This is the root of it all…

Tuesday night… I sat down feeling quite relieved to have finally got there. My journey took twice as long as usual because of the traffic and when I relayed this to Anna she suggested we go back to the usual timings and not the earlier one. This feels good. I think anything she suggests I will initially try to accommodate because it feels in my mind like she is being passive and secretly wants me to change my arrangements to suit her suggestion… when actually she genuinely wants me to choose a damn time that suits me. So I agreed to go back to the later time.

I talked about how busy I have been. I went in to some details of the things I’ve been doing. Work. Family life. Kids homework and clubs. Gym classes. Therapy. Parents’ nights. Catching up with friends… she asked me leading questions that were designed to help me see a way round my arrangements. To see if I could move somethings around or maybe not do them all in one week. I was reluctant to change anything, though also wanted it all to change. I told her that my first quiet day is a Thursday and I always feel this massive emotional shift on a Thursday morning as if I am now finally feeling everything that the busyness has covered up for days. She asked me what I thought the business was covering up and I said it’s just the feelings that are always inside me. she asked if it’s things that we are stirring up here and I nodded but felt worried that she was going to say we should stop then, which is illogical but the fear is always there.

I then told her that I have this panicky feeling that I’m wasting our time. I said, ‘this is a recurring fear of mine. It comes up in these sessions. It came up in sessions with Paul. It comes up in my daily life… that I am wasting time. I waste the time I have to myself, it could be put to better use, I waste the time I have with the kids… I’m wasting my precious time in here.. I mean, I have been here (looks at clock and dramatically raises voice) FIFTEEN MINUTES… so it’s basically too late to go into anything deeper now because there’s not enough time to get out of it again and…. Uh it’s all a waste of time!’ Anna smiled and said, ‘I completely disagree. I think this is all very important. This is your daily life and this week is every week. It’s important to look at these things. and I’m wondering, I’m thinking about your mother… Was there a sense when you were a child that things always had to be busy and all of the time filled with no gaps?’ I said, ‘yes definitely with my mum, she would be non stop on the go all the time…’ Anna said, ‘what would happen if she wasn’t busy doing, when there were quiet gaps?’ I said, ‘those were the times that she was more likely to loose it, crying, shouting, talking all the time to me about her problems…’ Anna said, ‘so there’s a sense that if the busyness stops and there’s quiet…’ I interrupted and said, ‘oh my god, fuck I don’t want to be like here! I’m just like her! I am busy all the time and when there are quiet moments I lose the plot and go mental like her!’ Anna said, ‘no, you don’t behave the way she did… I think there’s a fear that if the busyness stops there will be gaps that let things in, things that hurt…’ I said, ‘oh…’ and sat with that for a while. I said, ‘so the keeping busy, the always doing… it’s protecting me from something that can’t even hurt me anymore… from 20 years ago?’ she nodded.

Anna said, ‘what happens when you’re busy, what do you do? What do you do for you?’ I said, ‘well on Sunday night, after a non stop weekend. I talked to my husband about the fact that I’m really proud of us. We’ve achieved a lot this weekend, tackled quite a few stressful dilemmas and we’ve also been very connected with each other, no arguments, lots of things sorted that needed to be sorted. I said to him I might cancel my session on Tuesday as the whole week was looking very busy and I thought it would be nice to have one night off. I thought I should slow down and take a minute so I sat down to check in with myself… after a very adult, organised, proactive two days… I wanted to ask myself how I felt. I immediately started to cry coz I felt this pain in my chest and I cuddled Luna. The message I got from inside was, ‘I just wish I’d been wanted. I wish I’d been cherished. I felt like a burden, I got in the way… everyone was always so busy and stressed and I just added to their problems. I wish my mum had felt glad I was here… I wish there had been time for me.’ It wondered if my child had felt abandoned all weekend and figured that a session on Tuesday would be useful. I also had a dream that you cancelled the session and I was really disappointed so kept the session.’ Anna said, ‘I’m hearing that possibly this hour is the only hour in your week when you get to slow down and just be..?’ I nodded and said, ‘for the past month or so I’ve been wondering about this sense I have of us moving too fast in here… and after the session where I said that we were talking over the feelings… that wasn’t a preplanned thing those were just words that came out and it surprised me, so I thought, I wonder if we could do a session where we experiment with just sitting quietly not saying anything at all and just see what comes up. Even just saying it fills me with panic and I feel like, well that’s what this is all about isn’t it, pushing me outside my comfort zone? It feels like something worth trying…’ Anna smiled with interest and said, ‘it sounds important, yeah, shall we contract to do that on Saturday?’ I agreed.

She then said, ‘I was so moved to hear you talking about checking in with yourself… that’s the work we’re doing here, you checking in with your inner child is massive. There’s no way you would have down that a couple of years ago you would have just got very overwhelmed and become frustrated with yourself… well done!’ She gave a really genuine smile that makes me ache inside. I had images of my child leaping out of my body and throwing her arms around Anna’s waist.

I said, ‘I feel a lot of shame about the fact that this is so important to me…’ she asked me to explain further. I said, ‘It’s just weird to me that the thing I fear the most and the thing that is the most important thing to me is us here in this room… I feel this really strong pull, a need to feel very close to you and connected but then another part of me is terrified of that and very reluctant to even tell you… like I’m panicking just telling you this…’ Anna said, ‘…hmmm and why do you think this is important to you?’ referring to the therapy sessions, like she has done before. I paused for ages and then blurted out, ‘it’s not THIS… it’s YOU…’ I quietened right down, a bit taken aback by my outburst… ‘you are important to me, I care about you and that scares me. I mean, shouldn’t I just be coming here and talking about the issues in my life that are bothering me, not how I feel about you? But I don’t want to tell you… it’s too scary.’ she said, ‘okay I understand. And what’s the fantasy in your head of how I might respond to you saying this?’ I said, ‘you might reject me… you might say ‘oh this isn’t the purpose of therapy’, you might…’ Anna interrupted, ‘have I ever said anything like that before?’ I said she hadn’t then I recalled how Paul had responded to me feeling jealous of his daughter. That he’d talked about it being his ‘fault’ for creating a dependency because of his lack of boundaries. That he would fix that and change things. And then after talking about it for a while he eventually said he didn’t deal with transference, that it was beyond his knowledge base and that I was pushing him further than he was able to go. Basically I felt like I was being punished for telling him how I felt. I pondered with Anna, ‘but you do work with transference and attachment stuff and you’ve encouraged me to talk about how I feel about you.’ She had been nodding and making agreeing noises while I was talking. I can’t remember exactly the words she used but she talked about dependency and emails and longer sessions and I pushed back and said that I didn’t think it had created a dependency I thing it was transference and attachment stuff. I said, ‘I wish he hadn’t said that it was a bad thing that shouldn’t have happened, it made me feel so ashamed… I wish he’d said… I wish… I wish he’d just said, ‘can you tell me more about how that feels?’ or something, you know?’ Anna had a very serious, listening look on her face and she nodded and said, ‘yes I do understand.’ I said, ‘I just wanted him to listen to me and accept me.’ she said, ‘I know.’ She then said, ‘it’s reminding me of your drawing of the corridor and doors. Of a little girl standing at a half open door and then it’s slammed in her face and she doesn’t know why. Just all these closed doors…’ Oh my god that hurt so much. That’s exactly what it felt like. I told Anna that Paul was inconsistent with his new boundaries. That sometimes they were there and sometimes they weren’t. She said that must have felt confusing. I said, ‘you know I remember you said at the start when we first starting working together that I was testing you but I don’t think I do test people I think I just need to know where I satnd. I think it’s really important to me to keep things harmonious in relationships, I don’t like to antagonise people and I am respectful of their rules… but if it’s not clear to me what the rules are then it doesn’t feel safe…’ Anna interrupted, ‘the way I see testing is that it’s a bit like walking on stepping stones over a river. You don’t know if the rock is going to hold your weight so you tentatively rest your foot on it and if it wobbles then you go to another stone… you’re constantly testing to see where you can step. It’s about establishing safety and knowing where you stand in a relationship. It’s not about being difficult or pushing people away, it’s about figuring people out so you can stay safe in the relationship.’ I said, ‘I like that explanation so much more than what I first thought.’

I said that I didn’t like how Paul just randomly made these knee jerk decisions and I hated it. She said, ‘This is a partnership. This is why we contract. We decide together what feels right. I will always say, ‘would you like to try that in the next session…’ or ‘I’ve been reflecting on this and wondered how you would feel if we adapted x, y, z…’ this is about us deciding together, it’s not about me doing to you.’ I let out a pained sign and tightly wrapped my arms round myself. I said, ‘oh that makes me feel like I could cry.’ She said, ‘what did I say that made you feel upset.’ I repeated, ‘it’s not about me doing to you.’ I then said, ‘it just feels so respectful and safe and caring and I don’t know why that makes me upset.’

I said, ‘I just wish I didn’t feel so intensely about this… I feel like a fucking idiot because I’ve fallen for this therapy thing again… like I worked so hard to block it and I failed… I just hate that I care so much about this.’  She then said, ‘Just because you’re my client and I’m your therapist, doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. This is a real relationship. You’re a teacher… you care about the children you work with, you think about them when you’re at home…’ I said, ‘it’s not the same. I don’t feel the same about the kids as I do about you…’ I was sinking further into my seat, face half covered by the neck of my hoodie and sleeves over my hands. Hating. Every. Minute. Of. It.

I said, ‘I don’t like that, what you said, it made me feel bad.’ She said, ‘What was it I said?

‘You used the words therapist and client… it feels really distancing.’ I said… shifting about in my seat. In a gentle voice she said, ‘well you are my client but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important relationship.’ This part is a bit fuzzy. I told her I felt spacey and that it felt like a really scary thing to talk about. I didn’t want to hear her call me her client, it hurts too much.

Anna said, ‘you feel that you’re an idiot for caring about me, you think it makes no sense and that it actually feels really risky… but I see it as the exact opposite. You find it really difficult to trust people (understandably) and you need to feel very connected and close to me before you can trust me… and you can only do the work we’re doing which is deeply personal, vulnerable work, if you feel close and connected to me and that you trust me. So of course, damn sure you’re bloody panicky and fearful when you don’t feel the connection, of course it’s fucking terrifying when you get a sense that I’m not on the same page as you. Because this is very deep intense work and you need to feel that you can trust me.’ I kept getting flashes of really understanding this on a deep level then it going. I closed my eyes and said, ‘let me think about that I want to try to get it deeper in my head… so… it’s not that I’m an idiot for caring about you, actually it’s a really sensible and good thing that I care because its very personal work were doing and I need to be able to trust you before I can open up to you and so there needs to be real care there in order to do that..?’ She said, ‘yes… and considering how much you’ve been hurt, it’s understandable it takes a long time and a lot of work for that trust to build,’ She asked me if I wanted to check anything with her, ask her anything. I said, ‘I don’t even know what it is that I want to check…’ she said, ‘that’s okay.’ I laughed and she said, ‘it’s progress that you’re just saying you don’t know what you want to check but there is something there… that’s more than before when you would just say no.’

I said, ‘I feel like I want to reach down and pull that bear from my bag but I don’t know if that would be weird or not…’ she had an expression on her face that I cant describe like maybe desperately encouraging me or something. She said, ‘if you need Luna for comfort right now then why deprive yourself of that comfort? I know that you feel comforted by my presence when you’re very upset and when you’re not here Luna is a support for you so it makes sense that you would want to hold her when the feelings come up… lets contract that whenever you’re in here, if you feel the need for Luna, you don’t need to ask permission to get her out of your bag, just do it… how does that sound?’ I said, ‘it sounds scary, I feel really ashamed… I don’t want you to see me holding her and I’ll worry what you’re thinking of me.’ she said, ‘when I see you reach for Luna I will ask you what came up for you to need her and I will be really glad to see you comforting yourself with her…’ I said I was worried that holding her would make me cry. Anna said that would be okay if I did. I um’d and ah’d and then exclaimed, ‘for fuck sake Lucy this is ridiculous you have fifteen minutes left just fucking do it!’ and I reached and pulled Luna out by her arm, sat crossed legged on the armchair with Luna in my lap, both arms wrapped round her and chin resting on her head. I said, ‘I feel really fucking embarrassed now, I don’t like that you can see meeeee…. Ahhhh I hate this. I think it’s easier when you’re sitting beside me because then you cant see me or maybe I cant see you.’ Anna said, ‘ah, yes I was curious about why you chose to keep me seated over here this session and didn’t ask me to move over. I had wondered if you wanted to be fully seen by me tonight or maybe to be able to see me?’ I was really struck by the fact that she’d noticed and wondered as well what it all meant. I said, ‘please don’t stop sitting beside me though, even if it is about hiding…’ I then said I felt really overwhelmed and I buried my head in Luna. Anna said, ‘her fur looks so soft.’ I just sat stroking Luna’s ears for a bit. Anna said, ‘remember you can still ask me to come and sit next to you.’ I said in a muffled voice, ‘can you now.’ So she moved over and asked me if I wanted her hand on my arm which I did. She sat rubbing her thumb back and forth holding my arm. I felt like I wanted to cry but couldn’t. I was leaning over to her side but face hidden from her and I said, ‘I really hate this feeling so much…’ she said, ‘I know you do, Lucy.’ In that deliciously empathetic tone she uses so well.

I told Anna that earlier in the day my son, Reuben had been crying and when I went to him he was cuddling his huge teddy and I almost wanted to praise him for finding comfort before I’d got there. I peeked at Anna and she smiled. I said, ‘I don’t know why I feel so much shame holding this bear… I cant imagine what my parents must have done or said to make me feel like this is such an awful thing to do… but it feels so exposing…’ Anna said, ‘I know. It is. I feel honoured that you’re allowing me to be here with you while you hold Luna. This is personal and it is private. Just you and me.’ I said, ‘I feel naked sitting here…’ I laughed and said I was glad I wasn’t actually naked and she said she was glad she wasn’t too and then we joked about how there probably is a type of therapy out there like that which lightened the mood a bit. Then her candle reached it’s end and went out and all the smoke sort of bellowed up and into our space and Anna tried to hold her composure through some slight coughs then practically gagged, got a drink of water and said, ‘I feel like I’ve eaten an actual candle!’ and we both laughed a lot. It felt very very funny. Anna said, ‘mental note – sit the candle further away next time!’ and I joked about it happening at the most intense moment of the session.

She checked that I was okay to stop and I was. I put Luna back in my bag, chatted a bit about the plans for the rest of the weekend. Hugged a big long swaying hug and thanked her then left.

I then text her on Tuesday morning –

I don’t enjoy my job. I feel burdened by the unrelenting needs of the kids in my class. When the parents send me messages on the communication app we use (out with working hours) I feel annoyed with them and that even though I’m stretched thin, it’s still not enough for them. Quite often I wish I could quit my job.

When you compare our relationship to the ones I have at my work, it just confirms my fears – that you feel burdened by me, that you don’t enjoy working with me and that I am too much for you. Doesn’t everyone dread their work..? I’m your work.

It’s boundaries! My mum was too much for me. My friends feel too much for me. My kids feel too much for me. Work feels too much for me. I’m projecting that onto you and assuming you feel that too. But it’s the lack of boundaries in my life that allows people and work to be too much. And you have healthy boundaries so maybe that’s a very important difference. Maybe your boundaries protect you from being burdened and overwhelmed by me.

I took the following paragraph out before sending… I struggled to articulate myself last night, it all felt quite overwhelming, I’m still struggling to understand it all. I know that I want to matter to you. I want you to enjoy your work and specifically enjoy working with me. I know that all of this feels important to me because I’m still afraid you’ll want to stop working with me and if you like me you’ll be less likely to leave. But this is just your job, so liking me isn’t even enough to keep you here. It wasn’t enough for Paul.

Wednesday night I got home from work after 8pm. It had been a long and busy three days. I sat and stared at the TV while we watched a drama together then went upstairs at 10pm while my husband made the lunches for the next day. I was taking my make up off in the bathroom and could feel my chest tightening. My breathing becoming more shallow. Feeling a bit panicky. I moved around the bathroom a bit and put my hand on my chest. I spoke to Anna in my head, ‘I remember this feeling, this is how I’ve felt before when I’ve had a panic attack… I don’t like this feeling, it’s like my throat is closing up… I can’t breathe…’ I imagined she would ask me what I needed and then I realised I needed to cry. Then it just hit me. Wave after wave of silent, open mouthed sobbing. Buckled over on my knees with my head in my hands, resting on the ground, eyes tightly closed. Noiseless wailing. I have never cried like that…. Not as an adult anyway. I remember crying like that a lot when I was a teenager. Alone in my room feeling completely desperate.

I had to calm down, wash my face and go to bed. I didn’t want my husband to see me like that, I can’t be bothered explaining it all to him.

Then this morning (Thursday) I got my daughter ready and out for school. Intended on spending some time with my son in the morning before nursery but could feel the ocean rising again. I basically sat him in front of the tv for over an hour while I was upstairs crying on my bed holding Luna. The only thoughts I was aware of were thoughts of wishing Anna loved me. Wishing she was with me. Feeling separate from her and alone. Feeling frightened of the massive emotions and as if I might never stop crying. There were lulls in the crying. I was able to wash my face, reapply my make up and take my son to nursery. I cried again when I got home. It struck me that I have never trusted myself to be able to cry like this. The overwhelming feeling is that I wish I could cry like this with Anna but I guess if I’ve never been able to cry like this by myself then how could I expect myself to cry with someone else like this. Perhaps this is a small step in the right direction. Fully expressing the emotions and allowing them to pass through me when I’m by myself so that I can then do it with her.

I have really struggled to write this session up. Every time I’ve tried I have felt overwhelmingly exhausted as if I could just fall asleep. I think this is some sort of dissociation. Now that I have cried on and off for the past five hours it feels like I was better able to write it all up. I think this is the root of it all. The deepest pain that is so black and roots so entwined round all of the parts of me that I can barely make it out. The desperate pleas inside for Anna to love me… the grief underneath that screams for my mother to love me. The crying today and last night has felt like a scraping off of another layer. I know it is part of the process but it feels life threatening. In my adult I feel certain that Anna is prepared for this work… but in my child I am still so terrified I will make her leave me if I go any deeper with this. I guess this is the tentative testing steps onto the rocks as the water rushes around and under me… and I only need to go one step at a time.

9 thoughts on “This is the root of it all…

  1. slantgirl

    Lucy, sometimes I think we are having the exact same therapy experience! I have an Anna-like T, as well, kind and compassionate and really present and reassuring, and who sometimes misses the mark because she’s not actually inside my head. I go through this client/care cycle every few months, I’m in it right now in fact, and it’s so hard. I relate so hard to what you’ve said about work — how we are ‘work’ for them, which is so hard when we have our own relationship to work, satisfaction and enjoyment. I always feel like my T will be happy if I cancel (I never do!) because I am happy when people cancel on me and give me an hour free. I spent all fall trying to accommodate my perception of her what her scheduling want was (also taking an earlier appt rather than the later one I really wanted) so as to kind of ensure i was making work as unworky as possible.I don’t know what to do about it all or how to get past the rut I’m stuck in, but it made me feel so much less alone to read this post by you today. I hope the crying eases and you feel a bit better. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think for me, talking to her about it is the step I need to take. Just talk talk talk about it. I’m sorry you feel the same pressure hit I’m also so glad you have a lovely therapist too 💕

      Liked by 2 people

  2. LovingSummer

    Lucy when you said: “She then said, ‘Just because you’re my client and I’m your therapist, doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. [she means: I DO CARE LUCY!] This is a real relationship [SHE MEANS: I’M FEELING THE REALNESS OF THIS TOO!] You’re a teacher… you care about the children you work with, you think about them when you’re at home’… [SHE’S SAYING: I THINK ANOUT YOU LUCY!] because this bit made me think she’s saying SHE is like the teacher who cares about YOU, one of the children, and SHE (the teacher) thinks about YOU (the child) when she’s at home.
    Whereas your first impression (probably your fear talking?) saw it that she’s likening it to your experience of being stretched too thinly as a teacher and that her clients are troublesome for her.
    Just wanted to point that it to you really, in case looking back over it you can see if any of it makes sense.
    Lots of sympathy this end though, you know I also struggle with the idea that I’m going to be thrown out because I’m too dependent or something! Thought I’ve felt that way much less recently, and I hope you do, very soon, too 🤗

    Liked by 4 people

      1. My brain does that harsh distortion too. I told my T ages ago that I HATE my job (IT with demanding people who require a lot of face-time), and she said there’s nooooo way she can do what she does if she hates her job!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I feel like it’s only a part of me that hates my job. I don’t have a clear understanding of it. I don’t hate it all the time. People could say the same about my job (teacher) ‘you can’t do that job if you don’t love it’. It’s still quite confusing in my head.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This.shaking

    Dear Lucy – thank you SO VERY MUCH for this. I am having similar experiences – I think perhaps it is the little dissociated parts coming through – I really like your T – and it helps me understand what my T is doing…
    It is all unbelievably difficult…
    T tells me it is safe – I/we are safe now
    Thank you again. TS

    Liked by 2 people

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