…but she’s been trying to let me in.
My session yesterday was intense. This might be a rambling mess but I needed to type it all out to try to make sense of it… it helps me process. It’s like accessing the black box in a plane… it’s all stored in here, I just type type type and it all comes out. Then I read over it and can start to make connections…
I went in and she gave me a hug sraight away. The room had been rearranged and I said it looked weird. She said that’s the way it is every time she comes in and she usually moves the furniture to the way I know it but she didn’t today so that the heat from the radiator could circulate. I didn’t really like it being different and I moved my chair a little. She said, ‘move whatever you want and get comfortable.’ She asked me how I was and I said I’d been really tearful on the way to her and ever since the last session. I was struggling to articulate what had been bothering me and so I said I should look at the notes on my phone. She sat and waited patiently as I looked through it all and then I asked her just to read the text. She said, ‘why don’t you read it to me?’ so reluctantly I did…
‘Last night’s session was way more intense than I
thought. We covered so many really painful topics and I think I was quite numb
through a lot of it. I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed today. I keep writing
little notes to you on my phone to try to ‘park’ the thoughts and refocus on my
I really need to remember to slow down and just concentrate on one thing at a time in sessions. It feels like we opened so many boxes all at once and didn’t get to the bottom of any of them… I guess we’re not going to empty even one box in an hour but it feels like I’m left living in chaos till the next session. I don’t know why I’m suddenly finding the gaps between sessions so unbearable again but it really feels so hard at the moment.’
Anna said, ‘so what did you feel you were left over with?’ I said I could barely remember the session now but it just all felt quite intense and lots of different things. I said, ‘I just think that I was in a weird mood, I was like chatty and chirpy and it was blocking this deeper stuff that I couldn’t connect to.’ Anna said, ‘yeah there was a lot going on in the session and I noticed you were in a chatty mood but I also noticed your child trying to come out. That’s when I talked about her hiding behind the chair and reminded you that if she came out on the way home you could reassure her you would hold all of her worries until you came back here.’ I said, ‘yeah I didn’t see it in the session, didn’t really know what you were talking about but as soon as I left I was like FUCK! You were so right… I was really angry with myself for not letting you connect… and you talked about strategies that we could do like noticing sensations in my body or whatever but didn’t actually do them… like I don’t feel like I can suggest it.’ Anna said, ‘but it’s a bit like teaching a kid to tie their shoe laces, if you do it for them then they’ll never learn.’ I said, ‘yeah but what you did is said, ‘what we could do is tie your shoe laces’ you didn’t actually say, ‘show me you tying your shoe laces…’ you know? I needed you to say ‘lets do THIS strategy….’ Then I said, ‘but now I feel like your silence is there coz you’re annoyed with me, are you annoyed or feeling defensive?’ she smiled, kind of laughed a little and said, ‘no I’m not I’m just listening.’ Then she said, ‘so it’s about gently encouraging your child out, not just saying ‘right come out now!’ you know?’ I said, ‘but I don’t think I know how to do that.’ And she said, ‘okay, shall we talk about colours?’ I said, ‘that was something that upset me in the session last week actually…’ Anna said, ‘oh yeah? You don’t like the colours exercise?’ and I said, ‘um… oh god I don’t want to talk about this actually I don’t want to make things weird between us!’ she said, ‘this is really important though, it’s important to have these conversations and for you to see that we are okay.’ I said, ‘but this isn’t what I wanted to talk about today… well I don’t have anything specific I want to talk about but I know this isn’t it, I really need to feel close to you and connected today and if we talk about this I’m going to be so annoyed with myself.’ Anna said, ‘okay… so I’d invite you to, instead of being annoyed with yourself, how does it sound if you try to have curiosity for why this has come up and compassion for that part of you that is hurting…’
I reluctantly said, ‘well… way back when we first started working together and I found it impossible to talk to you, before we even did the picture cards thing you asked me to describe how I was feeling in colour and I found it really useful, I liked doing it… but then a bit later I think maybe you forgot that we’d done that, understandably because you can’t be expected to remember everything you do with every client, but you then started to describe how we could do this colours exercise and that a client you have found it very difficult to describe how they were feeling so they would just say they felt ‘shit’ so you would say ‘what colour of shit’… and so basically you’ve told me that example three times now, the third time being last session and I feel really selfish and horrible brigning it up but I just didn’t like it…’ Anna was nodding and I said, ‘are you feeling anything negative about me saying this?’ and she said, ‘no… but it sounds important, I wonder if this has made you feel something about me mentioning the client like possibly jealousy?’ I said, ‘yeah, obviously!… and I know that’s totally narcissistic I mean I know you have other clients obviously but I just… you’ve mentioned that client three times and they obviously had a big impact on you and… I mean I was fine when you mentioned other clients when you were saying that my feedback had impacted their sessions (about the note taking) but I don’t want to hear about others…. Och I don’t know I hate this so much!….’
Anna said, ‘I mean, yes I have other clients and I do use the same techniques with other clients but I understand that you might not want to hear about them and maybe it’s a comparison thing or…’ I said, ‘no it’s not that!’ I put my head in my hands to try to block out the visual noise and concentrate, I said, ‘it’s like the sessions are this really delicate bubble, like something I’ve worked really hard to achieve… like a vulnerability and trust that’s delicate and fragile…. Oh I don’t know how to say it! Argh…. Okay… imagine you are asleep and it took you ages to get to sleep and now you are finally asleep and it’s exactly what you need and maybe you’re in a lovely dream and then a car alarm goes off outside and pierces through your dream and disturbs your sleep and startles you awake and then no matter how hard you try you just can’t get back to sleep again!’ I looked up and Anna was thoughtfully looking across at the window like she was really trying to place herself in what I was saying. I continued, ‘and so this precious delicate thing that is hard to obtain and hard to keep hold of, trusting you and being in this moment with you, connected… then you bring someone else into it and BAM it’s broken, that thing we had and I can’t get it back and the protective wall goes up and…. Is this making sense to you?’ She had a big smile on her face and nodding she said, ‘yes, I totally know what you mean, that presence and connection is lost… so… bringing this back to your child… what does she need?’ suddenly I spoke without even really thinking, ‘I want you to only think about me when you’re in session with me… I don’t want you to think about anyone else… and I know that’s biologically impossible for a human being to not have other thoughts but… well just don’t tell me about it, I don’t wanna know… just focus on me.’ I couldn’t believe I said it and I scanned her face for any signs that she was ready to chuck me out. She seemed okay and maybe even pleased I’d said that. She said, ‘I understand that you want to feel special and important and that it’s really important to you that I am present and in this moment with you… I want you to know that even though I mentioned this client a few times, it was just the technique I was thinking about, I didn’t have a picture of the client in my mind when I was talking about them to you.’ She looked like she was trying to reassure me and it really meant a lot to me. I hate that my natural reflex is to save her. To stop the awkward feeling and make the other person feel okay… I wanted to reassure HER that it was okay… but I didn’t, I resisted and just nodded at her.
I said, ‘my mum… she never focused on me. I don’t think she has ever had a conversation with me that’s been purely about me… always, even now, she can tolerate a few minutes of talking about the kids and then she moves very quickly on. She will talk about random people she’s befriended and tell me every detail of their lives, wasting so much time talking about these people I will never meet… and when I was younger she would do this, I knew so much about the details of other people’s lives but she never knew about me and my life… and when dad left and she would have a new boyfriend, each time, I would have to get to know these men and the intimate details of their relationships and she’d tell me about these guys previous relationships or their childhoods coz she very quickly got to know these people and then would offload it all onto me and I wanted to scream at her but it was the only time she ever gave me any attention so I’d sit and listen and… these guys were horrible… so it got to the point where, one time I just said, ‘enough, I don’t want to know anymore. I don’t want to know, don’t tell me about this guy, I don’t want to meet him I don’t want to hear anything about him!’ and she’d say, ‘but I’m in love, I’ve never been so in love, this is the one,’ she said this every damn time, but these guys you know they’d hurt us. We’d let them in, waste time getting to know them, then they’d hurt us and they’d leave… so I said no one day and she said, ‘you’re such a selfish bitch, I need you, I need to talk to you, why can’t you be happy for me!’ as if she forgot all of the hours and hours and all that emotional energy I poured into her!’ Anna said, ‘what did you think about what she was saying to you when she called you selfish?’ I thought for ages then said, ‘I think I was selfish! I mean, I can see now looking back that I was trying to assert some boundaries but yeah I was being selfish coz I’d had enough… it had all just broken me down so much! She had broken me!’
Anna talked about how it wasn’t selfish for me to want some balance in the relationship and that it wasn’t my responsibility to constantly be on the receiving end of everything mum wanted to talk about. I said, ‘but she just wasn’t interested in me, so if I didn’t show an interest in her we didn’t have a connection at all…’
I slipped into another anecdote, ‘I remember when I was telling you, way back, about the time we gate-crashed that party and um…’ I started to feel lightheaded and spacey. I think I was staring into space for a bit then I moved around and put my feet flat on the floor to try to ground myself and took a drink of water. I put my elbows on my knees and head in my hands and tried to breathe deeply. ‘Um… so when I was telling you about that and you know the time I was uh… when I was… um when I was sexually assaulted and uh…’ Anna said, ‘yes’ very deliberately as if to show me that she remembered what I was talking about. I said, ‘you said to me that… uh… fuck this is so annoying… why can’t i just say the damn sentence!? Uuuuhhh…. I felt like I was completely alone in that moment and like as if it was just him and me and uh… and when I told you this memory I remember you saying to me that mum just wanted uhhhhh… fuck, it’s gone! Why can’t I remember what I was going to say? I knew what I wanted to say and I can’t remember now.’ My heart was pounding and i felt really panicky with the pain rushing out of my chest and down my arms. I looked up at her and she said, ‘take your time,’ so gently. There was just white noise/nothing in my head and I said, ‘I feel like I’m broken, like my head is broken… it’s not working right…’ I was staring at the plug socket and she said nothing. There just seemed to be so much nothing in the room. I couldn’t look at her but I wish I had so I could see if she was still with me.
I then said, ‘it’s like starting a journey and you can see the whole road ahead and you have it all planned out then two minutes in and this fog comes down and you can’t see anything anymore.’ There was a pause and then Anna said, ‘is it a fine fog or a thick fog?’ I was sitting with my hands over my eyes, head down again and just felt myself fill up with gratitude that she was stepping into this imagery with me. I said, ‘thick, black fog…’ she said, ‘is this a protective fog?’ I nodded. She said, ‘okay so what do we do when there’s fog?’ I said, ‘go home!’ and she laughed… then I said, ‘put the fog lights on?’ she said, ‘so shall we put the fog lights on or shall we pull over and stop for a bit?’ I said, ‘pull over,’ she said, ‘okay we’re going to pull over in a safe side street, we are safe, it’s a safe place to stop… and we’ll just sit here for a bit.’
My body took a deep breath in and out and amazingly I was able to lift my face and move back in my seat again. I looked over at her and managed to say, ‘I really need to feel closer to you.’ she nodded but did nothing, looking back she was probably waiting for me to ask directly for what I needed… she really likes making me ask. I said, ‘I need to sit next to you.’ she said okay but didn’t do anything, I was really struggling but managed to push out, ‘please come and sit next to me.’ so she checked that it was okay to move the other chair beside me and then sat down. I felt calmer but had my hand over my face. Anna asked me if I thought it would help to have her hand on my arm. I nodded so she slowly put her hand on my arm. I could feel the heat of her hand before it touched me. Immediately I told her it felt nice.
We were back in the memory but this time she was with me. She said, ‘Your mum was paying more attention to the other people at the table than you?’ I said, ‘Yep… story of my life… I don’t think she was ever interested in me. I didn’t even think about the fact that she was there. In the picture in my mind it’s just me and him.’ There was a quiet pause. Then Anna said, ‘but she was there… many people were there…’ I nodded and said, ‘It’s like you’ve walked into the picture in my mind and flicked the light switch on and now I can see that it wasn’t just me. But… no one did anything… did no one see?’ Silence. Then I burst out with, ‘I don’t want anyone to see, I don’t want them to know… I’m so disgusting.’ More silence. I wonder why she doesn’t fill these gaps. Is it to give me space to keep talking? I want her to jump in but maybe she needs to let me fully express it all? I continued, ‘I think I needed to believe that no one knew. How can I live with the knowledge that there were witnesses… who saw and chose to do nothing?’
I could feel my eyes fill up and I turned my face fully away from her so she couldn’t see. I reached round and put my hand on Anna’s hand. It felt warm which helped ground me. I quietly said, ‘I took the blame for so much… well for everything really… I really wish someone had been there to help me…’ Anna said, ‘so do I Lucy. I am so sorry that happened to you. I want you to know that you have nothing to be ashamed of, you were a child and you did what you needed to do to survive… everything you did for your mum to be able to connect with her and everything else that happened… you did it all to stay alive.’ I shook my head and referred back to an earlier statement I’d uttered, ‘I should have done something!’ (I find it so hard to believe her when she says things like ‘you did what you needed to survice’ it just feels like therapy jargon to my inner critic… it’s hard to let her kindness in and to hear authenticity, I just hear techniques).
Anna said, ‘how are you doing with this? Are you feeling our connection?’ I said, ‘I feel you trying to connect to me but there’s a wall there.’ She said, ‘I am feeling connected to you… maybe it’s not a very big wall? And I am here on the other side of the wall and I’m not going anywhere. Maybe she can see the top of my head over the wall and that’s enough?’ I was slowly nodding, not looking at her. Wanting so much to look at her. She spoke slowly and deliberately like she does when she’s trying to speak to a younger part. ‘I want little Lucy to listen very carefully… is she listening?’ I nodded. She said, ‘I see you – poking your head over that wall… I’m here and I see you, you feel my hand?’ I nodded again and she moved her thumb across my arm gently. She said, ‘We’re here together – connected. Lucy, everything you did was a very clever way to save yourself and I am so grateful you had that strength and so glad you’re here now and so honoured that you came to this session and that you are sharing this with me now. Thank you for trusting me with this today, Lucy.’
In a split second I switched to thinking about something really upsetting that happened in my work this week and it poured out of my mouth in that moment. ‘these kids at work, they’re foster kids and, well they’re siblings and one of them disclosed…’ I started to cry again. ‘their foster parents have been abusing them and they disclosed to our nurture teacher while eating their toast in the morning and… it’s just so awful Anna… I just started to think of all the red flags I didn’t notice, the little one, she’s only 5 and she was hoarding food at school and… I mean what is wrong with these people? These poor kids were already abused by their family of origin and taken from them and placed with these people. They were trusted to care for them. Fucking PAID to care for them! And they hurt them too… I mean how are these kids meant to trust anyone! They told the teacher and then they were held in school and weren’t allowed to go home and they were rehomed that night and we never got to say goodbye to them…’ I cried a bit and Anna said that it was so sad.
I said, ‘I’m so glad they were able to tell someone, I just keep thinking it’s a miracle they trusted that anyone would help them… I really hope wherever they are, they’re being loved. That they have a new uniform and pack lunches and a nice room and toys and… I never got to say goodbye to them.’ I was distraught. Anna said, ‘Lucy, it was not your fault they were hurt. I want you to take away from this that the relationship you had built with those kids and the way the other adults in your work treated them made them feel safe enough to disclose. They will know inside themselves that they told someone and that someone listened to them and protected them. If they hadn’t trusted you guys the abuse could still have been going on but it’s over now because of the support and care you all gave them. I know you didn’t get to say goodbye but they won’t forget you all.’ I was still quietly crying, I said, ‘kids are so fucking trusting you know, it hurts so much. They reach out to people you know and its just so awful when the people they trust hurt them. What the fuck is wrong with these dick heads, how dare they!?’
Anna took a big breath and said, ‘Lucy, what I am hearing is that adult you is hurting for those kids but Little Lucy is hurting too… she’s saying, ‘that was me… but no one was listening.’ does that feel right?’ I closed my eyes and my breathing went funny. Anna said, ‘what does she need right now? What does your child need..? You know that when you leave here she’s going to tell you loud and clear what she wanted, I’d like her to be able to express it here… what does she need, from me? What does Little Lucy want to ask me for?’
She literally handed it to me on a plate. I wanted to scream at her, ‘I want to cuddle in to you. I want for you to have a sofa we can sit on so I can cuddle you like you’re my mummy… I want a hug so badly it’s hurting, I want to cuddle with no need to pull away early!’ But instead all I could manage was, ‘I don’t know.’ I bent forward and rested my forehead on the arm of the chair between us. I said, ‘I want to go to sleep…’ she made a sort of small laughing noise and then I said quietly, ‘I can feel myself shutting down.’ I was motionless and she’d taken her hand off my arm and I felt cold and alone like she’d left the room, like I was dying. She suggested I get up and walk around but I ignored her. I couldn’t sit up let alone walk around. In my mind I had floated away to a soft sleepy place.
Anna spoke firmly, ‘Lucy, I know you believe that you trust me now but that’s your adult, rational mind that trusts me, your child part doesn’t trust me yet, she’s shutting me out, it’s understandable that she doesn’t trust me, she’s been betrayed so much, but she has been trying to let me in… it needs to be slow work, this has been a lot today…’ I was listening, from a distance. Like listening to someone speaking in another room, listening with my ear pressed to the base of a glass held against the wall… Anna said, ‘Lucy, think about the path she’s walking and how small her feet are.’ This image broke my fucking heart and burst through the dissociation. I sat up and looked at Anna right in her eyes and could all of a sudden feel the weight of this tiny child’s pain. I think it showed on my face because she mirrored it back to me and she quietly said, ‘baby steps Lucy…’ I could feel the sobbing in my heart.
I said, ‘you know I’m so, so grateful Anna. All of this, thank you so much, thank you for just sitting with it all…’ I could feel that we were both connecting with the pain I was feeling and she said, ‘you know it’s a privilege to share your journey, thank you for letting me.’
I have struggled so much today. Nightmares through the night have exhausted me and my body has been very unsettled – I’ve been swinging from shut down to fairly manic. Falling asleep and then spontaneously taking the kids roller skating like a mad woman.
I have been questioning how much she cares today. I’ve just been thinking, ‘it’s her job, it’s just her job…’ Overthinking the techniques that she uses with everyone. I want her to be a human being, not a therapist with specific techniques. But when I think like that, when I think too much about the other clients… that’s when I need to think of the connection, the emotional weight of it all when we’re sitting there and she genuinely seems moved by what she is experiencing with me. I need to remember that when I feel myself drifting from her between sessions.
This is real, she cares, we really are connecting.
Like a mantra I am repeating to myself. This work is hard. Your responses make sense. Your feelings are valid. Anna cares, she was there, she witnessed, she listened, she will be there still… 6 more sleeps. And I can always ask for a call.
‘Know all the theories, master all the techniques, but as you touch a human soul, be just another human soul.’