I don't want you!

I took Anna’s advice and emailed her ‘living will’ or ‘working will’ colleague… I can’t rememeber the name… the person suggested to support Anna’s clients if she is unable through illness or death. Anna had said I should take support when offered if needed.

I emailed,

Hi Linda, Anna gave me your email address. Not sure what to say in this email… I’m finding it difficult not being able to speak to her just now. She suggested getting in touch with you. Regards, Lucy.

She replied first thing in the morning…

Good morning Lucy, Many thanks for your email. I’m sorry to hear your counselling is being affected by the impact of the pandemic.  I’m currently well and offering sessions via Zoom or phone to clients, so we could certainly have a initial discussion to clarify how support for you just now might look.  If you would like to go ahead with this, I have a session available tomorrow morning at 10am or on Saturday afternoon at 4pm. I would also honour the fee already agreed with Anna. I look forward to hearing from you. Stay safe and well. Kind regards, Linda

Thank you for replying so quickly Linda, I really appreciate it. I would like to accept your offer of a session at 10am tomorrow. Please let me know your bank details. I can transfer the money in the morning. Ordinarily I would pay 24 hours before a session but I’m unable to do that just now. I hope that’s okay. Best wishes, Lucy

HI Lucy, You are very welcome. Please send me a Zoom link around 9.50am tomorrow and we can get connected for the session. If you’re not signed up for Zoom I can send you the link, whichever way suits. Take care and I look forward to meeting you tomorrow. Linda

Hi Linda, I don’t have a Zoom account as Anna and I were going to have our first Zoom session tonight. We had only done phone sessions since stopping face to face. Do I need to download something for it? 
I’m feeling very anxious about speaking to you. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of hard work to build trust with Anna and I’m completely devastated at not being able to speak to her just now. 
I’m also concerned about how my husband and kids are going to stay out of the way for the session. I guess we’ll just need to see how it goes. 
Lucy

HI Lucy, Thank you for being honest with me about this, we’ll take our time and get to know each other in these unprecedented circumstances. I’m sorry you are feeling devastated. You don’t need to download anything, I’ll send you a link tomorrow, just click on it and open any dialogue boxes it says to open. If I could encourage you to go with it, Zoom is pretty straightforward. if after tomorrow you prefer to use the phone then we can switch to that. Speak to you tomorrow. Linda

Okay Linda, thank you. I appreciate everything you’ve said. I’ll be there tomorrow morning. If for some reason it doesn’t work or the internet fails us or we can’t connect, my phone number is _____________.
Lucy. 

So there it is. I feel like having the session tomorrow, even giving this other therapist a pseudonym, feels too much like I’m giving her a perminent feature in my life. I don’t want her, I want ANNA.

Now what?

So Anna cancelled my session… here are our messages over the past two days.

Hi Lucy. I wanted to let you know that I’m not going to be able to make our Zoom session tomorrow, as I’ve been feeling unwell. Once I’ve spoken to the doctor and understood how best to treat my symptoms and have an idea of how long it will take to recover, I’ll be in touch to rearrange.
Please do not worry, I am taking care of my health, and will keep you updated on my recovery in order to reschedule our session as soon as I’m able. In the meanwhile, if you are feeling distressed in anyway, please use our pre-agreed crisis management plan (speak to a member of your family / friend you trust; let me know if you wish Linda, my colleague, to contact you. There’s also Samaritans, book a GPs appointment; if you are for any reason feeling suicidal – take yourself immediately to A&E.) Anna.


Hi Anna, I’m really sorry to hear you’re feeling unwell. I hope that you are able to continue taking care of yourself and that you recover quickly. I want you to know that I will be fine. I’m not suicidal or having any self destructive thoughts at all. All I feel is care and concern for you, gratitude for all the work we’ve done so far and hope that we will be able to continue working together soon. Of course I’m worried about you but I think that’s understandable considering how much you mean to me. If you feel that you’ll be out of action for more than two weeks then yes I’d like Linda to get in touch with me. Please look after yourself Anna and know that I’m thinking about you and sending lots of healing vibes your way. Xx

Hi Lucy. I’m not sure at this stage how long I will be off but will let you know if it is longer than 2 weeks. Thank you for good wishes. Anna

Anna are you going to be okay? I’m actually really upset. It feels like you’re going to die. I don’t know why it feels so massive to me inside. I’m not going to hurt myself I’ll be fine that way but I just feel so much panic about all of this. I really want you to be okay.

I’m looking after myself Lucy, please don’t worry. Will be in touch when I’m able to resume sessions. Anna

Okay, thank you. I really hope to hear from you soon. In the meantime I think it would be a good idea for Linda to call me. This is all feeling pretty massive. I don’t even know what good it would do, I don’t trust anyone but you. I don’t want her, I want you, but I’m taking heed of your advice to accept help when it’s offered.
Take care, speak soon, Lucy x

I understand Lucy. Email her and she will get in touch with you tomorrow.

I emailed her… reluctantly. I hope she’s nice. And I hope you’re able to speak to me soon. Look after yourself.
Sending you a virtual hug. Lucy.

Hi Anna, I know you won’t reply to this. I really hope you’re doing okay. I wanted you to know that I’ve been in touch with Louise this morning and we’re going to have a session on Zoom tomorrow at 10am. It feels very weird arranging that with her as if I’m transitioning from you to her and I don’t want that. I really hope this is just to get me over the period of time you need to recover and that you and I will resume work together soon. I’m thinking a lot about you. Take care, Lucy.

21.03.20

I feel like you’re dying

I immediately apologised for the very long text I’d sent her a few days ago and she said it was alright and that she understood. I said my anxiety had been through the roof and I was really struggling but I’m feeling a bit better now. In my text I’d told her I was so scared she was going to die and that I could hardly handle not seeing her. We discussed the boundaries around texting and she explained, as gently as possible, why she will maintain the boundaries we set. She explained, ‘if we were to get into the habit of texting every day or every other day and you became use to that and something happened to me, not just me being sick but also perhaps a family member of mine being sick and me being unable to respond to your messages, it would make it harder for you to manage and you would then experience a new abandonment on top of whatever else you’re dealing with. It’s important that we stick to the sessions for our main communication. Then you can hear my tone of voice and you know exactly my meaning by whatever I am saying. I have never asked you to stop texting me but I will maintain the boundary of not replying so that you continue to know how strong and resilient and well resourced you are.’ I said, ‘it’s not that you don’t ever want to hear from me and you hate getting texts from me?’ and said, ‘noooo…. No, it’s that it’s really important you don’t rely on my replies because I can’t always guarantee they’ll be there.’ I had this deep down heavy feeling inside me, like a doom feeling… I felt that she sounded low. I asked her if she was okay and she said she was. I just really sensed something from her, an anxiety maybe. Perhaps she was worried.

I told Anna that Grace had come home from school with a short story that her teacher had given them. I told her I’d read the story to my kids after dinner and it made me cry. I just sat reading it while crying and both the kids came and hugged me. Anna reassured me that it’s okay that I showed my emotions to the kids and that this is a very strange and unusual situation and we all feel overwhelmed by it. I asked her if I could read the story to her and she said she’d like to hear it so I read it…

‘The Big Problem can’t be solved with super strength or super speed. The big problem will only stop growing if all the new Superheroes use their Stay Home Superpower to stay at home. In fact, if all the new Stay Home Superheroes work together the Big Problem will get smaller and smaller and smaller every single day until it goes away!’ mummy explained.

‘But staying home is a boring superpower!’ said William in a grump.

‘Boring? No way! You have the superpower to make this fun! And staying home is how YOU can help to save the whole world – there is nothing more powerful than that!’

Just staying home and having fun could save the whole world? And he would be a real-life superhero? William started to feel excited. He started to feel powerful too! He couldn’t wait to tell all his friends that they could turn into Stay Home Superheroes just like him.

William got to work quickly, using his Superhero creativity to think of all the fun things he could do at home. He made a long list with his mummy and daddy; pillow forts and cooking and games and dancing and puppet shows and singing and movies and MORE! Even better, Willian found out he could still play in the garden and go outside too, as long as he stayed away from all the superheroes who lived in different houses. They could wave to each other and wink, because they all knew the special job they were doing!

Willian did miss playing with his friends and going swimming and to the park. But then he remembered how important his new Superhero job was. He was helping to save the whole world and that made him feel so good inside. He was very proud of himself. Then he fired up his superpowers ready to find something fun to do. Willian the Stay Home Superhero and all his superhero friends worked hard together to help save the world, all without leaving their homes. And now you know, you can be a superhero too!

She sounded moved and my voice was shaky too. She said it was a lovely way to describe the situation to children.

I spent the next ten minutes telling Anna about all the practical things I’ve been doing to try to help me feel a little more in control of all of this. I told her I’d made a mind map of what my life will look like over the next few months and included all the things I need to remember. She told me she was so proud of me and that she was glad I was able to support myself like that. I told her about the gratitude list I made and that I have a planner for the week so that I can make video sessions and sort resources for teaching my class online while also teaching my own kids at home. I said I felt really fortunate that I have everything I need to be able to do that, not just the physical resources but also the ability within myself and knowledge and confidence that I can do it. I’m so grateful for all of that. I told her I set the livingroom up so that half of it is a classroom and that I am ready to start on Monday. She talked to me about going easy on myself and that if the kids are resistant it’s okay to take breaks and spend a lot of time outside. She said, ‘and if you find yourself struggling, this is what a supervisor said to me… you can just find a couple of minutes to sit at peace, let your eyelids fall heavy until they close and focus in on your breathing. If it is fast then try to slow it down, if that feels comfortable, and just sit there in that moment, tell yourself you are safe and that there is nothing that has to be done right then.’ I thought about Anna being told that by a supervisor and wondered how anxious and overwhelmed she has been feeling about all of this.

I then said, ‘I’ve been thinking… why was I holding back all those times? I want to be with you so much right now and I can’t be… all the times I sat in that room with you and desperately wanted to have a hug or have you sit beside me or ask you to hold my hand and I didn’t, I didn’t ask for what I wanted and now all that time was wasted and I cant ever get it back!’ Anna said, ‘okay Lucy, slow down, take a breath, I would invite you to think back on those moments with compassion. We moved at the right pace for you. When you were ready you asked me for a hug, when you wanted me to sit beside you, you asked for that… we had to go at the right pace for you… we’re all doing this looking back thing at the moment and it’s far more helpful to look back with compassion than criticism.’ Her voice was so full of care it just made me crumble. I was crying as she was talking and then just burst out with, ‘I miss you so much Anna it hurts so much, I feel sick in my tummy and my chest hurts and I just want a hug so much…’ she sounded emotional and said, ‘I know Lucy, I know this is so hard.’ I really feel like she was emotionally struggling with this too. I’m fairly certain, from my investigatory skills, that I am her only client at the moment (this is not her day job)… and on the one hand that makes our bond feel very strong and very special and on the other hand it feels fragile and as if I might be a total burden for her.

At one point she told me that the name of her colleague who would phone me if something happened to her. She’s called Linda. I said, ‘I don’t want to talk to Linda I want to talk to you!’ Anna said, ‘I know Lucy and I’m not judging you for saying that but what I would say is that if you need it, don’t turn away the support. Take the help when it is offered to you.’ I was crying really heavily by that point, not the usual silent weeping… I was sobbing and saying, ‘I don’t want you to die, I’m not going to cope with this I could cope with anyone else dying because I’d have you to help me through but if you die no one would understand and I would be the last to know coz I’m not even a friend let alone family, all the important people in your life would know and I wouldn’t and I’d just have to deal with it by myself and I just really only want to work with you, its you as a person Anna I really like YOU!’ She said, ‘oh Lucy, I really like you too… and it works both ways. I know that you have said that working with me has helped you so much and that you have grown and learned as I’ve supported you, but also I have learned so much from working with you…’ she paused and there was a moment where I thought she was really tearing up, she sort of sniffed and mumbled over her words as she continued, ‘you have made me a better therapist, working with you… you know we don’t get given a manual when we become a therapist and we have to adapt and change and grow and learn as we work and working with you has really impacted me… in a great way, so I want to thank you for that! I feel honoured to have worked with you and all that you have shared with me.’ I sat there soaking up her words, really taking them in… no inner critic, no sceptical voice over in the back of my mind… just me and Anna sharing openly and honestly how much we have impacted each others lives. It was incredibly powerful.

She continued, ‘can I share something with you?’ I said she could and she said, ‘I bought myself headphones so I can continue my day job from home and you are the first person I’ve used them with and I can hear you right in my ears and, well… it feels very intimate, and I can picture our room in my mind and I can imagine sitting beside you and it feels very close and connected…’ I said I really liked the sound of that then I cried again and said, ‘I want to drive to your office… I love that drive, I want to do it so much and I want to sit in my car waiting for our time, I used to feel so nervous before a session, now I desperately want to just be there waiting to see you and I want to walk up those steps and walk in your room and hug you so much. God it hurts so much.’ I cried and cried and I guess she just sat and listened. She blew her nose a few times so I’m deducing from that that she was also feeling emotional. She didn’t reassure me. She didn’t say, ‘we will see each other again,’ she didn’t fill me with hope and optimism, she just sat with me in the grief of the moment.

I said, ‘do you feel burdened by me? do you wish you didn’t have to work with me through this?’ she said, ‘no. absolutely not. Not at all. This is a very scary and strange experience that none of us have lived through before and we are going to work through this together.’ I said, ‘don’t you wish you could just cut it all right back and focus on you and your family?’ she said, ‘no, I have this space for you, you don’t need to worry about me…’ I interrupted and said, ‘but you’re a human being dealing with all this too, you have to worry about food shortages and money worries and you or your family getting sick and you don’t need me being ME hassling you through it all.’ She said, ‘Lucy, I have my supervisor, she supports me, she supports a lot of people and I have people in my life I can talk to and lean on, you don’t need to worry about me… I told you this on Saturday.’ I said, ‘aye, it’s not that easy!’ and she said, ‘I know it’s not easy but it is important that you hear me… you don’t need to worry about burdening me I am okay.’

I said I was really frustrated and sad that I can’t just keep seeing her and I’m scared. I told her the kids have been scared and upset and crying and I am scared. It keeps washing over me in waves. This intense feeling that I am losing Anna. I thought about how when you’re standing at someone’s funeral you just wish you could tell them how much they meant to you and all the things you held behind your wall. So I said, ‘Anna, I just really want to say this to you, I’ve thought this a lot when we’ve sat together in sessions, I get the sense that… well I imagine most therapists have had to face a huge amount of difficulties in their lives, maybe in childhood or maybe at other points, I just get this feeling, I’ve had it a lot when we’ve been working together that you really understand on a deeply personal level a lot of the stuff I’ve worked on with you and well… I just feel like you have been through stuff, I can tell you have had your own struggles and you’ve worked really hard on yourself and that is just so fucking inspirational, you’ve turned whatever shit you went through into this amazing beautiful thing, you are helping people like me and I just, there aren’t the words Anna, thank you so much for it all, thank you for all the work you did on yourself that led to you being able to help me the way you have done.’ There was quite a long silence and I thought that maybe the phone had cut off and I’d have to say it all again. Then quietly she spoke, ‘oh Lucy… mmm… that really touched a nerve, thank you… that really means a great deal to me thank you.’ I said, ‘well it’s really true. I feel so lucky to have found you.’

We moved around a couple of lighter topics. We talked about the kids drawing out hopscotch numbers on the path in the garden and she said she called it ‘pots’ when she was a kid. We arranged that my weekly sessions would be Tuesday evenings as it’s easier to get peace when the kids are in bed. We said that Saturday’s would be a ‘play it by ear’ type thing. As it stands I can still afford sessions and if Adam loses his job hopefully the government is going to help with wages and rent. We shall see.

I have been riding the waves of grief since then, since the last phone session actually. It feels like I am preparing for her death. I think it’s going to be really good to have a video session with her on Tuesday because I need to see her face. I need to see if she looks as concerned and anxious as I have imagined in my head. I feel like she is preparing for death… maybe she has to do that. Maybe she can’t fill me with false hope because therapists are meant to be realistic and sit with the feelings. Maybe she has underlying health conditions and genuinely doesn’t feel she will survive this virus. Maybe I’m projecting.

Currently I am scared and confused and feeling every part of my attachment wound activated.

17.03.20

‘I know you very well.’

I actually don’t even know how to write this. Where to begin…

My last session was on the 29th of February. After that I came down with a cold and had to cancel a session, then I had to cancel my second session that week because I hadn’t fully recovered. Then I started to feel a bit better but Anna messaged to say that in light of the rapidly developing covid19 virus, the centre in which she works restricted the building so that anyone with any cold or cough symptoms should not come in. Even though I felt fine I still had a bit of a cough, so that was another two sessions in the second week I missed. Rather than asking for a phone session I took another week’s break to fully recover. I have no idea what made me do this! I wish I hadn’t because then came the message I was dreading in response to a message I sent her telling her I felt better now.

Hi Lucy. Glad you are feeling better. I am going to be sending this text to clients and realise you may wish to speak to me directly. We can have a phone session tomorrow and discuss if that’s ok. I want to emphasise that I will be in contact with you through phone/Skype etc. I will be here to support you just differently during this health crisis. I am not disappearing.
Message starts here.
I need to let you know that due to the current public health situation due to CoVid 19, that I have decided not to see clients in person until things settle down. Instead I am offering, Skype/Phone call or whatsapp video. This is for safety of clients and to keep me available to work with you. If this does not suit you I understand. If you want to leave it until it settles down that is ok. Please let me know what you decide. If you wish to call me to discuss please let me know. Thanks. Anna.

I was totally devastated. I knew it was coming but it still hit me hard. I replied with a crying emoji (I never use emojis in messages with Anna)… I then said, ‘I feel like I’m never going to see you again’ and she replied immediately (which she never normally does), ‘You can still see me but remotely until this settles. I know this is not the same.’ I told her I missed her so much and wished I could have a hug. She said, ‘I know, its such a difficult time Lucy. I’ll speak to you at 7.30 tomorrow. Take care.’ I thanked her for saying that she’s not disappearing and told her that it was an overwhelming fear I have that everything we’ve worked so hard to create, the closeness and connection, is all going to be lost.

So there it is, my last face to face session… Feb 29th. The extra day in this leap year. I sat next to her and told her I liked being able to smell that she was near me. When we hugged I buried my face in her shoulder as if I knew it would be the last time I’d see her.

I’ve been sitting here reflecting on my therapy journey and where it was heading and I’m buried deep in this fog. I’ve taken so much for granted. I had a life that was really quite alright actually. A good strong loving relationship with my husband. Healthy, happy, well adjusted children… we all have our health. We both have jobs, mine is really secure and pays well. I have friends. I have a good social life. I have a nice home. I am safe. There has never been any real threat to my wellbeing, my life. Over the last few years I have been sitting in therapy picking apart every seam, scratching and digging in at the deepest most hidden strands of potential imperfection… I’ve been peeling back the layers of daily goodness to find fractions of past hurts. Now nothing is the same as it was before, how can the work I’ve been doing in therapy continue down the path it was going? How can I sit and talk about how my mummy never hugged me enough thirty years ago when today, right now we are all experiencing this world wide pandemic? My husband is going out every day risking catching this virus because he needs to keep working. Schools have been closed and the old, infirm and vulnerable have been told to self isolate, the young fit and able are out on the front line. This is a war. And soon we will all be told to imprison ourselves. Complete lock down. I can feel the panic rising. All of the freedoms that have afforded me some space and lightness in my mental health have been taken from me (from us all) and now I am caged. But how can I complain about this? There are so many worse off than me. Now I understand, therapy is a privilege.

Therapy by phone is strangely connecting. I can feel her right by me. I cried. I told her I missed her. She told me she was right there with me, that she could hear how upset I was. She told me. ‘I know you Lucy. I can hear in your voice how you’re feeling. I can hear when you pause or catch your breath. I can hear the slight changes. I know when something comes up for you and I’m here with you in it. I may not be able to see you but I am here with you in every way I can be.’

As a child I wrote love letters to my mum all the time. I’d leave them for her all around the house. Endless words of adoration that fell on deaf ears. Over time that affectionate little girl began to shut down. It became too vulnerable to express positive feelings and risk rejection. With Anna’s help that little girl is slowly learning to trust again. Slowly learning that with this person, with Anna, my feelings are welcome… even the loving ones.

On the 8th of March I wrote to Anna. ‘Today is International Women’s Day. I’ve seen many posts online from people celebrating and thanking their mothers for giving them a great role model. You’re not my mother but you have been the greatest female influence in my life so far. Through your consistent actions, you have shown me that I deserve kindness and that I am worthy. Thank you for helping me see that all of my parts deserve respect and patience, especially those parts that hide behind walls. Thank you for being gentle with the fear and careful with the shame, it’s teaching me to be gentle and careful with myself. Thank you for never turning away from me. It’s helping me support the parts that instinctively want to self abandon. You are guiding me in this complex dance. With each step I am learning that it’s safe to turn inwards and it’s safe to feel. I’m learning I can trust my intuition and trust certain people with my vulnerability. In just 2.5 years you have given me more genuine attention, care and support than my own mother has given me in 37 years. Along with this you have never intentionally hurt, belittled, shamed or abandoned me. Most importantly you are teaching me through modelling your own lack of defensiveness and your willingness to reflect and adapt, that relationships are not about being right and fighting your corner at all costs they are about being open and staying connected. When I look inside myself to find examples of the woman I hope to become, I find your voice… guiding me towards my true self.’ She replied. ‘Thank you so much Lucy for your beautiful text. I was very moved and touched by your kind words and I feel privileged to be working with you. I look forward to seeing you when you have recovered.’

When we spoke she told me how moved she was by my words. I thanked her for being there for me and for accepting me in all the ways that she has done. She thanked me for sharing my journey with her.

I told her I was frightened, that I felt like she was dying. She just let me sit in that fear and grief. I sobbed and sobbed and she just told me she understood. She told me, ‘the issue is that we want control and we have very little… the key is to accept that this is our new normal. It’s the wishing and wanting it to be different that causes us all pain. We are all panicking, we are all worried. Just finding a level of acceptance can help bring some calm.’ I told her that Grace was crying on Monday night about all this. Fearful of what she has been hearing in school about the virus and I was on the brink of tears myself because of the text Anna had sent me. Grace needed my reassurance and amazingly I found that as I reassured her, I reassured myself. I relayed this to Anna and I could hear her smiling. I told her what I’d told Grace… I said, ‘try to imagine that the virus is a bit like rain. We don’t have any control over it, it’s here. But we can control how we manage it. When it rains, we can wear a hood and we can use an umbrella to protect us from the cold and wet. We can also control some aspects of the impact this virus is having on us… we can cough into a tissue and bin it, we can wash our hands very well, we can stay away from people and stay inside…’ Anna said, ‘that’s beautiful! And yes… your adult was reassuring your daughter and your child!’

I told Anna, ‘I’m so sad. I miss being near you. We worked so hard to be close and feel connected and it took me so long to trust you and I just don’t see how we can work as deeply as we have been when you’re not beside me…’ She said, ‘… I know it’s not the same Lucy. I’m sad about that. I was going to say that we would work together to reconnect but I do feel a close connection to you tonight, do you feel that too?’ I said I did. She said, ‘I’m not beside you right now but I am listening, it’s not the same, but I’ve not left you. I’m still here. We will get through this together.’

I told Anna, ‘how can I lean on you about this when you are also facing reduced pay, panic buying, isolation, possible illness…?’ Anna said, ‘this isn’t about my experience. It’s about yours. People who experience war or famine are amongst hundreds of thousands of people in the same position but their individual experience is still traumatic and impactful. This is your therapy. Your fear and grief and sadness and shock and all the other things you’re experiencing are real and valid and this is the space where you can bring it all… and remember you don’t need to look after me. I have my therapist and my supervisor, i have people I can rely on to support me, you don’t need to worry about me.’

I didn’t leave the conversation feeling reassured, I left it feeling very connected and deep in grief. This is this generations mass trauma. This is it. We will be reading psychological papers on the impact of this in twenty years time. This is a world war. This will play a part in the chain of generational trauma. The hunger and panic and fear and death… this will impact all of us. All ages. But our children are at a crucial developmental stage. We need to be talking about this NOW. Don’t do what was done to us by leaving the trauma unresolved. We must feel what we’re’re feeling. Talk about it. Let our kids feel what they’re feeling and talk about it. This needs to be processed in real time for it to not linger and live and fester inside us.

Reach out. Talk. Connect.

29.02.20

Some of this was uploaded a couple of post ago.

I made a point of asking for a hug as soon as I went in which she gave me. The room smelled lovely. I imagined maybe she’d sprayed her perfume before my session. I’m the first client on Saturday morning so I’ve often been curious about how she preps before her working morning and wondered if I’m at the front of her mind being her first session.

I sat down and we smiled at each other. I told her, ‘so the perfume… the past few days I’ve felt so connected and secure and like sure of things… and I’ve slept better than I’ve ever slept! And every time I walk into my bedroom I can smell it and it’s just felt so nice.’ She was smiling and said, ‘I was wondering how it had gone with the perfume,’ I talked a bit more about it and then I started to doubt things, she had a straight face and I paused and felt unsettled and said, ‘are you annoyed?’ she looked surprised and said, ‘no, not at all, I’m just listening.’ I said, ‘now it all feels different… like I shouldn’t have talked about it coz it doesn’t feel as good anymore…’ Anna said, ‘can you say more about that?’ I said, ‘it just always feels really risky to talk about good things, meaningful things…’ she was making loud agreeing noises. I said, ‘the perfume thing has been so meaningful, there were no critical thoughts about it… I just felt really connected to you all the time, I’ve been amazed when I think about it. I really sent that text, you really read it and put the perfume in your bag, you were really actually okay with me spraying it on the bears! Like, wow! Nothing else has felt that secure… with other things like the blue heart stone which I do still carry with me and is very meaningful, the inner critic has a field day with that one.’ She asked me what the inner critic says about it and I was like, ‘wow we’re really just launching into this?’ Anna checked I was okay with that and asked if I had something else I’d planned on talking about. I said I had thought of something but changed my mind so I was fine with this. She said, ‘these are very important topics – this is what we are here for – to work with the inner critic, take her power… for as long as the voice stays inside it controls you and destroys things… if you talk about it you take the power back.’ I was nodding and taking my shoes off and getting comfy, spread my scarf over my knees… ‘okay…’ big breath… ‘I just don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad, I don’t want to criticise this nice thing you did.’ Anna said, ‘remember we talked about this at the end of the last session, you don’t need to worry about me, I’m okay, don’t worry about hurting me, please.’

So I began, ‘well… right from the start when you pulled the wee bag out your pocket the voice piped up saying it’s just a technique, just a therapy trick, ‘how many other clients have had a stone out that bag, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a token gesture, there’s nothing special about this, you’re making this a bigger thing than it really is, she doesn’t give a shit about this…’ you know, just making it really like clinical and cold and formal.’ Anna said, ‘and that’s happened before hasn’t it, that feeling…’ I nodded and told her that the perfume didn’t feel like that. It felt genuine, ‘but now I’ve talked about it I feel like I’ve spoiled it…’ Anna said, ‘yeah it feels like if you say it out loud it might be ridiculed or belittled…’ I was like YES! But then I started feeling fuzzy and I said ‘I’m just so sick of the critical voice and I want the wall to go away.’ Anna nodded and said, ‘but I hope that what you took from that part of the session about the glass wall that…’ I interrupted and smiled widely and said to her, ‘you beautifully reframed it Anna, that it’s good it’s glass because we can see each other and maybe it’s actually a glass door that can be opened if I want…’ she smiled and nodded. I said, ‘and yeah I remember when I first started talking about the wall, it was brick. Then it was a blind that could be put up and down… so yeah it is better now… but I still wish it wasn’t there because it stops me from feeling connected to people in my life like with the kids… everyone’ Anna asked me how the connection felt right now and I couldn’t figure it out. She encouraged me to take my time and then I eventually said, ‘it’s not that strong. I know you’re there but I don’t really feel it. I know I said last time that it’s a bit like you’re a figment of my imagination… I think I just always feel alone even when people are with me…’ she asked me what would help the connection and I said, ‘I really want a hug but then I just think that’s weird…’ she asked what hugging does that helps me and I said, ‘it really calms me down and the touch and closeness feels comforting and it really helps that I can smell you… I don’t know I feel like that sounds weird but it does help… it also helps when I look at you but that’s hard sometimes.’ Anna asked me if I feel more connected to her when she sits beside me and I said, ‘yes, I really like when you sit beside me but then I also have this stupid inner critic going on about how you probably hate sitting next to me and maybe it hurts your back having to sit there and turn to face me and maybe you like sitting where you are now…’ she said, ‘you don’t need to care for me, I’m okay… I do wonder though because when I sit beside you, you can’t see me, I wonder if that impacts your connection?’ I said, ‘actually I think it helps because it’s not so intense, I can sense you’re there without feeling the intensity of being so visible and I can choose to look at you if I want to,’ she said, ‘shall I come over then?’ I nodded.

She pushed the chair next to mine and sat down and I said, ‘I can smell you.’ I closed my eyes and said, ‘it really is so comforting… I don’t know, that’s fucking bizarre I mean that’s not normal to tell someone you like being able to smell them!’ I laughed and she didn’t. She said, ‘let’s think about what you just said there,’ I said, ‘hmmm that I’m a fucking weirdo..?’ she said, ‘smell is so important. You just told me that you have felt really settled and calm this week and that smelling the perfume on Luna has helped you sleep well and feel secure in our connection. A lot of this work we’re doing is preverbal… there are no words for so much of it. Smell is so important and if that very small preverbal part of you needs to smell me to feel like she is not alone and that she is safe then that’s a really good thing. It’s not for us to question and pull it apart or criticise it and so what if Jimmy down the road wouldn’t understand why you hold a stuffed panda for comfort or why you feel more settled when you smell me, who cares what anyone else thinks, we are doing deep healing work here and this is just you and me here and everything and anything that works to help you through this is a good thing… is this making sense?’ I was actually looking intently at her in her eyes and felt very very acutely present and was so aware of the truth in what she was saying. Usually when she says stuff like this I feel shamey and I can hear the inner critic having a field day but it was just quiet listening in my head which was amazing. For the first time it was just complete attention and presence in that moment with her.

I said, ‘Sometimes I imagine there’s this really horrible angry side to you that I’ve not met yet and it’s only a matter of time before I do something that’s going to trigger it and you’ll terrify me with it… I can imagine your face as clear as day in my minds eye, angry and twisted…’ Anna looked really intrigued and smiled and said, ‘and that’s what you experienced with your mum and dad?’ I said, ‘yup…’ she said, ‘so you would feel that everything was fine and then suddenly rage or shaming or verbal attack or…’ I said, ‘yeah I never knew what was coming.’ She said, ‘so what would you do to protect yourself?’ I said, ‘I never let on how I was feeling, I just would be very careful what I was saying and if everything went bad I just would go inside myself or hide in my room…’ Anna said, ‘so it makes complete sense that you would expect that from me, that you’d be careful about what you say to me and you’d be watching me very closely like you must have had to watch your parents, studied their faces and behaviours to try to predict an outburst.’

I wanted her to hug me so much but I just sat looking at every detail of her. Her hands, the stitching on her jeans. She said, ‘you didn’t have anyone paying attention to you and how you were feeling… and I know that with Grace you will listen to her. You see if she is sad and you say ‘you look sad; and you’d let her speak.’ We talked more about that and I shared an example of exactly that happening earlier in the week.

I then started talking about my mother. I told Anna about how my mum has no boundaries. That with her there’s a fine line between having a normal conversation and one that involves way too much oversharing and feels very uncomfortable or one where I am meeting her emotional needs.

I said, ‘and when I was younger, whenever I talked to her, opened up about anything, she would always go and tell other people. There was nothing that was ever just between the two of us. So I don’t even know what it feels like to just have an intimate conversation and just feel like there’s the two of us, it always felt like there was this large network of people behind her… any time I talked to her I had to consider, would I want to share this with the whole world? And so I just found myself frozen in this place where I deeply needed to talk or connect but couldn’t because I didn’t want what she offered. I am such a private person,’ Anna interrupted and said, ‘understandably!’ I continued, ‘and she betrayed me every single time. Even if I said to her ‘please don’t tell anybody this’ that would be the first thing she would do… I’d hear her on the phone or she’d tell her friends or my dad or whatever…’ I took an enormous breath and then continued, ‘so with you, especially in the first like year or maybe two or maybe still a bit now, whenever I tell you anything I’m constantly imagining how you would go and tell someone else… even if it’s just your supervisor or your therapist or training events or whatever, I’m so aware of this sense that it’s not just you and me… and I know you are so not like her in any way but it’s just that nothing feels private… I think that’s what the tape recorder was about, and your note taking, it felt like that was a portal to everyone in the world, like anyone could listen to this…’ Anna said, ‘okay yes I really understand that, hmm I really understand that Lucy okay… so how does it feel that I’m using our work in the case study?’ I said, ‘yeah I’ve thought about it and it feels okay, it’s different, it feels like a considered, careful thing… I know you’re not like her but talking is more like gossipy, writing it in your paper is professional and still feels like it’s between you and me…’ she nodded and looked like she really wanted to know if I was definitely okay with it. She sat in thought for a bit.

I said, ‘it’s weird, I didn’t plan on talking about this…’ she said, ‘that’s exactly what you wanted, sessions where you didn’t plan what you were going to talk about and you didn’t even plan to not plan this it just happened.’ I made a wow expression. I said, ‘the perfume thing directly relates to mum. She was always going out at night and used to give my brother one of her tops with her perfume on it to help him sleep and I really longed for that but I wouldn’t ask so I would sneak it, I’d take it from her drawer you know, like having to steal these crumbs of love from her…’ Anna said, ‘why wouldn’t she give you a top?’ I said ‘I just don’t think she saw me as a child. I don’t think I ever asked, maybe I knew she’d say no and the rejection was too painful.’ Anna talked about this innate sense I had that she wouldn’t give me what I needed, that this comes from learning these lessons very early on, ‘it’s a preverbal knowing’. She said, ‘despite knowing that she would turn you away, you still craved the closeness. No wonder you have these moments of frozen stuckness when you want to be close to me and also you don’t. You want connection but you anticipate rejection. You learned to find ways to feel connected from a safe distance.’ I said, ‘Exactly! I had a lot of nightmares but I knew I couldn’t wake her. I would crawl silently into their bedroom and go to sleep under her side of the bed.’ Anna said, ‘oh Lucy,’ in a heartfelt way, ‘Did you ever wake her? Would you have wanted her to let you in her bed?’ I started to say, ‘I think yes but also no, um it felt weird to be close to her,’ Anna asked me to explain ‘weird’ further and I started to feel floaty. I told her I felt spacey and she encouraged me to ground myself. I put my head in my hands and tried to breath, took a drink of water. Told her I didn’t have words for it. Told her it felt yucky and that I didn’t want her to touch me. ‘I didn’t want to feel our bodies touching. It never felt like a motherly touch, it felt bad inside. She didn’t know how to touch me the way a mother touches her child.’ Anna asked if I had a sense of what it felt like to imagine being in her bed next to her body and I whispered, ‘not safe…’ We sat for a moment and I started to feel spacey. I closed my eyes and continued, ‘I didn’t want to feel her body. I didn’t want her to feel me. It felt sexual or something… I don’t even know… I think because she didn’t even want to sit next to me in the day time let alone have me in bed with her. There was no closeness… she didn’t hold my hand… there just wasn’t a safe intimacy with her…’

Anna said, ‘So earlier you described it as a sexual feeling shall we go back, to that can you explain that further?’ I felt myself flush with shame and my heart pound. I couldn’t look at her and I said, ‘I don’t even know why I used that word it just came out… um it just felt too close… she made things weird… she would sometimes… um well when I hug my kids I know to not touch them in certain places I just will maybe put my hand on their backs or something. I don’t know. There aren’t even words it just didn’t feel safe I don’t like it I don’t like it.’ Anna said, ‘Perhaps it’s because she talked to you about sex and her sex life with your dad and others, maybe it put those images in your head and because you were so young and it wasn’t age appropriate it confused things in your mind?’ I nodded and thought about it. We talked a bit more about this and at one point I said I could hear the voice daying that I was making a big deal out of nothing. Anna said, ‘hmmm and what do we say to that voice?’ and I said, ‘fuck off.’ And laughed. She said, ‘good, well done… a little louder?’ and I said louder, ‘FUCK OFF!’ we both laughed.

At one point we were talking about something that happened between myself, a friend and my mother. I couldn’t continue with the memory. I described it as if I was watching an old VHS that suddenly got jammed in the machine and now it was just grey and black fuzzy lines and white noise. I let out a gasp of frustration and told her I was really angry with myself. She asked me to stay with the feeling that was behind the anger. So I sat there in it. I fumbled and scrambled around for ways to describe what it felt like. Anna reminded me, ‘it doesn’t need to be sentences, it doesn’t need to make sense. Anything that comes up for you – words, senses. And so a garbled mess tumbled out. ‘its like humiliated but from inside me… shame? Like I’m rotten inside? Dirty… I’m ashamed… but.., but why am I ashamed?’ Anna said, ‘yes, it was never your shame to hold… earlier you described her as shameless. She was shameless Lucy because she made you carry it all. That’s the blackness inside you, it’s her shame.’ I said, ‘but I had to, it was the only way I could make her love me.’ Anna said, ‘she betrayed you massively Lucy. You were a child. You had no choice. It was not your fault. What you did and how you adapted was exactly what you needed to do to survive.’ There was quite a lot of quiet and we were coming to the end of the session and Anna said with a really peaceful open expression, ‘I am so proud of that young part who just told me all of that, I want her to listen as I say this… I understand. I know that it felt scary and she had to stop. That’s okay. I’m glad she stopped when it started to feel unsafe. It’s okay that she don’t trust me. I’m not going to force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do and I’m not going to try make her trust me. You will keep bringing her here and I will be here with you, I’m not going anywhere. Slowly I believe she will feel like she can trust me but I’m in no rush. And if she feels like she wants to test me – THATS OKAY! I really want her to hear that. It’s okay for her to test me in any way she feels she wants to!’ It seriously felt amazing to hear that.

Anna told me to remember to use my pandas in the days after the session. She said she felt that what was brought up today might be quite intense for me. She told me that if I have thoughts about her judging me for what I told her that I have to bat those thoughts away, that they’re the inner critic trying to drive a wedge between us. She told me that she was proud of me. She said, ‘you might find that different needs are met by each of your pandas… so you have Luna, Baby and Suki,’ she looked at me and I smiled, it’s so cool she remembers their names and makes a point of calling them by their names even when I am too ashamed to. She continued, ‘so you may find that you can keep Suki in your handbag for when you’re at work and if you’re not able to take her out, just putting your hand in your bag and feeling him might be enough to settle you, maybe the smell of my perfume on your hand would help…’ (I already do this, it blows my mind how she knows me and it makes me wonder if she has experienced this process from where I’m sitting)… ‘you might find that Baby is there for those pre-verbal moments when there are no words… maybe Luna is there for every day connection, for bedtime… you’ll really get to know yourself through getting to know them…’ I said that was exactly what I’ve been experiencing. I said, ‘when I come home from work, Luna and Baby are sitting on the wee chair in my room and I smile when I see them, it’s like they are my inner child and I am actually glad to see her…’ Anna said, ‘which is so great to hear because not long ago you didn’t want anything to do with her, you didn’t even want her in this room.’ I nodded and said, ‘I feel so bad about that, how rejecting and punishing I was of her… when she’d done nothing wrong.’ Anna pressed her lips together and nodded with sad eyes. She said, ‘that was very important to feel and work through and it might come back now and then but you are feeling something for her you’ve never felt before, your heart is opening to her… it’s very powerful. You are doing so well Lucy. I know how hard this is.’

I thought about the fact that I feel a responsibility for my inner child/ren now and that makes it very hard to imagine ever hurting myself again because it would be like inflicting pain onto a child which I could never do… and just now I’m thinking, that’s what I do when I let the inner critic win, I’m letting someone viciously bully this defenceless child. But there’s a shakiness in admitting this outloud. I didn’t tell Anna of that thought because I’m frightened of what my mother used to say… ‘pride before a fall’… I don’t want to foolishly say I can’t imagine ever self harming again only to then have the floor fall from beneath me as I’m triggered into hurting myself again. I guess that is the not linear part of healing.

While we were hugging (and I properly had my face buried in that space between her shoulder and her neck) she said, ‘you’re doing so well Lucy.’ I said, ‘thank you so much for letting me have these hugs.’ She said, ‘you’re so welcome Lucy.’