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.