‘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.