Traffic made me late to therapy this week, but when I sat down I was so very grateful to be with T again. This week has been so painful. I felt like we had had some form of contact every single day this week – T disagreed, thought there were at least a few non-contact days, which makes me feel slightly better that I am not driving her insane with my obsessive attachment needs.
None of the contact has been for any crisis reason – just repetitive cries of “please don’t leave me”, “please stay”, “please come back”, “are you still there”… poor T, it’s been months and months since I’ve been this relentlessly pathetic. I was worried that T would be frustrated and worn down by me this week. I asked the night before if she still wanted to see me… “yes I still want you to come,” she replied. “You are welcome whatever mess you feel in.”
I felt quite adult when I started to talk. I talked about the fear I feel when I think that this ‘illness’, the part of me that makes me lose time and feel this awful, relentless agony of attachment insecurity, might ALWAYS be there. I’ve been stable for many months now. In those months, I’ve loved T and missed her sometimes and there has been a lot of upset about her not coming to the wedding, but I haven’t LOST her, or my sense of connection to her. I’ve had a really secure internal belief that she’s there, she’s close by, she loves me too and we’re okay, even when there is a gap. T reminded me that last August we went 6 weeks without seeing each other. 6 WEEKS. I haven’t managed 6 hours without desperately needing her this week.
I talked and talked and mostly didn’t let T speak because I know there are no answers here. The part of me that feels this way is always going to exist because I cannot change the past. Little is a result of the horrendous experiences I had as a child – they cannot be erased, and neither can she. I know there is no answer that would make me feel better – there can be no guarantees that she won’t feel like this again.
This scares me because of how unsafe and vulnerable I am when I am in that place. It worries me that I probably should not trust myself enough to have children – what if I lost time when caring for them? That thought is awful. T reminded me, though, that even in the darkest, most awful times, I have NEVER lost time when responsible for children at work. Even when I’ve been almost totally dissociated around the outside of the working day, when I’ve been the adult in charge, I’ve been okay. She’s right. She’s also right that I know to ask for help when I need it -she said that when I’ve got children, she knows that if the day was rubbish, I would go to a mum’s meet up or spend the day with friends etc… she knows I would do what I needed to be safe. That was reassuring.
We moved on to talking about how my head feels like it is moving at a million miles an hour with all the possible, endless possibilities. What happens when T retires, what happens when T dies, how will I find out if she dies, who will tell me, how will I grieve… I said to T that the feeling this constant, racing, catastrophising thinking leaves me with is the same feeling I get when I try to think too hard about space. You know when you remember that we’re one person, on a planet of billions… and we’re one planet of billions and billions… and that once we reach the end of one space term, like a universe, there’s just an endless expanse on from that… so you keep thinking and thinking and eventually it feels unsettling and makes you feel a little bit sick and dizzy? That’s what I feel like I’m doing with attachment worries about T. I’ve bounced from thoughts about how I will describe her to my children (friend? ‘auntie’? therapist/ex-therapist? None of them are right!), to how I’d find out if she died, to whether I’d be able to tell work I needed time off to grieve……… NONE of those things are ANYWHERE near happening, but that’s the problem with attachment anxiety. It knows no boundaries, it has no finite ends. There are no edges, no sides to the box. It just keeps going forever. It’s like imagining space.
I must have kept saying that there were no answers and T was making some suggestions, like that she would still reply to emails after she retires – but all that was doing was creating a whole other set of expanding questions – “but if you don’t reply then I will find out you’re dead by lack of an email response!”. T eventually gently interrupted my panicked dialogue. “All I know is that all along, all the time we’ve worked together, we’ve gone with what you need,” she said. “Sometimes we’ve spoken every day, sometimes we haven’t seen each other for a month. I’ve always gone with what you need in that time, in that moment. All we can do is trust that, when we get there, I will continue to do my best by you.”
I very nearly cried my entire soul out, right there. That promise seemed to cut through so many of the questions, asking for definites and certainties… she’s right. All I can hold on to is that she loves me, and she always has and always will do whatever she feels, whatever we jointly agree is right for me.
Then we needed to end. Usually I have a really good sense of how far through the session we were, but this time it totally threw me – I hadn’t felt like we were much past halfway, but we were – T had even run over to give me the full session even though I was late. “I’m still here, though,” she said. “Even when you’re not here. I’m still here, and the relationship we have here is still the same even when we’re apart. You still remember me and think about me and I still remember you and think about you. I am not leaving and I will be here. Even when the session ends I leave an imprint on you and you leave an imprint on me and the connection continues and I don’t forget you.”
She wrote a very similar response to me this morning, when I emailed her after an awful nightmare where she was drowning and I was trying to swim past every seabased fear I have (sharks, seaweed, the dark…) to save her. I couldn’t reach her but I knew I couldn’t leave her either so eventually I gave up and breathed in sea water and woke up choking. She ended her email with “thinking of you, with love”.
Which made me smile, because I’m thinking of her with love, too. x