The importance of acceptance and grief? (Input gratefully received!)

I have a sense of something that seems very important but I can’t quite figure it out. I imagine it might be a more slippery, blurred felt sense of a thing than a solid, distinct cognitive understanding. But just in case anyone else can make sense of it or already worked on this… I’m gonna post my ponderings…

I’ve been struggling with these critical thoughts that tell me I’m gonna damage my kids just because I’m here. Every little thing I do, I imagine how I might fuck then up. I imagine them taking these things to therapy in twenty years time. Struggling with their self esteem. Having insecure attachment patterns. Wishing they’d had a different childhood. Cutting me out their lives. I imagine them recalling their mum being distant or needing space or leaving for a few hours every week (for therapy). I tie myself in knots worrying about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. How I should change. What I should do differently.

I know both of my parents behaved in abusive and neglectful ways through my life. I am working hard to not do anything that could be neglectful or abusive. I can be certain I have never called my kids names. I have never deliberately shamed them. I have never hit my children. I have never told my children sexually inappropriate things. I have never put them in dangerous situations. I have never let anyone hurt my children. I have never blamed my children for things that weren’t their fault. So, already they have a different life to the one I lived. I can already see my kids are more joyful, energetic, confident and alive and present than I was at their age. Despite this I often fear I am worse than my mum. Because I worry so much about hurting my kids, I spend a lot of time unintentionally distancing myself from them to protect them. I dissociate in their company. I find myself depersonalised. I watch my family as if I am walking through a re-enactment museum. Viewing a happy family from the outside. Not a part of it.

Despite knowing I am not deliberately hurting my kids, I still have a phobia that I am fucking them up. A fear so powerful that it feels COMPLETELY REAL AND TRUE. Whyyyy????

Does it have something to do with the fact that, on a physical and emotional level, there is a very powerful felt sense that my childhood ‘wasn’t that bad’? I haven’t cried or grieved anything that happened in my childhood. So… is it that until I fully acknowledge and grieve the severity of the abuse and neglect I experienced, I won’t be able to see the reality of the current situation and how I am as a mother and what my kids experience? Is it that I will constantly think my childhood and my kids childhood are the same thing… ‘not that bad’? Right now, what I’m telling myself repeatedly is that what I went through as a child wasn’t that bad. On top of that, another repeated story is that anything bad that happened through my childhood was my fault, therefore I’m the toxic and poisonous one and I will damage my kids in the same way that I ruined things when I was a kid.

I can’t seem to separate the two. My childhood v my kids childhood. And I’ve been thinking about the Internal Family Systems model (especially after watching a therapy session with Alanis Morissette and Richard Schwartz on the Embodiment Conference where she explores her child parts). I’ve been thinking about my exiled child parts. Maybe one or some of them are running this part of my issues. The fear that I’m hurting my kids. Maybe a child part in me doesn’t know I grew up… doesn’t know I’m not still back there… maybe part of me thinks I need to protect my kids like I protected my brother. I really don’t know. But it feels like a connection is there somewhere I just can’t quite grasp it. Somethings about accepting my childhood in order to see the reality of life currently.

So, this is kind of all over the place… but I just really want to understand where the connection is between my childhood and my motherhood…. and why this is so alive for me now when really it belongs in the past. Mark said to me recently, ‘you can’t change the past but you can change your relationship with it. At time’s your feelings come through, emotional flashbacks, memories… and you grip them and it’s a bit like getting rope burn. I think over time you can let go of the rope a bit more. It doesn’t mean that there is no rope or that it wasn’t there, it means that you don’t need to grip it so tightly.’ But I wonder if I need to really grip it hard, scream and cry out in pain, study the right twists and sharp edges of that rope… with razors in each bound knot… tend to the burns, share them and allow them to be dressed and healed… before finally letting go?

How can I get to a place where I can physically feel the reality of the situation I currently live in, where there is no fear and anxiety that I’m damaging my kids?

Maintaining a deep connection through remote therapy.

I recently asked this on my Instagram page and would love to continue the conversation here…

‘I’m looking for a bit of input… what ways do you maintain a sense of connection while working with your therapist remotely..? I know there are some amazingly creative therapists and people in therapy out there… how do you enhance your therapeutic relationship while doing video/phone sessions? I know people from all different parts of the world are at various stages of physical distancing – for me personally, I haven’t sat in a room with a therapist since Feb 29th and won’t probably get the opportunity to for at least 6 months I imagine. I’d love to hear the ideas you guys have come up with on how to stay connected with your therapists or clients while working in this strange way. What do you do during sessions. What about between sessions? Anything new been introduced through the lockdown to help with this physical disconnect? Please comment or DM with your experiences, ideas or suggestions!’

One major take away from doing this little bit of research and opening up the conversation was a resounding sense that almost everyone has found it hard on some level to feel their usual deep sense of connection with their therapist while doing remote therapy… at least for part of the time while working through the lockdown (which has obviously been longer for some people than others depending on where they are in the world or their therapists particular circumstances and/or health conditions).

One positive is that a lot of people have found they’ve been braver and more able to disclose and bring their adult part to their phone and video sessions than in person sessions. There is an element of being less self-conscious not being physically there for some people.

Most people have had conversations with their therapists to find ways to maintain the connection while working physically apart. It is something that both clients and therapists have struggled with and have had to be quite creative to work around and in some cases, bend and move boundaries with agreement on both sides for the time they’re working remotely.

Anyone got any suggestions or comments they’d like to add to the conversation? What are you doing or what did you do in order to help you feel connected to your therapist through the pandemic? Or what have you heard about… or do you have any ideas to add?

The psyche has a logic of it’s own

In my previous therapy sessions, there were so many words, so much talking. The talking was purposeful and meaningful and often led to important realisations, to tentatively feeling emotions and exploring early wounds and tunnels through time to very deep, very painful parts of my childhood. It was the only way I knew how to do therapy. To plan, to research, to write and talk and theorise and read. I’m aware I’ve circling around this topic a number of times, talking about it over and over again… I think the repetition is there because I can’t quite believe the shift I’m experiencing inside. From someone who thinks and analyses and worries and spends almost all of her time numb, to someone who feels and experiences and trusts. I’ve not fully made the transition from one to the other but I can feel myself moving.

I haven’t sat in a room with a therapist since the last time I sat with Anna on Saturday 29th of February. That’s over 32 weeks of zoom therapy… with the biggest loss of my life thrown into the mix. There were times when I literally thought I would rather die than live through it. This year has been the absolute worst year of my adult life. I guess one of the ways I got through it was to throw myself into therapy without holding anything back.

My sessions with Mark move at a far slower pace and are more gentle than I’m used to. Far less content, far more connection and depth. I think the speed and aggression of my past sessions was fuelled by my desperate need to feel like I was doing something, working on my wounding, working my way out of the pit of generational trauma. I had to work hard at it every second of every day lest I fall blind to my own abusive behaviours and suddenly become my mother. Anna desperately tried to encourage me to slow down. But I was so driven by my need to not stand still. I had to keep moving. Added to that, there was something so agonisingly painful about our deep connection and my enormous fear of losing her that I could never push past the walls of resistance and truly let her know me, too scared to let her love in for fear that I would lose her. Too frightened that the waves of grief from my lost childhood would drown me. It was only when that fear was realised, when she did actually leave me, when the waves did come and the flood did drown me… that I was able to see that the defended and fearful and mistrusting shell I had been hiding behind was the thing that drowned. The grief destroyed all of that and what I was left with was the raw feelings. The feelings I had spent a lifetime numbing. They were all preserved behind the shell.

I told Mark recently how foolish it feels to have let the walls of resistance and defence down so early on in our work together when I don’t really know him. We’ve only met ten times and even then I’ve not met him face to face. I haven’t eased him in gently! Though he knows very little about my life, there’s been a charged energy between us and the work of the therapeutic relationship has been alive from day one. Mark offered a reframe, that perhaps all of the work I did with Anna has led me to this place where I no longer need layer upon layer of walls to stand between me and the other person. That perhaps it shows progress that I am able to so quickly make connections with him. And that maybe I am able to trust my judgement more now, that I can sense when someone can be trusted with my whole self. During a particularly harsh moment of self-criticism, where I told him I wouldn’t be surprised if he regretted agreeing to work with me. Mark told me that he feels very relaxed and comfortable with me. That he is enjoying getting to know me and is really glad we met. I found it really hard to take this in and we explored what it felt like in my body to hear his words. The he feels relaxed with me. The places that tighten and the nausea that grows in my belly. Later on when I explored my beliefs that he must feel bewildered by my messy, incoherent ramblings he told me that he experiences me as being very self-aware and able to speak from different parts of myself with clarity… he said I make sense.

With Paul, Anna and Linda, there was always an agenda. I can clearly see that this illusionary control was driven by anxiety, or rather my desperate need to take the heat out of the debilitating anxiety. I would arrive with a list or at least a topic, sometimes a script for how I wanted the session to go. I could be rigid and unbending in my desire to force the sessions down a particular road. With Mark, it feels like we turn up and just see where it goes. Both holding a belief that it will go wherever it needs. Sometimes we focus on just one notion, thought or feeling… maybe a sensation… and we explore the space around it and spaces inside me that it touches. Recently he said it feels like ‘the person and all of their parts unfold gradually and organically over time, at their own pace… and that’s far more meaningful and makes much more sense than taking a history or writing a timeline or reading from a script… so I’m glad and very moved actually, given what you’ve told me about all the ways you’ve worked in therapy before, that you are here now, working with me in this very organic way, allowing your body to tell the story.’

I told Mark that there is a very young part inside me who attached to him immediately, the first time we spoke in fact. We spoke about the self-shaming, self-loathing parts that humiliate those young energies for their enthusiastic longings and the way they want to leap into his arms with seeming reckless abandon. The critical voices telling them how foolish and idiotic they are for falling so quickly for Mark when really they’re just setting themselves up for disappointment and abandonment. I told Mark that I could feel a pull from the youngest energies to show him around the place we’re holidaying at the moment, to show him the beautiful view. He said that makes perfect sense and he’d be happy to see but something stopped me following through. There is a strong desire to connect and a stronger desire to hide the need.

I told him the young parts had a very powerful fear associated with him going on holiday next week for a fortnight but the protective parts had slammed the door and weren’t letting the fear be shared. Six words going over and over in my mind that I couldn’t let out my mouth. Mark said that although he really would like to hear from my young parts, he was listening very deeply to the parts of me that ‘so beautifully swoop in to protect’ by closing doors and building walls. He offered a compromise. He suggested the fears be there but remain unspoken, suspended in the space between us, ‘and maybe we could talk around them and look at how it feels to have the fears there, without being put into words.’ That felt safer and seemed to settle my pounding heart.

We explored the delicate threads of connection forming between us and Mark asked me how the young parts felt about their feelings of attachment to him. Not the inner critic or protective parts or even the adult… how do the child parts feel about the attachment? Immediately the words came to my mind and just as soon as I knew the answer, another door was slammed between us. He chuckled in an affectionate way and noted that that happens a lot with me. Eventually, imagining the child part to be sitting in the chair beside me, I was able to tell him, ‘she says it feels amazing and exciting but then also scary because of this thing she wants to say to you about your holiday but can’t.’ He told me that he feels a connection with that young part too and that it feels amazing for him as well. He said, ‘I will make space here for all of your parts to be seen and heard and felt, but your young energies… that young part, I want her to know I’m very keen to hear what she wants to say. There was a distinct lack of emotional holding and connection when you were young and I want you to know that I am here, I’m listening, I’m paying attention.’

Eventually it felt safe to say the six words out loud, ‘What if you forget about me? Two weeks is a very long time… and we have only been working together for a very short time… and what if you forget about me? Maybe you will deliberately forget about me.’ There’s something about the way Mark makes these empathic noises that reaches the very core of the pain. He made a noise and said it sounds like a very deep and painful wound, to imagine that he might deliberately forget about me. That maybe if I pop into his mind he would deliberately push me out. I told him I hadn’t even considered that I might pop into his mind. I meant more that when he returns from his holiday he would just not get back in touch for another session. I said, ‘I find it really hard to imagine that I exist in the minds of others.’

We teased this idea out and as we peeled the layers back we found a tight ball of something so hard to put into words that initially all I could do was motion it with my hands, like fists against my chest. And we held it together and we breathed into it as my heart pounded and he told me that his did too. And then came the word ‘burden’. And then the word ‘useful’. And the word ‘purposeful’. And then eventually some more words until finally I had the outline of a sense that I believe I will only be kept in someone’s life if I am of use to them. If I can’t find a purpose in their life then that must mean I will be left behind. That if I’m not providing something then I will be burdening them. I alleviate these concerns within the therapeutic setting by paying for the time and energy of the therapist… but I can’t pay to keep him with me through his holidays… and if I enter his thoughts… I’m there without balance, how can I unburden Mark of the energy and time he has spent with me in his mind, however fleeting, when I can’t pay him for it? I can’t pay him for the time he’s spent thinking about me. It was complicated and illogical. I told him it made no sense, that the rational side of my self was offline. He said, ‘the psyche has a logic of it’s own, and it’s not for us to question… our role is just to listen and to believe. For some very important historical reason, you believe yourself to be a burden, relieved only by being of service to others and if you can’t find a way to provide for them then there is a very real fear they will abandon you… perhaps one of our goals here is for you to learn to be more ornamental.’ I burst out laughing at that and so did he initially. It made me feel hugely uncomfortable though I didn’t realise it straight away. Instead I asked him what the time was. I cracked a joke. I attempted to change the subject. And he gently brought me back each time to probe in to what I felt about his use of the term ‘ornamental’. Eventually I said, ‘I don’t want to be ornamental, useless, disposable, whimsical, lazy… shallow… empty. I want to be useful and worth keeping… I want to be valued for my depth and for there to be meaning and…’ Mark interrupted and told me, ‘something can be precious and meaningful, with depth and substance… and be ornamental. There are some things we could never get rid of that serve no purpose at all. It’s an important question for us all I think, what do I need to be, in order to be worthy…?’ And of course I know what the answer should be… but that cognitive statement of innate inner worthiness doesn’t seem to be congruent to whatever this deep knotted ball of unrest is telling me from the core of myself.

Due to us being on holiday this week, my last session was broken up with patchy signal and held on my mobile phone, stacked high on various board games… Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly and Ludo… then Mark on a tiny screen, leaning against binoculars. As has become customary, he began to close the session by asking how I was left. How did I feel. I told him, ‘If I was a kid and we were in the same room, I’d want to hug you right now. But as an adult I’ll just tell you I’m so grateful that you’ve stayed present and connected with me through all of this.’ He said, ‘You’re doing really great work here Lucy, I want you to hear me as I say that… I think you know you’re doing good work but it’s important that you also hear my voice saying it too… this is really good deep work you’re doing… and the connection between us is two way, I’m glad of it too…’ and then he tightly wrapped his arms round himself, rubbing his shoulders and upper arms with his hands as he said, ‘and hugs make perfect sense when we’re feeling a deep connection, it’s nice to imagine a hug, when we’re not able to share one in person.’

Processing the work without words

I haven’t been able to type up yesterday’s session. Not because it’s too painful to revisit or because I’m too dissociated… I think it’s because it feels unnecessary – which is completely new to me! I have typed up every single session I’ve ever had since my first one with Paul in February 2013… there have been a handful of sessions over the years that took maybe a day or so to type up or ones I could only manage bullet points or a drawing, but every session was recorded in black and white one way or another. I have only met with Mark 7 times… but these sessions have been on another level. After the sessions I have felt the intense need to sleep, something that Mark and I discussed yesterday and we pondered perhaps my body felt the need to enter a dream cycle or at least a deep sleep in order to process the more unconsious, developmental trauma we’ve been focusing on. The past few sessions I have used my recordings to help me type the sessions up after I’ve slept. This time however, I slept and then relaxed in the evening. No typing, no journaling… just spent the evening on the sofa watching tv with Adam. Today I listened to the full session again and gained some deeper insights from carefully listening to the themes of what came up for me and the responses Mark gave me. It felt like I could register things shifting inside me. I wasn’t sitting for hours on end, in my head typing words on my laptop, I was feeling and listening deeply and really considering things on a body level, a felt sense. Processing… inside my body. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before and because of my history of disconnection from emotions and my body, because of my habitual intelletualising and inability to feel, it seems really significant that I’m noticing this shift and important that I pay attention to it.

I’ve been reflecting on how journaling, writing full notes of the sessions, blogging publicly and uploading my session notes on my therapy Instagram page serve me. What do I gain from doing this? Obviously the first thing that comes to mind is the community. After a lifetime of hiding this part of me, finally I found something to help me feel less alone. The conversations, the ‘me too’s’… this has all been so healing and a constant source of comfort and affirmation for me. I still gain so much from this. But it feels like there’s another level to it. I have journaled, since my early teens. And even as a young child I would write in a diary. It makes sense I would write, I had no one to talk to. The page was my only way of externalising my thoughts. Thoughts that would stay deep inside my inner world until they were unlocked and expressed on the page. I think it’s always been part of my process. In fact Paul told me that he thought writing was part of my process when I worked with him and I never fully understood what he meant at the time. I used to email him long therapy reflections after every session that he would then give lovely long thoughtful responses to. Sometimes we would go back and forth a few times, in conversation, about both of our thoughts on my therapy work. With Anna I would write almost every day, often bringing notes to the sessions for her to read and eventually when I got brave enough, I’d read them to her. Of course there were also my drawings and my own journal notes. The work I’m doing with Mark is the deepest and most emotionally intense therapy I have ever done. It’s the work I imagined I’d be able to do with Anna in a year or so… I mean, we were just beginning to scratch the surface of those deeper layers. In the last few sessions with Anna face to face before the lockdown, I felt parts of me coming out of hiding in the room with her for the first time. It felt like we were getting there. As Mark said recently, the lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. We had just opened the door and then Anna left and the door was left wide open and all of the grief and love and attachment pain poured in and out in rampant abundance. I thought it could easily have taken a year, maybe a few years to peel back all the layers slowly and gently in sessions with Anna, in order for me to feel the feelings… but that journey has been accelerated because of the deep grief that broke my heart open when she left… no longer numb I now am able to connect quickly and intensely to all of the feelings that were walled off before losing her. I never imagined getting to this point. I remember asking people on wordpress, ‘how do you cry in sessions?’ I just couldn’t do it. Well I’ve been doing it, over and over. It’s agony but it’s also healing.

I am finding that even in these early days as I go deeper into the somatic work with Mark, I am more connected to my body and less in my head. I talked to Mark about my journey back to my body. He said it sounds like I have taken some very painful, purposeful and brave leaps of faith over the years. When I started my therapy journey I was in my late 20’s. I was very numb and didn’t know how to tune in to my feelings. Due to my automatic reflex of ‘shut down’, I just never developed ways of making sense of things inside of me. I focused so heavily on the telling of the stories. The words. I told Paul everything I could think of in an attempt to pour all of the toxic narrative from my brain into his. I felt almost like if he knew everything that had ever happened to me then he could fix me. Being CBT and mindfulness focused he was happy with this cognitive approach. Along with this, he seemed to be an intellectualiser like me. We got on really well and often had lengthy conversations about theories we had read and analysed. Maybe if I worked with him now he would do deeper work with me, perhaps he was just ‘meeting me where I was at’, going as deep as I was able. Or maybe that just was the style of work he did. I do remember him telling me he didn’t see the point in lifelong ‘navel gazing’ and I was his longest standing client. He favoured the quick fix. I always knew I needed more than that.

When I began work with Anna, I attempted to follow the same pattern of intellectualising. She worked hard to move me into my body which I found incredibly difficult but desperately wanted to do. It felt like the right direction to take things in and more in alignment with my belief that there really are no quick fixes for attachment wounding and developmental trauma. But it was so hard to internalise our work. When I wrote about the sessions it felt like it made them real. I could remind myself of the things Anna said that brought me comfort or a deeper understanding of things. And then as I shared them online, people commenting and messaging me helped solidify this process for me. Other people were able to share reflections that helped me understand what I was working through. When I wasn’t in my body, the only way I could hold on to the sessions and prove to myself the sessions even happened, was to have them written in black and white. Working with Linda, this intensified. Along with my need to read up on psychological theories. Especially around developmental trauma work… researching the areas I needed to focus on and the areas she struggled to support me with.

Working with Mark I can feel a distinct relaxing of that hyper cognitive part. There’s a sense that I can figuratively put the books down. I do still enjoy reading but I don’t feel like I’m preparing for a degree in psychology in order to fill the gaps in my own therapy. Now I am feeling more in my body, I can feel the presence of the moving emotions and the healing that’s taking place inside me. It doesn’t need to be spelled out on a page, I can literally feel it shifting inside. If writing, for me, was how I processed… now it feels like I am processing inside my body with less of a need to write the process into being. And having the recordings means I can revisit specific bits of the sessions that felt pivotal and relive them, as they happened, rather than using my contorted memory of it. This has been amazing for being able to feel a connection with Mark and has also helped silence the inner critic. When I start to worry that Mark hates me I can play back parts of the session where he literally says he is enjoying getting to know me. When I worry that he thinks I’m making a big thing out of nothing I can listen to the bit where he says my childhood sounds like the drip drip drip of neglect and abuse that conjures up the notion of ‘death by a thousand cuts’. And when I worry about him feeling like I’m too much I can listen to one of the many times he’s willingly told me, ‘you’re not too much for me, I want to do this deep work with you,’ something very real and very profound is happening right now… very different to anything I’ve experienced before. Every day I worked with Linda, from the 19th May when Anna phoned me to tell me she was closing her practice, I felt deeply that Anna she was the only one who could help me and if she contacted me I would go back to her ‘in a heartbeat’. Now though, I’m not sure. I think I would definitely go to her for some ending sessions, but I can see that my journey has taken a different turn, and I’m doing great work here that I possibly couldn’t have done with Anna. That might just be because she knew the version of Lucy I was 3 years ago… Mark is meeting me now, with no preconceived ideas of who I am… I am a very different person to the one who could not speak in sessions with Anna. And I wonder if she would forever have handled me with kid gloves because she saw me like that.

I don’t think that these reflections mean I am suddenly going to decide to stop blogging. But it does feel like I won’t be sharing huge long transcripts of my sessions anymore, as it doesn’t feel like I need that for my process anymore… I’m fully aware I may change my mind, but these are this weeks thoughts. Maybe I will share parts of the sessions… maybe just reflections… maybe I will end up deciding to move away entirely from documenting my therapy publicly. I’m not sure.  I know how much I have gained and continue to gain from reading other therapy blogs and how much I have gained and continue to gain from people reading and interacting with mine… this is an undecided, fence sitting conclusion to my reflections today. All I know is that as I consider sharing what happened in yesterdays session, I struggle to put it into words. There aren’t the words to express what is awakening inside me. And it feels a bit like bringing a newborn into the world… too much exposure feels uneasy. This is delicate and new and beyond my cognitive ability to articulate. And I guess the newborn analogy makes sense. I have never felt feelings this deeply before, it is all brand new and there just aren’t the words.

It’s a feeling memory… it’s not happening now.

(Four was watching very closely in this session.)

This was a really adult session but I think I was unaware of a younger presence until much later. I thought I felt present and aware through it all but immediately after the session I sat with my laptop out and attempted to type the session up and I just couldn’t do it. I felt incredibly heavy and exhausted and over stimulated and within a few minutes I’d closed my laptop, closed my eyes and fallen asleep. I woke up a few hours later had this bizarre sensation in my whole body. A buzzing, shaking feeling. And an intense awareness of my feet feeling very cold and my hands feeling very warm, as if I was only just noticing the presence of these parts of my body. In the evening, again I couldn’t type. I felt quite activated and began regretting everything I shared with Mark. I messaged my friend who reassured me and gently encouraged me to do some things that helped ground me. Later on that night when the kids were in bed, I laid with my head in my husbands lap and we watched a 90’s Top of the Pops programme on tv. I don’t remember the last time I did that… cuddled up with Adam watching TV instead of typing up a session or reading and researching. Watching the music from my teen years moved something deep and painful inside me and having my husband stroking my hair was so soothing. I slept holding Luna for the first time in months and it didn’t feel filled with grief, it felt comforting.

I was looking forward to seeing Mark. As the session started it was nice to see his face. We always start the session by hiding our self views and checking that we can hear each other. He suggested that we take a moment to land and arrive. I said, ‘so, I’ve noticed I’m crap at doing that!’ He smiled and said, ‘There’s no getting it wrong, but what tells you that? That you’re crap at doing it?’ I told him that I’d noticed from listening back to the sessions that whenever he encourages me to give space or to breathe together, it feels like hours have passed but actually its about 1.5 seconds… that clearly the silences are hard. He said, ‘yeah and you might not be needing them, you might need to fill them a little which is fine. I think as a principle its sometimes good to stop and experience ourselves, as a way of deepening. Sometimes that happens naturally, perhaps if I invite it you feel like you are supposed to do something. Generally speaking, I do, on arrival encourage to take a minute to settle together.’ I told him I really like that and in fact I wanted to introduce to my work with Anna and never got the chance to tell her that. I explained that I really like the idea of breathing together but it all feels intensely intimate… exposing. ‘If we’re not talking all we’re doing is looking.’ He said, ‘and that can obviously bring up feelings, we can become accustomed to sort of holding the space for them in a way, grow that muscle over time. In a way, intimacy can feel charged cant it.’

I then thanked Mark for the last session, the way he responded and how he allowed me the space to talk through everything without judging me. I reflected on the parallel between me deliberately holding something back from him and the situation with Linda and Anna holding back information from me on the true nature of Anna’s need to close her practice. I said, ‘I’ve read about how sometimes we can replay something painful with a therapist, but in the opposite way, putting ourselves in the position of power, in an attempt to heal what’s hurting and to observe how the therapist responds and deals with it to give an example to the client of how they could maybe deal with being betrayed or hurt or how the therapist copes with the powerlessness… so sometimes a client can be unkind or sarcastic or critical to the therapist, abusing the therapist in a similar way to how they were abused as a child… so I wondered if unconsciously I had held back information from you to regain a sense of power and to see how you would demonstrate a resilience and forgiveness that I was unable to embody towards Anna, without first witnessing it from the position of power… I don’t know, I’m trying not to intellectualise too much but uh…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘But you’ve got a good brain that wants to understand things as well, haven’t you. You like to know what is happening, actually there is an enquiry there and you have an articulateness and an interest in things. And enough to know that intellectualising can sometimes be a defence against feeling but there’s nothing wrong with that enquiring ‘oh I’d like to understand this a bit better’… blah blah blah anyway I’ll shut up now.’ I said, ‘No that’s a really nice way to reframe it thank you! I guess I always saw it as a flaw!’ he said, ‘a flaw?’ and I said, ‘you’re thinking too much, over analysing, you ask too many questions…’ Mark said, ‘too much, too much, too much!’ I nodded.

We talked some more about the fact that its not in my nature to keep things back from people and having him help me bring it out into the light was very helpful. I said it was exactly what I needed, ‘there’s a fear that people are always going to use my mistakes against me, bring stuff up constantly, ‘remember that time you fucked everything up’ you know? And I got the impression that’s probably not gonna happen here!’ Mark said, ‘ah, nice!’ I said, ‘yeah I felt like you were being genuine with everything you said. I think part of the reason why I was so upset is because I really feel like you’re a nice person and I was doing a disservice to you and the work I want to do with you. Like, ‘this is not the person I want to deceive in any way’ that’s what it felt like.’ Mark said, ‘I hear its not in your nature to do that, its good to sometimes try something on for size, to do yourself in a different way which you did but you felt in bad faith with yourself, so you needed to tell me so it wasn’t between us and it would have been. It wouldn’t have sat well with you. For me I did feel the need and the sense in you doing it actually, it gave you something useful between sessions. To test your judgement… sort of, ‘I can replay that and oh I read into this but actually it wasn’t how I thought it was and…’ blah blah blah, I forget what I was going to respond to what you said, I got so caught up in my own verbosity… what was the last thing you said Lucy?’ I said, ‘um… that you’re nice?’ he said, ‘oh Christ!’ I said, ‘that you’re not the person I want to deceive? Was that it?’ Mark said, ‘yes there was something around that,’ I said, ‘I really felt that there was a power trip with Linda. Regardless of whether this is accurate or not. She knew what was going on with Anna and I didn’t know. It felt unnecessarily unkind to not tell me, but also I understand the therapeutic boundaries and the role of the professional boundaries, I get all that. But it just felt unnecessary, when you could just put me out of my misery. But it wasn’t hers to tell either. So I’ve got the logical part of me understanding why it happened that way but it felt like a power battle where it was a lose lose for me. I had to sit and grieve and wonder and cry and feel all these horrible confused feelings and come up with all of these thoughts about what might have happened and she could have just said one sentence that would have alleviated me from the not knowing. But then it wasn’t her place to say it anyway. There was a big imbalance of power there.’ Mark said, ‘mmm because she knew something that you didn’t and she was choosing for whatever good reason not to tell you ,so there is a power imbalance… ‘I know the thing that you want to know and I’m withholding that,’ sort of thing.’

I said, ‘but you know there is a power imbalance in this relationship anyway, but if you don’t acknowledge it then its so invalidating to be on this side of the room and have the person on that side of the room not acknowledge that yeah, it’s there. And also just hear me out and listen to what it feels like for me to be in the dark and experiencing this lack of power. But Linda wasn’t really ever up for that which made it even more painful.’ Mark said, ‘yeah she wasn’t willing to go with you to what it’s like for you when she was withholding and to acknowledge actually that there was a power imbalance and for you to have been able to speak about the impact of that would have been good for you, made it a bit easier. But that’s another piece that didn’t happen.’ I said, ‘no, but what did happen was she made it about her. So I would try and go over all this and would be having four or five conversations in my head and exposing them to her and she would say very little and then I said, ‘I can imagine its been quite hard for you being in this position,’ and she said ‘yes it has, its been really hard, its been a lot for me to hold, I actually wonder if it’s too much,’ so everything I imagined her to be feeling she was actually feeling she just wasn’t fucking telling me she was feeling it when I was right all along!’ Mark told me I sounded angry and I laughed and ran my hands down the back of my head and round my neck. He said, ‘what’s happening in that jaw of yours?’ I said, ‘I feel like she handled that all wrongly and I’m annoyed about it and annoyed that I’m talking about her again. It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to go through. It feels like it was easy money for her. She just sat there not really investing anything in it. Not investing in the relationship or the work we were doing. I feel like that makes me sound really horrible. I actually don’t have a problem with therapy costing money I actually think it’s the best thing I’ve ever spent my money on ever. But with her it just felt like so much hard work for me and hardly any for her as if she could just sit back and not put any effort in and that would be enough.’ Mark said, ‘yeah she sat back rather than showed up really and that left you perhaps feeling a little abandoned as if she wasn’t going to make effort for you. Hmmm.’ I said, ‘and the minute I showed any sign of leaving, I think it was a relief for her.’

I then told Mark about Linda’s reply email. I recited it to him and said, ‘why would I expect anything more!?’ Mark said, ‘I’m just thinking here, there will be an adult part that can explain it away and there will be another part, perhaps a younger part that was expecting more, that would have liked more, that that wasn’t good enough actually, a sort of perfunctory, professional email. There’s a bit of you that kind of pissed off I imagine.’ I said, ‘uhhu, yeah I guess I wanted it to mean more to her. And I had just come out of a therapeutic relationship that was incredibly meaningful where in hindsight I can see really clearly that Anna cared very deeply about me and I found it so hard to feel that at the time. Looking back on it she invested hugely in our work together and I think she would be pissed off with how things had gone with Linda, she would be disappointed. She would be proud of me for not sticking around any longer and actually moving on and trying to get my needs met somewhere else.’ I gestured towards him. Mark said, ‘yeah so notice what happens inside as you bring her in and how much she invested and her care for you which was maybe difficult to fully let in at the time. You know it was there and your sense is that she would be disappointed with how it ended up. Not what she would have wanted. Not you wanted.’ I said, ‘and I’m feeling angry towards her too and I don’t know why that’s coming up now and also feeling a bit disconnected from this whole thing… and obviously this voice of ‘this is a waste of time why are you talking about this’ is coming in. Mark said, ‘would it be okay to hear from the anger? We can move on but I don’t want to lose that bit if you’re willing to go there it sounds important.’ I said, ‘I’m angry that she left me!’ He said, ‘yeah!’ in a really animated way and I continued, ‘I know that doesn’t make any logical sense,’ and he said, ‘it doesn’t need to,’ I said, ‘if we’re talking about the child feeling of it, she promised me she wouldn’t leave me. I cant silence the logical part… that you said so beautifully, that was the bus… there was a ‘but’ you know, ‘I will do this work with you for as long as you need, but if something happens out with my control I wont be here… and that happened. However, she is still alive!’ I was finding this a bit amusing but continued, ‘I just cant get my head around what could possibly have meant she had to suddenly close her practice and not been able to give me the closure I needed. I see her interacting on social media (which I feel ashamed that I look), she’s still functioning… I feel like ‘as long as you’ve got breath in your body I just wanna have one more fucking call with you, one hour. I just wanna talk to her.’ Mark said, ‘What would you say? Can you say it out loud here and now?’ I thought for ages and told him there were so many things. ‘I wanna tell her how much I grieved. Fucking cried, sobbed every day. Went for walks and cried. There was no privacy in the lockdown. It was me and Adam and the kids in the house every day. Having to teach from home, having to teach my own kids… it was fucking hard. I felt like I was having a mental breakdown. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to make video lessons or have a shower or even wake up! It was the weirdest time. I went for big long walks in the woods and by the river and cry. I wanna tell her all that, she’d be so proud of me. I never cried, I NEVER CRIED Mark. I used to talk to her about how much I wanted to cry and just couldn’t there was a brick wall there. I couldn’t even cry by myself and there I was unable to stop crying. It completely broke the damn and I could feel everything. It used to be right there under the surface all the time and I couldn’t get it out. I’m sad she didn’t get to witness that with me. I want to tell her I used to drive to her office every week and sit in my car and cry. It felt like I was honouring all the work we’d put I to get me to the place where I could feel the grief, by feeling it. I want to tell her that I regret wasting time with her. There were so many half started things I wanted to finish with her. So many avenues I started to go down and then I couldn’t continue. I really wish I had just carried on and done the work I needed to do instead of being so complacent in thinking I had all the time in the world and I didn’t. And I want to tell her that I wish she had never made a promise that she would be there. At the start of the lockdown when I freaked out and told her I felt like she was going to leave me, way before she got ill I just felt it deeply and she said she wasn’t going anywhere and that we’d get through this together and we fucking didn’t get through it together. I want to say to her that you shouldn’t ever say things you can’t guarantee… you shouldn’t have said that and I knew you’d let me down and you let me down.’ Mark was making a lot of agreeing noises throughout and there was a long pause. I then said, ‘I want to thank her for all the work we did get to do and everything she did for me. There were so many things that I didn’t say that I really wish I’d said. I feel like I’ve changed so much in the past 6 months even without her. It almost feels like I’ve been learning from our work even after she left. Learning things about myself through her absence.’ Mark quietly said, ‘you have too, yeah I can really witness that. And I do think it’s important. You’re not going to get the chance to say all this in person but I wonder how it is to hear yourself saying it outloud now. And I know there’s more to say but just if you need to say it I’m really more than happy to witness that so that you can hear your own voice saying these things so they’re not left totally unsaid. Even if they’re unsaid to her.’

I said, ‘I feel that weird shaky feeling like eh…’ Mark said, ‘weird shaky feeling… can you sense where you feel that Lucy?’ I said it was all over, ‘but my upper half of my body, my arms… I get a lot of pain in my body and loads of pain here in my shoulders and arms and it comes out from my chest and down… I think I hold myself really tight and like hold my breath and hold my body tight to not feel the shaky feeling or anything I don’t know.’ Mark said, ‘as a suggestion it might be worth just doing this movement so it can just move out a little bit, I don’t know if that will help,’ he stretched his arms forwards and made a circle motion with his hands/wrists. I paused then laughed and said, ‘it’s so weird how I don’t wanna do what you tell me to do.’ He laughed and said, ‘I could see it immediately land on your face like you’re not biting, isn’t that interesting!’ he found it really funny and I was smiling and said how it was the same as the hand on my chest thing. ‘I so wanted to do that,’ he said, ‘well you go there in the end,’ I said, ‘but I had to cry to get there it’s like the tension… so much fight in me… don’t be a fucking idiot and do what someone tells you to do, don’t be so gullible!’ Mark said, ‘feel the energy I that, there’s power in that, feel the energy don’t do something just because someone fucking tells you, feel the fight in it.’ I said, ‘because it feels like I’m gonna be made fun of. If I do it, ah you feel for it!’ he said, ‘ahhh, yeah yeah okay.’ I said, ‘which is not the case, I know that.’ Mark said, ‘No it’s a memory. It’s a feeling memory.’ I took a big deep breath in and out and he very gently said, ‘It’s not happening now.’ And the gravity behind his words sank deep into my bones.

After a pause I said, ‘this is the sort of thing where I look back and think ‘I wish you’d just done the hand thing’… you know, that would be really useful. But maybe if I wasn’t being watched I could do it. There’s so much shame around being physically seen. I know therapeutically being ‘seen’ is about more than just viewing someone with your eyes… but even just the fact that you can see me is really hard. One of the reasons why I take the self view away, I don’t wanna see what you can see. I hate that you can see me… but the shaky thing feels like adrenalin or something, like get ready to fight. I guess we’re talking about anger. Mark said, ‘Well it’s a powerful feeling isn’t it and it pumps god knows what into our bodies to activate us for action so it completely makes sense that you can feel it there. How’s that energy doing now? What do you notice?’ I said it was still there but I didn’t feel as tense. He said, ‘ah, so there’s a little bit of softening around the edges. The energy is still there but you’ve shifted a little.’ I said, ‘anger feels really destructive to me, there’s a part of me that…’ I didn’t really finish that thought, I went down another avenue, ‘I just remember all these times that she reached out to me and I couldn’t even feel it, I used to talk about it to her. I couldn’t even feel her in the same room as me. Even when she was sitting right beside me and she would tell me she could feel a connection with me and ask if I felt connected to her and I’d not be able to feel it. I could see her trying to reach me but there was this brick wall between us and I am angry at myself for being so fucking resistant to actually getting what I needed coz it was handed to me on a plate so many times and I couldn’t accept it from her. It took me so fucking long for me to do any of the things I needed, a bit like the hands thing. For example I remember when we explored talking about hugs. Back then I wasn’t very emotionally vulnerable with any of my friends. I was the person people would go, to share their problems but I wouldn’t share my stuff with them. And I remember exploring with Anna how unlovable I felt and Anna asked me if I felt like my friends loved me and I was adamant that they didn’t. I told her about how I’d been going to get my nails done by this woman who has become my friend now. She had told me she loved when I came in, she felt she could be herself with me and she liked talking to me. And she hugged me at the end of the session… and she’s in her 50’s and I always found it so hard to trust or connect to women older than me,’ Mark said, ‘oh that’s sweet, lovely. That’s really significant.’ I told him it had been a big deal and that Anna had asked how it felt to hug her and when I said it was really nice she then asked if I’d ever thought about hugging her. ‘That threw me into this massive shame spiral where I couldn’t even look at her and I felt like she’d deliberately said that to humiliate me because we weren’t allowed hugs because of the boundaries and basically she encouraged me to ask her outright which eventually I did and she said she would hug. We talked about the boundaries around hugging, that I would always be the one to ask for them and be in control of when they happen and for how long. She said that hugs were part of relationships and that because of my history it seemed important than my young parts know that it’s okay to have safe physical touch and that she would be happy to hug me if I wanted it. I was so happy to hear that and really excited about it. We spent hours and hours talking about how my mum never wanted to hug me, she said I wanted too many hugs, the memories of her physically pushing me away if I tried to hug her. Telling me I was really needy and all this stuff around touch and hugs. Anna felt like it was a really important part of our work and it really did feel like that. But it took me like a year before I could finally ask her for a hug! After her literally saying I will give you this thing that you want and I’m totally fine with it, I still couldn’t ask for it! It caused me so much inner turmoil. And eventually when I did tentatively ask her for a hug she beamed, arms wide open for me… it was the best hug that I’d ever had and the only type of hug like that that I’d ever had. Obviously I hug my husband and friends and my brother and kids but this was different. This maternal, nurturing holding… it was like holding.’ Mark said, ‘yeah what was it like, how did it feel in your body do you remember?’ I said, ‘yeah I completely relaxed, I rested my face on her shoulder. In that split second I wasn’t self conscious or ashamed… and sometimes when she hugged me, after a really hard sessions, it would only be like a couple of seconds long but sometimes she would move a wee bit from side to side, like going back in time and rocking me as a baby, like I hold my kids and sway from side to side… honestly it was so fucking healing. I really miss her hugs. It was the only access that I had to that kinda feeling and I’d never felt it before.’ Mark said, ‘and a place somewhere in you did feel it quite strongly, viscerally le that in, and knows now what it’s like and there it is, and just to acknowledge that is in you, that you carry that place within you. Maybe just sensing it now.’ I said, ‘it feels full of grief, really sad… firstly because I don’t have that anymore, even though I know you’re tyring to encourage me to feel it inside myself,’ he said, ‘it brings up the loss I understand that,’ I continued, ‘and secondly because before she hugged me I didn’t know what I was missing out on my whole life and then I felt it and all this stuff comes up like, ‘wow what must it feel like to be a child and to have that on tap, to be able to just go and be held by someone like that, that must be amazing… that’s really shit that I didn’t have that,’ Mark said, ‘yeah yeah, imagine how amazing it would be to have had that. You can kind of feel that younger you getting that. And it might be a mixed feeling that comes with that. But you know how good it would be. And I know this is tricky territory, it’s a bit of a high wire act because you could fall off into a whole heap of grief but I think what I suppose we could tap into is like our imagination can fill in the gaps somehow. You know what that experience feels like because you had it from her and no one, no one can take that away from you. Not even her. No one can take that away from you because you had that experience. And I know you can tip into grief from her but the experience is in you. Something received that, something in you knows what it’s like. Something connected to what it had been missing all your life. And no body can undo that because you felt it, you experienced it.’ I said ,’I don’t really know how to connect to the feeling of knowing that I have that inside me without feeling the grief as well. In the last phone call I had with her she talked about the work we’d done together. She said it’s like building a house and we built the foundations and her leaving doesn’t take that away from me, it’s always going to be inside me…’ I lost my train of thought. Mark said, ‘what’s uppermost is the loss for you, the grief. Things got coupled up with loss and grief and it makes sense that it would.’

I then launched in to telling him about the struggles I used to have with staying connected to Anna between sessions. I went into great detail talking about those struggles. I told him it was an intentional decision to work with a woman because of the way I’d been hurt in the past, I knew it would be difficult to connect to a woman, I’d already worked with a man, it felt like the next step. I said, ‘Everything felt threatening, even her kindness.’ And Mark understood that. I explained that I felt like between the sessions I would worry that she would forget about me or that she would get sick of me and let me go. I told him that Anna had given me the blue heart crystal to help represent our connection. I told him about her encouraging me to connect to my young parts, that it took a lot of work even getting me to acknowledge their presence within me… talked about her encouraging me to do things for my child, to buy a soft toy. I told him about Luna and some of the sessions when I brought her in. I told Mark, ‘one of the sessions when I brought the bear in, Anna held her in the session and when I got home, I could smell Anna on the bear. I text her without even really thinking too much about it. Later she told me she felt that the text was a direct message from my young part because it wasn’t articulate and carefully planned out. It was just a quick, ‘I can smell you on the bear and I like it,’ and eventually I plucked up the courage to ask her if she felt comfortable bringing her perfume in so I could spray the bear which she did… and then I bought her perfume so I could keep it as a way to connect to her through the sense of smell… coz all these things helped me stay connected through the gaps so that I was then able to go in to each session and it not take 40 minutes for me to reconnect to her.’ Mark said, ‘that makes sense, yeah.’ I continued, ‘and the fucking point to all of this is… all these lovely things… the blue heart crystal that’s sitting in a pot on my shelf, the bear over there, the perfume, I can’t bear to look at it or acknowledge it or smell it or have it anywhere near me even though it’s a really lovely thing that brought me so much love and nurturing and connection. Not just between me ad Anna but between me and those parts of me. Its like I completely rejected it when she left and it felt like a total farse and the loss… it was jst too painful.’ Mark said, ‘how has it been to acknowledge it now, to talk about it now?’ I laughed and said I couldn’t remember why I started talking about that, ‘ I felt like it had a point… oh the hugging, holding the feeling but it being close to the grief… hmmm… how does it feel to talk about it? The inner critic stuff is saying that was a total manic overshare and I wanna know what you’re thinking about it all.’ Mark took a big breath in and said, ‘well before I answer that, your critic saying it’s a anic overshare, whats that bit of you worried about?’ I said, ‘my mum is a manic oversharer so I don’t wanna be like her… and also worried that you might think that all of that sounds crazy, nuts. Or that it sounds unprofessional or that I was too much. And its very vulnerable, delicate stuff that I didn’t even really get to fully process with Anna because it stopped so suddenly.’ Mark said, ‘that’s a good point ,yeah… So, my thought is that that place in you was left opened. And you let in the good stuff but something didn’t kind of complete so it was left open and raw and has got covered over by grief, it’s got coupled up by grief. Which makes sense because you lost the person that opened that place in you. So it totally makes sense and you’re still trying to work through that.’

I said, ‘I sued to talk about and drew pictures of this four year old hiding behind the chair in the sessions and I said to her that’s what it felt like. The articulate version of me was sitting in the chair not letting this part of me out in the session. And towards the end, an even I the last session that I sat with her at the end of February, it felt like the most exposing and like she was literally taking that four year old part of me by the hands and saying, ‘you can trust me’… no she wouldn’t have said that because that’s quite forceful, like… ‘I’m here when you’re ready’ and it was like that four year old part of me had finally said, ‘I’m ready’, and she fucking left! And I know it wasn’t her fault… but it was literally like the very last session she was talking directly to that child part saying she would prove herself to me, that my child part could test her in any way, she wasn’t going anywhere… it was really vulnerable. I was sitting with the bear in my lap with my hoodie over my head properly in this frightened vulnerable child space listening to her and feeling her there thinking this is the start of very important stuff, and then it all stopped. So its like leading a child out to a scary place saying ‘It’s going to be okay because I’m going to be here with you’ and then letting go of their hand and leaving. And the child is standing there in the middle of nowhere thinking ‘I don’t know where to go from here, you said you would be here and that we’d do this together and you’ve gone, I wish I’d never come out.’ Mark said, ‘yeah the child would regret that, would feel that she betrayed your trust. Would feel angry about it, upset, confused even.’ I got very quiet and said, ‘it feels really horrible in my tummy talking about this.’ And Mark said, ‘yeah lets just take a breath. You’ve done really well and opened up some things but I’m aware it’s quite raw so you know, lets take the last bit of the session just to let it settle a bit. I think its important.’ I said, ‘I do need to hear what you think though,’ and he said, ‘I think you’ve done really well in painting out some of the places that your work touched and the ways of engaging with your young parts was really creative. So it kind of saddens me, in a way its life isn’t it, the timing sucks, what happened. I have this image of Velcro ripping apart, that sort of horrible sound. Its not meant to rip apart,’ I said, ‘yes I agree, the analogy I had in my head when it first happened was like ripping a baby from the womb too early and ripping the umbilical cord, like I was just beginning to feel safe in this nurturing, warm space and I was torn out of it violently. It felt cold and exposing and lonely and vulnerable and scary… all of that.’ Mark agreed a lot and said, ‘I’m just gonna suggest we breath out with all of that for now and not because I’m trying to get away from it or because I haven’t heard you. It’s because I have heard you and the bigness of it!’ I laughed and said, ‘don’t say another exposing thing Lucy!’ he laughed and said, ‘not in the last 5 minutes, no. we don’t want a door nob moment that leaves you really rattled… what I mean is… hmmm… I’m willing to go with you to some very hard places, sort of go to hell and back with you but it makes sense that, you’ve said a lot. You’ve done good work today. And you’re worried what I think of it aren’t you. There’s this idea that you’ll get up and go away and think, ‘oh fuck what have I said, have I over shared?’ and that critical voice. I don’t think you have at all. You’ve just let me know the huge steps you took and the courage it took to take them. And I also get that there’s a frustrated bit that comes in because of your reluctance some times. Like when I suggest certain movements. There’s a gap between the invitation and you being able to do it and that gap makes sense. There’s something that you need and you get there in the end. That piece sounds significant, it’s that you need to arrive somewhere in your own time, you cant push that. There’s bits of you that go ‘no this isn’t right for me just now’ and it might come later. So there’s a whole range of things. And there’s also something for me, and it comes in with that image you described, being led out somewhere and being left and that would leave you feeling quite lost… there’s a lost quality. How’s it to hear me respond to you there?’ I said, ‘I like it when you do that.’ He said, ‘notice inside the bit of you that likes it.’ I said, ‘it feels really reassuring and settling and like ‘thank god I’m finally working with someone who’s happy to share with me what they’re thinking!’ you know. That whole blank slate thing is so fucking infuriating. So thank you for doing that.’

I then asked him when his holiday is. He’s away from the 17th October to 31st. I said, ‘two week is gonna be hard!’ and he said, ‘yeah and we can talk about it before we get there,’ I said that sounds important and necessary.

Mark said, ‘You’ve done good work today, I want you to hear that. I’m saying that because I imagine there might be a kick back. There’s a bit of you that’s trying to keep you right and has a range of worries and we will let that bit of you speak. But I want to say that you are doing very good work here. And I think you know that actually. But you also need reassuring even if you know it. You want to hear it from me and not just from you. So, I want to say that to you.’ I said, ‘thank you for sharing that with me.’ And we talked a bit about the beautiful weather. The sun. The autumn leaves. The rain that’s meant to come over the next few days. I said, ‘it’s a lesson in living mindfully in the present moment isn’t it, to enjoy the sun while its here,’ and Mark said, ‘what is it William Blake said, ‘kissing the joy as it flies and seeing eternity in the sunrise’… and it’s gonna rain the next day is the thing with that. I talked about how fresh and renewing the rain is and that it’s so green and lush here because of the rain. And then we said goodbye, until Monday.

And then I collapsed.

I haven’t cried since the session. But I have felt the strong desire to hibernate. To be cosy and warm and looked after. This stuff feels raw and sore and delicate and like it needs safe nurturing.  It feels like Four was under the covers beside me, listening and waiting to see how he’d react to what I was saying… and I think, after listening back , that he might actually be okay with all of this. With all of me.

The trees so beautifully teach us how to let go.

Sept 2020

Yesterday morning before my session, I went for a walk through the forest. The woodland that held my grief day after day through the lockdown. While losing Anna. The trees that witnessed my breaking, my tears, my raw open heart. Back then the leaves were green and the sun was high in the bright blue, fluffy cloud sky. Now the sun is low and casts bright rays through the branches. The trees are beginning to so beautifully demonstrate their cyclical process of letting go. As their golden yellow and orange leaves fall, creating a blanket of muffled loss under foot, and the stark branches reach to the skies as if to scream, ‘look at how bare I am, look at how vulnerable and stark and empty these arms are… I’m no longer clinging on to what I once had… look how I have let go… now I am ready to receive what I need’… I am reminded of change.

The trees look so different now and so do I. I am no longer clinging to what I was losing, I’m witnessing it around my feet and I’m standing arms wide open ready to receive, ready to welcome the next part of my healing journey. While also surrounded by evidence of what was lost… and acknowledging that it helped me grow into who I am now. The leaves that cover the forest floor will decompose and provide yet more nutrients to the roots of the trees and in turn, the branches will once again produce fresh new shoots. My grief is fuelling my growth in the same way… and in time new green buds will form… in fact I can already feel the tiny flicker of something new and hopeful glowing just beneath the surface of my rib cage… and my roots feel grounded today in an awareness of the fact that I am still standing. That I have survived so many storms and so much loss. That my leaves were oftentimes ripped from my tightly grasping fists… too soon. And yet they did fall and I did feel empty and I do still cry out for what I’ve lost. And also, sitting alongside the pain of it all, is hope and potential and openness to a way forward. And gratitude.

May 2020

There’s a hole in my chest where all the pain is.

I sent the confession email to Mark at 10pm the night before this session. Had to eventually take a diazepam at some point because my anxiety was through the roof. Had a very restless sleep and then somehow got through the day with bouts of intense nausea and numbness. Mark didn’t reply to my email other than to send the zoom link which massively intensified my fear that he was angry with me. By the time I clicked on to the call I was certain he would terminate with me immediately and I could barely look at the screen.

I was beyond nervous. I immediately asked him how he was doing and he said, ‘I’m alright!’ in a really sort of reassuring tone. He said, ‘I’m a bit tired this afternoon but other than that I’m in a pretty good place. How are you? You might have been a little bit anxious coming into the meeting… take a moment just to check in.’ I said, ‘yeah I’m fucking shitting myself actually… yeah… um.’ I couldn’t speak and was looking at my hands in my lap. Mark said, ‘Yeah. And you don’t need to hang your head in any shame. I just want to say that.’ I could barely hear him. I blurted out a garbled, ‘Can you. can you like, tell me… can you respond to what I said in the email?’ he said, ‘Course I can yeah. Yes of course I can I was just wanting us to arrive together a little bit first. Just to sort of land and make a little bit of contact. I can see why you might have recorded things and I can see how it would be useful for you so it doesn’t upset me. I think in some ways when you first meet someone there’s so much going and that kind of intimacy gets our threat and anxiety going so we can’t quite remember the session… ‘what was that like?’ sort of thing, so I can see how revisiting that afterwards would be really helpful for you and allow things to come through for you, it would be reassuring. One thing I really got from that was that you really took me in, what I offered and that was helpful whereas in the moment you’re probably quite activated. But in the quietness of your own space without me sat there you’re able to kind of hear yourself and hear me. And that ability to connect… and that makes perfect sense. You’ve kind of done that for good reason haven’t you. And you did it with Linda like a double check so you could revisit it from another space outside too much contact and what that brings up for you. So…’ he then smiled and slightly laughed and said, ‘it would have been good to have known about it but my sense is that you’re giving yourself a much harder time than I ever will.’ I said, ‘yeah. Yeah. I’m really struggling with this.’ He said, ‘hmmm yeah I sense that, your whole face looks different. The other thing to add is that if you find it useful then do it. Its okay, this is for you. Its to be helpful for you. This is for you to be able to get to know yourself more deeply and to connect with me and to ground our work and it might make sense that its helpful sometimes to do that after the sessions because you’ll catch things that sometimes you might miss.’

I said, ‘I’ve never done it before and because things that were happening between me and Linda were so confusing, whenever I would bring something to her about our relationship I would end up feeling like I’d made it up in my head so I wanted to be able to listen back and hear whether I was experiencing it the way that I felt like I was.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm it was kind of validating in a way wasn’t it.’ I said, ‘yeah and it was really clear to me when I wasn’t feeling emotionally all over the place when I listened back to it that I was right in feeling the way I felt. But, I don’t like dishonesty or…’ Mark spoke over me and said, ‘I really hear that Lucy, it came across loud and clear in your email and you can say it again now, I really felt that. It’s like you’re in a bit of bad faith with yourself for doing something behind the scenes as it were. And I appreciate your courage because you took a real risk telling me because you thought I might have a tantrum and sort of you know not see you again and that’s not the case. That’s not the case. I will not stop wanting to work with you. That never entered my head for a nano second. Because in a sense its you being committed to your own work isn’t it. You trying to get what you need.’ I was really struggling with some very intense emotions and Mark said, ‘how what I’m saying landing with you?’ I took a deep breath and there was a long pause. I put my head down again and Mark said, ‘no rush,’ I was staring out the window and my eyes were filling up. Mark said, ‘I can feel your upset. Lots of room for it.’ Eventually I said, ‘I want to hide from you I don’t want you to see me.’ He said, ‘I sense that and if you want me to look away I will.’ In a tiny voice I said, ‘yes please.’ And he said, ‘okay, I shall look away.’ He then spoke every so often as I cried with my head in my hands. First he said, ‘tell you what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna look out the window. And the sky is blue which it wasn’t a few hours back. I’m pleased to see that.’ I was crying audibly and he said, ‘notice with me not looking at you, the difference that makes if anything.’ He said, ‘I can hear your tears and your tears are very welcome. We were talking last time about tears. It may feel really sore right now and you’ve been holding a lot over the weekend but maybe there will be some release, some relief in your tears that will be good.’ there was a long pause of me crying and eventually he said, ‘and I’m just gonna keep you company say the odd thing unless you ask me not to just so you know you’re not alone in your distress.’ After crying for some time I blew my nose and sighed loudly and Mark asked gently, ‘how you doing?’ In a really muffled and swollen voice I said, ‘you can look at me now,’ and he said, ‘you sure?’ he said, ‘I tell you what, notice how it feels when I just turn my attention in a soft kindly way towards you.’ I looked at him through my hands and he said, ‘notice what happens inside. And if you need me to go away again, to look away again, I can.’ I was absolutely roasting in a thick wooly jumper so I told him I’d be back in a minute and got up and walked away.’ He said, ‘do come back.’ When I returned I had changed my top and told him I was hot and he talked about how weird the weather is at the moment and that it’s hard to know what to wear.

There was some quiet and then I said, ‘um… fuck sake… I don’t even know what to say.’ Mark said, ‘take your time,’ and I said, ‘I’ve been all over the place all weekend and today and pendulum swinging from completely numb and coping with life to feeling everything and being overwhelmed by it all. So… obviously I was teaching today!’ Mark said, ‘yeah I was just thinking that, yeah.’ I said, ‘so all of this has to get switched off, not consciously it just happens,’ Mark said, ‘Well, good that something clicks in! To help you in those moments, something just clicks in and you can rely on that.’ I said, ‘but then I got home and lost the plot.’ Mark said, ‘do you mean when you got home on your own all your feelings came up and you let them out a little bit?’ I said, ‘no I ended up shouting at Reuben, and I wasn’t even angry with him and I did go back and say sorry to him and reconnected with him and gave him a cuddle and everything but um…’ more silence.

Eventually I started up again ,’I find this really hard and I’m angry with myself coz I’ve done this already. I didn’t attach to Linda but I did with Paul and Anna and I’ve been through this shit and I’m really frustrated with myself for still finding this so difficult.’ There was a pause and Mark said, ‘yeah I’m hearing you.’ I said, ‘there’s massive needy vulnerable young feelings. Big, big, huuuge overwhelming feelings and I can hear it and then there’s this shame and silencing other part that comes in stopping any of the other stuff from coming out and its just a constant battle and then also another part saying I’m not making any sense.’ Mark said, ‘you’re being really clear.’ I continued, ‘I read over my email so many fucking times I could probably recite it to you! Before and after sending it.’ He said, ‘so much fear in that.’ I said, ‘because it felt very very important to be honest with you and also it felt risky to do that,’ Mark said, ‘which took courage didn’t it… I needed to be honest because I’d be in bad faith with myself if I weren’t, that’s not who I am, yet I also had a need to make sure that this was right to me to not reexperience some of the things maybe that you did with Linda..?’ I was nodding and said, ‘but then it became a really nice thing where I really enjoyed listening to bits of the sessions…’ Mark laughed and said, ‘yeah I’d quite like to hear it myself! Yeah it should be a nice thing to listen back to!’ I said, ‘but then I feel really ashamed of that.’ Mark said, ‘well that’s big for you isn’t it, shame. And you said it well I think – there are some young parts of you that are reactivated right now and in some ways I see it that its good that they are, and you’ve been through it in your previous therapy and no surprise they resurface again and give us an opportunity to sort of meet those parts of yourself. And it saddens me in some ways that there’s a shaming that happens internally. It’s there for good historical reason and it’s trying to make sure you don’t get hurt again. But it’s there and as you were saying that piece to me I thought oh god that sounds exhausting because there’s so much that wants to come forward and another bit that’s trying to clamp it so there’s lots of tension. It must be tiring and confusing and painful.’ I said, ‘Yeah. But it’s really frustrating as well coz it feels like… um… the parts of me that need to be heard the most are rarely if ever heard. The image that I have in my mind is of at work, I have to do sort of hearings and board meetings for vulnerable kids. So, you’ve got a room with a teacher and a head teacher and maybe a parent or two or guardian, you’ve got a child psychologist and social worker and nurture teacher and maybe ASN teacher and any other agency involved in the care of the child. And there’s always this really uncomfortable feeling in the room, for me, of like everyone is talking over and about this child that’s sitting at the table and, um… maybe even arguing, or maybe a parent is getting shirty or defensive about something that’s been said and there’s tension… and as the teacher sitting there witnessing it, not leading the meeting but sitting as an advocate of the child, knowing the child very well, there’s this desire to tell everyone to be quiet or leave the room and just let it be the kid sitting there, so they can speak. Like… I’ve never experienced that from a child’s perspective in reality but that’s what it feels like inside. All these other parts are much more powerful and much louder. But they’re not the ones that need to be heard.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah, that says it very well and yeah, feeling for the child in those meetings as you do you just want to kind of take them away and create a safe space and paradoxically that’s supposedly what the adults are doing but how horrible to have ones voice squashed or drowned out. And that’s what it’s like inside sometimes and we are here to hear the young parts of you. We’re here to hear the whole of you actually but those young parts that haven’t had a chance to express themselves need to be received and not shamed.’ I had my knees up and my hands clenched in fists holding on to my sleeves. One hand half covering my face. I said, ‘but I do feel ashamed, even just sitting here talking about this it feels so embarrassing and… and… it’s hurting so much in my chest.’ Mark quietly said, ‘and is there an emotion in that feeling in your chest?’ I could barely speak, ‘I whispered, ‘it feels like a big hole.’ I was almost turned away from him at this point. Still peeking at him. He put his hand on his chest and said, ‘if you’re willing, if this makes sense (you do what you need to do, there’s never any pressure from me), sometimes if there’s a big hole in someone’s inner chest it can be helpful sometimes to put a hand there to support it. You’re saying to it internally, to a part of yourself, you know it’s there and it’s hurting and we’re both hearing it.’ I was still looking at him and slightly nodding but hiding most of myself with my arms and just couldn’t bring myself to move an inch. I eventually said, ‘I want to do that but what the fuck, I’m so resistant.’ He said, ‘yeah well stay with the resistance, that’s speaking, yeah, so part of you wants to do it and part of you is just not on board at all and wants to cover your face, that’s what your hand wants to do.’ I started crying again, with my head down and Mark continued, ‘And if you need me to look away again, just say.’ There was some space with me crying and he then said, ‘I tell you what, I’ll hold that pain in my chest listening to you. I’ll hold it for you.’ I cried and cried. He said, ‘hmm, yeah, lots of room for those feelings of yours.’ Eventually I calmed a bit and blew my nose and sat round and somewhat reluctantly and somewhat defiantly, I placed my hand on my chest and looked at him. He gently and non- judgmentally said, ‘well you got there, I don’t know whether you can feel your hand or any support that its offering,’ I was looking away at this point and the words poured out of my mouth, ‘I don’t want to believe you when you tell me that you care and that you want to do this work with me and that you’re not going anywhere I don’t want to believe you,’ Mark said, ‘do you know what I can sense that, I can feel something that is struggling to trust, that it wouldn’t feel wholly safe to trust,’ there was a gap and we spoke over each other simultaneously, he said, ‘it’s also good that you…’ as I said, ‘but also I do want to believe you,’ and I started to cry again as he slowly gave me the following sentences, gently paced, ‘yeah, yeah. And we can have both. And you know what it’ll be in the post to you really, well to us, where you fully believe me that we’re not going anywhere, all things being equal, and this is a safe relationship where you can let yourself be seen and be as you are and that its okay. We’re not fully there just yet and that’s fine isn’t it, you wouldn’t expect us to be. And a bit of you longs for that space and a bit of you is scared shitless by it really. Difficult to trust that it will stay. That it wont be pulled away from you.’ I was crying heavily at this point with my head in my hands in my lap, sitting cross legged on my bed with a laptop in front of me on an upturned box that I usually keep rolled up towels in… with a man I met a few weeks ago staring at me from his house, wherever that is. I was sobbing. I have never, ever cried like that and had it witnessed by another human being, apart from perhaps in my infancy… even then I’d guess I was often left to feel alone.

Through the tears I said, ‘can you look away please.’ He kindly said, ‘course I can, yes course I can… I’m gonna look at my guitar which is a very good looking guitar let me tell you…’ there was a gap of him making ‘hmm’ noises and me crying and then he said, ‘I’m looking away, looking at my guitar, and I’m also holding a space for you and feeling into my heart making room for your distress at the moment and a real encouragement from me to let your tears out. You’ve got all that evolution, tears are good things, our bodies do it for good reasons. Might be relief on the other side.’ Despite this sounding like a lot of waffling and even at the time feeling like a lot of chatter, it seemed to help me stay connected to him. And I think that’s why he did it. Because I so rapidly become disconnected and lose the ‘other’ and especially because I wasn’t looking at him and I’d asked him to stop looking at me, he was finding a way to connect us, so I wasn’t left alone again. Eventually I settled and sighed. Mark said, ‘I head a big outbreath and I normally take that to mean there’s been a shift inside but you can tell me.’ I blew my nose and joked that I did not bring enough tissues. I said, ‘fucking hell!’ took a drink of water and sat back. I said, ‘I have never cried like that in the same space as someone before.’ I sound like I’ve been crying. Mark was still looking away though I was looking at him. Which was quite sweet. I continued, ‘this is really, really intense.’ He said, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah well I take it as an honour that your body’s let that happen with me, its intense and how else is it for you? Check around that intensity to see what it holds there might be other feelings. They might arrive later in the day.’ I laughed and told him he could look at me again. He said, ‘can I, I have to say I’m glad, much as I like looking at my guitar… and partly just to take us a little bit outside the world of the intensity…’ I said, ‘it doesn’t feel intense at the moment it feels like relief actually,’ Mark said, ‘relief, yeah… a real encouragement from me, before you go anywhere else, to let yourself feel that relief, just rest into it, even just for 30 seconds just let yourself have that.’ I gave it 3 seconds then started talking again… ‘there were times when I read the email (out of the hundreds of times that I did) when my rational brain was on board and I was thinking ‘this is totally fine Lucy, its fine, you’re doing the right thing how could anyone be angry with this if anything if he’s pissed off he’ll just tell you and you can work on it, that’s what therapy is about.’ But that was very fleeting and then all this other stuff flooded in – totally fucking certain that you were maybe even gonna not show up to this session or just be really disgusted with me. Um… or let down, disappointed. I dunno, I don’t want to be viewed like, this definitely feels bigger than just recording a few sessions and then telling you about it.’ He said, ‘sure, yeah, makes sense,’ and I said, ‘It’s like… I don’t even know what the words are… I want you to feel like you can trust me and believe me and its really important, really really important that you believe what I say and that felt like I could have damaged that forever by being evasive with the truth in the beginning, you know like ‘that’s it, you’ve totally fucked it forever’ hes never gonna believe a single word you say, hes always gonna remember this thing and its gonna tarnish the trust’ or something,’ Mark said, ‘hmmm, a real disaster movie in your head, and not only that, I was very struck, you used words like ‘disgust’ that I’d feel that towards you. There’s a few very key things that feel beyond mistrust… so it feels like other people are standing behind me in that, it isn’t what’s happened but it’s symbolic, something much bigger in you.’ I had my head down and was nodding quite a lot. He continued, full of compassion, ‘…and just to hold that for now, I’ve got it, we don’t need to open that any more than it is already. It’s here.’ I took a big deep breath and there was some more quiet. He then said, ‘and it’s paradoxical actually, because what I’m experiencing is your courage in saying what you’ve done and it did take a lot of bravery, it was a big risky step for you and if ive read you right, if you hadn’t done that you would have known it was between us and that would have gotten in the way so in some sense you chose to but it wasn’t much of a choice because you couldn’t continue working in that way knowing that was happening without me knowing. You’re between a rock and a hard place… you risked stuff that’s beyond you and I but it’s brought it up and I think, I want to say, if anything I really appreciate your rawness in it actually you’ve been very straight up and paradoxically that builds trust from my side.’ It felt really amazing to hear this and he continued, ‘I dunno if you can hear that and you might not be able to fully hear it right now,’ I said, ‘I think coz I’m very unforgiving of other people…’ he interrupted and said, ‘you are. Towards yourself you are.’ I sort of ignored this and said, ‘yeah and other people… and I remember everything and often one event can ruin a relationship for me. Like if someone lets me down that’s it, I always remember that they hurt me in that way and I don’t like that about myself but yeah I guess I am like that about myself as well. Um…’ We had some connection problems, on my side it said ‘Mark’s bandwidth is low’ and on his side it said, ‘unstable’ which made me laugh outloud… as if it was describing me!

I then said, ‘I don’t really wanna go very deeply into this but my mum never believed anything I said and um… often even about really small things to the point where (and this is how it felt with Linda) you feel like you’re going mad trying to persuade someone that you’re telling the truth or that you’re giving them an accurate description of how you’re experiencing things or what happened. Its so fucking frustrating and agonising as a kid trying to make someone believe you.’ Mark said, course, what an awful thing. What a damaging thing to not be believed. And an echo of that with Linda there, yeah painful,’ I said, ‘I was really scared I was gonna make you feel that about me too,’ Mark said, ‘of course, yeah, and just to let you know I think I’ve got a pretty good bull shit detector personally and I’m not detecting any bull shit,’ we laughed and I said, ‘I mean you don’t spend 7 and a half years in therapy bull shitting, that would be a big waste of time and moment.’ He said, ‘certainly is.’ I said, ‘I want this to work and get the most out of it. So as agonising it is I, eh… it’s all fucking authentically me!’ Mark said, ‘yeah and I get that, you’re coming across as you. And it’s very painful aspects of yourself that you’ve been experiencing since our last contact and it’s the past coming into the present. In some ways you’re being very authentic and in another sense its kinda not you its your history isn’t it, some very strong patterns that are deeply painful.’ I said, ‘and that brings up the image in my mind of the drawing of the corridor with the doors and almost like things being frozen in time behind the doors. I guess I said that in the email actually… I had to close a door on all of this when Anna left and because the shaming part of it is like ‘let the guy adjust to you before you start all this crazy shit, its literally been just a few sessions… not even a few months just a few sessions… tiny amount of time and already all of this is coming out… but it was all waiting on the other side of the door.’ Mark said, ‘yes I got that, yeah.’ I continued, ‘again not deliberately but none of this came up with Linda… maybe ones inner child has got a good bull shit detector as well…’ he said, ‘has to have yeah,’

I said, ‘even the first time we talked that wasn’t even a session I felt it all bubbling under the surface and said to you in that meeting that I wanted to work with you which triggered the shame immediately coz I was like ‘oh my god you’re so needy and too eager, reign it in’ and so scared that I’m gonna do something and make you want to stop working with me. I feel totally powerless in that fear and even if you say… like, I’ve got three therapists before you who had their own version of ‘I’m not gonna leave you’… you know… Paul would say, ‘I can assure you that I have nothing but unconditional positive regard for you and I’m not going to abandon you.’ Anna would say, ‘as long as I’m not ran over by a bus I’m not going anywhere,’ then COVID happened.’ Mark said, ‘that was the bus.’ And I felt like I could cry my eyes out again. He said, ‘its important because it wasn’t you. The bus wasn’t you.’ I said, ‘I remember saying to Linda that there’s part of me that wanted to act out and be a bad client and like shake her and force her to tell me why Anna can’t work with me. It cant just be asthma I work with people who have asthma and they’re working in schools right now it cant just be that! There’s something else. It drives me crazy not knowing. And she told me to try to find a trust inside for the fact that Anna had a damn good reason for needing to close her practice. But my brain is like a fucking dog with a bone trying to make sense of it all and obviously I keep going back to ‘it must have been me’ coz why would she have to keep it a secret if it wasn’t me? The rational part of my brain is thinking it could be mental health stuff and really because of my abandonment shit she’s not gonna say that her mental health was the reason because I’m obviously gonna automatically go to ‘I broke her, I made that happen, I caused that, I was too much’ you know?’ Mark said, ‘hmmm I can appreciate your awareness of where you might have gone to if certain said had been said, but it does sound to me as if an explanation would have given you peace. There was good reason, I don’t doubt it, I don’t think you do too but if you had a reason it would have allowed you…’ I then interrupted him annoyingly and I said, ‘we talked often about how important it was going to be to have an ending that was within my power and that it would be a long process. Because Paul left before I was ready, Anna understood that I really needed that. Also, my dad left and my mum repeatedly left emotionally and then physically and moved fucking 500 miles away from me. So I really needed to have someone not leave me. I know that she wanted to give that to me but in the end we had a 14 minute phone conversation. Why couldn’t I have had an hour? Just a session? But then she could have been in hospital, unable to speak at length. It might have been impossible for her and distressing for me to see her like that. I don’t know how to just let things go. My brain is going over and over and over all these possibilities.’ Mark said, ‘yeah I can really sense that which is why a straight up explanation would have given you a shelf to put it on even if it was a painful shelf it would be a shelf and you’d have some clarity over what happened.’

I asked Mark what the time was and he said, ‘The time is about 17 minutes past five… is there reason why you asked there?’ I said, ‘I guess my inner clock felt that it might be near the end and I want to keep talking about that but didn’t know how much time we’d have left and its always really awkward when you keep going deeper into stuff and then the therapist has to stop you.’ He offered to give me a ten minute warning at the end of sessions and I said I would like that.

I then leapt onto another topic, ‘When I started working with Anna she used to record the sessions, always asked my permission, because she was doing her advanced clinical training and used it for that she used to take notes. Then there was one session where she forgot the recorder and it was so connecting. I experienced a real opening to her and eventually realised I needed her to not have the sessions recorded. I don’t feel that now, I feel like I’d be fine for you to listen back to the sessions. The place I was in back then, 3 years ago, even more shame and mistrust than currently. And she used to write notes but I asked her to stop because it felt like it stood between us and also sometimes if I was feeling spacey or disconnected she wouldn’t always notice. She did stop nd was happy that I told her.’ Mark said, ‘both of those things make sense. I’ve never recorded sessions, I think it can be inhibiting and as you say it was, even though it would be useful in some ways.’ I talked about how sometimes its really hard to remember what’s happened in the session. Especially if it’s a very dissociated session. I said, ‘I’ve not felt spacey today I’ve been feeling it all today. Sometimes after a session I really struggle to remember anything that was talked about or experienced.’ He said, ‘hmmm and that’s not been true of today. And you’ve certainly felt some very raw feelings so that’s good isn’t it. It’s very interesting to me actually coz you’ve described your day a little bit its like you were dealing but not feeling when you were doing your teacher thing and makes sense that you have to access the bit of yourself that knows how to do that and just trot it out and it worked perfectly… and then we can get to a place when we just reel but don’t feel and we’re not sure where we are and we’re all over the place and you’ve not been there actually either. You’ve been dealing, feeling and relating. And at some points you’ve been quite raw but you’ve been able to ask for what you needed whether it was for me to look away or to look back. Or to express yourself and you know, you stayed in yourself and also receptive. The bit when I said ‘give yourself a supportive hand’ because if there’s an emptiness or something feels tight sometimes it helps to hold it. You were aware of wanting to do that and the resistance and your body did it eventually but you were like…’ and he sort of mimicked me forcing my hand from covering my face to placed on my chest as if pushing against a force. He did it in a fondly comical way and it made me burst out laughing. He smiled and said, ‘its nice to hear you laugh… yeah you eventually got there but you had to push through the resistance. You were receptive to your own process and letting it do it’s own thing. Because you were in yourself… how is it for you to hear me reflect back some of what’s happened today?’ I said, ‘I like it. I guess I feel seen in a safe way.’ He said, ‘notice that, take that in.’

I said, ‘I know that this is really big young feelings and I could feel that… it happened all weekend… I ended up taking diazepam. I felt like I was gonna have a panic attach I was so fucking beside myself with worry about all of this and I felt like I’d really fucked up this good thing that had come into my life. You know… anyway…’ he said, ‘that’s where you went and it’s horrible to hear… if it’s a good thing I’m going to fuck it up… what a thing to carry!’ I said, ‘yeah coz I don’t deserve it,’ he said, ‘I don’t deserve it.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm and that is a young part speaking, isn’t it.’ I said, ‘and when I was crying earlier I could hear, ‘please don’t leave me’ and I guess that’s the kid in the room that I was describing, that’s what the kid’s saying but nobody can hear her because of everybody shouting over her and one of the voices shouting over is, ‘don’t be so needy, everybody leaves anyway, no one can guarantee what’s going to happen, that’s disgusting being so needy and… yeah a repulsion…’ Mark said, ‘and without wanting to take you back into it, it’s a very powerful dynamic because in a sense the need comes forward with a power and its visceral and actually there’s health in that because people need people and that urge to move into relationship, there’s health in that. And you’re right nobody knows, we could all be run down by busses or whatever, shit happens, there’s no guarantee despite good intentions. But the other piece of it is there is a rejecting energy. There’s a needing energy and then there’s a rejecting energy – it’s wrong to need I’m going to reject my need I’m going to push that down, that’s not right to feel that. Like the kid being drowned out by all these adults talking over her. And it sounds like need and rejection do a push pull thing in you.’ I nodded and agreed.

Mark said, ‘we’re a few minutes off time and perhaps just to sort of breathe together and let some of that settle and just sort of connect a little bit in an ordinary way. Just see how you land.’ Which of course makes me feel very uncomfortable… not that I’m aware of that in the moment its only listening back to these recordings that I can hear how quickly I fill the spaces that he suggests space and breathing and connection. I immediately said, ‘In the whole 6 months I worked with Linda I didn’t once feel like I wanted to sit in a room with her. I felt fine that it was zoom sessions. I’ve realised that one of the big needy feelings, one that I feel a lot of shame around, is that I really wish I could sit in a room with you. And I cant believe that’s coming up because I just thought zoom worked for me and its frustrating that it’s not gonna happen. I mean, I totally agree with the reasons why we wont work in a room until its completely safe and if I could work from home I would. Just as we were ending there I felt the need to voice that feeling… that a part of me wants to be in the room with you… that’s it really! And that’s not a request… we don’t know what the fucks gonna happen… just I feel the longing.’ Mark said, ‘yeah I hear that. You were just saying what came up for you and actually a little surprise because you had it in your head that zoom works no bother but actually something about our connection would make it good if we could sit in a room together and yeah it’s not going to be any time soon by the looks of things… the shit rolls on doesn’t it… but yeah…’ I said, ‘yeah I’m just so grateful to you and also to the universe for like crossing paths with you and to myself for looking again and for it working out and that you had space and I’m really grateful that this is working. That kid in that room who hasn’t been heard for 6 months, as much as it’s scary, they’re feeling safer with you than they did with Linda and I’m really so glad about that. And that’s why I like the idea of sitting in a room with you and that’s why the feelings are all coming up… that doesn’t just happen with anyone.’ Mark said, ‘I hear you, it’s a good thing. That’s good to hear and you can sit a while when we stop in a second with those feelings and it’s good they’ve come forward. They bring other things in their wake perhaps but it’s good that we’ve managed to create together something that allows the kid to come into the room so to speak and be heard a bit more.’ There was a slight pause as I nodded in agreement and then he gently said, ‘So, okay… I’ll see you on Friday then? Take the best of care of all of you!’ I thanked him and wished him a good week and we said goodbye.

Confession

Hi Mark,

I wanted to try to explain something to you and can’t quite bring myself to say it to your face for fear of what I might see in your reaction. I’m really scared that this will damage our relationship at this early stage and very much hope that’s not the case.

The preamble to this confession-of-sorts is that when I tried to figure out how I felt about working with Linda I would often end up tied in knots trying to express myself and many times left the session feeling more confused and unsure of things. So for the final two sessions I recorded the conversation without asking her permission. I know that was wrong. It was only ever to help me decide on the right path to take. To be able to revisit the recordings when less activated in the hope that it would help me have a clearer idea of what I wanted to do and what was going on between us. Which it did. I then deleted the recordings.

So that’s the preamble, here comes the main purpose of this email. I have to confess that I also recorded our first meeting and I’m really sorry for doing that without asking you first. My reasoning for taking the recording is that when I’m very anxious or stressed I find it so hard to trust myself, trust my judgement, trust my memory and especially because of my inability to always stay present a lot of the time, it’s hard to trust that I won’t lose chunks of the session in the abyss of dissociation. My intention was to use the recording to help me decide if I wanted to work with you and then delete it and never do it again. It did help me decide without a shadow of doubt that I wanted to work with you, but more than that, an unexpected aspect of replaying that conversation back when less activated was that it felt lovely to be able to listen back to your kindness and care. I was able to take it in.

I’m not sure how to explain this but basically listening back to that conversation helped ground me in our connection and because ‘feeling connected’ is usually such a slippery and illusive thing, I’ve ended up recording all of our sessions so far. When I reflect on this, it feels very wrong and like a boundary violation because I haven’t asked your permission or let you know about it. It’s not something I ever did with Anna or Paul. I’m not a dishonest or devious person by nature and having experienced parents who lied and manipulated and were dishonest, I would never ever want to be like that with anyone. Now that I’m a couple of weeks in to this, it feels like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole that I can’t get out of without ‘outting’ myself like this.

To be honest, another really painful aspect of this is my need to have something to hold on to. I’m actually deeply regretful that I never recorded any of my sessions with Anna. I would give anything to be able to listen to her voice again and to replay some of the very soothing and connecting sessions we had. I can’t remember what her voice sounds like anymore though I’ve memorised so many of the things she said to me.

Anyway… it feels of absolute importance that I tell you this. I value openness and honesty so much and it doesn’t feel right that I have recorded our sessions without you knowing.

I want you to know that the recordings are encrypted and can’t be accessed by anyone else apart from me. I will only ever use them to help me revisit the session, process what we’ve covered or remind myself of the connection that we’re slowly forging. And therefore, I would like to ask you two things. Firstly, please forgive me for not initially asking for your permission to record our sessions. I really am sorry that I did it without your knowing or consent. If you were to ask me to delete them, I would. And secondly, please will you consider how you feel about allowing me to continue recording our sessions? Ever since I started therapy over 7 years ago I have written lengthy journal notes after each session as this really helps me process the work. Having recordings of our sessions has helped me make much deeper notes and be able to connect to my feelings and notice patterns or gaps. It feels like such a useful and important tool.

I’ve got to be honest with you, my fear of abandonment has made it very tempting to not tell you about any of this because I am so afraid that you’ll decide to stop working with me once you know. But if I was to continue and not tell you it would always be lingering in the space between us. It’s imperative that I’m completely transparent with you.

I just want to add, as a side note, that I’m actually feeling a lot of shame and disgust with myself for how quickly I’m feeling attached to you and how much I already feel like I ‘need’ you. So much has come up for me this weekend and I’m not comfortable with these feelings at all. For example I have found myself feeling very anxious about your 6 week review rule… I don’t want you to tell me at the end of October that you don’t want to continue working with me. I really want to do this work with you and I’m so scared I’m going to fuck it up somehow and lose you. I’ve been trying to put the feelings into words and can’t which makes me think it’s preverbal stuff. It feels massive like life or death, like I can’t live without you. Which my rational brain knows is ludicrous. But if I attempt to be compassionate I can see that all of this stuff was behind a door that I had to close the day Anna left.

It feels like I’m taking a huge risk in sending this and I really hope that you can see past my ill informed decision and accept my apology. I really hope we can talk about it tomorrow. I’m finding myself tempted to sign off every email with ‘please don’t leave me’… bloody hell this is such painful and difficult work.

Speak to you soon,
Lucy.

An email from Linda

So, exactly a week after I sent my initial email to Linda, she replied. It literally just came through.

Good morning Lucy, I wanted to acknowledge and say thank you for sending this, your last email. I really appreciate you taking the time to think about and let me know how you felt about our ending, I’ll be sure to return to it again. I wish you all the very best with the next part of your journey. All the very best! Kind regards, Linda.

If there was ever any doubt in my mind… here is a perfect example of how she just didn’t ‘get it’. She wasn’t invested in the relationship and she didn’t understand the depth of connection that I needed. That doesn’t discount or diminish the good work she helped me do through the past 6 months. Also, I am really grateful that she was there, immediately, in the aftermath of losing Anna. But when it came to the deeper work I needed to do, there was a lack.

I’ve had a hard weekend on some levels and I’m very much in need of tomorrow’s session. With Mark. Who can hold this and help me go deeper.

So much wasted time…

Mark started by telling me that if I want to have a second session on Mondays, he’s made a space available for me and I immediately said yes. I told him I had planned on asking him about that and he said, ‘ahh, beat you to it,’ and smiled kindly. I told him it felt good to have that in place and that I’d benefited a lot from having fewer days between sessions. I said it was good to feel connected with him and said, ‘I have missed that level of attunement, I used to have it with Anna and I didn’t with Linda and I think I should have trusted my gut. I kidded myself into thinking we would get there but we never did and really I knew from the beginning.’ Mark said, ‘You’ve probably got a good gut sense and like all of us we don’t always listen to it as much as we could. You put your good faith there and maybe it wasn’t a good fit. For other people she might be brilliant but for you she wasn’t quite what you needed and there’s learning in that isn’t there.’ I said, ‘yeah and the Anna stuff got in the way quite a lot.’

I then told Mark that I had emailed Linda last week as a follow up from our ending and she never replied. I told him a bit more about how shit the last session had been, that she didn’t really have much to say to me and that she told me that normally people just email to end their work, they don’t have an ending session and that even she has ended therapeutic relationships as a client by email. Mark said, ‘you didn’t body swerve the final session and I’m glad Linda noticed that, it takes a certain amount of courage to rock up and say ‘I’m not getting what I need from you and that’s why I’m leaving’ which is the short way of saying what you were doing. So it does take a certain amount of guts.’ I laughed at the idea of this effectively being what I did and said, ‘it felt really important to do it you know, I think there’s this naivety about me where I believe that the therapist is always going to have the clients best interests in mind and I don’t think she did all the time or maybe her intention was to do that but she struggled with it because I know that it was really important for me to have a last session and I’m angry that she couldn’t bring anything to the table for it. She didn’t have anything to say.’ I told Mark that Linda had teased me saying I could have one last email and it had taken me a couple of weeks to figure out if I wanted to say anything and eventually I did email her and she hasn’t replied.  Mark asked, ‘how does that leave you?’ and I said, ‘it’s really disappointing that she couldn’t… part of me feels ashamed and embarrassed that I sent the email like I opened myself again to a rejection and that’s the naivety,’ Mark asked, ‘does that feel familiar?’ and I said, ‘yeah the one making the effort, the one trying to build a bridge or reaching out. I wanted it to end on good terms you know? And really how much effort would it take her to email me, even fucking lying and saying, ‘I enjoyed working with you, it was nice to meet you, I wish you well’… how much effort does that take? But by not emailing me back it either shows that she really didn’t get to know me, over the 38 sessions we had, or she did know me and there’s some sort of anger in her that’s making her not want to give me what she knows I need. Maybe she felt rejected.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm she knows it would be important for you to try to end well,’ I said, ‘especially with what happened with Anna!’ Mark said, ‘that’s what I was thinking… you cam with a difficult ending. The endings were around from the beginning. Just like they are here. It’s partly what’s alive for you.’ I said, ‘yeah and you said in the last session right at the end, ‘I’m liking getting to know you’ and that really touched me and I felt… like I believed you. That is the work for me, learning to connect, trusting and staying connected, being in a relationship, a real one that both the therapist and the client are in this real relationship where it needs to matter to both of them and it did with Anna and it didn’t with Linda. I think I described it to you before like this, it felt like a drive through therapy with Linda, she didn’t invest anything in the relationship so she was really useful in certain capacities if I brought a day to day problem to her she would help me work through it.’ Mark said, ‘if it was away from your relationship,’ I nodded and said, ‘the fact that she would have been quite happy if I had emailed to end our work, she didn’t care, its not like she would miss me or…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘I’d feel upset if you did that to me, I would,’ he laughed and continued, ‘it’s not good I think people who end by text, I don’t get that a lot actually but I feel sad for the person when it does happen because it shows that they’re not ready to end, if you can’t show up, like you did with her…’ I said, ‘exactly, I know its not my job to analyse her but I don’t think she’s finished doing her own work, I don’t think she was able to be vulnerable or emotionally intimate in the relationship. She kept herself at a distance the whole entire time and when I kept trying to pull her into it (because that’s what I need to work on) she became defensive or would subtly gaslight me or tease me. She couldn’t see it. There were times when I would say something and she’d say it was a nervous laugh because what I described sounded horrific or whatever and I’d realise that she would make it about herself rather than seeing what I needed. Like, ‘this is MY therapy’, you know? ‘You go to your own therapy and figure that out but I need to deal with this in my therapy’. And I think coz I really wanted it to work I kept going through it and it was quite painful. And there were so many red flags. Like her saying she’d never had a client come twice a week, she’d never talked about the therapeutic relationship with clients… and I’d think ‘how can you work with people with developmental trauma/attachment stuff and not have the relationship come up? There are so many parts of this relationship that re-enact and mirror and bring up painful grief from things you lacked growing up, how can you not talk about the relationship. It was as if I was speaking a different language to her. She totally didn’t get it.’ Mark said, ‘and did that feel familiar to you? That dynamic? what does that remind you of?’ I said, ‘yeah my mum!’ and took three or four big breaths in and out. I said, ‘its really hard to talk to somebody who… it’s a lack of self awareness actually and I find it hard to tolerate. Which I know is a flaw in myself but I find it hard to tolerate people who lack that self awareness where they don’t realise the things they need to work on. So all I wanted was for Linda to say ‘I hear you and that’s som….’ oh well I guess she did say she was gonna take some of the things I said to supervision but, em, with my mum it was as if I grew up past her when I was quite young and she stayed at a maturity level… some of the ways she behaved it was as if she was the child in the relationship with me and her, very little self-awareness and no awareness of how or why her behaviour impacted me, also not taking responsibility for yourself.’ Mark said, ‘if I rewind slightly, you started saying maybe you should grow a tolerance and actually I think your system knows what you need and you know what it feels like when you get it and you weren’t getting it and its fair to expect therapists to own their part in something or come forward with these things and not put it all on you and leave you as the bad person,’ I said, ‘yeah so I think what I mean is that this is a thing that triggers me in my husband, his lack of self-awareness and I would like to be more tolerant in that relationship, I agree it’s the therapists role… yeah. I think there was some sort of insecurity with her, where she felt threatened by me sometimes, like if I quoted something psychology related she would tease me or question my need to do that, and it made me think that there’s something underneath her need to tease me, she’s not comfortable with me knowing things. She quite likes being the one who knows everything and having the person on this side not knowing things and I do know stuff I’ve read things. What I need is for somebody to be willing to go right down into the deep vulnerable intimate stuff. Coz I can have the cognitive conversations about things, but she wasn’t willing to go deeper…’ I trailed off.

I then said, ‘och I don’t know, I’m getting annoyed talking about this coz I’m like this is a waste of time and I already wasted 6 months with her…’ Mark said, ‘well that’s a theme isn’t it, with you, this sort of ‘waste of time’ thing comes up a lot. What I’m appreciating actually is that you certainly didn’t give over your power to her and you were able to clock when you were coming up against her defences and maybe asking her to show up more than she was comfortable with which does take a lot of courage. You’re right to do that with people and I’d hope you would do it with me, at some point I’m bound to disappoint you or piss you off, it’s just human relationships and I’d hope that you could tell me and I’d hope that I wouldn’t be overly defensive. In a sense I hear you having to do another difficult ending in a very different way. With Anna you got what you needed and then you didn’t and it leaves you with a whole lot of feelings that we’re learning from.’ I said, ‘wow yeah. I feel like I did give away my power by sending the email and I’m annoyed about that. I don’t know what it is with me and emails. I don’t know why I feel like I have to… why I even wanted to send it. I wanted it nicely tied off and it wasn.t the session was so awkward Mark I don’t even know how to describe it. Its like as soon as I said, ‘the conversation with Mark went well and I think that might be the direction I should go down,’ she was like ‘we’re done here’, you know? Rather than what I wanted to do was explore it and maybe reflect on the work we’d done but she just sat back and let the minutes go on. And then at like 35 minutes I checked how long we had left… she did the 50 minute hour which was another red flag for me coz how can you work with dissociative clients in 50 minutes that’s no time, that extra 10 minutes matters… if you’re really struggling you’ve got to finish 15 or 20 minutes before the end to ground and get back to reality so you’ve got this tiny sliver of time in the middle of the session where you’ve gone into something and then you’ve got to come out of it again. Anyway… I so she told me we had ages left of the session and is aid ‘actually this is excruciating, I’m happy for it to end now’ and she was like, ‘alright, well, good luck. Wish you well!’ and that was it… it was horrible!’ Mark said, ‘she didn’t support you to stay til the end and check in with what was excruciating, she wasn’t willing to meet you in it.’ I said, ‘ahh no… she never asked those kind of curious questions to try to investigate what was going on. Never took things further… ummm yeah… so there’s the part of me that feels angry about that, I wanted her to be more… and the other part of me is like ‘well who do you think you are? Wanting more! She is what she is and you know… and then but then I also feel like she said right at the start she doesn’t tend to do long term stuff, she tends to do 6, 8 sessions with people. Um… I mean right at the start I was like, really?? And I said to her, I need deep work, I’m probably gonna get attached to you, its gonna be the relationship I need to focus on and she was like ‘I can handle that’ but I think if she’s never experienced it or maybe if she’s never been the client experiencing it then maybe she wouldn’t know even that it exists or what it feels like. Ummm…’ there was a pause and then I said, ‘and again I feel like I’m wasting my time talking about this!’ Mark said, ‘I thought you might come in with that I was kind of thinking I bet that’s the next thing she’ll say!’ I laughed and he said, ‘Yeah, I mean, we can have a little laugh about it… yeah…’ I said, ‘yeah coz it’s only an hour and I want it to matter and why am I talking about this fucking woman I already wasted time on her you know? It was hard work I put in a lot of hard work and it wasn’t therapy, it didn’t feel like therapy for a lot of the time. And there’s a time investment, there’s a financial investment, there’s an emotional investment to all of that and she’s just kinda like walked away. And see at the start I asked her if she wanted to take a note of any of my details or take notes and or whatever and she said she didn’t do that… that was another red flag – there’s no relationship for her, its just work, someone shows up for the session or they don’t. she deals with that current thing and they might never come back… whereas Anna wrote loads of notes until I asked her to stop and she took notes between the sessions and she would bring her reflections to me. The relationship mattered to Anna but it didn’t impact Linda at all and I think it needs to be, for me, the relationship needs to matter to both of us. You know?’ Mark said, ‘Yes that makes sense. How are you feeling towards her as you speak? Can you just notice what’s there for you?’ There was a long pause and then I pondered what the feelings were. I wondered if it was resentment. I said, ‘its so fuzzy. Its like its behind frosted glass what I feel. um. I mean there’s a phrase in my head that I’m reluctant to say coz it sounds really arrogant. Ehhh…. but I feel like I could do a better job than she did and that annoys me and I know that’s probably ridiculous because I’m not a therapist. But you know, I can sit and give people space and be compassionate and empathetic and I feel like I know how to be far more emotionally intimate in relationships than she was able to be and that fucking annoys me.’ Mark said, ‘yeah there’s clearly anger there and in a way you’re just talking about human qualities and I imagine there must be a fair bit of disappointment because you do invest in relationships and certainly in your therapy you want to bring your whole self and have it met in other words you invest in this thing. And that’s great, I hear it as great because otherwise the thing doesn’t work you know, and you didn’t feel that coming back to you so I imagine that to be a huge disappointment.’

I said, ‘okay so that’s completely summed up what my relationship with my mum is.’ Mark said, ‘yeah so its also a re-enactment,’ I said, ‘she’s nothing like my mum so its really weird… a lot of mum stuff came up with Anna in a different way because she offered me things that my mother was never able to give me so there was a lot of loss and grief there but with Linda… so my mum is the sort of person where its like ’out of sight out of mind’ so if she doesn’t need something from me ill not hear from her for months. She’s not interested in maintaining a close relationship. Well she’d have to start one first before maintaining it.’ Mark said, ‘and how is that for you that she’s like that? Big question I know.’ There was a long pause and I said, ‘cognitively I know that it’s painful but I’m not feeling pain. It is disappointing. There’s a fucking massive amount of wasted time and emotional investment there, I mean the amount of effort that I put in to that relationship. To try and bend and mould myself to be the type of person that she might want to have around. ‘ Mark said, ‘well children do don’t they, we do with our parents and knocking on the door that can’t open til your knuckles bleed.’ I was quiet for a while and he said, ‘sorry that was a strong metaphor’ and I told him it was accurate. I said, ‘I constantly felt like she did not notice me at all and as if she was forever faced in the other direction, preoccupied with her relationships. Whether it was with my dad or after they split up it would be one of the many boyfriends she had. She was so obsessively focused on these very unhealthy relationships and I would be sort of tugging at her sleeve so to speak and she wouldn’t notice unless I was able to support her in some way. So maybe listening to her talking about it or accompanying her if she felt lonely but then she’d drop me if she managed to get a date. It was a very one sided relationship.’ Mark said, ‘yeah.’ And there was some time.

He then said, ‘So who was there for you?’ and I thought for a long time. I told him I had some good relationships with my teachers. I told him I didn’t remember ever going to anyone for comfort or anything as a young child. He said, ‘you sort of held it on your own?’ I said, ‘I had a really vivid inner world and would just go inside quite a lot. Ehhh…. that feels like too much.’ Mark said, ‘okay so we’ll pause there.’ I felt horrible and very spacy and I curled up with a pillow hugged to my chest. Mark said, ‘maybe sort of come out a little bit and take me in or maybe you could keep a small part of yourself here with me… it felt to me that you were going way back in time or away almost, way back inside and then you clocked that and it felt too much and you noticed the spaceyness and now I feel you slowly coming back to me and now I feel you sort of taking me in and the connecting with me and yeah, I am here with you and we can move things on and in a way, I hope this is okay, in sense I was pushing in to things a little bit to check out who you’ve had around for you, when you would fall who would catch you. And we’ll leave that to one side just now. But yeah…’ I said, ‘I was desperate for attention and care and found various ways to get that attention. Normally by just being very good and meeting all the needs of the grown ups. It was mainly teachers.’ Mark said, ‘school was very different from home, and you are a teacher now which is significant. There’s something in that, you provide that for other children now.’ I told him that when school stopped it was probably at the worst part of my life. I lost all the support and structure that I had in my life and the start of lockdown felt the same. That mini community and all the things you have just ends. Out-with your control. He said, ‘the bottom fell out your world.’ I talked some more about how chaotic family life was like and that losing school was awful and how the lockdown reminded me of that even though my home life now is not chaotic at all.

I suddenly said, ‘I feel weird,’ and put my head in my hands. Mark said, ‘let’s pause and notice what’s telling you that you feel really weird, let’s just feel it for maybe about 5 seconds…’ I said, ‘I feel sick and spacey,’ Mark leaned in and in a super soft, gentle voice said, ‘Hear me here with you. We’ll just sort of rest a little bit. There’s a kind of intensity here and a part of you is looking after you by going a little bit spacey. No rush.’ I drank some water and he said, ‘waters good! were meant to drink gallons of the stuff aren’t we…’ and he took a drink too which made me laugh. I said, ‘I get really frustrated with myself. Everything takes so long. This is the sort of thing where… if there were a million things that I would deal with in therapy I touched on a handful with Anna and it took so long because I slowed everything down so much and it really fucking annoys me that I cant just… I don’t wanna feel like that I just want to focus on things and talk about them and get them done! And then move on to the next thing.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah of course you do and we will. There’s a fight part on you isn’t there, it comes out in relationship to your own process ‘I just want to get things done’ which maybe doesn’t allow things to be and have a little bit of space around them. And what we took there in slowing down and having a drink of water, it might not feel like much is getting done, in getting through the list of things to talk about, but there is something about sort of riding that level of activation where we space out and come back and in that a lot is done actually, a lot is done even if there isn’t a story about it a lot is done. I don’t know if this makes sense to you or what you’re making of what I’ve said. And I’m not trying to discount what you’d like to get done.’ I said, ‘what I’m making of what you’re saying is that you understand this process and that makes me feel safe actually.’ He said, ‘and what does safe feel like right here and now?’ I said, ‘I want to answer that and then I hear ‘that’s the wrong answer, don’t say that, that sounds stupid’…’ Mark said, ‘it’s a bit like when I said the stuff about the body before and you said in your email to me that you were worried about being wrong, ‘not enough not enough not enough’ in some way… so I felt slightly hesitant but you do know actually because you just told me and I know I’ve thrown you back on yourself to sort of colour it in a little bit, and you might feel like the kid at school who didn’t know the answer but it’s all fine and…’ I interrupted and said, ‘I feel like if I say something you’re going to say it’s the wrong things to say.’ He said, ‘isn’t that interesting!’ I said, ‘I feel that in so many areas of my life like… this is a really stupid example but I feel lit when I’m at the optician, you know? When they’re changing the various lenses and asking, ‘any better now’… ‘a or b’? and I’m like, ‘you tell me! I don’t know what’s right!’ Mark laughed spontaneously which was lovely to hear and so did I. He said, ‘actually I was at the opticians yesterday and I was steaming up coz of the mask and couldn’t see the fucking letters!’ I burst out laughing, it was honestly very funny. I continued, ‘I know its ludicrous coz its my body, my eye sight… even when I’m at the doctor or osteopath or whatever I’m thinking they’re gonna tell me that what I say is wrong. Is this how I feel? Is that where the pain is? So youre asking me what feeling safe feels like, it feels like ‘oh phew he’s not gonna ridicule me’ I think that’s what safety here feels like. So when you were saying it might feel like we’re not doing a lot in that moment but we are, whereas someone who doesn’t understand the process might want me to hurry up and speak. You know that all of this is important.’ Mark said, ‘Absolutely, especially when we go a bit spacey. I want you back in the room with me but something has triggered that need to leave.’

I said, ‘I don’t think I ever had an emotionally safe intimate relationship growing up, with anyone. And it’s really terrifying… it’s like touching fire but you want to touch it.’ Mark said, ‘course you do, you long for that and you’re scared shitless of it.’ That totally stopped me and I just sat nodding looking at him feeling completely understood. I said, ‘yeah… I really want this thing, it feels good, I want him to know me, I want to invest in this , I want to be open, I really wanna talk about all these things and feel it and all of that and then I get a tiny touch of it and its like ‘fuuuccckkk’ it’s too much but not consciously and then it goes and it’s like I’m drowning and I don’t even know what I was talking about and I’m not feeling anything and there’s a complete disconnect and I don’t even know where I am or where you are and that feels just as scary as it did to connect and then I get frustrated because this is what slows everything down.’ Mark said, ‘and you’re wasting time or something like that,’ and I laughed and said, ‘exactly that… not something like that’ and laughed. ‘fucking wasting time staring out the goddam window when I should be focusing on this work that I wanna do!’ Mark said, ‘but in a sense you very articulately led me through what goes on for you and that is the work, that’s part of your process, that you do that… and for good historical reason. You know, it’s how you managed things when you were young. With all that longing for connection and it not being met and somehow you had to manage the unbearable. So I think your psyche has been quite clever at supporting you in coming through. And now we have the opportunity to take little pieces of the sequence of that and bring some curiosity and interest and say ‘well this is what happens for me and then that happens and before I know it I’m in this place,’ and over time something will come together with that, something in you will relax and come back quicker or not need to do that or only do it when you really need to do it or you’ll have some choice in when you do it rather than now when it happens to you.’ I said, ‘and it gets in the way of my relationships,’ he said, ‘it’ll have an impact for sure,’ and I said, ‘it really gets in the way, with my kids as well. Which really I feel so awful about, quite often they can be my biggest triggers especially in happy times which is so shit because like if were having fun together and I get a sense of connection with one of them, especially Grace, then this spaceyness kicks in… either I feel really disconnected… what happens is I feel like… uh… like this! Why cant I think of the fucking sentence!’ Mark said, ‘yeah you kinda get the brain fog, something in you… your articulateness that we were talking about before and I was appreciating does a bunk and is not there for you, you’re in a different space, a spacey space. Which is a sign that somethings been touched in you that’s difficult for you to be with so you sort of ping out in a way. There’s something protective in that and then you get frustrated to fuck about it happening and probably tighten a bit more I would guess,’ I said, ‘I literally cant even remember what I was gonna say! I really wanna try and remember what I was gonna say,’ I sat with my head in my hands and eyes closed and he told me there was no rush and I swore a few times in frustration. I said, ‘imagine trying to be a competent, present, attuned parent and feeling like this, it’s a fucking failure.’ He said, ‘there’s so much pain in that for you,’ I said, ‘I don’t wanna let them down like this…’ then suddenly ‘I’ came back online and it all was very clear again. I exclaimed ‘oh that’s what I was going to say!’ and sort of thanked the universe and continued, ‘It’s like being an observer. So, I go for being in the moment with her to then feeling like I’m watching us playing and I’m not part of it, or I’m watching them all playing together – Adam and the kids and I might as well not be there, and I get visions of me not being there and them being perfectly happy without me and this all happens in a split second and I get really upset and I have to go away because I don’t wanna ruin the moment for them,’ Mark said, ‘that’s really painful, some part of you comes in there,’ I said, ‘I feel totally fine now, I can talk about it when I’m not feeling it, it’s like I’m talking about somebody else.’ Mark said, ‘and there’s what you feel towards the part of you that does that,’ I said, ‘I hate it.’ He repeated that to me with total gravity. ‘You hate it. Yeah. Something in you gets triggered and goes off and doesn’t feel you can join in, you’re sort of outside the city walls… I’m not in this family.’ This phrase made me well up… I’m not in this family. That’s what I felt growing up all the time. I’m not in this family. He said, ‘but of course that’s not where you wanna be, the bigger part of you so wants to be in your family and connecting and responsive and there as a full open being but something happens for you that’s i a way I imagine something touches a memory in you and off you go, and a bit of you is trying to manage your experience,’ I said, ‘it’s all those different parts of me, you know like I’ll hear… for example one of the things that used to upset me a lot was playing with Grace’s hair, brushing her hair, plaiting it, getting her ready for school, and I’ll hear ‘no one ever did this for me’… and you know its painful, its almost like there’s a kid looking out of my eyes at this situation feeling really hurt watching this thing happening for someone else, again!’ Mark was making very compassionate noises while I explained this and said, ‘and that makes complete sense. Yeah. Nobody did that for you and how lovely that would feel as a child.’ There was some quiet as I sat with that and then Mark quietly said (as he motioned a cupped hand to his right), ‘I’m going to keep that one there, bookmark that, because that’s big, it speaks of a mountain of grief behind it. I really want to take our last five minutes just to sort of be together and perhaps even waste time together or for you to be able to say how its been or whatever you might need to do to sort of come out gently.’ I smiled and breathed deeply and said, ‘this feels like the fastest hour!’ I was going to continue but to my surprise Mark said, ‘it does feel fast, it feels fast to me!’ I said, ‘wow okay that’s not coz I’m just fucking weird,’ and he said, ‘well no it’s nothing to do with you being weird or not its time… time is very interesting. Psychological time can last ages or compress. I take it that I’ve been engaged that’s what I’m reading from it.’ I said, ‘oh okay, well the spaceyness steals time from me you know, I don’t always notice how much time has passed and then I get panicky and think I wasted all that time,’ I laughed and Mark smiled and said, ‘ahhh yeah this is really important isn’t it, when you get spacey you lose sense of time or maybe you spent quite a bit of your life feeling spacey,’ I interrupted and said, ‘hours and hours and hours every day,’ Mark said, ‘yeah yeah so that’s why its so big for you. That’s why it’s so big.’ I breathed audibly and Mark said, ‘big outbreath of recognition there.’ I said, ‘you know, I don’t notice my kids ever doing that. They’re so engaged and playful or talking all the time or interacting in some way. Its really interesting to watch how much kids talk and interact and move and are expressive when they’re relaxed and happy, you know?’ Mark said, ‘yeah, and another word for that is when they’re feeling safe. And what you’ve done is enabled them to feel safe. So they can be happy and relaxed and engaged and that’s great it shows you’re doing a bloody good job but its also painful because it didn’t happen for you so there’s grief there I imagine. And I’ll be with you in that to work through that I really want you to hear that before we stop. However long it takes and whether we feel like we’re wasting it or not.’ I said, ‘well you’re gonna need to look after yourself for the next however many years then so that you don’t fucking leave me!’ and laughed and he said, ‘I’m very good at looking after myself.’ I said, ‘good. that was nice to hear thank you.’

We clarified that we’d do half four on Mondays and I said, ‘I’m so glad that you’re able to do that, it really makes a big different. Thank you!’ and he said, ‘yes I am too, I wanted to and circumstances… well it just worked and sometimes thing shine…’ I said that the planets have aligned, and he smiled. We wished each other a good weekend and said goodbye.