Is this what fine feels like?

Exploring my deep need for connection.

I’m in this strange state and I’m not sure how to describe it… I don’t know if everything is just ‘fine’ and not triggered and I’m very adult and okay just now or if I’m dissociative and shut off and numb. I’ve been super irritable with my family recently so I’m not completely numb… no idea but anyway – here is a very adult seeming session…

After my last session I sent Anna a text on Saturday evening at 9pm saying…

Sorry to text late. I know you won’t reply straight away. Please can we have a quick phone call at some point, before Saturday? Lucy

She replied Sunday morning saying…

Hi Lucy. I don’t have any free evenings this week to speak before Sat, however, could speak for 10 mins at 11am today. Would this help? Anna

I then said…

Hi Anna,
I really appreciate you offering me a time on your day off. That’s really kind of you.
I’ve figured out what was going on for me and so won’t need a call now.
Basically I was really worried because I didn’t feel as close a connection with you yesterday and left feeling so much worse than I’ve felt for the past two weeks. I thought something had changed with you and how you feel about me but I journaled about it last night and I’ve woken up with a different perspective. I think unintentionally I was more guarded and the break had maybe made a part of me go into hiding. I’ve decided it’s important even in the sessions where my adult is the one that’s doing all the talking, my child needs to see and feel that we’re ‘okay’ and that might mean you always sitting closer to me or something. It is important but I’m happy to wait and talk about it on Saturday.
Thanks again for offering a call today. It means a lot to me. Hope you have a good first week back. See you on Saturday. Lucy.

She then replied…

Hi Lucy, thanks for text. I’m glad you’re feeling more settled this morning. We can talk on Saturday to ensure that not only your Adult is supported, that your child is not excluded and feels supported also. Take care and hope you’re first week back goes well too. Anna

And I largely spent the week not really thinking about it. I concentrated on my week back at work plus some other things – friend catch ups, spin classes, family stuff, inheritance stuff.

I got to Anna’s and she buzzed me in, I was quite amused as I walked up the stairs thinking about our text interactions and how worked up I’d got. I gave her a smile when I saw her and she gave me a lovely big hug. In that moment I had a really clear understanding in myself that everything is actually okay between me and her and that any time I’ve overly worried about what she thinks of me or that I’ve seen problems between us, it’s actually been a symptom of my trauma and quite clearly transference at play. I wasn’t shaming myself I was just feeling very grounded in that known fact… that these are symptoms that are there to help me understand myself and what I need. It’s like going to a doctor and being ashamed of the pain in your arm that tells you that when you fell the other day you fractured a bone… there’s not really any logic in shaming ourselves for these reactions, fears, anxieties, thoughts and behaviours… they just need to be brought into the light, analysed and looked at with curiosity so they can be worked on and healed. I wasn’t able to heal my relational trauma with the people who caused it so I came to therapy… that is literally the purpose of me going to therapy – to heal it with another attachment figure. So, having that felt sense of understanding helped all the anxiety melt away and I sat down feeling very secure, grounded and adult. Anna asked me how I was doing and I said I thought I was alright. I said, ‘sorry for sending you the messages on Saturday but I really appreciate you offering me a time for a call.’ She had a sort of ‘not phased’ type expression, raised eyebrows and slight smile. She shook her head and told me it was fine and asked me how I was feeling about it all now.

I had a wee think about it then said, ‘I kind of feel like I made a big deal out of not a lot… I talked to some people online who said that they also feel a sort of disconnect in their first session after the holidays and I guess I was reading a lot into these micro expressions… you know when I gave myself time to journal the session out it all came back to me, all the things we’d talked about. I realised it was actually a really useful session, we talked a lot about some very useful things you know?’ Anna sort of interrupted (she’d been nodding and slightly smiling in agreement the whole time), ‘it was a good session, a lot covered. How you felt when you left is very important too though and I wonder if there’s something we can do during this session to ensure your child doesn’t feel left out at all.’ I said, ‘I mean, at the moment I just feel totally fine and happy with this… but I know when I leave that’s when I will feel it.’ she asked specifically if there is anything we can do to help my child feel acknowledged in the session. I said, ‘it definitely feels better when you sit beside me.’ so she got up and sat beside me… just like that. No arguments, no shaming, no questions. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself two years ago that it’s going to be okay to ask for what I want! That, ‘yes, she will sit beside you, yes she will give you hugs and no she wont shame you for asking and yes even if there’s something she can’t give you, she’s going to sit with you in your pain of it all because she’s on your side!’

That reminds me of a dream I had last night. Basically, I was sitting on a wall beside the sea… one of my happy places. The water was wild and the weather crisp and bright. Then I saw ME from maybe 8 years ago walking towards me. I welcomed that Lucy over to come and sit with me on the wall and I said to her, ‘I know you’re in so much pain… I know, I can feel it… I know it hurts, everything hurts. Your body is sore, your heart is sore, you carry all this worry and pain… I’m so sorry you’re hurting so much. I want you to know that it gets easier, the load gets lighter, you do work to heal yourself and it gets better. You are stronger than you think. Not only are you able to carry this load but you’re also strong enough to start unpacking it and letting it go.’ The Lucy from 8 years ago was crying and actually by this point lying on the wall sobbing. I sort of rubbed her hand and got up and walked away. I totally forgot to tell Anna about the dream but it felt very profound and like some deeper understanding of things had shifted in me.

Back to the session… Anna was sitting beside me now and I said I didn’t really know what I wanted to talk about because there were lots of little things I wanted to cover from the week but also wondered if it would be better to just talk about the actual therapy and my feelings here (gestured to the room). She said, ‘take a minute to check in with yourself and see what comes up, its important that all parts of you have a chance to be here today, we’ve got time to check in.’ I nodded and said, ‘can we just talk about all the little things and see where that goes?’ she nodded and smiled.

I started to explain the situation with my grandpa’s will and how he had left me my grandmas jewellery as he knew I am sentimental and like things with meaning and family history. We talked a bit more about how emotional I felt at looking at and trying on her rings, her wedding ring… all of the memories tied up in the jewellery. I tried to explain exactly what it all meant to me, ‘when I was younger if I ever was allowed to try my mum’s jewellery on, her rings would only go half way down my chubby fingers. She’s a different build to me, her whole family are petite and I don’t look anything like them. I have a different completion and hair colour to my mum… I never felt like I knew where I came from… as if I was adopted or something. When I tried my grandma’s rings on (paternal grandmother) and they fit me, I felt this wave of belonging wash over me. Like in that moment I could see my lineage, I could see where I am from… if that makes sense.’ Anna said, ‘yes, that’s beautiful and very special. Your grandpa held you in mind when he left you that jewellery in his will. AS I’m imagining you trying those rings on… it reminds me of Luna and the work you’re doing to connect to your inner child, that deep connection to yourself and to those who love you. It grounds you.’ There was a moment where we just sat and kind of contemplated that.

I said, ‘oh so actually I talked to my dad a couple days after my last session and told him that I wasn’t really enjoying my job anymore and thought about studying something else and he was really encouraging and basically told me it was a great idea! Totally different to the way the conversation went the last time.’ Anna sort of laughed and threw her hands in the air and jokingly said, ‘wait, what? Can you just say that again while I record you!’ we laughed about the complete 180 my dad had taken and I then said, ‘but in that moment I realised you know, our parents aren’t a finished article, I mean, he was inspired by me when I was working with Paul and he actually got me to ask Paul for a recommendation for a psychologist and he’s been doing his own work… you know our parents are a work in progress too… something he said or did 8 years ago he might regret or want to change or respond differently this time round, and he did change. I didn’t remind him of the conversation we had back then but it was great to have a retake!’ Anna said, ‘of course you didn’t remind him, that’s not your style, you wouldn’t deliberately shame someone or point out their short comings, you’re very sensitive to people’s feelings.’ I love it when she says things like that, she reframes something to show the side to me that she sees.

Anna then said, ‘so have you an idea of what you might like to study? Something that would excite you, that if you decided to go for it you would want to keep looking it up and researching it..?’ I said, ‘the only thing I’ve felt that about in recent years is psychology stuff. I spend so much time reading and researching stuff to do with mental health and trauma.’ Anna said, ‘so would you like to take that further?’ I said, ‘hmmm well no there’s the voice there saying, ‘you’re not good enough,’ and also – I’m only obsessed with the psychology stuff in a selfish way, it’s all about me and my self development just now… I’m trying to think why that’s a negative thing, it is though…’ Anna said, ‘well, firstly we know what we say to the inner critic when she pops up! Secondly, rather than criticising yourself for the reasons you got into psychology, I would look at it as a positive thing. When we completely immerse ourselves in something, that’s when we achieve what we’re aiming for and you have done exactly that, you’ve completely immersed yourself in this work, the psychology, all the reading, all the journaling, that immersion is the key to your success, that’s why you are doing so well. You are dedicated to getting better and it’s happening.’

I said, ‘when I was at work on Monday, I thought about how I was probably doing myself a bit of a disservice last week when I was going on about me being incompetent.’ She chuckled and gave a little nod and raised eyebrows. I continued, ‘I did what you suggested though. I thought about what the kids were getting out of the lesson, how they would view it… and yeah, they were absorbed, they were learning, they seemed calm and like they felt safe and happy. But I don’t know, it’s like I find it boring or something, there’s nothing engaging me in the job anymore and I think that’s what makes me lazy and take short cuts and easy options, then those easy routes perpetuate the laziness. You know?’ She asked me about areas of my job I’ve talked about that she knows I liked and wondered aloud what I could do to ensure I have more of what I enjoy. She said, ‘you were 18 when you started teacher training and a lot has changed for you.’ I nodded and explained, ‘back then I was just desperate for order and security and discipline and boundaries. I needed to feel safe and school was always that for me. There would be a timetable..’ she interrupted and said, ‘and it happened!’ and I said, ‘yeah, unlike at home where they would say one thing but a completely different thing would happen, it was chaos at home and I needed order.’ Anna said, ‘but now you’ve created that safety and order in your own home and with your own relationships and you know how to ensure discipline and boundaries are held in your life, you don’t need that anymore. It perhaps feels safer to take risks? You have the security of your job, you know it’s there… now you can risk some making a change?’ I was very pensive at this point, a lot of looking around the room, deep inhales, nodding, thinking. There were a few moments where I started to speak but then she would speak and not let me interrupt her. After the third time she said, ‘sorry but this is very important… we’re onto something here…’ she was energised and seemed quite excited by this thread that we were on. She said, ‘You know this is the key I think. Yes, the children in your class are learning, they’re engaged and stimulated but your child isn’t. Your child is saying, ‘what about me? I want to learn new things, I want to explore and be stimulated and stretched, there’s more to me than this!’ does that resonate?’ I was like, ‘WOW!’ Just sat there nodding and smiling and saying, ‘wow, yes…’ she smiled and calmly said, ‘exciting times!’ I said, ‘hmmm you’ve definitely given me a lot to think about.’

We talked about a few more things that I can’t remember now then towards the end I asked if we just had five minutes left and she looked at her watch and said, ‘no we have thirteen minutes!’ and smiled. I said, ‘okay… I’m going to say something that we will definitely need to come back to because there’s more to it than this…’ she nodded me on. I said, ‘so, yesterday I looked up Paul online again for some unknown reason.’ I sort of glanced at her with a kind of cheeky, ‘oops’ expression and she had a kind of ‘what are you like’ expression. I said, ‘I wanted to see if he was still practicing. Then immediately I noticed that they’ve put a new photo up of him and it made me cry instantly. Like total sadness and grief. He looked so different, older obviously and I don’t know, I think it highlighted to me that I haven’t seen him in so long, over 4 years and he’s changed and…’ Anna interrupted and said, ‘and you’ve changed a lot and he’s not witnessed that change.’ I said, ‘YES! That too! Like I’ve often thought I’d love to book in with him and go through to his city just to show him how much better I am, how much I’ve changed. But it wouldn’t be the same.’ She agreed it wouldn’t be the same and I said something about how I do still occasionally look him up but don’t stalk him nearly as much as I used to. She said, ‘you use the word stalk quite a lot, do you really think it’s stalking? Or is that a word you’re using because you’re ashamed?’ I felt a flash of panic and said, ‘yeah, it’s the shame… I mean I don’t think it’s dangerous what I’ve done but it wasn’t necessary you know… um…’ I started to feel a bit spacey I think because she had picked up on the word ‘stalk’ and I was worried she would be thinking I’m a danger to her or something. I said, ‘so the other times I’ve used the word has been when I talked about looking at your picture? But that’s different…’ she said, ‘yeah I got the feeling you were looking at the photo for comfort?’ I said, ‘yeah but that in itself is weird, me sitting on my own in a room looking at your photo… what makes it stalkery is that you’re not doing the same! Paul’s not looking me up on facebook, you guys aren’t obsessing about me and my life outside the therapy room but I’m trying to find every piece of information I can… and it’s not things you’ve offered me, I’m looking for it… that’s just not okay!’

Anna thought about it and said, ‘so what drives you to look at Paul’s picture now?’ I said, ‘I still fucking miss him, there’s still a huge attachment there, it hurts… it’s like self harm actually.’ I looked at her and I could tell by her tiny change in expression that this was not something she expected me to say, I went on, ‘I’m looking at a photo of a man who left me, he chose to leave, I still want to know him and he got up and left the city we were working in… looking at pictures of his face or his family is like rubbing salt in this very painful wound of mine and saying, ‘you’re not part of this and you can never be part of it!’ she said, ‘hmmm yeah I think there’s some really important, big stuff here that we can unpack and work our way through.’ I said, ‘it feels different with you, I mean Paul was so shit at hiding stuff, he had so much of his life online it was super easy to find and I saw pictures of his kids, political stuff that he posted and all sorts… I’m really glad there’s like NOTHING to find about you online!’ I laughed and then sort of flashed a glance at her and she smiled. PHEW… she’s not pulled out her personal alarm yet! I said, ‘I feel like with Paul I was very naïve and young and it was all teen feelings, I wanted him to be my dad so much and I just wanted to fully absorb myself in his life. He didn’t have strong boundaries and so I sort of ran with that! But with you, I’ve known where I stand from the start, I don’t want to be part of your family, what I want is more time in this room with you! I love being here (I panicked coz I mentioned the L word so I backtracked) well I don’t love it but I like how being connected to you makes me feel and so uh… I mean if I could I’d have like four sessions a week with you in this room, boundaried and safe and protected… but with Paul it was different I really pushed to see how much he’d let me away with, how much of his life could bleed into the room…’ she said she was interested to hear how I talk about the online investigating as a form of self harm and how she sees it as an attempt of my inner child trying to feel the connection. I said I wasn’t alone in this and that there are loads of us attachment wounded clients sitting behind our screens trying to get a behind the scenes view of the lives of our therapists. She said, ‘it makes sense to me, you are looking for a deep connection… the connection is so important to you because it helps you feel safe.’ She then related that back to the stuff about our previous session, the texts, my grandma and work, that feeling a deeper connection is a core value of mine and a way that my inner child feels seen and safe and held. I said, ‘so you don’t think it’s weird and unhealthy?’ she said no and I pulled a face at her with a raised eyebrow because I was not convinced by her tone of voice. She then said, ‘well no I don’t think it’s weird however I also think it’s a roundabout way of trying to get a need met and it would be good to explore it further so we can really get to the core of the need so you no longer feel like hurting yourself in this way.’ I took an uncomfortably massive deep breath that felt unnatural but happened spontaneously and we both kind of laughed and I said, ‘can’t wait for that chat!’

I felt a need to check that we were still okay but then I took a moment while we were talking about the excessive amount of rainfall we’ve had today to really observe her and I could see she was relaxed and being friendly and familiar with me. If she was worried or uncomfortable she would have said something I think… although my inner critic just handed me an image of her processing the session later and deciding she needs to reconsider working with me. Inner critic – fuck off! Anna… if you’re psychic… please just seek supervision about this if it makes you at all uncomfortable because as you would say, this is all just part of the work!