Jan 18th 2018 Session 10
After getting massively worked up this past week (following the last session) and sending Anna the text telling her how I was feeling, I spent the morning feeling so anxious and nervous about the session. Imagined just texting saying I wasn’t going to come. I did go though. Sat in the car for fifteen minutes before my session getting more and more worried. I rang the buzzer and Anna answered quite quickly compared to usual. I was so fucking nervous, my heart was pounding and my breathing all weird. I could barely look at her. She said something about it being really wet today and I muttered that I was going to dump my bag and jacket, which I did, then I went to the toilet.
So the session started with me sitting awkwardly trying to regulate my breathing and Anna asked if she could turn the recorder on. I nodded and she asked how I was. I sort of widened my eyes and shrugged – ‘pretty nervous’ – is all I managed. She said, ‘I just want to start by saying that I was really moved by your email,’ she went on to say how pleased she was that the session had meant so much to me and that it had meant a lot to her too. That really surprised me. She then said, ‘ I was surprised to receive your text, you had sounded so positive in the email. I’d been wondering how you were after the session because you’d said it was an intense session and so I was pleased to get the email and to hear you were doing well.’ I felt really uncomfortable – it’s so hard to trust her. I felt like saying, ‘why are you saying this to me, is this a trick?’ It is so hard to trust anyone. But I held with it. She said that maybe my inner child was getting mad at not getting responses to messages. That it was hard to not get a reply and that it feels like when I was a kid and I’d be really excited about something and it would fall flat or mum wouldn’t share my joy. She said that it’s important she doesn’t reply because I could misinterpret what she writes, that I need to see her and see her face and that the way she is speaking is genuine. That it might not feel authentic if she wrote it in a reply. But that she understands it’s really hard and that it’s okay to be angry about that.
She told me that she was concerned when she received my text and sad to hear I was feeling overwhelmed but also said something about me being careful about how I word things when I’m texting her. She asked what I had meant when I said I thought she would tell me off. I said, ‘it’s not like I literally thought you would tell me off, it’s like I thought anything you say, I wouldn’t believe it was genuine… but I guess I do believe you’re being genuine, but its like I thought you would say ‘thanks for sending the email. I was pleased to read that you felt the session went well, but its probably not a good idea to send emails like that so could we just stick to talking about all this in session’ – and although it’s not directly being told off, it is like a rejection, I would be able to just see it on your face, just a subtle change in the way you look at me or the way you speak, I’d know you were getting sick of me and didn’t want to work with me any more.’
Anna asked me what I had been feeling when I sent the email and I said I’d felt really good, that I was happy and felt good about it all. She said she could sense that. She said my inner child was really excited to be allowed out, to be seen and understood. So what happened..? I said that the inner critic took over – ‘don’t be fucking stupid, she doesn’t really care. She has to care for that hour she works with you but don’t try to infiltrate her life between sessions, she doesn’t want to hear about this between sessions. Like in the sessions it’s just you saying what you need to say to get the client better or something.’ She said, ‘do you think I don’t think about you between sessions?’ I was kind of taken aback by this like my breath was taken. I said, ‘well I kind of didn’t think that you would..?’ she stayed quiet just looking at me and I felt confused and sort of reluctant to ask, but I did ask… ‘do you?’ in a voice that was so much more quiet than I expected. She nodded with an open expression, ‘yes I think about you, wonder how you’re getting on… don’t you work with kids and maybe they tell you something and it makes you think about how they are when you’re at home?’ I said that I did but didn’t think I was worth thinking about. This moment was agony.
I said that I felt the same with Paul, that it’s like – ‘therapist has a set of things they need to say. Say you care or whatever, just to get the client ‘healed’ then you can hurry up and stop working with me.’ she said, ‘well hurrying up is not on the agenda. It’s really important that you tell me when you’re feeling like that.’ I said I felt like I’d been trying to be this ideal client and just to be good and say the right things, that I did find the boundaries hard. I said that I should probably talk more about Paul at some point, because I feel like he was not as boundaried as her. On one hand I liked it and on the other hand I felt like it wasn’t good for me. She made a note of that. I said that although I totally understand why the boundaries are there, that they make total sense and that in a professional sense I am the same with the kids I work with, but that on some other level it hurts… ‘like isn’t there something in transactional analysis about strokes or something and like even a negative response is better than no response at all? So I felt in the past like I might as well just not even bother sending a message if I’m going to get nothing back because it’s worse in some way… why give me the offer of allowing texts if it’s just going to hurt me when you don’t reply?’ she listened and understood but didn’t really answer.
I said I was worried about whether I was distracting us from the main things we’re meant to talk about by making up all these fake issues, that she had asked at one point what we actually talked about with Paul and how it was mainly this kind of thing. Like me emailing him, getting worked up between sessions, talking that through, and how I can see the value of that but also it annoys me I wish I could just get on with the stuff I’m meant to be talking about. She said, ‘but do you think this is all fake? It doesn’t feel fake to me, it feels important and real, you’re not making it up.’ I said, ‘oh no, sorry I guess not… um maybe I mean that its like all invented stuff in my head.’ She said it was okay (as in, don’t apologise) and talked a bit about the restorative relationship and how worthwhile this kind of conversation actually was. She said if she felt like I was getting side tracked from what we had discussed then yes she would bring me back to focus but she feels that all that we discussed so far is definitely worthwhile.
I’m sure the conversation moved on and I was talking about something else when Anna asked directly, ‘so, this has been a hard week, did you cut yourself?’ I couldn’t believe she just came straight out with it. I said, ‘no,’ with a slight smile and shook my head. She sort of looked at me for a while and said, ‘what would cutting have done for you?’ I said, ‘um well one part of me is like working really hard to use everything I’ve learned over recent years to stay grounded and mindful and on top of things and then the inner critic is just like pulling all that down and criticising it all. That side won, I just felt like all the emotions were just so much bigger than me. Like I just couldn’t pull it all together. You know, I have a life I need to get on with, kids relying on me and work and everything, I just know that when I’m struggling like that and I’m way up here, the only way… the quickest simplest way to bring me back down is to cut. It just immediately works. Then I could just get on with life again and be what I need to be. You know? Och I don’t know that sounds really stupid. But that’s just how I felt.’ Anna said, ‘You’re explaining it really well. I understand. I’m really glad you were able to keep yourself safe.’ She said she knew that it was very difficult and that I had obviously made a commitment to telling her when I felt like cutting and she appreciated that I had done that. I said a part of me was like, ‘don’t tell her that! Once you tell her then you won’t be able to actually do it!’ She said something about how I’ve found something that works, that texting her works and stops me from doing it and so for now that’s a good thing. I agreed.
Anna then asked if I did draw to try to help me calm down. Conversation went like this…
Her – ‘did you draw?’
Me – ‘oh, yeah, uh hu’
Her – ‘what did you draw?’
Me – ‘um, well… do you want to see? I have a picture on my phone.’
Her – ‘oh yeah, yes!’
Me – ‘oh my god that makes me feel so nervous, it’s almost worse than sharing the hard stuff!’
Her – ‘yeah, I can understand that!’
… so I got my phone out and got it onto the picture. Anna said that she couldn’t draw for toffee, ‘if that helps you feel any better’. I wish I’d said she just didn’t have the right teacher but I didn’t think quick enough. So I leaned over and passed her the phone. Anna sat and looked at the picture for ages with a smile and said, ‘oh wow! That’s really brilliant! Oh I love it. I love the colours, you have a real talent!’ I felt so awkward by this point and didn’t know where to look – I was sort of smiling and looking around and thanked her and said, ‘it’s so weird I just find this so hard like I don’t know how to take all that I want to leave the room… like I feel like the critical voice is just saying ‘och it’s not that good, nothing special, there’s so much I could change and improve. Don’t be full of yourself.’ Anna said, ‘but whose voice is that?’ I said, ‘hmmm but mum wouldn’t really say that, she would say something like… (closed my eyes to concentrate)… she’d say, ‘oh that’s lovely (in a sickly voice), of course you get your artistic talent from me.’ or something like ‘yeah I could do something like that if I had the right materials or time but I’m too busy doing the housework’ or whatever – you know like taking it away from me.’ Anna said, ‘she effectively is saying that then, by saying you get it from her or that she could do it she’s saying it’s nothing special and taking the pride away from you.’ That made sense to me.
Anna said, ‘That mumma bear stuff really meant something to you didn’t it? It really had an impact!’ I said it did. She said, ‘I hope you’ve got that picture framed on the wall!’ and I told her it was still in the art pad. She suggested I get it printed on a cushion or something and put it on my bed. I quite like that idea, I think I will! Anna then said, ‘it was a really meaningful session for me too, it felt special.’ I said, ‘yeah it did feel meaningful, I felt like um like I was closer to you or you were closer to me or something, like I felt understood by you.’ Anna said, ‘yeah there was a connection, I felt that.’ That was so validating, oh my god – SO AMAZING! I really feel like she actually does care about me and that she enjoys working with me. I can feel something shifting in me… this could be really beneficial for me – this relationship, it feels like it could be a really positive, healing experience. But there’s a fear there, it’s frightening to let go and trust.
Anna asked what kind of conversations I was having in my head with her and I talked about worrying that she would be annoyed with the email. I talked about how I really wanted to work on being authentic and that with Paul I spent so much time shitting myself about the work we were doing together that I would go over and over stuff through the week and rehearse what I might say so that I would feel the emotions at home by myself, maybe cry on my own, then by the time I spoke to him I didn’t feel anything anymore. That I don’t want to do that with her. She talked about how it makes sense that I was doing that because I didn’t want to be blindsided. She said, ‘It’s like an interview where you learn what you want to say and it feels good but you’re knocked sideways when you get a question you weren’t expecting.’ She said that in Transactional Analysis they work on contracts so each session I decide what we will focus on for that session. She asked if I wanted to talk about the snakes card or keep talking about all this. I said we could maybe do the snakes chat but if it seems to be taking a while we could split it. She said the session about the bear was slow to get started then got quite in depth and she had worried that I felt overwhelmed when I went away so maybe we could spend 25 minutes talking about the snakes card then have ten minutes to come down afterwards.
So she handed me the snake card and I looked at it, ‘yeah I really hate this picture… what am I meant to say about it?’ she reminded me that was the one I didn’t like and just to say what I noticed about it. There is something awkward about that moment, what do I actually say?? I said, ‘well I guess I don’t like snakes very much, they’re adders – even worse coz they’re poisonous… um well I don’t have a big problem with snakes, I held a snake when we were on holiday with the kids… but anyway… so I don’t like that there are two of them, like they could gang up on me. And snakes can like squeeze you and bite you, like they can sort of get in at you… something about them getting in at your boundaries. She said, ‘because they can sort of get in anywhere?’ and motioned her hands in a zig zag way and I nodded. I said, ‘fuck its so weird how this just gets right to the heavy shit straight away…’ I said, ‘you know your home is meant to be this safe place that like holds you and protects you from anything dangerous, and like your parents are meant to reinforce that protection. I just never felt safe with her. She didn’t protect me. You know, your body is meant to feel like a safe place. That safety… I never had it.’ I was getting kind of worked up and Anna made agreeable noises like she compassionately understood what I meant… even if I didn’t really know what I meant.
I said, ‘I feel like I spent a lot of time on my own. Like when I was 5 or 6, maybe 4 and we lived in the tenement flat and there were like rows of gardens out the back and I used to be out there on my own for what felt like hours. Like I didn’t feel like I could go back in the house or something. I remember playing out the alley way in a skip with some random kid who was also out there. You know but mum was so inconsistent like sometimes she would not want me around and sometimes she would be overly anxious about where I was and come out screaming searching for me. I remember wandering over across the gardens to where there was this old man. It ended up I used to go and help him dig his potatoes in his allotment but I so vividly remember the first time I met him, ran across and spoke to him. Then mum came running across the gardens shouting my name and was so gushy, holding my face and like acting so worried. Led me back to the flat. She always acted so overly loving in front of people.’ Anna asked me what she was like when we got back home and away from people. I said, ‘I don’t remember in that particular instant but I can imagine she would either have gone back to ignoring me or maybe been really angry. Both mum and dad really struggled with like containing their feelings and would rage. They’d get so angry, they couldn’t control themselves. She would maybe have lectured me about wandering off and talking to strangers… but she just left me out there on my own, you know?’
I said, ‘there are quite a few sort of weird memories that like we all used to laugh about as if it was funny… like this time when I was in P1 and mum took me to school when it was a bank holiday and left me there when there was no one else there.’ Anna said, ‘what? That’s awful, you must have been terrified, how old were you?’ I said I would have been about 5 – primary one. She said, ‘poor little Lucy standing there at the school gates with no one else there that must have been so scary. What happened?’ I said I remember feeling a bit frightened when the door wouldn’t open and then I don’t remember much else but I know that the cleaner drove me home. But I explained how we would all laugh about that as if it was funny, how mum would have just said it was an accident or that it wasn’t that big of a deal… Anna asked if I believed that, that it was just an accident. I said, ‘she didn’t give a shit about me, it was easier for her if I wasn’t there.’ Anna said, ‘and that hurts, that’s hard to say… it’s easier to say it was an accident, it’s hard to imagine she didn’t care.’ I said, ‘it just illustrates how far down the list of priorities I was. I mean there’s loads of stories like that… like they used to put my sandwiches in a margarine tub, which is sad in itself, they couldn’t buy me a fucking packed lunch box… and one day they actually gave me the margarine tub for lunch instead of the one with my sandwiches in… (I was laughing a bit but Anna looked serious), I mean, it was obviously a mistake… but I just felt really crap.’ Anna asked what mum’s reaction was and I said, ‘probably just that it all worked out fine, that I still had something to eat, a school dinner…’ we talked a bit about how mum didn’t give me the responses I needed. I talked about how when I’ve forgotten to put my daughters water in her bag I’ve gone out of my way to get it to her, gone back up to her school to give it to her. Anna said, ‘because you could imagine how she would feel when she went into her bag and saw it wasn’t there.’ I agreed.
I said, ‘I mean, another thing that’s laughed about a lot is how like when mum used to take me to playgroup she says I enjoyed it, I do remember enjoying it, then she would collect me and bring me home and I would drag my wee red chair into the corner of the room and ignore her, she says for an hour… and they would laugh about that, like how funny it was that at 3 or 4 I was punishing mum or whatever… but I just feel like, what I’ve read about attachment, that just screams of like I didn’t feel safe with mum, like so I felt rejected or abandoned or whatever but I couldn’t go to her and she didn’t try to see what was wrong, it was easier for her to leave me to it and just get on with whatever she was doing. If I was sitting on that chair I was at least out of the way. I mean I would go to my daughter if that happened now and read her behaviour and try to work out what was wrong…’ Anna agreed and we talked a bit about the mis-attunement.
‘I hid quite a lot. I would hide if they were really angry.’ Anna said, ‘where did you used to hide?’ And I said, ‘well it depends which house we lived in… but you know like under the bed… in the wardrobe…’ She repeated that back to me stating that they were my safe places then asked me where my safe place in my house is now. I said, ‘well there is nowhere I can go that I won’t be followed!’ she said, ‘but being followed is different from being safe.’ And I said, ‘oh right yeah well my whole house feels safe.’ We exchanged a smile and she said, ‘your whole house feels safe.’ And I said, ‘yeah and my kids never hide from me! Unless we’re playing hide and seek!’ and she smiled.
There’s something else about this picture but I feel like I don’t really want to say that just now… (Anna told me to take my time) ‘sooo…. Um yeah’ – lots of hesitation then Anna said, ‘what is it that makes you reluctant?’ I said, ‘it’s um a pretty heavy topic, and embarrassing, like… just difficult to talk about…’ there was a gap and then Anna mirrored, ‘you feel like it’s quite a heavy thing to talk about. Embarrassing.’ I said, ‘yeah… um well it’s just. There’s something phallic about the picture or the snakes… or like the tall stone thing (I turned the card to her so she could see) – it’s pretty phallic. She said, ‘so there’s something sexual about it?’ and I said, ‘hhhmmm yeah well male.’ I paused and said, ‘yeah I really don’t like this picture.’ She said she could tell and I said, ‘I get why it makes me feel this way, you know… there’s obviously stuff there about this kind of thing but I’m just definitely not ready to talk about that at all.’ She said, ‘yeah stuff that’s not to do with your mum and dad?’ and I nodded… she said, ‘there’s no rushing this, you talk about things when you are ready to talk.’
I said, ‘there’s something I want to bring up, and I know it’s nearly time to stop, I just want to say… you asked me a question twice and I struggled to answer directly and I don’t know why. I mentioned to my brother, about how you’d asked me if mum and dad had every hurt me or whatever and I’d said they hadn’t… maybe I was ashamed, I feel weird about it because they treated my brother so differently to the way they treated me.’ Anna said, ‘so shall we bring that up next time then?’ I said, ‘yes lets!’ sarcastically and she overlooked my tone and said, ‘so they did hurt you… physically?’ I nodded.