When I arrived at my session today I felt very agitated. I couldn’t get comfortable I moved about, took my shoes off, changed position in my chair a few times, had a sip of water, told Anna a funny story about my youngest kid asking me what Anna smells like then I finally took a deep breath and said. ‘I feel very agitated just now.’ She calmly smiled, still sitting in the same position she was in when we sat down five minutes before and slightly nodded. She asked me if I had a sense of what that was about and I said I didn’t know… then I said maybe it’s because I spend the days between sessions ‘banking’ topics to talk about in session and then in the few minutes leading up to the start of the session it all pours out of the bank and into my consciousness and I’m suddenly very aware of all these difficult things I’d promised myself I’d talk about. She smiled and said she could understand that would make me feel agitated and anxious. She told me to take my time and try to explain what was going on in my body. As we were tuning in to the sensations and feelings in my body I started to feel spacey. She asked me to put my feet flat on the floor and look at her which I did, it nearly made me cry. She just looks so stable and reliable and calm and warm and all the things I want. I felt my breathing automatically align with hers as I looked at her, a few disjointed, choppy breaths and then a deep one… I felt like I was able to regulate with her help and then I started to talk.
I said that the last couple of sessions have been really useful and that things feel better in my close relationships than they have for a while. I’ve been more connected and have been letting my husband be more emotionally intimate with me. The mood changed quite suddenly and different, contradictory words started to tumble out, ‘but there’s a fear there, I can feel it, it’s not nice, it’s too much, all of this is too much, I don’t want them to know me, this is all to much, I feel weird, I don’t like this!’ Anna asked if something she had said had made it feel too much and I said no, it wasn’t her, ‘it’s just reminding me so much of mum, it’s right there all the time.’ The spacey feeling came back and the room was spinning. I felt like I was drifting up and away, I put my head in my hands, elbows on my knees. ‘I feel shit, I hate this so much, I want it to stop! I don’t get why this is such a big deal.’ Anna said, ‘you don’t?’ And I said, ‘I don’t what?’ And there was a moment of her looking at me as if she was thinking – do you know what you just said? She repeated, ‘you don’t know why this feels like such a big deal?’ And I said, ‘I guess maybe it’s scary to let people in, this is another stage of opening myself up and it’s scary.’ She nodded and then asked me what I was feeling now. I couldn’t really focus on anything. There was a lot of white noise in my head and a buzzing in my whole body under my skin. Eventually I said, ‘there is so much noise – it’s like a hundred cassette tapes all playing at once.’ She asked me what the tapes were playing and I told her, ‘memories, different memories, stories in my mind… but it’s just all too much.’
I felt so cold and I scanned the room for a heater. I spotted it and asked if it was on. She got up and pulled it closer to me then I dragged it right over to beside my chair and rested my arm on it. I told her I’d not been able to heat up all week, that it reminded me of back then… she called them body memories. Being freezing cold all the time, wanting to cover myself up. Feeling exposed and unprotected. I went over the same memories again and again. I remembered all the times I was shut out of the family room where my parents and brother were in the warmth by the coal fire. She asked me how old I would have been and I said, ‘this happened a lot but the earliest time I remember I was about 5… but then I remember it happening in every house we lived in… every age… it happened all the time.’ She said, ‘okay,’ in a gentle voice. I don’t know why she said that, maybe because she was just trying to get me to place the age that was speaking to me. To connect to the inner child that was coming through.
I said, ‘fourteen… I’m fourteen… coming home from school to a dark house that’s cold and empty feeling – especially when mum was in a deep depression, it would feel as though the air had been sucked out of the house.’ I stared into space a bit then moved in my seat and noticed her mirroring my positioning, head tilted in the same direction. I think she does that to try to better read me and to help me feel seen in a non threatening way. I continued, ‘I never knew what would be behind the front door and sometimes I’d open it and there would be nothing, silence, her bedroom door shut, cold and dark, but not empty, I knew she was in there. Like I could feel the depression… other times I just knew she had someone with her, so I’d creep in quietly and hide in my room.’ I could hear my heart beating in my ears.
I quickly moved on. I told her of the times my mother’s mania triggered frenzied shopping sprees or interior design overhauls and the house would be a frantic whirlwind of activity… so much so that she wouldn’t even notice I was home. The house would be floor to ceiling with second hand furniture that she’d bought on a whim and was ‘distressing’ or the wallpaper would be stripped off the walls in three rooms with the old paper strewn across the floor like the entrails of a dissected mouse the cat had tortured. Often there would be a new craft protect on the go and bags of new stencils, paint and glue lying everywhere, a lipstick stained cigarette burning to the filter in an ash tray somewhere. Windows wide open, cold air rushing in and incense sticks in every room to disguise the smell of smoke and paint fumes.
Anna talked to me about how lonely I must have felt and how resilient that little girl was for coming home, making herself and her brother food, carefully detecting the mood of her mother and knowing how to behave around her. She reminded me that I would sometimes have to listen to my mother as she cried and repeated old heartaches to me. All of the things I’d do to try to make her happy. How I could stay on my mums good side by meeting all of her needs, no matter how badly I would betray my own boundaries and values in order to do so.
I told Anna that when I was a bit older, sometimes my mum just wouldn’t be home. Sometimes I would hide away in my room listening to music so loudly that my brain didn’t have space to think of anything else.
Anna said, ‘For some reason I have a vision of your current home, full of light, lights in every room, lights in the kids rooms… light and warmth throughout.’ I nodded and said my house is always warm and full of light. She asked what my lamp beside my bed was like and it suddenly dawned on me, ‘I don’t have one! I’ve got lots of little lights all over the house, one on my husbands side of the bed but none on mine.’ Anna looked kind of moved by this. She’d been emotional at places throughout the session – red rimmed eyes. She said, ‘So the whole house is glowing with light except little Lucy’s corner which is still in the cold, dark shadow of your past…?’ I nodded, took a deep breath and spread my scarf over my legs. Anna said, ‘that little girl deserves a light of her own, to help create a safe and comfortable space for her. Give her the light and warmth she always craved but was never allowed, show her that you know she’s here… you see she’s come home… welcome her home.’ I was nodding, looking at Anna’s hands in her lap. There’s a part of me that’s fascinated with Anna’s hands. They look soft and kind. She went on, ‘I know you’re going to the shops on the way home. Why don’t you pop into the one with the big lights department and have a wander. You know how mesmerising it is in there… you know how sometimes something just speaks to you? That’s your inner child… see if you can find a lamp for Little Lucy to have beside the bed.’ She then explained that the lamp might bring things up for me and if that happens I should write them down. Anything that comes to mind when I see the lamp, just make a note of it and ‘park it’ for when we see each other next session.
So that’s exactly what I did. I went to the shop and I bought a very cute little lamp to go beside my bed. I honestly have no idea why I had neglected this one corner of the house for so long… but now this lamp has been here for less than a day and I can’t believe I didn’t get one sooner. It’s made me smile every time I’ve walked in here. It’s such a cozy, homely space now. It feels nice to have this lamp and to know it connects me to Anna. She’s really doing good work with me just now. It’s moving something inside me that was once stone. Like moving mountains (as cliched as it sounds). Softening my hardness. Inside my mind I am holding little ‘4’s’ hand as we sit side by side next to this lamp of ours. And it feels okay!