Don’t Look Back in Anger

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.

16 thoughts on “Don’t Look Back in Anger

    1. You know, I’m feeling strong! Thank you 😊 And I’m feeling this sort of clarity about it all. That actually I’ve survived a hell of a lot in my life. Not just survived, I’ve thrived. I have a really full and balanced life and I have meaningful, deep connections with people. I can trust myself on this… I have this habit of doubting myself and I need to stop doing that because I have proof right here that I land on my feet. Despite many examples of times people and situations have tried to rip the rug from beneath me. It’s something I see a lot amongst survivors of adverse childhood experiences… a profound ability to make the very best of things. We land on our feet! Thanks for your support LS 💛

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  1. yes yes yes. I genuinely think this entire incident is going to be a massive catalyst for you. describing yourself as the key is such a hard realisation to come to (not intellectually butn in the felt sense) and when you do genuinely begin to manifest that and realise that the only constant in all of your healing is you, I feel like it propels you into a whole other dimension of growth. it’s fascinating and I think you’ve been very strong through this despite the inevitable pain it has caused. it sort of reminds me of when Tom got the flu about 4 months before we ended our work. if the flu hadnt happened the end of our work would’ve been so much worse. but his flu, sudden absence, gave me a peek at that idea. and it was one of the most empowering things that ever happened in my recovery! weird hey. I’m proud of you. xxx

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    1. Yeah 🙌 thank you Amber!! I knew you’d get it. There’s actually something really empowering about having to experience the situation we feared (within the therapy relationship)… the perceived abandonment made us both learn that we can do this. I think you’re right, it has been a massive catalyst. The only constant in my healing is me. YES! Thank you 💜

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  2. slantgirl

    Wow, what a rollercoaster! But OMG LUCY, those paragraphs towards the end — look at how far you’ve come, even in the last few weeks! Think of how much you’ve processed in letting go of Anna, and then having her back. I totally get the anger — I struggle for almost a year with anger at my therapist for disappearing when ill and then returning on her own terms. I know you will do much better than I did in showing up for that anger, and feeling through to the end of it. These are such a amazing conclusions to have come to. I hope Anna is ok and that resuming with her is really peaceful. How do you think you might transition from he one to the other? Anyway, WOW. This is all pretty mind-blowing.

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    1. Yeah tell me about it SG! Lol. It sure has been a rollercoaster. Very frightening at the start. I really hope Anna is fighting fit and ready for this. ESP if it’s been mental/emotional reasons for her absence. I do need her to be 100% ready to return in order for me to do this work with her.

      How will I transition…? I’m actually comfortably sitting in the uncertainty of it atm. Which is new for me. To be okay with just finding out along the way. Usually I’d want to control everything. I trust it will work it’s self out the way it’s meant to. I plan on talking in depth about this with Linda tomorrow morning. Then again probably in our session on Saturday and Wednesday next week. I might work to an end with her next Saturday and start with Anna the following Tuesday. Anna said she is available to start twice weekly sessions again with me which I want. It’s going to be rocky and difficult with intense feelings. I’ve never done video sessions with Anna so that’s new. I’m going to see a part of her house… even if it’s just a plain wall behind her that’s going to be weird. I’m open to the whole experience. I’m grateful that ‘going to work’ isn’t in the way of this part of my journey atm. That’s some sort of silver lining in all this! So… I’ll have to wait and see how this all unfolds. Thanks for reading SG. I always appreciate your input 💗

      Liked by 1 person

      1. slantgirl

        Thank *you* for giving us an account!! I always find your posts immensely helpful for gaining insight into my own situation. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. holy moly this is so incredible to read. i almost gasped when you said Anna is coming back and then was just cheering you on through the whole read- you are so strong and powerful! damn! however this transition happens will be steered by your own intuition and judgment which is the most valuable compass we each have.

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  4. Honestly? I think this pandemic has the potential to show ALL OF US we are warriors when we barely thought we were mice at the best of times. This is your warrior way. Maybe just one of others to come? Who knows. But this was brilliant to read and well done you 🙂

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