This is Not a Closed Door

Session number 6 with Linda.

I accidentally closed all my tabs just before the session and had to log in again so it was 3 minutes after the start time when I finally logged on, annoyingly. I explained that to her and we had a bit of a laugh about it.

I felt really calm and not anxious at all prior to the session. I said to Linda, ‘I’m actually feeling really great just now.’ She smiled and raised her eyebrows and said that was really good. I said, ‘yeah I went for a run this morning and it’s such glorious weather… it felt so good to get out and move my body!’ Linda seemed really pleased to hear this. I explained that I also think part of my low mood was down to my cycle. Now that I am half way through my period I feel more human. The past few days I was very low and sluggish and just felt fat and horrible. I feel much better today. Linda asked me if this was a pattern I’d noticed before about my cycle and I said it’s taken me a while to notice a pattern and that it’s changed since having my kids but there definitely is an impact hormonally. She acknowledged this and talked about turning my attention towards this with compassion while also not invalidating the feelings I was experiencing.

I said I forgot last session that I’d wanted to thank her. I explained that since our session last Saturday things have felt very different at home. I told her that after things reaching a climax with Grace (with us shouting at each other every night and her being very upset) and me working through it with Linda, I was then able to talk to Adam about it and come up with a plan. ‘We slowed things down, I took things down a few gears and really started to enjoy a slower way of being. I asked Grace what she needed from me and she said she wanted me to sit with her at night. So since then I’ve been sitting with her while she falls asleep, which is only taking about fifteen to twenty minutes (a lot less time than it took when we were locking horns) and things feel much more peaceful and happy now so I really just wanted to tell you that and thank you, it was a very important session.’ Linda thanked me for telling her. She said it was lovely to hear that I’d asked Grace what she wanted and she pointed out that even screaming and shouting is communication, we never lost each other through all of that we just struggled to receive the messages.

I referred to our last session when Linda suggested we could use our remaining time together to work to an end. I said, ‘What exactly does working to an end look like? I mean, I can’t imagine being able to work to an end when you’ve only had 6 sessions?’ Linda said, ‘well… you’ve sort of been doing it all along Lucy, you have always seen this as a short term thing that will eventually end with you going back to Anna and you have been revisiting things each session. Also things like updating me on how things went with Grace last weekend, that kind of thing is what we do when we work to an end.’ I said, ‘oh well I do that all the time, I’m constantly feeding back how it’s been, reflecting and thinking about the journey and the process so far.’ She nodded and said, ‘you do this sort of thing in your work with Anna. Yeah… and I know it might feel odd to you that we only had 8 or 7 sessions but everyone is looking for different things from therapy and you had a very specific reason to come to me. There are a few people who just have one or two sessions and that’s all they need, there are some who have hundreds and then the vast majority have 6 to 12 sessions… so this is what I’m used to, although this has been very different in that you always knew you’d be going back to Anna… of course people work for longer if there is deep trauma work needing to be done, like what you’re doing with Anna.’ I nodded and said that all made sense. Linda said, ‘the thing about working to an end really is about revisiting anything necessary and making sure that nothing is left unsaid.’ This really struck me because it feels like such an important thing for me to observe in many of my significant relationships. All of these things left unsaid. I said, ‘that’s what I did in my last phone call with Anna, in this panicked way. I really sensed that she was going to get ill and cancel our next session and I really did believe she was going to die so I spent the whole phone session scrambling for words to express everything I ever wanted to say to her. You know like when you are at a loved ones funeral and you just really wish you could tell them how much they meant to you… so I did that with Anna, told her how much I liked her, told her how grateful I was for all the work she’d done on herself to be able to help me with my work, I went on and on telling her all these things because I didn’t want her to die not knowing how much she had impacted me.’ Linda said, ‘I really hear you, that you thought she was going to die.’

At some point Linda said, ‘You will have a lot to cover when you start back up again with Anna,’ and I laughed and said that I really hoped she was ready. I said, ‘I’ve been tempted to text her and ask her if she’s ready for me to be full on or if she needs to be eased into it!’ Linda laughed and said, ‘she will want to hear all about your experience, she will want to work on all of this with you I’m sure of it.’ we smiled at each other. I really wonder whether they’ve talked about any of this. I mean, I know there are professional boundaries and that there is the code of confidentiality but they are friends and colleagues, they text each other daily. Ordinarily they work in the same building at the same times on the same days and they have had wee chats over coffee between clients… surely little bits come out. I realise this is going to sound kind of full of myself as if the world revolves around me but I’m thinking, imagine Anna coming out of a particularly difficult session with me and standing in the kitchen making a cup of tea and in walks Linda. Maybe Anna mentions her previous client, no names, just that they’re working on some very deep attachment stuff, that this client draws as a way of expressing herself and the work is challenging (or whatever)… then a few months later I’m sitting with Linda and telling her that I’ve been drawing to help me in sessions with Anna because the work we’re doing is really hard attachment stuff. It’s not completely outwith the realms of possibility. I wonder, does Anna text Linda and ask how I’m getting on? ‘Is my client going to give me a hard time when we get back to work on the 18th?’ haha… I doubt it but it does make me wonder. Judging by the chats I’ve had with Linda it sounds like this is a very unique situation. I don’t think she has ever done this for one of Anna’s clients before. That in itself might make it a tempting conversation. Maybe not though, I’m sure they have plenty to talk about besides me! Anyway, back to the session…

I said, ‘I have thought a lot about these two sessions… you know why is it important to me to have these two sessions? Do I really need two? Did I really need this one? No… I didn’t… I said this to you in the first or second session, my life is good, I have lots going on and I’m stable and you know, functioning… it’s just when deep feelings are triggered they destabilise me. I find it very difficult to cope with big feelings by myself and I don’t have anyone in my life that I talk to like this… I noticed a defensiveness when you said what you said about the gaps and I was annoyed you brought it up in the last 5 minutes of the session…’ she nodded and listened, ‘… but I was able to process it and figure things out, I wanted to try to soothe myself and find a compassionate way to understand my motives behind filling the gap. I thought that Anna would say to me, ‘of course you feel overwhelmed by these feelings, you’ve only just started feeling them. You’ve been numb all your life and now you’re feeling. It makes sense you would want someone you trust to be with you while you feel them to help you feel safe.’ Linda had a kind smile on her face and she said, ‘and can you hear her voice when she says that and see her face in your mind?’ I said I could. I said, ‘I was finding it very hard to feel her, I do find it hard to keep feeling a connection with people when it’s been a while you know it’s like they fade into the distance like ghosts or something…’ Linda nodded and said, ‘and despite feeling like this, you were still able to hear her words of encouragement, she never really left you.’ I nodded and said I was glad I was able to bring her back to me, open the door inside again. Linda said, ‘my therapist has this thing he says to me, he says, ‘are you going to be able to keep me in mind Linda…’ I think that’s a lovely phrase, keep in mind… don’t you?’ I said, ‘yeah it is lovely, I used to hate it… Anna would say she was holding me in mind and I’d be like ‘well what good does that do me? I can’t feel when you’re holding me in mind!’ and I think there needs to be some trust there, to really trust and believe that the person isn’t just saying it you know? For so long I thought Anna would dread our sessions and be burdened by my incessant neediness and hate hearing from me you know, not want to think about me… but yeah it’s about trusting her for her word I guess. If she says she holds me in mind then that’s what she is doing. and I hold her in mind.’ Linda said, ‘it definitely is about trust and although your trust in Anna might have been tested recently I think you are noticing some aspects of the trust that are intact and feel very secure.’ I nodded.

Linda said, ‘Lucy, the thing that was very clear to me from the start was that you were looking after yourself. You were going through a very difficult time, it was a very frightening and upsetting time for you and you knew that you needed support. So that can only be a good thing. I’m glad you set this up and that you were able to get the support you needed.’ I got the sense that she was trying to tell me that there was no need to feel defensive about her asking me to look at the reason why I feel the need to fill the gaps. I said, ‘yeah, I don’t know if you would have a different opinion but for me, I feel like it’s easy to forget that there’s this very deep well of attachment trauma that is still there and is triggered massively by Anna and other things like abandonment stuff… I was starting to invalidate myself you know, I was thinking I’ve only worked with you for a couple of weeks why is it so hard for me to let this thing go, why can’t I just end it with you? But it has been meaningful for me!’ she said, ‘I’m really glad to hear that,’ I continued, ‘and you know, you’ve seen me in this tiny slice of time in my life and you don’t know what has gone before but it’s never been easy for me to just let someone in like that I’ve always been very protective and closed off so I guess this feels like a wee sign of progress, I was able to let you in enough for you to be able to help me.’ she said, ‘yes I really got a sense of that Lucy, that you were working very hard to make the very most of these sessions in a very difficult time.’

I said, ‘Do you have any thoughts on what would be the right thing to do for these two sessions?’ She looked curiously at me and said, ‘do I have any thoughts on it… hmmm?’ with a questioning tone. She said, ‘well let me think… well one thing I’ve learned about you is that you think very carefully about decisions you need to make… you weigh things up, you consider all the options, mull it over, you’re not the sort of person who is just going to say ‘right, that’s great, Anna’s coming back so I’m just gonna say bye now!’ I laughed and said, ‘uh huh… this is nuts, it’s reminding me of the couple of times I’ve been to a psychic, which is a bit of a blast, and you sit there having told them nothing about yourself and your life and they tell you all these things about yourself… but obviously you’re not psychic haha you’ve just been listening! But I’m sitting here mind blown like ‘fuuuck sake! Shit how does she know this about me, wow!’ hahaha!’ Linda laughed a lot and said, ‘well yeah, it’s my job you know, to listen and make sense of you, Lucy.’ She has this rather melodic, lilting way of speaking. She is from the East End of Glasgow and has a very strong accent. To me it sounds raw and authentic and real. She draws out some words with a gentle upturn in the middle and downwards tone on some of the endings, ‘well yeaaaaaah, it’s my joooob you knowww, to liiiisten and make sense of you Lucyaaa.’ I could sit and listen to her talk all day actually. I really love it. I wish I knew her in real life actually because she seems like such a decent human being, I need so many more people like that in my life. She continued, ‘…and also I wonder if you’re trying to make the ‘right’ decision, whatever that is you know… the right decision, not wanting to make any mistakes… but I’d encourage you to think that maybe there are no right or wrong decisions, I would encourage you to think about what feels safe for you. Does that sound accurate?’ I nodded. I really liked that. I like that there is this unspoken knowing between us. She knows there is far more going on for me than we have ever spoken about. She knows that she is holding space in this tiny window of a much bigger picture. Way back in the first session I had said to her that I felt there was no way this could work because she didn’t have the back story. This afternoon I said to her, ‘it turns out you really didn’t need the back story!’ she smiled and nodded and said, ‘yeah, no need for the whole back story… we met each other on the same level, we met here,’ she put her hands straight, palms down fingers pointing at each other horizontally in front of her face as if to signify this moment in time that we were on the same plane, meeting each other in sync.

I said, ‘I can’t actually believe it’s only been a couple of weeks it seems ridiculous now that I got so carried away with imagining Anna would die… I genuinely thought I was never going to see her ever again… it’s actually quite funny now, looking back.’ Linda said, ‘there wasn’t anything funny about it in my experience, Lucy.’ She had a straight face and I almost felt like I was being told off. But I understand she was just showing me how seriously she took it all and how much she believed what I had been feeling. She said, ‘What struck me when we started our work, was the fear. There was a lot of panic and fear in you. Whatever age this triggered, there was huge fear in her.’ I replied without even thinking. Just spoke the words, ‘there is this deep unmet need in me from years and years of… um well abuse and neglect and well Anna and I have been working very slowly gently picking away at these tiny little bits of it all and it felt like we had just exposed the edges of the core of it, deep inside me, you know?’ I had my closed fist on my heart and continued, ‘I was always so closed off but we’d opened it up and then all this shit happened and she left me in the middle of it and it triggered this massive trauma response in me, it felt like when my dad left and when my mum abandoned me emotionally so many times, every time, and it felt like when school ended and I no longer had this safe space to go to anymore and I couldn’t get support from the teachers who had always been the thing keeping me alive and I just remember this powerful black hole swallowing me up… the day after the last day of school I slipped off the edge of any kind of hope and I would sleep and sleep and just hid myself away. I didn’t have my safe space anymore and I had no control or rhythm to my life it was just well… just abusive and neglectful and… this crisis, having my work stop, not being allowed out, being kept away from things that keep me going, keep my rhythm… it triggered all of the same feelings from twenty years ago.’ Linda had a very compassionate expression and said, ‘I can understand that. It triggered a very painful memory and the emotions that were reawakened… it’s understandable you were frightened.’ She had used an analogy earlier that she said some other clients had been using, that this lockdown feels a bit like the week between Christmas and New Year where you don’t really know what to do with yourself and there’s too much food around. She referred back to that and said, ‘that analogy doesn’t really fit with your experience of the lockdown. Your experience has been retraumatising.’ I nodded. Felt very seen.

I said, ‘I may have been able to cope with this interim period without Anna and without you, Linda. I may have got through it, but I didn’t want to. I will no longer force myself to do everything alone. I don’t want to feel these overwhelming feelings alone anymore. It’s incredibly powerful to feel seen and even just to have someone sitting there looking at me while I am feeling the feelings in my body is incredible… I mean, when you say my name it just feels so fucking like WOW, I’ve said that to Anna… just really feeling like this person is here with me, completely present and here now. It’s very important that I provide that for myself, having never had it when I was a child.’ Linda said, ‘it is so powerful, you’re right. I completely understand how important it was for you to look after yourself and to make sure you had a supportive presence while going through this. I’m really so glad you did that.’

I joked that I had ten minutes left to decide if I wanted this to be our last session and Linda said she didn’t want me to feel under pressure to decide, that it wasn’t fair or necessary for me to do that. She said, ‘I want you to think about what feels safe and good for you… not what the right thing to do is or the best thing, what feels safe and good for you. There’s no rush, you don’t have to decide just now. Give yourself the time you need, your session time is ringfenced – no one else will be in that space – so I just want to encourage you to see how you feel and let me know on Tuesday.’ I said that felt good and I appreciated it. I said, ‘you won’t be offended if I say no or disappointed if I say I do want it?’ Linda said, ‘no I wont feel offended or disappointed, I just want you to decide what feels good for you… even if you just want to save the £45 that’s fine by me, or give yourself some space before your session with Anna on Saturday… whatever you decide is fine by me.’

She then said, ‘I was trying to think if I’ve ever seen you before at the centre and I have, I’ve seen the back of you many times.’ We laughed, she continued, ‘I have that big front room and I’ve seen you go into Anna’s room before… we will see each other in passing in the centre, we are not saying goodbye never see you again… this is not a closed door. We will bump into each other I’m sure.’ I said, ‘that’s funny you remember me from those fleeting moments. I loved that front room, we were in that room for the first session when you guys moved to that building. It’s such a nice room I was gutted when Anna chose the back room! I really want the sofa in that big room coz I want to sit next to her in our sessions but she just drags the chair round beside me instead… I’ve told her I’ll buy a bloody sofa for that room!’ Linda laughed. I said, ‘I know I said this to you in the first or second session and it now seems a bit silly but I do feel like it might be nice, when the world all goes back to normal, to have a face to face session with you, to sit in your company. Would you be okay with that still?’ Linda nodded enthusiastically and said, ‘yes I’m absolutely okay with that, that sounds great.’

We then ended the session, she said, ‘look after yourself, take care and I’ll hear from you soon.’

So, at the moment I’m considering not having another session with Linda. I’m considering carefully composing an email to her thanking her for everything she did for me in the short time we worked together and leaving the door open for a random face to face session at some point when (and if) the world goes back to normal. This felt like a nice way to end our work and in fact the last fifteen minutes was quite sparse in terms of talking. We didn’t have a huge amount to cover. I don’t feel I will have a lot to talk about on Wednesday that isn’t just a rehash of all of this. Which is a bit of a waste of energy and £45! I will think about it and email her in the next day or two.

3 thoughts on “This is Not a Closed Door

  1. LovingSummer

    It does sound like the ending has been started quite naturally between you both, especially as it’s not really a complete ending, more of an an adjournment – until you next meet again. It comes across as being so simple and unprocessed… I think ‘natural’ is the only word for it!

    Liked by 3 people

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