Yesterday afternoon it dawned on me that I hadn’t text Anna after my session with Linda on Saturday. It was the first time I hadn’t immediately wanted to reach out to her and let her know what we’d worked on and that I hoped she was doing okay. In fact I hadn’t really thought much about her for a few days and I was beginning to notice a shift away from talking to and working things out with Anna in my mind… now it’s Linda’s voice.
Then I got a text in the early evening from Anna. She was letting me know she’s starting up sessions again next Saturday. I sat with the message for a bit and noticed the feelings that came up for me. I replied telling her how pleased I was to hear from her and that, to my surprise, I was experiencing very mixed feelings about moving back from Linda to her. She told me she understood and that it was important to take my time and to work on this together with Linda.
The more I think about it, the more my mixed feelings make perfect sense. I have missed Anna so much and I’m delighted she is safe and well. But I really believed that I was never going to see her again so I put all of my energy into forming a meaningful connection with Linda. I needed to quickly process my grief and abandonment pain with effectively a stranger… and I managed to do that.
Later on in the evening I emailed Linda explaining things to her. I’m sure Anna had already been in touch with her. I wanted to let her know that I plan on untangling all of my thoughts and feelings with her in our next few sessions and that much to my surprise, I’m not in any rush to finish working with her.
I did a lot of processing last night. Straight away I sensed some anger towards Anna. The anger was saying that she disappeared when she explicitly said she wouldn’t, at a time when I needed her the most. She knew I was struggling with fears of her dying and she kept silent. I sent her texts that she ignored, when at other time’s she has broken our texting boundary to reply to me when I’ve been in deep distress. My mind explored the darkest possibilities day and night as I had fantasies of her lying in a hospital bed with tubes down her throat and a machine helping her breath. At night I woke crying from nightmares of me standing on the periphery of her funeral. Unable to express my complicated grief with anyone. I haven’t sat in Anna’s company since February 29th and the first few weeks of her absence (including the emotionally destabilising phone sessions we had) were really hard for me. I was in a state of shock and suffered a great deal with emotional flashbacks to times in my childhood when I was abandoned.
It felt like a crisis moment. Even in Anna’s final text to me, when she referred me to A&E if I felt at all suicidal, I sensed this shared crisis. We are experiencing a worldwide crisis, a trauma… one that I desperately needed help to get through. In the absence of Anna, Linda showed up for me… the day after I reached out to her. Exactly when I needed someone. Linda and I were able to form a trusting and deep working relationship in a very short space of time. I’m very grateful to her for stepping into my space and meeting me where I was. She could easily have put the bare minimum effort in but I sensed a really authentic care in her. She really meant it when she said she was up for being my therapy aunt, in the absence of my therapy mum. It felt like there was this intimate ‘knowing’ between us. Just because we both knew Anna. We had both talked to her. We could both picture her in our minds. This helped me drop some defences straight away. I think also, I have learned how to trust myself and my judgement of others. I could tell Linda was one of the good ones.
I’ve had many theories of why Anna was off and I know I may never be privy to the truth. There is a professional boundary there and it’s not within my control to decide what I do and don’t know about Anna’s personal life. Just like my children don’t get to dictate to me what I do and don’t tell them about my adult life. I decide because I know what’s best for them. Anna has a wealth of experience, training, supervision that I don’t have access to. I have some understanding of psychology and therapeutic strategies and the complexities of the human brain but she is the therapist. She is the professional. Part of the therapeutic process is a certain letting go of control on the clients part and allowing the therapist to do her job. Anyway… my theories on why she was off have helped me gain a certain perspective. Initially I just assumed it was the virus. All of the worst case scenarios cropped up. But in time as I processed things with Linda and by myself I started to get a sense that perhaps Anna had been struggling mentally/emotionally. As the virus crept ever closer to Scotland and in the early days of lockdown, we had these two phone sessions where I could hear Anna’s professionalism slipping. I started to hear her insecurities and fears seeping into our conversations. I noticed tiny changes in her responses to me. We cried together in a shared grief and fear of what was happening in our world. The focus wasn’t as acutely on me and my needs. Linda helped me articulate that this felt deeply unsettling. I’ve never experienced Anna being unable to hold and contain me. Her shit was bleeding into my sessions. It was very very subtle and I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently. It would be so understandable if Anna struggled with the impact of this pandemic. On her and her family. And it is the most caring and professional thing for her to do, in the awareness that she couldn’t be fully present for me in this time, to encourage me to seek help from Linda and take some time to look after herself.
I now feel very strongly that the only way Anna was able to show up for me was by connecting me to her friend and colleague who she trusts. She never left me, she supported me through Linda during a time where she was unable to hold space for me. Much like I organise trusted childcare for my children when I go to work. And even when I’m away from them, I think about them often. The coming weeks will hold some interesting work. I am feeling really strong at the moment, I survived what I’d imagined to be the worst case scenario… my therapist took time off with no idea of how long she would be away from me during a time of extreme stress and intense need for support. My belief was always that Anna held this special magic key to my healing, that all of our wonderful work was down to her. But the past few weeks have shown me that actually within this partnership, I hold the key. The therapist is the guide, like a copilot. But I’m the driver. I’ve learned so much about myself over the 7 years that I’ve been in therapy and specifically the two and a half years I’ve worked with Anna. I know what I need now and I know how to navigate therapy to help me get to where I want to be. There is a lot less anxiety around losing Anna now that I’ve experienced fully believing I had lost her. There’s a healthy level of sadness at the thought of it and a hope that our therapeutic relationship will not end prematurely. But I now have faith in my own ability to seek help if that were to happen.
The past few weeks have been extremely difficult and also held a huge amount of potential for growth. I feel like I’m heading towards some deep work with Anna as I plan on bringing my authentic feelings and thoughts about this experience. I’m not fearful of this work like I would have been in the past because I’ve noticed this resilience inside me that I wasn’t fully aware of before.