. When she needs me to hear her, when she wants me to believe her, she won’t say it until I’m looking at her. It’s really hard but really worthwhile.
49. She is excited and preparing for my future. She made me laugh the other day, getting excited about me taking a pregnancy test (even though it would have been a disaster!). She reminded me the other day that the therapy I’m doing now is investing in my children. She’s excited about my wedding. I love that she is excited about my future as well as looking after me now.
50. She has been the gold that’s put the pieces back together. I went to her, broken and carrying the pieces of me I’d been able to save. Her hard work and love (and my hard work and love) has made the gold, the glue, to stick my broken pieces back together. Though it’s hard to feel like this, what I love about the art of kintsukuroi is the belief that it is more beautiful for having been broken. This Christmas it’s been hard to feel more beautiful for the brokenness – but I know if I’ve managed to internalise even the smallest part of her, any of the beautiful, golden things about her, I know I must be.
Happy Christmas, T. Happy Christmas, blog world. Much love x