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Dirty Little Secret

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I’ll keep you my dirty little secret, Don’t tell anyone, or you’ll be just another regret…

A and I went to a show yesterday evening. It wasn’t something I’d ever been to before, but something he often talks about with such passion in his voice. You can’t not adore him when he talks about it – it’s so lovely. He’s been saying for years that I should go, but I never have. Until last night! I had such an amazing time. The show was excellent and it felt like being given, gifted, this small part of him – I’ve heard his excitement about it so many times and it was just so wonderfully sweet to be there with him. Little absolutely loved it – the colours, movement and sounds. She was a little bit overwhelmed in one or two places but she felt safe and secure with A sat next to her – she flinched into him, pressed slightly against him and took her safety from him. He is very perceptive with her and she felt very safe with him – even in an environment that ordinarily would have been quite a challenge for her. She knows she’s okay if he’s there, which is a totally magic feeling. She feels safe with T in a caring way but she feels protected by A. It’s just totally magic. As I was driving home, with all that warm fuzzy loveliness buzzing around, I had a sudden, really clear sense that he hadn’t told his wife. I can’t explain how I knew, really. I just knew. I wasn’t going to ask, because it’s ultimately his marriage and none of my business. But the secrecy and the untruthfulness of it kept me awake and so in the morning, I asked. And he hadn’t told her. We’ve talked about it and it’s fine now, I don’t want to write a blog post about the ins and outs. It’s totally my fault, in that this relationship transition is relatively unique/unusual and I can see that, without having told her everything all along (which wouldn’t have felt right, I guess, initially), we’ve sort of ended up here without an obvious point in which to say “I made a new friend today”. She knows I exist, sort of, but it’s been the transition which is hard to explain. He described our relationship as “difficult to explain” and I wanted to break myself into pieces when he said it because to me, to Little, it’s one of the least ‘difficult to explain’ relationships I have ever had – but with some space on it I understand a bit more. I think my distress was excruciatingly clear, though, and I will not be kept a secret, so I trust him that he will find a way to balance the oddities of our relationship with the importance of honesty and truthfulness about it. Adult me is absolutely not comfortable spending time with him if his wife doesn’t know – I would never not tell my husband and would bloody well murder him if I found out he was spending time with a woman and hadn’t told me. (Little couldn’t care less and is cross with me for ‘protecting’ us in this way because she feels there is a risk in him leaving us because of this boundary, so she is very mad with me). I trust A and felt his distress in having upset me, so I know we will find a way to make this okay. I trust him. What I’m left with is all the distress caused by being someone’s “dirty little secret”. I was so triggered by it yesterday, and went through so many panicked fears – that I’m a secret because he doesn’t care about me, because he is planning to leave, because he’s one of Them in disguise, because for him our relationship was somehow sexualised, because he was embarrassed to know me, ashamed of me etc. The panic that I’m a secret because he is embarrassed/ashamed of me is the worst. Little wants so desperately for A to love her, care about her, value her. I want to mean something to him, to be important to him. I want to be more to him than the trauma and the damage, I don’t want to be contained inside the constraints of the damage done to me Before. Sass is wary of him, a man who seems to care about her even though he has not fucked her… She isn’t sure how he can care when she’s only good as a fucktoy and yet he doesn’t use her in that way. She’s also hugely jealous of his model-beautiful, skinny, perfect daughters who she knows she can’t be. And all those different, dissociated feelings about him are connected by the desperate, intense need to be cared about and wanted – the worst thing in the world would be for him to be ashamed of me. To be embarrassed to be with me. Being kept a secret for that reason would be horrendous. That is all linked to being valued for who I am and not for how my body can be used. I struggle hugely with understanding why anybody would care about me, when I feel so worthless and useless and dumb. I couldn’t tell you what good parts of me I give to him, because I can’t find any good in me at all. I know how useless and worthless I am but for him to feel like that about me too… so much so that he’s keeping me a secret from his beautiful, perfect wife and his beautiful, perfect daughters…. the shame and the need to hide myself away is so overwhelming. It made him feel like men from Before. It’s the first time I’ve really acutely felt the risk for me in having such a close relationship with a man – T raised the risk of him triggering me because of his gender very early on but I’ve never really felt it until now. A was the first man, EVER, who I have had a relationship with who hasn’t then tried to fuck me. Either by force or with consent, every other male relationship before A rotated around the use of my body. It’s been the most bizarre thing to navigate internally for me because I’ve literally never done it before. It’s been freeing and amazing – and weird and scary, too. For Little it has brought her such relief – she loves him SO much and it’s such a wonderful thing for her to feel that love and care without the awful payoff of the pain and hurt of abuse. He feels like a parent to her and it’s such a blissful feeling for her to have a safe, kind person in her life. Realising she was a secret made her panic – what if he isn’t as kind and as safe as she’s believed? Sass finds him hard – she knows she would be safer if she fucked him, because she holds the strongest belief that we are worthless unless we’re naked. She is very attracted to him because of this, in a way I’ve experienced before with men – that if she fancies A, when she’s used/fucked by him it won’t feel so bad. I once slept with a married man, much older than me and a hugely damaging person, but Sass was very attracted to him and it was only R’s intervention (and her total insistence that this man was dangerous and I was not to see him) that got me out of it. Her blushing, fluttery, giggly, flirty feelings (which adult me is absolutely mortified by) are her protection against him hurting her, because deep down I’m sure she believes ultimately the only reason he cares is because, eventually, she will become his toy too. Realising she was a secret triggered a really unsettling panic within Sass that she’d been right all along. For adult me it’s a purely selfish thing. He is so important to me, I value our relationship so much and he’s so important to my wellbeing. If his wife found out that he’s been seeing me and hadn’t told her, inevitably she would go mental and ban him from seeing me. Realising that he hadn’t told her filled me with a terrible fear that his promises of always weren’t actually as secure as I had held them to be. The panic that he would vanish from me and that I would lose him overwhelmed me yesterday. I still need the promises, I still need him. I also very much don’t want to be judged as being some ‘other woman’ when we absolutely are not doing anything wrong. I’ve been that person before and the feeling of being judged and hated is awful. I wouldn’t want to be the cause of any upset for his wife – I would hate myself, even knowing there isn’t anything wrong, if she was upset because of me. I’m less distressed this morning. It wasn’t anger yesterday, it was panic. Panic about losing him, hurting him. Panic about ruining everything. Panic about not being good enough for him, panic about being worthless. This morning I’m fuzzy headed and dissociative – I’m really struggling to stay present. I know we will fix this and be okay but right now my head is just so, so loud and my heart hurts. Ouch. The daft, lovely, painful, wonderful thing, though, is that he will soothe this pain. He’s still light and love, encouragement and comfort. Yesterday was so awful, so painful and so triggering but I know he didn’t mean to intentionally hurt me. I know (when I’m calmer) he is still a safe, wonderful human. Much like when Little was scared by the show, when she found him for safety and leant against him for stability, she will find him again. It doesn’t feel okay today – it’s painful and sore and raw and I feel very far away from him. But this too shall pass, we will find stability and we will be okay. X

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Is This Love?

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I drove to T in silence, which is unusual for me. Usually I have music playing to distract me from overthinking what I want out of the session, or to help me switch off from work. But this time I drove in silence, practising out loud what I wanted to say to her.

When I parked outside hers after an hour long drive, I was no more sure.

I had only been there less than 24 hours before. It felt surreal to be back so soon, almost like time had shifted. Even for us, two sessions in two days is a record. Even in all of our depths of therapy before, we’ve never needed this.

The night before, in between the two, I fell apart. Somewhat unusually, I sent a narrative of this to T. Usually I might send a message, or wait until the storm has cleared, but this time I had lost all boundaries. My breakdown, all the harming, all the panic, it’s all documented in hours worth of WhatsApp messages back and forth. She was there. She didn’t ignore them. She was there, bearing witness. And then she offered for me to see her the next day.

When I sat down, before I had even crossed my legs beneath me on her sofa, she asked me what I needed the outcome to be from this session. She was direct, blunt. I need a plan, I said.

And then I talked. I told her that I was so infuriated with spending so much money on therapy sessions for her to discuss her issues with A. Her issues, not my issues. I told her I was livid with her for causing A such distress. For making me referee between the two of them. I told her how it broke my heart to effectively be asked to choose between two people who I love so much. I told her that it angered me hugely that she didn’t trust me to make my own decisions. I told her how hurtful it was for her to be threatening to break my confidentiality over this, as if this was the biggest challenge we had faced – it almost makes all the trauma and dissociation and self harm and suicidal thoughts feel insignificant to her. I told her that I couldn’t see a way for us to move forward – that she was making me choose between the two of them and I didn’t want to choose. I told her that it was impossible for us to work on anything else whilst this was hanging over us, because I felt that she was waiting for A to change or leave, which I don’t want to happen. And if it didn’t happen then I felt that she was giving me no choice but to leave. I said that I felt we had become completely entrenched in the almost irrelevant details when what I needed her support in was the underlying problems. I have had these types of relationships my whole life, A is different in some ways but in others he is just another shape in my pattern that has had so many before. I told T that I felt she had targeted A as the demon, the monster, when actually that demon is ME.

Then T asked if she could speak. She was different, somehow. She was leaning forward, she was holding my eye contact with tenderness and not the thinly veiled anger I’d been seeing for weeks.

She said that she had never intended for a lot of what she said to have been taken so negatively. She said that many things I have repeated back to her, she never meant for them to be so dark and painful, but instead a lighter ‘shade’. She said that she didn’t necessarily want A to change, but that it was more about him understanding how we work. She said that she had really heard me yesterday and that she felt more secure now that A and I had had a full discussion about her concerns. She said that she felt that I was protected by knowing that someone had concerns – she said she felt she wouldn’t be looking after me properly if she didn’t share her worries with me. She said that she also really heard that I had consented to her emailing him when actually I didn’t really want that. She said she was shocked that I had consented because she wasn’t expecting me to – when I told her I did it because I could see how important it was to her and that it might help save us, she looked into my eyes and gave me the saddest smile. She told me that she now felt that, because I had heard her really clearly, she doesn’t need to contact A. She said that she might consider still emailing him with a sort of summary of how we work together but only after I’d read it and okayed it first.

Then we paused, and in the pause I found us both stood on the same level. Both on the same side. The feeling of no longer battling with her overwhelmed me and I began to cry. What are you feeling now? T said. Can you put some words to the emotions you’re feeling? I know you’re feeling them, they’re all over your face! I looked at her through tears and laughed. She was coming back to me.

I lost you, I said. You’ve been lost for months. You never really lost me, T said. I hear that it felt like you lost me, but you never really lost me. This is the work – sometimes you’re going to feel like you’ve lost me, because what were doing here is so deep and painful. I know that in some ways I will always be failing you because I cannot be your mother. I know that sometimes you will hate me and I will be nothing you to, worse than mud scraped off the floor. But you won’t lose me.

I was sobbing by this point and also excruciatingly present. For weeks I have remembered very little of therapy except the emotions, there has been a huge amount of dissociation I think. But for this, all parts were present. We all heard every word.

Eventually she said, what if we start finding each other again?

I had nothing, except to nod. I want nothing more in the world right now than to find her again. For us to both find each other again.

Your ankles look so sore, she said. I was bare footed because the scars were so sore but I had hoped my jeans were covering the mess. So many cuts, some steri stripped, most neatly lined up. One bloodied star, cut in punishment for upsetting A and disrupting his family walk the day before, a star as a twisted punishment, an offering up to no god in particular to offset the damage done to the man who holds starlight within him. I tugged down the bottom of my jeans and she sighed. You don’t need to hide them from me.

We agreed, then, on a plan. I am going to buy the DBT book she has had recommended to her and we are going to work through that together. We have a plan.

We had about 10 minutes to go. Somehow we switched into light talk about how my job was going, silliness about how loud her clock ticks etc. It felt okay to get ready to leave.

Just before I left she gave me the tightest, warmest hug. She will always hug me if I ask but this felt different. This was an apology, a reconnection and a giving of love all in one.

I got in the car and text A to tell him that I had fixed the problem. I started to drive home but the tears came along with total emotional exhaustion and I pulled off the motorway to be safe and to fall apart unseen. After a few texts back and forth, A rang me. Hearing his voice made all the exhaustion and overwhelm feel worse in a way, as if Little had been holding it in to only let it out with her safe person.

I had felt like the worst person in the world the day before. When I had texted him after my session I had hoped he was still in work – when he said that he wasn’t I was halfway through writing a text to say we could talk later when he rang. I should have hung up on him but the need for comfort from him was too strong and so I didn’t. I then upset him with what T had said and ruined everything. I felt like the worst person ever, like everything that I touch turns to rot because I am rot.

A was very reassuring. I love his voice, he’s got the most beautiful calming melody to the way he talks to me when I’m sad, it’s Little’s lullaby. He promised again that he is not leaving. He promised that he will carry on looking after me, always, for as long as I need.

He also said that he is happier the less he sees me, because the times when we have less contact are times when I’m happier and more settled and secure. He talked of his dream for me being a time when he hears much less from me because that will mean I am okay. And that’s parenting, he said. Being there, always, but also letting go. That is a concept so hard for me to understand – one where love doesn’t change, despite distance or time. The bits I long to hear are the “I promise I will never leave” bits, but actually what I heard last night was ‘parental’ care in a way that feels so new to me.

As I was driving home afterwards, “Is This Love?” by James Arthur was playing on my phone.

These lyrics really connected with me.

Is this love? Really love?
Is this love? Really love?
I need to know, need to know
‘Cause I’ve never been this close
Is this love, is this love?
Really love, really love?

And all these demons I’m letting go
‘Cause I can see what is beautiful

It finally feels like I’m coming home

They are helping me come home to myself, T and A. Their love is beyond beauty.

Now, if this was a fairytale, this is where I would be writing about how I’ve learned from this. How I’ve heard A’s promises and they’ve sunk deep into my soul. How I’ve grown from the rupture and repair process with T and how it has given me more security. But this isn’t a fairytale. Today has been a mess.

I woke up feeling frozen. The attachment anxiety voices in my head are so, so loud. I knew I was fine and the crisis of recent weeks had passed. I knew it was just a comedown from the heightened anxiety. I knew it would pass. But I still felt so raw and overexposed and an impossible mix of muted grey numbness and excruciatingly vibrant pain. I was wild and spinning and I trying to hold all of me together, to pull all the chaos inwards again. It felt impossible. I really needed a cuddle, to link fingers, to ground myself to stop the spinning wild chaos. But I didn’t want to ask A to meet up (even though I knew deep down that the only way to soothe Little today would be to let her physically connect to him). I am still holding a huge amount of guilt for dragging him into this drama with T and then for piling so much pressure on top of an already horrendous week for him.

At 1pm when I had tried to calm L for hours, I decided just to bloody ask him if I could come to him. The worst thst could happen would be that he said no, I reasoned.

Then he didn’t reply.

I initially reasoned his lack of response away fairly well. Busy with work etc. But all the fear about what I’ve put him through the last few weeks and especially this week with T, and all of those negative voices started whispering their awful thoughts… adult me trusts him and knows that he wouldn’t have just ignored me without good reason, but Little was hysterical.

By the time my husband got home from work, I was very dissociated and Little was inconsolable.

A texted late this evening. Battery problems. The relief that washed over me was unreal.

He’s mad with me, though. Frustrated. He’s promised me a million times that he won’t leave me. He’s been hugely present for me this week despite having a shitty week at work. He feels like I think he’s lying when he says he won’t leave.

And I don’t know what to say to help him understand because I don’t really understand it myself. Adult me knows he doesn’t lie to me. Adult me knows he wouldn’t ever have left me today. Adult me is now feeling guilty and awful for ever allowing the panic to set in. But it’s NOT an adult thing. This is all Little.

The emotions and fear, the sheer panic of being left is all Little. When it’s as bad as it is right now it comes with overwhelming body memories that come from somewhere I can’t place. I am writing this post right now with my husband breathing peacefully beside me. I’m warm, in our wonderfully cosy bed. I know that because adult me can connect to right here, right now. But that’s not what my body is actually feeling. She’s cold and damp. She’s dirty – she feels gritty and sticky. She hurts where her edges are pressed against concrete or walls. She’s overexposed and raw – it feels as if every nerve ending is being triggered all at once. She feels simultaneously restricted and yet overly free, like she is too small in the space around her so every fibre of her is bouncing and twisting out to get and make sense of it. She feels wild because she IS wild – all of her senses feel razor sharp. And all of this exposure and aloneness somehow translates for her into the insatiable, excruciating attachment ache.

I know A won’t lie to me. But I cannot make L see that. It is almost as if she is too damaged to believe anymore. She is trapped in her world of survival, fighting and loneliness. She is trapped and unbearably alone.

And maybe it’s my fault for asking A to soothe that need with words. Maybe I should have learned by now that that isn’t actually what she is asking for. I often ignore or override her needs, with a sense that they are embarrassing, inappropriate or impossible, but she doesn’t actually ask me for words. I translate those needs into a search for promises but maybe I’ve got it terribly wrong. When she needs, she needs sensory connection. She reaches for voices, music, heartbeats. She reaches for the safety of smells that remind her of safe people and that block out the smells of sex and stale wetness that her nose is filled with. She reaches for firm touch, she asks to have her fingers squeezed, to be held tightly into hugs. She reaches for someone else to ground her into the world, to stand lightly on her feet or press on her head. She reaches for someone else to create a barrier around her – to hide within someone else and let them shield her from the world, to sit enclosed in A’s arms, to wrap herself in his shirt or jumper and pull so tightly that she feels all the pieces come back together, all the wild bouncing and twisting stop. When I woke this morning, what she desperately wanted was to sit on A’s lap, find his heartbeat and stay there. Her other wish was to hide until his desk all day with his legs for company. When he sounded angry with me by text this evening, she needed to cling to him like a koala bear. She reaches for physical presence, an understanding of someone’s space in the world, a sense of them in a place that is real and tangible. I have translated ALL of these feelings into words – “please don’t leave” – but that’s not actually what she wanted. It’s impossible to give her many of those physical, sensory seeking desires – some of them are hugely embarrassing and I would never dream of voicing them out loud to T or A, for fear of a) them thinking I’m ridiculous and b) worry that they will rapidly retreat from the dirty little fucktoy of a child who is asking for a cuddle – but perhaps I’m then stupid to be expecting her to be soothed by words that she has never asked for.

Maybe I’m frustrating A and T, maybe the reason I feel like Little never listens, maybe the reason I live with her constant, endless searching, her attachment ache which never heals, is because I’m trying to give her words when she isn’t asking for them. Maybe I’ve got so good at translating these awful body memories into neat little talking therapy sessions, or texts, or those repetitive phrases that ‘Little’ asks over and over – please don’t leave, please stay, I’m sorry im bad. I’ve got good at translating but bad at actually listening to what she truly feels.

If I’m asking wrong, then it’s no wonder that those providing the answers are getting frustrated.

I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to support Little to acknowledge and accept this love – because this is love. She is so blessed to have found two people, two psuedo-parents who are here, who are loving her. A is understandably frustrated to be pouring so much love (even when it’s hard and painful for him to do so) into a bucket that currently has no bottom because she can’t seem to grasp it. It all just slips straight through her fingers. I am terrified of losing him, of losing all the light he constantly gives. I am desperate to get to a time when we are meeting up for fun things, for happy things, and not for crises. I am desperate to make him proud of me. I am so, so desperate to give him reasons to keep loving me instead of reasons to hate me, reasons to leave me. I am desperate to make him happy and not sad, frustrated, angry. But I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to rewrite the patterns written onto Little’s soul.

All I can do is pray that he stands by me while I continue to try to find ways to fix it.

I am trying. I am trying SO hard. I have done years of therapy. I’ve read countless books, articles, blogs and websites. I’ve fought through the very worst 4 months of therapy with T in a desperate attempt not to lose the relationship that I think holds the key to my cure. Today I tried just about every coping strategy I have ever been told to do in an attempt to keep calm – and no, it wasn’t hugely successful, but that isn’t because I’m not trying. I am trying my heart out, every single day. Because living with this, living with the pain of the attachment ache and also the pain of hurting the people I love so so much because of who I am, because of the monsters inside me… It’s hell.

I often dream of the people who hurt me coming to hurt A and T. In the dreams, They come in their masks and Their darkness and They destroy the people I love. But actually, They aren’t the monsters to be afraid of. Their power to destroy is embedded within me. They made me rotten and damaged and desperate and that’s why everything I touch turns to rot. I’m starting to see that I’m the damage, the bad guy, the monster in the darkness. Not Them. I’m the rot.

I’m trying to fix it. As in those lyrics – this is love. I’m letting go of the demons (slowly, painfully…). I’ve found Little a home inside A and T, people who love us despite and in spite of everything. She has two people who are willing to be her secure base and model it so thst we can begin to build that within ourselves for our own self soothing etc. This is love. I just need them to hold on while I carry on trying. I just need them to hold on. And tonight, I’m terrified that the demons inside me are too strong and have pushed A away.

So, in the darkness, my wish – please hold on to me, for me. I will try so hard to make you proud. I am sorry for the pain I cause. Please hold on.

X

A Recipe for a Disastrous Day.

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Get up.

Meet a friend for coffee.

Check email. An email from T – a positive email, about options for DBT books we could maybe consider using in our work together. Feel warmed by it. She listened last week.

Drive to T.

Sit down with T. Let her speak first. Let her thank you for sending her A’s email address.

Listen to her say she needs time to think about what to write. Bite your tongue when you want to scream at her that she’s had all week AND this is at her request, doesn’t she KNOW what she wants to write?

Feel the conversation turning sour. Begin to argue. Shout at her that you don’t know what she wants. Tell her that you are hating this. Tell her that she is missing the point. Shout at her that A isn’t the problem, WE are the problem and get even angrier when she ignores you and returns to piling more blame onto A.

Start to cry when she tells you she has a professional right to right him. She has a professional right to report him. Shout at her that there is nothing to report him for. Seethe silently when she backtracks and says it’s her supervisor and not her. Take deep breaths and gouge holes into your palms with your fingernails as she says that maybe she won’t email after all, now she knows we have spoken. Listen to her flip between “now you two have talked about my concerns I don’t need to email him” and back to “I will definitely email him when I’ve had time to think” within the space of one breath. Wonder how she can be both.

Sit silently. Sob silently. Wipe away angry tears with the sleeve you are using to cover the damage you are doing to your palms.

Listen to her say she isn’t trying to be your mum. Shout at her that she is picking and choosing when to ‘parent’. Shout at her that she is forcing control here. Silently wonder if there is any way back from this.

Ignore her when she asks what you would say to her if she was your mum having this conversation with you. Think it is such a pointless therapist phrase that is totally unhelpful.

Read her a blog comment from a friend, after the last session. Cry as you read it out to her.

Feel total frustration when she pretty much ignores it.

Listen to her as she tells you she is not trying to infantalise you… except that she is.

Leave in anger. Do not scream at her when she overly cheerfully points out that this session is the first one where she has really seen your anger.

Get into the car. Fall apart.

Speak to A. Make A angry and sad and frustrated. Interrupt and ruin his family walk.

Hate yourself for being too selfish to leave him be. Hate yourself for needing him even though you’re hurting him. Hate yourself for ever having dragged such a gentle person into this mess. Hate yourself for causing him pain.

Wonder if he wishes he had never met you.

Drive to Tesco. Buy blades and steri strips. Briefly smile at the checkout at how much you’ve “grown” – there was a time where you wouldn’t have thought of the solution when buying the problem.

Drive home. Pull over to have a text meltdown frenzy with T. Read her responses with total confusion and uncertainty.

Feel total confusion that she seems so much more herself outside of sessions than in them at the moment.

Get home. Lock the door, undress from your trousers and socks. Find skin not recently damaged.

Cut. Cut for everything you’ve done wrong. Cut for everyone you’ve hurt today. Cut for always breaking relationships in the end. Cut for being too much. Cut for spoiling everything. Cut for being rot.

Cut until there is so much blood from different wounds that they cannot all be stemmed.

Sit still, bleeding. Find the version of peace that comes from the blood, freed from you.

Repeat until the harming starts to hurt. Repeat until you’ve let enough out.

Clean, steri strip, consider hospital, decide against it.

Cover up again. Hope that your husband will not notice. Know that he will and when he does it will just add more reasons for guilt. More reason to cut.

Rant to him. Rant to your best friend. Find so much love in them.

Read text from T. Agree to see her tomorrow.

Worry that A hasn’t replied to your text. Feel horror at the thought that you may actually have broken him because of T.

Worry about how on earth you will ever find peace with T again. Solid ground feels impossible after months at sea.

Try to sleep. Realise that sleep is impossible. Stare into the darkness.

X

Fixed Point.

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Fixed Point.

T’s concerns about my relationship with A has made me think more deeply recently about how him, and how we connect. T has used so many hurtful words to describe it, him and me… damaging, dangerous, harmful, manipulative, selfish, restrictive… it’s been really hard to hear her talk so negatively about it. It’s hard to hear such horrible words attacking something that is so special to me, something and somebody that I hold so very close to my heart. It has made me feel intensely protective of him. When I spoke to R this week, at the end of our session I was crying with frustration at how messed up this is between A and T and I asked her what I should do. Stop protecting him, she said. He’s a grown up, he is capable of looking after himself. Let him do that. You do not need to keep him safe from T. I was crying so didn’t speak for a few seconds, when she spoke again – You say you aren’t good at looking after yourself, but you are trying so so hard to look after him. If only you could protect yourself in the same way. She told me that the best thing I could do would be to let A persuade me of his capability to look after himself and also his belief in ‘us’. So that’s what I tried to do when I saw him.

One of T’s great concerns is that I will “break him”. I think that those are my words which she has adopted, rather than her own choice of description. I think that this concern of hers actually comes from her want to keep me safe and protected (to be blunt I don’t think she cares about keeping him safe, I think she would feel it might teach him a lesson…). I think she is worried about the impact on me if he was to “break” – she knows how important he is to me and I try to remember that her concern is because she doesn’t want me to be hurt.

That’s not what it feels like, though. It feels like she is as convinced that I’m dangerous as I am.

When I started therapy, it took me months to feel brave enough to talk about what happened to me when I was little. I was convinced that by telling, there would be horrendous consequences. There were probably hundreds of therapy sessions where I would share a little more detail, and then go home and panic about the potential consequences of my disclosure. There were dozens of times when I would harm myself in a blood stained deal with my demons – if I harm myself, please don’t harm them. Alongside those trauma fears came the fears of being too much… of pushing somebody away because I’m too much of everything – too broken, too damaged, too dirty, too wild… Throughout all of these sessions, T has stood steadfast and resolute in her promise that nobody would hurt her and that she would not leave me.

The book that she has read me more than any other is ‘No Matter What’ by Debi Gliori – the entire basis of that book is about not leaving even when someone is difficult, challenging or unloveable. She has read me that book, with Small fox behaving badly and Large fox promising to love him no matter what so many times I know the words by heart, and she must have sent me the words “no matter what” hundreds of times in response to my panicked fears that I’ve been too much, too bad, too annoying. Whilst I wouldn’t say I have ever believed her totally, I had become so much more secure in my belief that nothing I do would be so awful that she would leave me.

Until this. She is still promising me that she won’t leave me… but she has a huge fear that A will. When I ask her why, she references his lack of professional support (she has supervision and he does not), his lack of training (she has years of therapeutic training, he has little to no training in how to ‘manage’ me), and finally her belief that he gives too much – more than she feels he can sustain – whereas what she gives is measured and controlled, kept within her limits.

Because of this, because of her perception of his failings in this way, she thinks I will break him. And that terrifies me because surely that risk is there with ANYBODY who isn’t a trained counsellor, with a supervisor to help ‘manage me’. Surely that is a risk in any relationship I have – friends, family, work colleagues – I could break any of them, in the same way that she thinks he will break me. I feel like she would disagree with this feeling, but I don’t care – I feel like she feels I am too dangerous to be loved by anybody.

T and I briefly talked in our session about me being manipulative – she said that she feels I have manipulated A into caring about me. It stung at the time but since our session the sting has deepened and swollen into a horrible pain. There is no doubt that I can be extremely manipulative – that attachment ache can make me very one-track minded, it can make me truly horrible. Insecure attachment is HORRIBLY manipulative. But to say that I have manipulated him is to suggest that I’ve had some control over it, like I have chosen to. I may be manipulative but that’s the insecure attachment in me. Attachment seeking behaviours are OF COURSE manipulative because they stem from the biological need to stay alive.

In a very simplified nutshell, attachment is all about being manipulative. Securely attached people were babies who cried so mum came and they were soothed. Those people aren’t manipulative as adults because they believe that their needs will be met. People with an avoidant attachment style were babies who were harmed when they cried – those babies learn not to cry because it is safer to keep away from everyone. Then you have anxiously attached people, who were babies who cried and had a very mixed response from their care givers. Sometimes they came, sometimes they didn’t, and what that baby learns is to cry louder and louder until they can no longer be ignored. The vast majority of my attachment patterns are of the ‘anxious’ type – my mum was hugely inconsistent in her responses, she would only look after me when I was impossible to ignore, and what that taught me, what that carved into my soul, the very core make up of who I am, is to cry louder because otherwise nobody is going to come. Mum often says I was a hugely attention seeking child, but a professional who once did some training for me said we should actually be using the term attention needing, because it more accurately reflects that set of behaviour – they are behaviours driven by a need. The behaviours are manipulative, but it feels hugely insulting to suggest that I am manipulative, as if I am choosing to be that way. I’m not. I wish I wasn’t. I would give ANYTHING to be able to self soothe, I would take any magic potion or perform any magic ritual if it stopped me from feeling the absolute agony that is the attachment ache which drives those attachment seeking behaviours. They may be unpleasant for the people they are directed towards, but that is NOTHING compared to the agony of feeling them.

I asked A yesterday (about 800 times…) if he felt I manipulated him. He replied (about 800 times…) that he doesn’t. We talked about the difficulties that come because of the strength of need behind the attachment stuff – and he mentioned those “not now” moments that can happen, when I need him and it’s really not a good time. I am resoundingly crap at coping with “not now” moments, because I instantly believe I have done something wrong. They trigger within me all those fears that somebody isn’t replying because I’m bad, because I’ve messed up, because I’ve pushed them away, because they’re leaving me etc. One main symptom of insecure attachment is the hypervigilance to any slight changes in a person’s relationships – I can feel hugely disrupted and distressed by even slight changes in tone of voice, change in response style, a late response when normally they’re quick, no response at a time that they normally reply etc. What I lack is the ability to see a change in tone as having any other possible causes e.g. that they’re just busy, their phone is broken, they’ve finished work late, they’re poorly etc. I find it immensely difficult not to immediately jump to the conclusion that I must have done something wrong. A and I have so many conversations which are about reassuring this hyperviligant part…

…and they are helping, but it is still really hard not to react to those hyperviligant alarm bells when they set off.

There is progress here. A is very honest with me, and very human. His promise to me is recorded on my phone, a button on my home screen that I press over and over when I am insecure and need to hear his voice or his words. He is very open about what he is doing which helps me to form a picture of him as busy instead of ignoring me. I half-joked that when we first met, he had a millisecond to respond before my attachment worries kicked in – I’m too much, he hates me, he’s leaving me, he’s dead, I’ve hurt him… – and now, he gets about 5 minutes before they kick in. Come on, you’ve got to give me more than five minutes! he responded in mock-protest… But those 5 minutes are progress. They’re 5 minutes where I now believe in the strength of us and the solidity in our relationship and the truth in the promises he makes. They’re 5 minutes that I didn’t have before – they’re 5 minutes of peace.

He reflected on those ‘not now’ moments, and how they are mostly because he never wants to feel that he has brushed me off, but rather that he has given me all he can to help. It helped to hear that his lack of immediate response is formed by his want to be more to me, and not less. It made me wonder whether it helps to be told not now.

It reminded me of recently, when he was on holiday and I had just met with my new GP. I was in complete meltdown after sharing more with her than I wanted, and mostly just the total overwhelm that comes with change. A was on holiday, but knew that I was meeting with her.

Being told “can’t” isn’t nice to hear, but the “right now” helped. The “later” helped. The “I promise” helped. It wasn’t perfect, because Little needed him NOW and she was panicked etc… But it helped enough to start the car, to drive home, and to get through to when he would ring. And I knew he would ring. He doesn’t lie to me and he keeps his promises. It wasn’t perfect – when he rang I was sobbing and hyperventilating after a day of holding all that emotion around change alone, and it took a long time to calm down – but it was infinitely better than if he had just ignored me until he was able to speak. “Not now” is peculiarly powerful because it includes a future, when silence or being ignored does not. My mind creates absolutes and certainties in the silence – they are never coming back, this is the end, I have ruined everything – whereas “not now” comes with more positivity and future.

I asked A if he would be brave and tell me “not now, later, I promise” when he feels it. My immediate need feels like a key pressure that would help me “break him”, but I hope it will help him to reduce his guilt about a slow response (which must be ‘breaking’) and it would DEFINITELY help me. There will obviously be times when it’s impossible to tell me “not now” because he’s not physically got his phone or for some other reason he can’t reply… and those times I will have to learn to wait, without panicking, whilst believing in the strength of us. But we’ve already gained ourselves 5 minutes. It’s only five minutes, but it is so much more than I had when I met him. It’s growing, I’m growing.

T’s other main concern is that he isn’t encouraging me to develop my own resilience and independence. She feels that he is too available, which means that I am going to him when I should be looking within myself more.

There is so much wrapped up into this.

I don’t believe that (to some extent) lack of independence is wrong. I refuse to believe that we shouldn’t seek comfort and love from those who love us. I was a hugely independent child, because I had no choice but to be. I have so many memories of times when I saved myself when somebody should have been saving me. I should have felt able to reach out for help, to have somebody else tend to my wounds, feed me, clean me, comfort me. It was not okay that I was really independent then and I refuse to accept that I should be seeking total independence now.

That’s not to say that I want to be totally dependent, either. I don’t. But children (who were cared for appropriately) don’t become independent overnight. They grow into it. Babies need an adult constantly. Toddlers begin to take some responsibilities but they are few. Children grow again, then teenagers into adulthood and all along it’s a process of changing. It’s not a line they cross when suddenly they have to be totally self sufficient. Most of my friends still seek comfort and support from their parents, some more than others. It feels immensely unfair to be saying that I shouldn’t be seeking comfort from A because I should be independent, when a huge number of other twenty-somethings around me are still seeking comfort from their parents. I don’t have parents I can do that with, but does that mean I shouldn’t seek other relationships? I think no.

True independence and resilience cannot be forced. They have to be grown. I feel like T thinks that if she can force A to leave me, if she can control the support he gives so that she feels it will make me be independent… that’s not true independence. You aren’t independent and resilient if you have no other options.

It’s a growth process, and right now I’m closer to baby than adult. But I’m growing. I am so much more capable now than I was when I met A, let alone when I met T. I have other relationships that are strong and support me as well. I might not be a perfect adult yet but I am growing. I am growing even when I thought there was no hope. And I am growing in part because of knowing that A is there if I need him.

That’s the dependency paradox I have written about before. That people are more able to be independent, to explore, to take risks etc, if they know that they have that secure base.

In my need to defend A recently, I read back through our texts. What I really noticed in them was that although this is a lot of connection seeking from me, he doesn’t always leap in and save me. There are strings of texts when I am in a complete panic and he is very direct, very reassuring, very containing – but other times, more of the time, he’s more… cheerleading. He isn’t saving me, but he is encouraging and motivating and supportive so that I have the secure base to sort myself out.

There are definitely times when I throw my emotional, flashbacking, panicking self at him and ask him to save me. I’m NOT saying I don’t. But I do think that he is being unfairly labelled as not encouraging or allowing me to grow and develop my own resilience, when I think he is doing the complete opposite. He is the secure base that makes the risk of growing and being resilient possible. And I know that if I do the work I need to on resilience and independence, he will support me in that. He will adapt his cheerleading to remind me of strategies that I’m practising. He will support me in it wholeheartedly. He has no interest in me staying limpet-like forever. He wants me to grow too.

He described himself as trying to be a “fixed point” for me. He knows he doesn’t have any therapeutic training, he isn’t trying to be a therapist, he knows he can’t make everything okay, and he isn’t promising to. But he can be a fixed point for me to orbit around, move away from, come back towards, check in with… He can be the fixed point under all the movement and chaos that my life can be. I might not be developing my independence or resilience as well as I should, but that is therapy work. And maybe I need to work harder in therapy, but that isn’t A’s role. If I am to become more resilient and independent then it will be because of his support and not in spite of it. I refuse to believe that he can be damaging me by loving me.

What underpins all of this are fundamentals of human relationships. Relationships, strong ones, are built on communication, openness, honesty, and love. Nobody gets a relationship right all the time, but relationships grow and thrive if you can be honest with each other, if you can talk about what is working and what isn’t without fear of it being ‘the end’. A and I might not be getting everything right in T’s eyes. But we are honest with each other, and we talk. If something didn’t feel right for us then we are brave enough to share that and I hope that we would care enough about each other to change if we could. We’re both human, and flawed because of it. But I know he cares enough about me to try to get things right. I know he would never, ever intentionally hurt me. I know that he never lies to me and he keeps his promises. I know that he’s my fixed point. And I know that I couldn’t love him more – for all he gives, for all he is, and for all he helps me to be.

Xx

100 minutes.

Standard

You look really nervous.

I am. My heart is going a million miles a minute.

What can we do to slow it down?

Are you leaving me?

I’m not leaving you. I’m not sure if you’re leaving me, though.

——

T and I met today for the first time since before my honeymoon – since that awful session where the rug was pulled from underneath me.

I had asked if we could have a double session because I knew that I could not face leaving her again and not feeling that we were further forward. The uncertainty and the pain caused by our last session was almost unbearable to sit with. She agreed, so that gave us 100 minutes.

I didn’t know what I wanted from the session. I tried so many times to think of what I wanted to ask for, but I couldn’t. For every time I thought I wanted to beg her to continue, there was a time when I wanted to tell her I agreed that we were through. Eventually, I decided that I needed to record all those thoughts in some way because otherwise I would waste the session rambling.

I drew a tree (I have blacked out names). With some help from a friend, I mapped out ‘root’ causes and challenges underpinning this huge rupture, and then branches to show possible ways forward. These branches then split again and again into all the thoughts that my mind was spinning to when I thought about that option. It felt like such a huge relief to have it down on paper and no longer in my head.

T asked me almost immediately what I had brought in my journal to show her. I told her it was a flow chart of options. She asked me to show her and I suddenly didn’t want to! Little took over and hid for a few minutes, but eventually we showed it. I didn’t want to talk about it so T read out all the different branches and roots. Hearing them out loud was excruciating, hearing her say “clean break” etc was awful.

We talked about how we had both struggled to know what was the right way forward. I talked about my constant whirring of options inside my head. She told me how she had thought hard about what was right – she even said she had considered letting me end the relationship with great anger, because maybe I needed to leave her in a way that I cannot leave my mum. It helped to hear that she had been wrestling with what to do, too – I’ve felt like she’s been disconnected and disinterested recently so it helped to see that she isn’t.

It felt like we were properly talking, though, and not just arguing like we had been previously.

I told her how awful our last session had been, how it had caused such pain. She said she was sorry, that she hadn’t wanted it to be so painful. I told her that I had really loved the contact whilst we were both away, and that I had felt ‘her’ more in the last few weeks than I had for months. She said that she didn’t feel she had been any different with me, that she has always offered me the same care and love, but that I stopped feeling like it was enough. And that conversation brought us to the two main themes of the rest of the session – first, the attachment ache and my need for a mother. Second, my relationship with A. But they are so intertwined with each other it is impossible for me to write about them separately.

I said again, as I did in my last post, that I don’t feel that the attachment stuff is changing and that overwhelms me. I think a large part of this rupture has been caused by T not being present at my wedding. This is frankly ridiculous because T was very present emotionally for my wedding – she was loving and kind in the run up, she bought me a hugely thoughtful gift and she rang on the day… she was a LOT more present than A was – A was away with his family, we didn’t speak or even text on the day etc….. so it is hard to understand why I hold so much anger and pain about her not being there, and yet his absence caused no turmoil at all, really.

I think it is because I am pretty sure that I have spent the last 6 years of therapy trying to turn T into my mother and hoping that if she could just love me enough, the attachment ache would stop. And then the wedding happened and she wasn’t there, but my real mother was. T but she wasn’t there, and her absence brought with it a heavy understanding that there will be lots of times when she cannot be my mum. Everything I do, everything I am, is built upon this cesspit of hurt, this vast cauldron of loss, grief, anger and despair, with insecure attachment at its core. My mum wasn’t enough, and now there is nothing to replace that. When T read out loud the worm on my drawing that says “I want a mum”, I sobbed into the sleeve of my jumper, squeaking and gulping but trying to silence myself, desperately trying to suck back inside those horrendous, painful, embarrassing emotions. They’re still so raw, they’re still so painful. The swirling pit of grief is always sitting just under the surface of everything I do.

Usually when I talk about nothing changing, T tries to be positive and talk about what has changed. Today she didn’t. Today she said that I will always have some of those core thoughts – she carefully reminded me that the damage done when I was little was immense (“people who go through a quarter of what you did will have years of therapy work to do”) and no amount of therapy could erase it completely. She described it as a trap door – sometimes I will be walking around fine, and sometimes I will fall into it. She said that over time I might fall in less often, but inevitably I will fall in. The work is in having strategies, ladders, to help myself climb out once I’ve fallen in. This helped to hear, after what has felt like months of her not really connecting and trying to brush off my distress with “it will get better” platitudes.

She brought up that we mostly don’t talk about my abuse history any more, and that maybe we need to come back to that again. I said that in lots of ways, the attachment stuff is so much more painful than all the awful abuse things. How crazy is that? Raped and tortured and yet the emotional neglect has had a much more long term effect. T reminded me that years ago, when we were in the thick of hashing through memories and flashbacks, she told me that the damaged attachment stuff would outlast the trauma pain. I disagreed at the time but she was right.

T said that she wasn’t expecting me to make a choice right now about how we wanted to move forward, but I knew already that I didn’t want to quit with her. Something about how she was in this session… she was calmer, more herself. We were more us. We talked briefly about options for moving forward – we discussed whether we could focus our sessions around somatic experiencing, or DBT skills etc.. T was supportive of this and that felt good.

Then we strayed into a conversation about A. It feels like T and I are locked into an almost constant battle about my relationship with him. She began by saying she knows that I don’t want to discuss it… but I did, in that moment. We weren’t shouting, we weren’t fighting, it felt like we were able to hear more clearly what we had to say. So, we talked.

There are lots of threads to T’s concerns about my relationship with A, but most of them are underpinned by a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ debate – T feels that I got closer to A, which in turn damaged my relationship with T. I feel that my relationship with T was damaged (possibly by the wedding and the attachment/mum stuff included in that?), and that instability in our relationship made me feel unsettled, which in turn meant that I then developed my relationship with A. In a way, it doesn’t actually MATTER who is right – whether the chicken or the egg came first – because this is where we are. But I think it does matter in that T sees A as the monster, whereas I see him as… I don’t have words. I see him as light.

She has many opinions that I don’t agree with (although, she was clearer this time in explaining her views). She feels that A is “damaging” me by being too available to me. She feels that I am not managing any problems by myself any more because I ‘run’ to him and he fixes them. She feels that I’m not developing my own resilience by having someone who fixes me all the time.

She feels that I compare the two of them, and that she is always coming off worse in my comparisons. She feels that the things that he does aren’t professional, aren’t ‘right’, and she feels that I am trying to make her be him, as if his love is better than the love she can offer. She feels that she is “honouring” me by only giving what she feels is right – but she feels that I don’t feel that what she gives is enough any more. She disagrees with so many of the gorgeous little things that he does, and the big things. She brought up that he was in contact right throughout halloween, like she feels it was a bad thing but my god NO, his support on that awful day is one of my memories of him that I hold closest to my heart. It’s mostly the little things, though, the way he shares little bits of his life with me, the contact we have, the texts…. but she feels that I compare them and that she loses, every time.

She worries that he cannot maintain his care for me. She worries that he isn’t well supported and that he will walk away from me, leave me, and I would be beyond devastated. This worry is driven by her concern for me, I can see that it comes from a place of love. But when she said that she thinks I will ‘break’ him… god it hurt. There have been a few times when A hasn’t been able to hold my trauma stuff in the way that T would want him to – he deleted the texts rather than read them, he shared the impact that they had on him with me… T doesn’t do this. She takes in everything and anything I share, all the rot and the damage, and she doesn’t react. She would suggest emotions that I might be feeling – “it sounds like that was scary for you”, “you look really sad” – but she doesn’t comment on how she feels, ever. Not ever. I think that this worry is there because she doesn’t want him to hurt me… which I should feel is supportive, but instead it just feels like she thinks I am so dangerous and damaged and rotten that I will break him. That I would break anybody who cares about me.

She ended by telling me that she still wanted to be able to talk to him – that even though I had repeatedly ‘refused’ contact between them, she was considering breaking my confidentiality to ring him, without my consent. I reminded her that he isn’t a professional to me any more, but she raised her voice to tell me that he had been my doctor, that he’s the parent in this relationship and that I’m the child and because of that she still wants to talk to him. I said that she still didn’t have my consent, which she wasn’t very impressed with. I did say that I would talk to him about it when I saw him – which was yesterday.

Quite a lot came up for me with A yesterday, so I will write a separate post about that. But what is relevant here is that A and I talked about T contacting him. I don’t feel comfortable with them having a phone conversation I am not present for – and A is still contained by his professional boundaries and obviously my confidentiality with him… so he promised me that a phone call would be ultimately pointless because he could only listen, not enter into a conversation with her. As much as I don’t want her to talk to him at all, if T and I are going to move forward then she isn’t going to give in on talking to him. So, because of that, A and I agreed that we would offer T the opportunity to email him.

I sent her this email this morning:

Dear T, 

I have spent time since we met considering your request to communicate with A. 

Whilst I think I’ve been clear that I feel very anxious about you contacting him and I also am quite unsure of its purpose, I also heard really clearly how important it is to you that you can communicate with him, if we are to continue working together. 

A and I met yesterday evening and our discussion helped to relieve some of my anxieties around this. He and I are both happy for you to contact him by email. I would want to be copied in to all correspondence between you and I hope that this is okay for you.

I have copied A into this email, so you have his email address. I hope that this helps. 

Me xx 

So, now we wait.

I don’t know what is going to happen next. Part of me thinks that she will refuse to email him, that she had her heart set on ringing him – if so, this is going to end badly because I don’t want to be excluded from a conversation about me. Part of me thinks she is going to lecture him, call him unprofessional and tell him off, and I have huge anxieties that she will force him to leave me. But A reassured me time and again yesterday that he will not leave me, no matter what she says to him. I am desperately holding on to that.

I feel like this drama between T and A has overshadowed what, for me, was the most important part of our session. I felt like I connected with the true, underlying problem that has run through everything since the wedding…. that never-ending grief, that attachment ache, that need for a mother that just DOESN’T END. I felt like T and I tapped into it, briefly… we talked about how, before the wedding, I had been going to sessions to be loved by her, because I was treading water, just to get through the wedding. Then the wedding came and went… and I kept trying to be loved by her, but I also wanted to stop treading water and to start making more progress… and the love stopped feeling enough. T stopped feeling enough. This week, she talked more about loving and caring me, she talked more about our connection and how she values it… but also that she cannot be my mum. That she cannot pretend to be my mum. She reminded me how she feels she is always honest with me – how she is honest, even when it hurts… and that she wants to honour me by being honest, by not pretending to be my mum, even though she knows that is what I want, more than anything.

So, now I am waiting for the drama between T and A to resolve itself. But really, what I need resolution for, what I want more than anything, is for the longing to end. For the ‘never enough’ feelings to end. And I’m seeing her next week, we aren’t over, we’ve got sessions booked in for weeks now…. but 100 minutes, 100 hours, 100 years… I’m not sure that anything will be enough to truly seal up that trap door, to tape it shut so that I never fall down into that cesspit of ache and tears and need again.

xx

No Change.

Standard

Ranting post. Sorry.

I wrote this post over three years ago.

I’ve re-read it today and NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I still feel that I don’t belong, I still feel like unless I’m perfect, I can’t be loved. I still have no idea which way I should be going in therapy. I am still desperate for that parental love that is ALWAYS out of reach for me. Reading this post gave me the heaviest, hardest, vibrating ball of sheer panic at the pit of my stomach that I am no further forward now than I was three years ago. What am I doing in therapy? What if I am so broken and messed up that I don’t EVER move forward? What if I can’t be fixed?

What I’ve written above isn’t strictly true. When I wrote that letter, I was in a very different place in lots of ways. I had very few friends, I hadn’t even met my now husband, I hadn’t met A yet, I had a really poor relationship with my parents… all of that has changed. It isn’t that nothing at all has changed…

But those attachment worries, those patterns of thoughts, the repetitive nature of them and the way they poke and prod my innermost fears and beliefs… they’re still there.

6 years of therapy. 6 FUCKING YEARS.

I could write pretty much the exact same letter now. I could write an extremely similar letter to A’s kids. I would only need to change a few pronouns and irrelevant details… the feelings and the emotions are STILL THE SAME. They are maybe a little less strong with him, perhaps because he is much more openly parental with me or perhaps because Little craves a mum much more than a dad, but they’re still underpinning my upset when I see photos of him cuddling his girls or he is just so clearly their dad. Those emotions are the same.

What if this never gets better. Holy shit. What if this is ALWAYS like this?

And so the feeling that I will have to ultimately kill myself if this doesn’t get better returns.

Last night I had a horrid flashbacky moment in one of the places we were staying. Something about the place reminded me of something from Before and I really struggled to keep control and to stay adult. I did manage it, just, but it was painful. I emailed T very late (nearly midnight) and she replied first thing this morning. Her reply was immensely loving and I thought… here we are. We are clawing back to “us”. We are going to be okay.

But when I wrote the letter three years ago, she was love personified in so many ways. Cuddles and reading stories and hair stroking perfection. She was blankets and late night emails and playing games on her carpet. And it obviously hasn’t cured me of the constant longing and need. It hasn’t stopped me wanting her in ways I cannot have, it hasn’t stopped me wishing constantly for her to become someone she cannot be. All it has done is push me towards further reasons why I feel like she does not love me enough, and if she could just love me enough then I would be fixed, cured, healed… and I wouldn’t long for attachment in the way that only insecurely attached people will be able to understand. Maybe some of the things that I want might help and there are definitely changes or adjustments to our relationship that are worth discussing (and that’s assuming that when I get back from my holiday she still wants to see me at all and isn’t dumping me altogether), but I am sure that many of them wouldn’t. Maybe I should make a list, what would she be doing if she was loving me so much that she could put my broken pieces back together? What would enough love look like? She hasn’t told me where she is on holiday this time, and I wish I knew… but if I did know, would I be feeling any more connected to her? Probably not. Reading back to what I had written has just given me total panic that three years on and that raw, pulsing, agonising attachment ache is still there, just as much as it ever was.

T would read this and tell me that we do waves and spirals. Ups and downs, coming back round again…. that sometimes we come back to exactly where we were, but sometimes we meet it in a higher place on a spiral. She would tell me that she thinks I have changed since she’s known me, hugely. So would A, he is always singing in praise for the changes he has seen. T would tell me to stop using such sweeping statements and broad words like “nothing”, “everything” and “never”.

I am so scared. I worry that maybe she has realised that I am unfixable and that is why she is pulling everything away, why she is backing away from me. Maybe she has recently looked back at our 6 years of work and realised that we are having the same conversations and she has just had enough. Maybe she has decided, after all of those years of promising me that things will change, that actually, for me, they won’t. They can’t. I am worried that I have broken her, exhausted her. I am worried that for most of our work she has had the spirit and the drive to keep working towards a time when I’m in less emotional pain….. and now she’s lost that and that’s what I am feeling as her pulling away from me. Maybe she just doesn’t care anymore, maybe she has had enough and can’t care about me anymore. Maybe she just doesn’t want to, maybe she’s given up. Maybe for her, this is the end. She can’t, or even worse, won’t, do anymore. She’s going, she’s gone, and that’s why I’ve felt such distance.

Like doing a puzzle. Getting a long way through but then realising that there definitely isn’t one or two of the pieces you need – You know you need a corner or an edge and you’ve searched the box and even checked the floor or in your lap but no, they’re not there and you will not be able to complete it. Maybe she knows that there is no possibility of finishing or completing or succeeding with me. Maybe she’s given up. Maybe she’s given up on me. Maybe the reason I feel like she’s walking away is because she is. She’s walking away from a lost cause.

X

The Crevasse

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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:

Hey,

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:

https://understandingmeandher.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/some-things-are-forever/

https://understandingmeandher.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/gratitude/

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.

X

Waterfalls and Orbits (Happy Three Years, A)

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(Previous posts here: One Year, Two Years)

Three years ago today, I met A (GP) for the first time. I’ve written this before, but I was a sucidal, drowning mess and he was calm, kind and gentle. He reminded me yesterday that in our second ever appointment, he briefly scared me because he was cross – it took me a few moments to realise that he was cross with the mental health team who were meant to be supporting me, and not me. That strength and support from him was just the start.

Last year’s post was a very positive one, and re-reading it hurt because I am not in a place to be quite so positive this year. I would love to write this post and fill it up with huge successes, overcoming of trauma and great strides forward. I would love to have reached three years and to be boasting about all the great changes that have happened… I want so badly for A to feel proud of me and to feel I am doing well, that all the support he puts in is bearing fruit that will reassure him that I am worth caring about and sticking with. I wrote last year that I wanted this year to be filled with less chaos and more calm… I can’t honestly say I’ve achieved that. I am writing this blog post at gone 3am after an extremely traumatic flashback/dissociation. I’m too scared to sleep. It’s not the first time recently. That’s not less chaos, but more….

But…he is still here. Despite it all, despite the text that I hope won’t have woken him at midnight, despite the constant attachment seeking, despite the sharing of deep, dark traumas that he struggles to hear but I need to share, despite the late evenings on a Friday because I can’t bring myself to be okay enough to leave….. Despite no longer being a patient, despite having seemingly gone backwards recently, despite dragging him into the twisted world of insecure attachment and it’s relentless and insatiable need… Despite EVERYTHING, he is still here.

Screenshot_20170728-015312

I am relentless, but he is relentless in his reassurance and promises. My attachment seeking is utterly endless, but so is his patience with me. The trauma memories are fierce and strong, but he is one of my fiercest and strongest protectors in response to them. I am selfish and volatile but his generosity is wider than anything. My fingers are angry, anxious and harming, but his fingers catch mine and are containing, soothing and gentle. I am broken and fragile right now, but he is a fixer and a builder, gentle and persistent and I rebuild and grow because of him. When I am unsure, he is certainty and clarity. When I am wild, he is calm. When I am lost and floating, he is anchored and grounding. He is the counterbalance to every possible weight that knocks me off centre. He is security, safety and calm. He is real, and whole, and loving, and he is the kindest person I will probably ever know.

He is also excitement, celebration and joy. He is whole text conversations written in emojis, he is the childish fun in an “I was brave today” dinosaur sticker. He threw love and kindest wishes around me like confetti when I got married. He is the positive reinforcement I need to get off my arse, brush my hair and get in the bloody car when work feels too much sometimes. He is my loudest cheerleader when I need to be brave, and he is giving and open with his praise when I manage it. He is the voicemail message I have saved to my home screen to be replayed over and over, because the words are important but the rise and fall of his voice calms my heart. He is the overwhelming love in his voice when he talks about his wife and their girls. He is his constant reassurance that he enjoys seeing me, that I’m not a chore or a punishment. He is the sharing of favourite albums and the excitement about the circus. He is the easy acceptance, lack of judgement and gift of transitional objects to keep us connected through a break. He is the grown adult man, cradling a stuffed elephant like a baby to fill it with love before giving it to me to hold and keep through our holiday separation. (He is also the grown man taking a toy bunny rabbit with him on his holiday to soothe Little). He is the safety, love and warmth in his cuddle. Nothing explains the strength of his love, safety and kindness like the overwhelming feeling Little has to want to curl up within him, to sit on his lap against his chest, curl his fingers inside hers and sleep. She holds him apart from any other man – after everything she experienced, she holds total faith that he is safe, that he is protection and that he will not harm her or let her be harmed. He has risen above all the torture and damage caused by others. She finds her home in him.

Yesterday, I was quizzing him on the differences between securely and insecurely attached people. What do you do when you’re not okay? I asked. Do you rely on yourself, or do you reach out? Do you have that secure base? His wife, he said. “She’s my sun, the one I orbit around.”

You’re my sun, I replied, and he reminded me that actually, I’m building a constellation of stars rather than just one sun. Yes, him, but others, too – all providing the core stability to my often wild and shaky orbit. At the moment, my orbit is SO shaky that I am constantly connection checking to prove to myself that he is still there. And he is, every time. I am really struggling to hold that firmly in between checking, but he is learning along with me what helps to soothe that. His voicemail of promises and commitments is saved to my phone – the other night I woke panicked and couldn’t soothe so eventually I put headphones in and fell asleep to his voice on repeat – and I am writing this blog post cuddled up with ‘his’ elephant. Neither of us are experts in what will help me heal – but his willingness to try and his commitment to staying by me are providing the grounding strength and stability to the light in the middle of my orbit.

A few weeks ago he sent me the lyrics to a song off his favourite album. The words have stuck with me since then:

“She’ll carry on through it all,
She’s a waterfall.”

Those words don’t hold within them any promises of greatness or guarantees of success. They don’t make any comment on how easy or challenging the water’s path will be. There is no judgement on how much effort will be needed. Within those words is only the calm and persistent certainty of relentlessness, perseverance and the belief in a future, in forever. I could have written a gushing blog post about all the ways A makes my life brighter and better, easier and lighter. I could forget to mention any challenges and it would be mostly truthful, but it definitely wouldn’t be fair. Not to me, fighting through heartbreak and pain every day at the moment, and not to him, supporting me through. It wouldn’t be fair. It is fair, though, and true, to describe him as the strength, power, energy, direction and conviction in my waterfall. Some days I am purposeful and healthy and that waterfall flows just fine. Some days I’m broken and damaged, numb to the world, and he is the energetic kick up the bum to keep that water moving. Sometimes I’m wild and swirling, directionless and uncontrollable, and on those days he is the focus and the calm to keep that water on track.

Those lyrics hold no promise of ease or comfort, and in a way that is the most soothing, healing thing I could hear at the moment – no false promises when life is ridiculously hard, I’m wild and spiralling, but A is keeping my orbit spinning and my waterfall moving. For both of our sakes, I wish for days with smooth flowing waters and gently circling orbits… and I feel hopeful that they will come. It might take hard work, time, and a lot of patience, but I am growing in confidence that we will get there. A has faith in that, and I’m taking my faith from him!

I read a huge amount of poetry and often send A screenshots of ones that give words to my feelings I could never describe so eloquently or beautifully. In the last three years, though, I have never found another poem which adequately expresses my gratitude for A. Because of this, I am posting this one again, as I have done the last two anniversaries. It is everything in such a small way.

A, we love you. Thank you for your relentlessness, courage and ability to always be the balance to my imbalance. Thank you for being a ‘forever’ part to the anchoring centre to my orbit, and the strength that keeps my waterfall carrying on through it all. With all the love I can give,

Me xxx

Freefalling. 

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— trigger warning for detail of sexual abuse, graphic dreams (not real) —

Last week, I officially switched my GP. So A is now no longer my GP. 

With hindsight, I shouldn’t have switched when I felt so poorly. I did it because I had backed myself into a corner – I had said that I would that week, so I felt that I had to. 

A had been totally wonderful when I was super poorly. My husband had to drive me to him to pick up the prescriptions I needed – I remember very little of the appointment, except for crying and crying and crying whilst he talked gently to me about medication etc. 

As we drove home, my husband said to me that A was immensely kind to me. Kind and calm and gentle. I couldn’t agree more. 

A few days later I registered with new GP. And then I started to freefall. 

Mostly, I’ve felt the freefall as I’ve slept. I have had the most horrendous, hideous, torturous dreams about A. Multiple dreams a night, every night since I switched. There are so many that I couldn’t write about them all, but they all seem to slot into three categories of hellish nightmare. 

*trigger*

1. He dies. His death is always really graphic, messy and loud, and always my fault. Once They cut him into pieces in front of me. In another They stamped him to a pulp in front of me. I always wake up feeling absolute panic that he is dead and it is absolutely my fault. I always wake up replaying his screaming over and over. 

2. He makes me have sex with him. In these dreams, he starts out nice and then morphs into one of Them. In one dream he put his arms around me to give me a cuddle, he smelt nice like he normally does, then he suddenly smelt toxic and poisonous and evil so I yanked away from his cuddle and he had one of Their masks on. In another dream he ripped his face off to reveal who he really was underneath. In all of these dreams, he then rapes me whilst I sob and howl and beg for him to stop. I wake up sobbing, feeling disgusting, and with the throbbing pain that body memories bring between my legs. 

3. I make him have sex with me. In these dreams, it feels like Sass is in control, and she knows that she can control him by sleeping with him. It’s the only way she knows to stop him leaving. In one dream, he came to pick up his daughters from school and Sass was there, and she didn’t want him to leave. She begged and cried but he still kept trying to leave so then she used her body. He didn’t want to, in these dreams he’s resistant and I have a real sense of a big age gap… But Sass gets her way. He stays. He cried afterwards, but he stayed. In my dreams this week she has fucked him over and over. Each time he doesn’t want to to begin with but then she sells herself and he gives in. He feels guilt afterwards but Sass doesn’t care about his guilt. From these dreams, I wake up feeling like I’ve violated him. I wake up feeling like I want to kill myself for having such disgusting thoughts. 

*end trigger* 

Every night so far I have had at least one. On a few nights I have had multiple dreams, each one building on the horror of the one before. I am terrified to fall asleep (I am writing this blog post at gone 11pm to prevent myself from sleeping). I feel like I shouldn’t be near him because I am disgusting and he should keep far away from me. 

Added to these hideous dreams has been an added obsessional thought process of jealousy of his daughters. For context, A has totally gorgeous girls who he clearly adores. They’re the kind of girls my mother wanted me to be – beautiful, bright, intelligent young women who will become doctors or something equally wonderful and they’re just the kind of girls that my mum points out to me and compares me to – my entire school career was punctuated with “Why can’t you be more…. like …. is?” and to be honest, she still does it to me as an adult. Most of the time I’ve learned to live with my mother’s insecurities and I understand that nobody is ever as perfect as they seem… but that’s the context to his girls. They’re totally perfect. I’ve always known this (there are photos in his office) and, much like with T’s kids, I swing between being totally fine with them and wanting to physically destroy myself because the jealousy is so overwhelming and immense. 

A spent the weekend on a family trip away. I forced myself into a promise that I would not contact him and taint his perfect weekend. That forceful insistence from my adult part sent Little into a whirlwind of attachment panic. I was still really, really poorly and that never helps, it always makes the attachment panic worse. On Saturday evening A posted a photo on Facebook and I could have clawed my eyes out with the jealousy it brought up. Simultaneous to the jealousy was all the normal, appropriate emotions – like being so happy for him that he was having a good time – but poor Little, her meltdown was excruciating. Jealousy is a tremendously unpleasant emotion. Most of Sunday passed with Little dying with jealousy, a need to be loved and a desperation to be cared about in the way he clearly does with his girls, Sass having an almighty meltdown because the whole world was stupid and she was stupid for ever wanting him to care about us because we are nothing, we are stupid and useless and disgusting and look at his girls and look at us and how could we ever think he would want to be anywhere near us (and so on…), and then my adult self just desperately trying to BE NORMAL!!!!!! and keep all the crazy away from A, who didn’t deserve for me to ruin his weekend. 

We didn’t make it through the weekend. Sunday afternoon we had a conversation in half texts and apologies. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  (I’m sorry for tainting your weekend, I’m sorry I can’t cope, I’m sorry I’m jealous, I’m sorry I’m so useless/disgusting etc). 

All of this, the dreams and the jealousy, I am sure will have been triggered off by the switch in GP. I knew that transitions are always difficult but I hadn’t expected this. 

When I told T about the different dreams she told me it was clear where the anxieties are. She said that I’m totally torn between pushing him away, forcing him to leave (killing him off in my dreams), begging him to stay and wanting him to care about me even now I’m not a patient (making him sleep with me), and struggling with a boundary transition with a man (him making me sleep with him). The way T said it was like it was totally normal and to be expected……. It definitely does NOT feel normal. I feel completely crazy. 

This is the damage that insecure attachment does. 

Part of me wants to push him as far away from me as possible – this relationship is too risky, I care too much, he probably doesn’t care at all, he’s going to leave, it will be much less painful if I make him leave than if he walks away from me. 

Part of me (almost all of me…) is desperately crying out for him to stay, to not leave me. But this part knows that I have nothing to offer. I’m not pretty or kind or smart or funny, I’m a nothing. All I am is a fuck toy, something to be used. This part knows, from many experiences previously, that she can make any man stay with her if she tries hard enough. If she sells herself well enough. This part is the part who remembers being passed around between men, being used, just being holes, not being a person. This part is convinced that she has no other value. This part is holding all the anxiety that, now I’m no longer a patient, he is going to leave me. 

And finally, part of me is totally terrified of the change of boundary. T said to me in our session that men in defined, clarified positions in my life don’t hurt me (sexually, anyway…) – my experience so far is that male family members, male teachers etc are safe. It is unknown men, masked men with no connection to me, men who I couldn’t name and have no description for…. They’re the danger. I had never thought of this before, but she is right. T feels that the moment, in this freefall place after the transition, A is an “other”. He’s no longer defined by a role, which makes him feel dangerous and unsafe to whichever part of me is trying to raise the alarm in my sleep. The fact that I know him and I know he would never, ever hurt me intentionally and he would never cross any sexual boundaries with me, that knowledge isn’t enough for this protector part. In fact, I’m not even sure she can hear me. 

All of this, all of this pain and confusion, all of the disgust and hatred of myself… It makes me want to lock myself away to protect A from me. I love him and I don’t want my dirty disgusting thoughts, emotions and dreams to damage him. I don’t want to break him, I don’t want him to run away from the rot. I don’t want him to leave me. All of this has built into the most overwhelming attachment panic that cannot be soothed. 

I tried to cancel my catch up with him this week but he told me he would be there. He wanted me to be there, he hoped I would. That I can’t break him. But yesterday, in a moment of terror shortly after waking up from a whole night of horrendous dreams, I texted them to him (mostly to give them to an adult, to get an adult to take the terror and the disgust away from me) and he couldn’t read them. He deleted them. It terrifies me that the rot that lives inside me will force him to break, to leave me. 

I don’t want to break him. I love him and I don’t want to be something disgusting that he has to carry round even though he’d much rather not. I want to see him on Friday, I’m freefalling and I am desperate for him to catch me, to squeeze my fingers or give me a cuddle and show me that we have transitioned but it is not the end of us. 

But I’m so dirty, disgusting, rotten. I don’t want to taint him. I know that he wouldn’t have ever felt like I would taint him before… But now, with these dreams and emotions, with their intensity… I just don’t know. 

I know that seeing him will help but I cannot picture how to walk into his room and sit down next to him, when I have had such disgraceful, damaged, disgusting thoughts and dreams. 

I keep trying to remind myself that in a few weeks I will have met with new GP and spent time with A and everything will settle down. I know that attachment panics don’t last forever. I know they’re triggered by instability and change. But it is absolutely fucking agonising whilst I’m in it. 

It is so late and I need to sleep. I’ve typed this whilst lying in bed, T’s blanket wrapped around me. It’s not her I want to be clinging to, though. I have no tangible piece of A to cling to, and I am terrified to fall asleep and add more disgust onto what I have already done. 

The part that doesn’t want him to leave us would give everything tonight to fall asleep, my fingers holding his for safety and love. He makes me feel safe when I am with him and I cannot find that feeling at all right now. 

Xx

Triangles and Gaps. 

Standard

Things are feeling a bit more settled between T and I. Over the last few weeks, since the huge rupture, we’ve started our new routine – one face to face session, two email days. No contact in between – unless I request a half or full telephone session (which is obviously dependent on T being available). 

It has been working well. It has given me much more structure and routine, the increase in planned contact has helped, and the set times has helped me to really plan what I want to discuss and what I want her to reply about. It has helped me focus my emails, so they are less written by Little and more written by me. So, it was working well.

 And then I got sick. 

By the time I saw her on Tuesday for our session I had no voice at all. My tonsils were so big and sore I couldn’t swallow without audibly cringing. I was in my PJs because getting dressed required too much energy. I was definitely too ill for therapy…. but she is the closest thing I’ve got to an emotionally supportive mother and my god, I needed a mum. 

Because I could barely speak, we did a lot of sitting together in silence, fingers linked. I did quite a lot of dozing on her. She did a lot of quiet comforting, soft stroking and soothing noises. 

We did talk a little about how hard I find it when she keeps her boundaries. This was a follow on conversation from our previous session, really. Because I could barely speak, she asked if she could explain two different triangles to me. That way, she could speak and I could listen! 

The first triangle was the “drama triangle”. She explained how we all fit within this triangle at times, and how everyone naturally bounces between the different roles on the triangle during a normal day. Where this triangle becomes problematic, she said, is when someone gets stuck in one of the roles. 

One person being stuck in a role then encourages/insists that the other person in the relationship fulfils one of the other roles. T feels that being stuck in any of these roles is emotionally difficult for anybody. She feels that keeping her boundaries with me stops her from being stuck in a role.

She said that the reason she worries about me and A is that she worries that I play ‘victim’ and he plays ‘rescuer’. She said firstly, she feels they can play off each other – the more someone rescues, the more the other person feels like a victim, and the more someone acts like a victim, the more the rescuer feels the desire to rescue – but secondly, that if the rescuer reaches overwhelm, they can switch to a different role. Either they become victim-like themselves, or they become a persecuter. She explained that her concern for me and A is that he cannot sustain rescuing me forever, and she worries about the damage and upset to me when he (in her eyes, inevitably) switches to persecutor or victim. 

She then drew me the triangle that she tries to keep within – both with me, other clients and in her personal life. It looked like this: 

So, the victim becomes vulnerable – less passive, more open? The rescuer becomes a responder – more boundaried, more faith in the vulnerable person to have their own strength. The persecutor becomes potent – full of their own strength and certainty but without malice. T explained to me how the roles are somewhat similar but also fundamentally different – and, she feels, much less damaging to everyone in the triangle. 

She talked about how inevitably all of us slip into the drama triangle occasionally. She reminded me that there have been times when she’s rescued me. There have also been times when she’s been the persecutor for me. I can see really clearly times that I fit into different roles from the drama triangle. I could also see how my mum lives and breathes the drama triangle roles – she does the victim and the persecutor so well. 

I was too ill to talk about this much more, but it was helpful to get more of an understanding beneath her anxiety about A and me. It comes from her deep care and want for me to be alright, to not be hurt. That feels very loving. 

I saw her again yesterday. In between our sessions, I continued to feel really poorly and as I got more and more emotional and exhausted, the more and more I needed her. She emailed as agreed on Thursday, and I woke up Friday morning in a complete panic that now there would be no contact until Monday’s email. That felt unbearable, like the tiny baby put down to scream and scream inside it’s cot. 

I emailed her that night: 

It’s the wrong thing to do to email this to you, because you won’t reply and then I will be heartbroken and I will wish I never sent it because then I wouldn’t have felt the rejection. 

But I need so badly to connect, I’m tired and so ill and I know it’s asking for rescuing but I wish I could come and curl up with you. 

A is away camping with his girls from tonight. I feel like my heart is tearing itself apart into tiny broken fragments. My own self imposed ban on contact (even though I know A would tell me I can still get in touch, I don’t
want to be a dark stain on such a gorgeous weekend for him) feels horrendous. I feel so alone. 

I’m on the sofa writing to you, cuddled up in your blanket. I know you’re still there and I know you care about me. I do know… they just feel like bubbles skimming on the water, sliding away from me every time I try to grab them to get a more solid sense
of you. The more I try, the further they wobble and skitter away. 

This is the first time that I’ve really wanted to beg you to break our new contact agreement. I want to beg you to love me and to be the virtual hand hold and hair stroke I need while I feel so poorly and alone. I won’t beg, I know you will do what you
feel is right and my begging just hurts me. I’m sorry I’ve not even managed two full weeks without wanting to break down the boundaries I wanted us to put up. I’m sorry xxxxx 

And, of course, she didn’t reply. I knew she wouldn’t, but I had wished she would. 

Saturday passed with much sleeping on the sofa and Little’s desperation to connect to her. Eventually, L texted her, begging to connect. T replied, offering to speak, which L was thrilled about. They spoke, and as always, it felt better for the half hour they were on the phone…. But as soon as she’d gone it felt bad again. 

And it felt really bad for me as an adult. I was so frustrated that I had ended up paying for a half hour session that I didn’t need. Little could have coped – there was no major crisis, no drama, she was just missing T and feeling poorly. 

I emailed T about this: 

We shouldn’t have spoken yesterday. I was so cross with myself for talking to you afterwards – full of angry thoughts that I definitely could have waited, I could have got through to Monday…. but before ringing you I couldn’t, it isn’t a choice when
it’s that bad…. but as soon as the need is met and L calms down I am filled with an angry frustration that I could have managed and I chose not to. It wasn’t a choice for L and she overrides me. I don’t know how to override her. She just gets louder and
louder and louder until I can’t hear or see or move except to contact you. I’m useless and weak and pathetic and I don’t know how to teach myself to wait when L CANNOT wait. She’s not doing it to be naughty, the world is genuinely ending for her when it’s
like that and hearing your voice is the only coping mechanism she has. 

She replied (in her agreed time) to reassure me.

It sounds so incredibly painful. I can really hear the different parts of you – one who wants to look after yourself and be the adult and the other part that sabotages you and wants to stop any iota of care being given to you. 

I really get that L wanted contact then. And we had agreed that you could let me know by text if you wanted me to contact you. And that is what she did on Saturday. She contacted me to have a virtual hand hold. I hope that it helped. 

And yes the adult [me] could have coped until today to receive an email from me and then to tomorrow to see me. 
She ended her email by saying we could talk in our session about whether our new arrangement was working. When we were face to face my frustration came out. 

No matter what I do I lose. If we have really firm boundaries with no contact out of session then I cannot cope. If we have loose boundaries I feel like I’m too much for her. If we have a middle ground, like now, L can’t cope. I can’t win.

What Little actually needs is a parent. She didn’t need a phone session – She needed a check in. She needed a quick text, a simple button push. But I can’t schedule that, I can’t pay T to be around for that ‘quick check in’ because I never know when they’re going to be. I can’t schedule Little’s emotional meltdowns to be in time with our sessions…. But I also cannot ask nor expect T to be fully present and able to respond or check in at any possible moment. And if I did, adult me wouldn’t cope!
T asked me if there was a compromise between the parts. There’s not. I can’t win, no matter what. 

It feels agonising that I was in such desperate longing pain for her on Friday and she didn’t reply. It’s agonising that she can leave me in distress like that. But then it is also deeply frustrating to my adult when I cannot survive a weekend when NOTHING IS ACTUALLY WRONG without reaching out to her. No matter what I do, I lose. 

There aren’t any answers that helped to hear. T reminded me that by not responding she is encouraging my adult part to grow a little more to be able to parent Little. I just don’t believe that is possible… so it’s hard to take comfort in that. We recapped briefly the importance of developing my distress tolerance, that I need to reassure Little that it’s possible to wait, to sit with uncomfortable (but not ultimately that awful) feelings. 

I got really frustrated with L in session and very dissociative. Sass was definitely in control, stroppy and argumentative. It was time to go and T knew I wasn’t present… She kept asking me what I needed, and I tried to leave but she stopped me. What does Little need? she kept saying….. She needs to pull herself together, replied Sass. T firmly corrected Sass and came towards us for a cuddle, but Sass repeated herself – she needs to pull herself together – and stormed out. 

So now we are into another gap. No email response until Friday. T talked about Little learning and maybe she will. But I’m not honestly sure… and until she does, the gaps are agonising for her. Which makes them very painful and frustrating for me. 

Grrr. 

xx