Thank you to those of you who have been in touch over the last few days to check in with me about where I vanished to. It is so warming and healing and supportive to know that there are people out there who notice and care. Much love to you all. Xxx
I am on my honeymoon at the moment, in the most beautiful place in the world. I am having an amazing time. The night before we flew out here (in fact, 11 hours before we flew), I saw T.
I had emailed T for our scheduled email a few days earlier. It was a long email that I had really thought about, because I had met with R for our session and we had done lots of really useful processing of what the challenges are for me with T at the moment. I wanted to record them and to share them with T because nothing has felt right between us for such a long time and I haven’t felt able to put words to why. This was my email to her:
You are never going to be able to read this and respond to it all in this email slot, so I think what would actually help me is if you could use the 15 minutes to read it, and then if you could find time for us to speak afterwards? You said on Thursday that I am much more detailed and open by email and that’s definitely true – you may not want to speak to me after reading this below but if you did and had the availability to, I think that would help me best.
I’m not sure what I’m hoping to gain from this email. I have started this a few times. Once I have started by asking to quit therapy for good. A few times I have written asking for a break. Even more times, I’ve just begged for you to help me feel okay again. I’ve deleted all of that… I’m just going to write.
I spent an hour today talking to R about you. Then I went to [a big hill!] with [husband], sat on the edge looking out towards the sea and sobbed my heart out, screamed into my hands, howled and yelled until I was hoarse.
Tonight I’ve tried to start a blog post for A. Tomorrow marks 3 years of knowing him. In doing so, I flicked back through old blog posts until I found the previous years’ posts. It made me re-read so many posts I have written about you, for you, because of you. Before my wedding, our relationship is clear. It is so freaking beautiful. I’m not in any way expecting you to re-read these but who we were is SO clear in these:
Since the wedding, I’ve lost all of that. It feels like I’ve lost everything of you. I sobbed again re-reading these. Since the wedding, every blog post is full of agony and searching and drowning and missed connections with you. I’m exhausted with it, I can’t manage the drama and the damage anymore.
I worry that we are working towards different end goals, and because of that, I am failing you. I know that I can’t second guess you, so I’m not going to try. But here is my hope, my therapy goal.
First, stability. A return to the me from the blog posts above, who believed in us and the strength of us.
Second, beginning to ‘number’ my feelings on a scale, 1-10. Right now, I do “okay” or “not okay, number 10”. There is no 1-9. Being able to recognise emotions as being on a scale would be helpful, I don’t feel like I can do this at all right now.
Third, discuss/practise self-soothing strategies. Use them to take responsibility for e.g. the 1, 2 and 3 problems on the scale. Still rely on you/A/R to process 4-10. Stabilise there (because independence will bring inevitable instability in our relationship). After that, add in the 4s and 5s. And so on….
Finally, ultimately, forever… Manage 1-8 independently, parenting myself, self soothing etc. Acknowledge that 9s and 10s will almost always need dependence on someone else – accept that that might be professional support, might be [husband]/friends, might be A, might be you?
It terrifies me that your hope is that I will manage all the 9s and 10s independently, too. That I will not be a success to you unless I am this totally independent, totally self-sufficient person who doesn’t need anybody. I feel like I am constantly failing you at the moment because not only am I nowhere near there, I don’t ever WANT to be that person.
If that is what you want, then I think maybe we need to find a way to end. If that isn’t your aim, if as you said in an email last week you don’t believe some dependency is bad, then I think probably what I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by is an ocean-full of transference, mixed in with attachment stuff.
There are a few things wrapped up in this. I’ve paragraphed them to make this easier to read (and write) but their order is random.
New contact boundaries. This is working brilliantly for adult me but it is too much, too fast for Little. I should have pre-empted this, I know her, but I’ve really fucked up. L is too scared to email you because she knows you won’t respond. I want to hope that giving her an optional check in each week might help but without helping her define the scale of emotions/panic and without giving her coping strategies to manage when she doesn’t/can’t reach out, I’ve set her up to fail. All that is happening is she is silently cowering. I know I’m being intensely unhelpful with this because minute to minute I am changing what I want – I’m sorry. I know, though, that this is too much for L. I’m asking her to run before she was even crawling and she’s totally panicked. What I feel we should have done is structured the change better and given her more control, given her responsibility for the 1s first and then the 2s…. rather than this all or nothing place. I’ve fucked up and it’s my fault, but I need help to help her now.
Fighting for love. I feel like you’re backing away from me and that is triggering all of those protest behaviours to make you stay. I am absolutely DESPERATE for you to cuddle me, come sit with me, read to me…. and I know that your response to that will be that I need to ask!!! But asking makes it feel fake, like it’s given unwillingly. When I said this to R today, she reminded me that your hands are tied by your role, that you are playing the therapist and that involves all the “what do you need, how does that make you feel” stuff… and maybe that’s true. But I am very, very sensitive at the moment to all the almost imperceptible changes in how it feels like we are connecting to each other, and each change is causing bigger and bigger waves of panic. I was discussing this with a blog friend earlier and she said that (and I quote): “I think the problem is actually that you CAN’T feel loved. Because you ARE loved, you just can’t feel it.” That feels closer to the mark than anything I could write, and I don’t know how to overcome that, I need help with it.
Transference stuff with mum. I know you’re getting a raw deal at the moment because you’re getting all the shit that mum left. I cannot stand feeling like love is measured, metered, controlled, because that’s my mum. She loves me when she is able to, and that wasn’t enough. She was also always pushing our independence, far too far and too soon. That is NOT me saying that I want to be totally dependent forever, but right now it feels too far and too soon and like you’re pushing to keep me (and all the emotions) away from you, like mum did. I’m so fucking angry with you because it feels like you’re just like her at the moment. I know you’re not – I know you’re more emotionally attentive and available than she ever was or will be. But these boundaries, all the talk about how much I’ve changed and how wonderful change is when I don’t feel like I’ve changed at all, how I need to be more independent and to learn to cope even when it’s hard… it’s all too wrapped up in her. It might be that all this drama and angst is the work, because working through this is what needs to happen……. but I think it might kill me, the pain of it. Honestly. It stung like mad on Thursday when you said how much more contact I have than anybody else. I heard that you meant it as a way of demonstrating how much love and support I already receive from you and A…. but L heard it from my mum. Too much, too needy, attention seeking. “Go to your room, nobody wants to know you exist.”
Comparisons between A and you. You’re also getting a raw deal because A is (for right or for wrong) much more open with his love, and as we talked about on Thursday, he was always going to have an easier ride because my dad was much less damaging. The comparisons are damaging in two ways:
1. That Little doesn’t understand why if he can love me so openly, that you can’t, and she is definitely interpreting (misinterpreting?) that as your lack of love. She cannot understand why he will freely say he loves me, cuddle me, talk to me at 3am and you won’t. When I said this to R today she reminded me that A is now a friend and you can never be that, and adult me understands that…. but Little categorically does NOT understand why.
2. That it feels like you hate him! I can only describe this feeling by telling you about when I was little. When Mum had been awful and sent me to my room, I used to lie in bed and sob silently for hours and hours. Silently, crying had to be silent or she’d come in and start on me again. I used to give myself the most stupidly painful dehydration/stress headaches from the crying, I was often sick with them (but couldn’t leave my room to be sick so had to stay in my room with the sick). Eventually, the house would go quiet and mum’s door would shut, and usually Dad would stay downstairs and play the piano for a while. Then, he’d come upstairs, sneak into my room with as many glasses of water as his hands could carry. He’d use one to swill the sick out of the bowl and chuck it out of the window onto the bushes outside so mum didn’t know. He’d get me to drink the others, and then I’d lie back down and he would press on my temples and draw circles until the headache passed a bit and I’d stopped crying. Eventually I would fall asleep and he would leave. Never a word spoken, in case mum heard. On a few occasions, mum stopped him going in to me – “don’t you DARE go into that little bitch, you’re meant to be supporting me” – and I would be totally alone. I can understand why she didn’t come in to me, she hated me and I had been bad… but I cannot understand why she felt that his support was wrong. Why I didn’t deserve his love, if it wasn’t actually affecting her. This is what it feels like with A. It feels like you are denying me his support and comfort and I cannot understand why you feel it is so bad.
I don’t know what is the right thing for us to do. All I can do is give you all of the above, said with SO much love, even the painful stuff. I don’t know whether a break would be right, or whether that is just running away from the work. I don’t know whether I’ve broken us and we can’t ever get back our pre-wedding relationship. I don’t know whether this is the end of us. I don’t know whether this is all stuff that can be worked through, or whether actually this is the end. I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry. xxx
T responded to say that she had read it but needed time to mull it over and she didn’t have a phone session slot, so could we discuss it in session?
So long as “time to think about it” isn’t code for “work out how to stop us working together and leave me”…. then that’s okay. If it is code for walking away from me then please tell me. I said.
I am not planning to leave. I know that you sometimes think of leaving therapy. I am happy to work with you as long as you continue to be happy to work with me. She said.
So… we got to the session and she asked me if there was anything I needed to tell her before she talked about what I had written. I briefly told her about meeting with my new GP, and then I sat silently. She had told me she wasn’t leaving so I didn’t feel anxious.
How. Fucking. Stupid.
She immediately told me that she didn’t think the email sessions were working and she wanted to stop them. She said that she feels that I say things by email that I don’t voice in session… that she felt that by allowing me to email it is encouraging splitting, that it is allowing me to bring things up in different spaces and she doesn’t believe that is helpful.
I almost immediately had a sobbing, hysterical meltdown, so if I am honest, a lot of the rest of the session is a blur.
I said that emailing had been really helpful to adult me and that I knew I was bringing things up (especially anger) by email but it felt safer to do it that way… and that I cannot in any way see the benefit to cutting off that method of communication, because it would magically make me feel able to discuss it in session but instead force me to go back to how it was before when I didn’t share it in any way.
I said that I felt it was totally impossible for me to contain into one session a week at the moment and I reminded her that we had agreed one check in text a week on top of the two emails to allow for fingertip touching – She then almost got cross with me and said that she was happy to do daily check ins but I had insisted on only one? I said that I had asked for only one because she is pushing so hard for my independence and I didn’t want to ask for too much!!!!!
I sat howling into my knees and she then totally backtracked and kept asking me what I want – “what do you want, what do you need?” – and I really lost my temper and shouted thst it didn’t matter what I wanted if she had clearly already decided! And then she kept saying she would do what I wanted… which made no sense as she had just said no emails when I want the emails… then she said it was impossible for us to agree a plan when I wouldn’t tell her what I wanted…
So then I screamed some more and told her that I had been really clear what I wanted and I wanted her and for her to care etc and thst it was stupid her asking me what I want if she isn’t willing to do it so WHY DID SHE KEEP ASKING.
I told her I just wanted to go back to where we were before where we had no fixed contact patterns… to which she told me that no, she didn’t feel that would be helpful because not even babies have unrestricted 24/7 contact … She kept saying about 24/7 contact which I have never asked for and don’t use even with A, it is never every minute of every day but rather just when I need him rather than in some scheduled agreement. But no she kept saying that wasn’t helpful and that A was doing me harm by allowing “24/7”.
God the crying. It was totally horrendous, I felt like my absolute worst nightmare was coming true.
She kept saying she wanted to work with me. She said it over and over. Eventually I said that I cannot contain into one session a week with absolutely no extra contact at the moment so I felt like she was pushing me to quit. To which she said that she would be very sad if I quit but if that was my decision she would accept it.
Which caused more gut wrenching, howling sobs.
Then she said that we would KEEP the emails in place whilst I was away… uh, no, I told her there was no say I was emailing her when she had been so clear that she now doesn’t want me to.
Eventually I left. I don’t really remember leaving and looking back through my texts to friends straight after, I clearly didn’t leave with any particular plan or understanding of what the fuck had just happened.
I texted T later. I am bold, she is italic.
I don’t understand what just happened.
I think we agreed we would leave the emails in as they were while you are on holiday and look again at what you need at our next face to face session. Warm wishes.
But you don’t WANT me to email. You don’t want me to text for check in and tbh it feels like you don’t want ME at all. I just want us to go back. I want to go back. I am going on my honeymoon in less than 12 hours. If I had known you were planning to change everything I wouldn’t have come, it’s not fair. I am meant to be on a plane in a few hours time, I’m meant to be packing and sorting the house out but right now I’m just blood and tears and I just need for us to just go back to before. Please can we just go back to before. Please.
We agreed to have things as they were while you are away. I really hope you have a lovely holiday.
I’m not emailing you when you’ve been so clear that you don’t want to email me. At the moment I’m not sure I’m coming back at all. Everything is a mess. Please help L. She needs you, real you not scary backing away you.
Please tell L that I am still here and I do really care. I am here if you want to ring while you are away and here if you want to email.
This afternoon was her biggest nightmare coming true. And now I’m taking her away from the only two people in the world she feels safe with. She thinks we are all monsters.
Tell her she’s very valuable and she’s going to enjoy looking at [things on my honeymoon] and I know it’s scary right now but I really trust you.
Please cross our two booked email sessions out of your diary, but please leave in [next face to face]. I need to be okay now, I need to switch out but it’s all so terrifyingly real and painful. I wish today hadn’t happened. I needed bucket filling love, not to destroy all the security under L the night before 3 weeks away. I’m really really sorry x
I am really sorry too. Warmest wishes x
T has never in all the years we have worked together apologised when a session hasn’t gone right. Her apology felt real, and like it meant something. It made me feel that maybe something had just gone terribly, awfully wrong but that we could maybe find a way through.
Since I have been away, I have emailed once, with some photos:
[Honeymoon country] is the most beautiful country I have ever been to. Everywhere is just beyond stunning. Breathtakingly awesome.
I can’t find you in any of it. Today we [went up a big hill!] to look at the views… except when we got there we were totally in the clouds and couldn’t see a thing. Before, clouds connected you and me and I know I would have thought of you fondly in the cloud blanket. Instead I felt a few moments of total grief. I couldn’t ‘find’ you at all. I don’t know where you are. I hope you’re safe and happy. I hope you’re relaxed and free. This is a stupid, pointless email… like I’m hoping that by sending you some stupid words and pictures I will somehow find us again, in the clouds and the sky.
And she replied:
It sounds absolutely beautiful and I love the pictures. Today there were clouds where I am. Before that it was bright sun. I am glad you are enjoying it and spending some beautiful time on your honey moon I look forward to seeing you when you come back.
I have felt more of her in her email and texts than I have in months. But our last session was still so awful and so unclear and she basically agreed with me that we were over…. I am scared to come home and deal with it all.
I never, ever envisioned leaving her. My expectation and our agreement was that we would always have some connection, even if just check in emails at big life events etc. I literally don’t think until now I have ever contemplated the possibility of there being a time when we would both be alive and well but not in each other’s lives… that we could end badly, and leave each other, rather than just grow into the end of therapy and through to more distant but still connected people. I had never considered that I might leave her and NOT be healed.
It all feels terrifying.
There is a whole other post to be written about what she said – “what do you want?” But I will come back to that.
Pic by Klaus Kommoss
What started as a crack between us has deepened and parted until now it feels like a crevasse, so deep and wide and cold, and with us both stood on either side with the damage between us. I don’t honestly know if we can come back from this… and I sometimes don’t know if I even want to. The crevasse feels too immense sometimes.