Finally, I have made it to the end of the two week therapy break. As I write that out I feel like it’s quite ridiculous that it caused me as much pain as it did… I can stand to be away from so many people for longer than two weeks yet this felt like it could destroy me. There aren’t even the words to describe it… it’s like I don’t exist if I’m not seeing her regularly… I know other people with attachment/developmental traumas feel the same way about therapy breaks and I have a world of understanding for them, yet as is always the case, it’s hard to find compassion for myself.
I have written on Instagram how hard the break has been. I’ve been very depressed and desperately lonely… despite keeping busy and filling the two weeks catching up with friends, going to the theatre with my family, trips to the gym and a massage and facial… the very nature of feeling fragmented I guess is that I can ‘usually’ maintain some sort of ‘normal’ existence while a part of me is imploding on the inside. I really struggled to look after myself after having some very exposing sessions (discussed here and here) and then a sort of rupture in the last session before the break. I sent Anna a series of texts the day after that session which yo-yo’d between being angry, upset, asking for a call then saying everything was fine. The four texts spanned a 12 hour period. She didn’t reply to any of them. I pretended I was okay with that but I think it really elevated my anxiety. I was sure she would have looked at those texts with total distain. Fuck sake don’t I deserve a break!? Leave me alone you needy bitch! That kind of thing.
Session day finally came around. I felt very anxious in the morning. I umm’d and ahh’d about sending Anna a message and eventually sent one saying along the lines of please go easy on me today, I know you’ll want to talk about the texting and boundaries and we will but I really need to feel connected to you… this has been the hardest break yet and I’m really scared I’m going to shut down and pull away from you, I really need to try to make sense of this. She actually replied, much to my surprise, saying we would work it out together and that she was looking forward to seeing me later. I felt relieved that she’d replied but also a bit spacey. The drive there was a total blur. I was on another planet and suddenly I was standing at her door one minute after the start of our session time.
Anna clicked the buzzer and said, ‘hello!’ in an unusually chirpy way as if to show me that we were fine. She was the only one working in the office, all the other rooms were empty. It always feels more intimate when we’re the only two bodies in the building and I’m aware of this sense in me that she trusts me enough to be alone with me. I walked slowly up the stairs and went in her door and she walked straight up to me, arms wide open and gave me a big hug. I held on to her for ages, face resting on her shoulder and could feel my heart in my throat, my breaths were quick and shallow. I could feel my heart racing and I wondered if she could feel it too. I wondered what she was thinking… I always wonder that.
When we sat down I couldn’t really get comfortable, shifted around a lot. Eventually I took my shoes off and pulled my knees up to my chest. Anna asked how I’d been and I said I didn’t know. I looked out the window. I couldn’t regulate my breathing and I said, ‘I feel really wired.’ She said okay and she started breathing deeply, really intentionally which made me start to breathe like that. At one point she asked me what I needed but I didn’t know. She said it was important that I don’t censor myself today. I looked at her and she said something about there being lots of emotions I will have felt since we last saw each other and they were all welcome here.
Anna said, ‘what happened after you left here last session? I thought we’d resolved everything and you were feeling good?’ I said, ‘I don’t remember what the end of the last session was like but I just totally freaked out afterwards… all the blog stuff, it made me freak out… I don’t know… I felt like you didn’t trust me, I wanted to make you believe me, I felt like you would want to stop working with me after finding out that I write about the therapy on my blog.’ Anna nodded. I said, ‘I think it’s teen stuff… it all feels really confusing in my head but it was just, I didn’t feel like a grown up anymore, I felt like a teenager… the care you were giving me by checking that I was keeping myself safe online felt really threatening and judgemental to me. You know my mum never gave me safe boundaries, she never gave me a curfew or advised me not to hang around with people who weren’t good for me, she never looked after me like that and when I was a teenager, on the odd occasion that she did try to assert some sort of control over me I’d laugh at her or tell her to fuck off, I felt like she only wanted to be my mother when she needed something, I’d managed to look after myself all those years I didn’t need anything from her now… so the same thing kicked in when you talked about your concerns around the blog…’ Anna understood exactly what I was saying and said that she did trust me and knew I could look after myself, that she just cares about me and the care is the thing that triggered all of this in me. I said, ‘I wanted you to know that of course I wouldn’t jeopardise either of our privacy and of course I’m very careful about what I share, I wanted you to know that and to also be proud of me for sharing things I’ve kept locked away my whole life.’ I started to feel emotional but held my breath until it passed. Anna was being really lovely, I don’t know how to put it into words… if you could see energy omitting from a person, hers would be a lilac hue of fluffy soft hearts floating towards me. Or maybe something more solid and holding like a thick, warm blanket draped over me. Nothing about her presence felt angry or harsh or judgemental… I was feeling her care for me. She said, ‘I became your mother in that moment, your responses to me – you don’t really care about me you just care about yourself, you don’t believe me, you don’t trust me, you think I’m an idiot… that was your mother you were talking to.’ I nodded and really let that sink in for a few moments feeling flooded with emotions.
I said that the first week in particular was just awful and Anna asked me what I had needed in that time. I just kept thinking I needed you!! but I said, ‘probably just to feel everything, and that’s what I did… I felt everything… it’s the worst I’ve ever felt… the last time I felt like that, when I was a teenager, I never properly felt it, but this time I felt it all. I was so depressed.’ I said, ‘Do you remember the drawing I did that was like a corridor with doors going off it?’ she nodded enthusiastically. I said, ‘it feels like in those two really hard sessions we opened one of those doors and the 14 year old girl who was in there… well me… um she came out and now she’s fucking everything up for me!’ Anna nodded and said in a very gentle voice, ‘yep, that’s how this works… that’s the work…that’s the therapy… it’s hard and I’m afraid it will keep getting harder… we open doors that have been closed for years and the feelings resurface and they feel overwhelming and we look at them and dissect them together, in here… it’s just really awful timing that I had my two week break right after she came out of her room and I wasn’t able to be here to support you.’ I felt like I’d just told her the most crazy thing ever and she accepted it completely. In fact she made me feel like it made total sense.
There were quite a few quiet moments. I was feeling very heavy and sad inside but looking back I wasn’t feeling self conscious, I felt accepted and like there was space for me to just feel how I was feeling. I said, ‘I missed you so much Anna, it was the hardest break, I’ve been so depressed and felt so alone… and I didn’t realise we’re only seeing each other twice this whole month and that’s really shit. I’ve gone from seeing you twice a week every week for two months to just twice in this whole month…’ Anna got her diary out and said, ‘let’s have a look at the calendar.’ I felt this wave wash over me, a sadness or something, like an awareness that she cares and wants to try to make this easier for me. I said, ‘I think I forgot how nice you are…’ and almost without even noticing it I started to cry. It felt like a crumbling inside me, or a melting, a slow shift in the ground like a gradual landslide that creeps up on you. The discomfort in my body when I cry is palpable. I wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly started pouring out of my pores… the shame. I dropped my leg off the chair and started shaking it furiously. I lifted my hand to my face.
After probably no more than thirty seconds of this silent crying, I heard Anna put her diary on the table and she said very gently, ‘would you like me to come over there and sit next to you?’ I nodded. She moved my bag and dragged the other chair right over so the arms of the chair were touching. I was still silently crying, holding my breath in places as it’s just what my body naturally does when I cry, it chokes and blocks and restricts like a car accident on the motorway… a few cars escape and then the rest come to a halt. She said, ‘would you like me to put my hand on your arm?’ I nodded. I eventually breathed a bit and calmed down. Not looking at her I said, ‘I hate this so much, I feel so ashamed that I need you so much… I missed you so much… I remembered the last time I felt like this and you said I had abandoned myself and I know I did abandon myself but I don’t know why I did that… I even phoned in at work I just couldn’t face it… I didn’t feel like an adult I couldn’t cope…’ Anna said, ‘because it’s the only way you know how to respond… we can focus on finding some coping strategies for when this happens again so you don’t feel so alone next time, because it will happen again, this is the work and as much as it doesn’t feel like it, this is really good work you’re doing.’ I nodded, staring into space with my back facing her. I leaned forward and got a tissue, dried my eyes and blew my nose. When I sat back I shifted my body so I was leaning towards her rather than away like I was before. Anna put her hand back on my arm. I looked at the floor and said, ‘the thoughts came back… that the kids would be better off without me…’ Anna asked me if I’d kept myself safe. I said, ‘well… I mean, yes… but…’ she interrupted and loudly, purposefully exclaimed, ‘well done, Lucy!’ She leaned into my line of vision and repeated, ‘well done!’ looking right into my eyes. I nodded slightly and looked away. I said, ‘I thought about hurting myself every day. Points where I was so close to doing it. I stood making the dinner one night, very dissociated, imagined lowering my hand into the pan of boiling water along with the peas… there was a moment where I didn’t know if I’d actually done it or not… I was so gone, like not even in the room anymore.’ She made a noise like she understood and nodded her head. ‘I thought about smashing a glass in the sink and shoving my hand inside it so it would cut up my wrist…’ A tear escaped my eye and I quietly continued, ‘One of the days, I got a blade and sat with it against my skin… part of me wishes I had hurt myself because then you’d know just how awful I’ve been feeling…’ Anna immediately responded, ‘just because you didn’t hurt yourself, doesn’t mean you weren’t in absolute agony, you don’t have to hurt yourself for me to know how in pain you are… Lucy… I believe you when you tell me how you’re feeling… let me repeat that… I believe you when you tell me how you’re feeling.’ It hit me in my chest and I put my head down and cried silently. She believes me. That’s what I needed to hear without even knowing it. She believes the extent of my pain. I don’t need to hurt myself to show her my pain. She believes me.
I had my head in my hands and said, ‘it felt like it would be a relief to just not be here… it makes me angry that I can’t do what I want to do just for other people… I can’t hurt myself because my kids and Adam would see… I know it’s not good for me but I wanted to do it… I just felt so awful and I wanted it to stop.’ Anna said she understood and that in that moment I was aware that these feelings don’t last forever. I said, ‘it is lasting a very long time though.’ I felt completely understood and supported. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before. There’s no shaming or judgement. There’s no panicked warnings or telling me I shouldn’t be thinking those thoughts, she just sat with me, in the feelings. She said, ‘… and did you have suicidal thoughts?’ I nodded. She said, ‘…are you still having suicidal thoughts?’ I nodded. I said, ‘passive ones… just like… sometimes it makes things feel slightly less shit when I imagine there’s a way out…’ she said, ‘have you got a plan?’ I said no. I thought in my head about all the ways I think about dying, every day… none of them are planned out, they’re all just accidental deaths. I told her about how I’d sat with my son one night when he was frightened because he’s started to worry about monsters at night. I sat with his tiny hand in my hand and just looked at it. I said, ‘I know that’s all bullshit, I know they wouldn’t be better off without me, I know it would completely destroy their lives, every day for the rest of their lives, it would fucking destroy everything for them… but it’s like I’m trapped, it hurts so much to keep doing this… life… but I have to, for them.’
I said, ‘I had imagined you’d be really angry with me for sending the texts and that you’d want to stop working with me.’ Anna said, ‘you know that you can be angry with people and still love them, you don’t want to divorce Adam every time he makes you angry do you?’ I said, ‘no but me divorcing my husband is very different to you deciding you want to stop working with a client. It’s totally different!’ She was quiet for a bit and then said, ‘yes… do you want to ask me about that?’ I felt panicky and then shook my head. She said, ‘no…? I think that you do.’ I felt fear rush through me and tentatively said, ‘did you feel like you wanted to stop working with me?’ She said, ‘no.’ I looked in her eyes and said, ‘not even just a little bit?’ She said, ‘no’ again, firmly. I said, ‘were you angry with me?’ and she said, ‘not at all, I was frustrated that you were going to have to sit with that for two weeks and I couldn’t support you like I am now.’ She said, ‘I want to tell you Lucy that when you text me I was in the car with my family, I did read them… it was difficult for me, I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place because you had said you would feel worse if I said no to a phone call but there was no way I could ensure a private call with you, I couldn’t think of a way to reply to your message that would be holding because it might have helped you in the moment but then you might have started over thinking it again, or maybe you would have continued to text me or misunderstood my intentions, so I decided that the best thing I could do was hold the boundary, that’s why I didn’t reply… I held you in mind Lucy.’ I said, ‘I’m really sorry Anna, I’m sorry my texts made you have to think of me when you were on holiday.’ She said, ‘Lucy, you don’t have to text me for me to think of you… I think about you, I hold you in mind even if you don’t text me.’ I said, ‘willingly?’ and she said, ‘yes’ with a smile. She asked me how that felt and I just tried to take it in. I looked around the room and said, ‘nice, it feels nice.’ I started to cry again.
I told Anna about my dream of her giving me a box (I wrote about it here). She listened carefully to the dream and occasionally I looked up at her to check on how she was feeling. She was sitting with her face so close to me and I wondered what she thought of me, seeing me so close up… no make up on. I wondered how she felt when she looked in my eyes. If she felt a fondness for me or if she was annoyed by me, is she glad she met me or does she wish I’d never walked into her office? I told her how the dream had comforted me and reminded me that our relationship is very special, that she gives me things that she doesn’t give anyone else, that are special just for me, that just as much as she keeps her family life private from me, she also keeps our sessions private from her family. She was enthusiastically nodding and saying, ‘yes’ when I said these things. I said, ‘I think you actually do understand what this is like for me.’ She nodded with her eyebrows raised and a half smile as if to say more than you realise.
At one point Anna asked if I wanted her to move back over and I said, ‘do you want to go back over?’ she said, ‘that’s not what I asked…’ so eventually I said, ‘I like you sitting there.’ She said, ‘okay I’ll stay here, I like sitting next to you too.’ She revisited the issue of us only managing two sessions this month with various commitments. She then offered me something she’s never offered before, ‘how about we have a phone call on the Thursday of the week where we don’t have a session?’ I couldn’t believe she offered it to me to be honest, I’ve read and heard about other people having phone check ins with their therapists but I just never thought it would be something Anna would offer. I thanked her profusely and asked if she was sure, she raised her eyebrow at me and I said, ‘okay, well thank you, I’m happy to pay for it obviously!’ She said, ‘Lucy, I’ve offered it to you, it’s fine, you don’t have to pay for it!’ I started to well up again and she said, ‘I hope these are happy tears!’ I said, ‘I just can’t believe how nice you’re being… it just makes me feel so sad.’ She said, ‘because I’m not your mother…?’ and I said, ‘not because I want my mother to be here… but rather because… well I wish… well there is a part of me that wishes you were my mum. I think.’ *queue panic* She said, ‘well maybe you would have wanted that kindness from your mum when you were little?’ and for a split second the proclamation felt rejected, I reiterated, ‘no… I wish you were my mum.’ And she accepted it that time. ‘I know.’ She said quietly.
We sorted some more appointment times and talked about how I was going to look after myself until the next session. When we hugged at the end of the session I said to her, ‘I feel like I should be cracking open some champagne tonight to celebrate crying with you!’ she laughed and said, ‘why not?’ I said, ‘well I don’t actually drink so… uh…’ she said, ‘well, coke and a pizza then!’ and we shared a wee laugh, while still hugging.
I honestly could just hug her forever.