Is it posible to repair this rupture?
I sent Anna this text just after our last video session.
It was so good to see you today. I genuinely felt that you were happy to be speaking to me which was so lovely and unexpected. I barely slept last night worrying about what it might be like to reconnect with you again, I was really upset at the thought that everything would feel different. Once again it’s like I forgot how nice you are! I think in the long run (although this has been so hard) it might actually strengthen our work together and our connection. Because I believe that you’re going to hold space for me to share my whole experience of it all which has the potential to be very healing.
It did feel different, I am sad that we can’t sit in the same room together and that you can’t sit next to me or give me a hug. But I’m so grateful that we are both able and willing to connect on video call. Thank you for coming back to me, Anna.
I hope this isn’t overstepping the mark but I have a couple of observations…
Would you be up for repositioning your device so that I have a better view of you? If you sit your laptop (or whatever it is) on a box or books or something so that it’s the same height as your face and if you were able to sit a little further away from the laptop so I can see more of you. Also if there was a way to bring more light to your face so that I can see you a bit clearer? With a lamp or you facing the window. I think it might help me feel your presence if I can see you better.
l’m sure you’ve done this already but you can set up a trial zoom session without inviting anyone. That way you can test out what it looks like for the recipient. You just click on ‘host a meeting’. You can see yourself on the screen and move things about in preparation. I did that before we spoke this morning.
Anyway, it’s up to you of course, do whatever feels comfortable for you, I just thought there’s no harm in asking and sharing my reflections on the experience. Even if you change none of that I’m obviously happier talking to you on video than not talking to you at all!
I wish the audio was as clear as it is on the phone because it was hard to hear you sometimes. I guess we’ll just have to play around with it and also just get used to it being different. I’m going to look online to see what the best settings are so that we get the most out of the sessions.
Hope the rest of your weekend is good. I hope you’re able to enjoy this lovely weather.
See you Tuesday.
Zoom session number 2
We connected and her visual popped up on the screen. Immediately I could see she had changed things up as per my message, I thanked her for moving things around but I felt weird about it, uncomfortable that I had to ask. She was sitting a bit further away from the screen and the lighting was better. Everything about it was so much better. I said I hoped she wasn’t offended by my message. She said she wasn’t offended but she wondered why I hadn’t felt able to tell her about the visual and audio problems during the session. I said, ‘I don’t think I was really that aware of it in the call, it was only in retrospect. I put the lack of feeling connected down to it being ages since we spoke and I assumed it would feel like this from now on, there will be a big gap between us because of all that’s happened… but when I was reflecting on it I realised that seeing and hearing you properly is really important for me to feel a connection.’ Anna said, ‘I was wondering if you are trying to recreate the space we have in the therapy room? With the distance we have between us when we’re sitting opposite each other?’ I said, ‘I can’t even put it into words, it just feels better seeing more of you, it feels like I’m sitting with a human being,’ she said, ‘instead of a floating head?’ and we laughed. Honestly, I’m feeling annoyed just typing this out, why is this so hard for me to explain and for her to understand? It’s really not that deep or complicated, I just wanted her to sit in a well lit room where I could see her… has she never had a video call with someone before? Has she never seen anyone’s home filmed videos on youtube? This is basic video call 101… make yourself seen and heard and make yourself comfortable! But then I knew she’d not be great at it. She is not technically minded and she is not visually self conscious. This is triggering me because I don’t want to see these weaknesses in her. I want to respect and have total faith in her. I know that my inner critic will take these details and weave a fucking magic carpet for me to ride away on. All of the reasons that she is incompetent and can’t help me.
Anna asked me what I wanted to focus on today and I said I didn’t know what to focus on. I said, ‘there is just so much and I think it’s going to take us weeks and weeks… and I don’t even know if it’s possible when we’re doing it this way, on video, it’s very weird and just doesn’t feel the same.’ She said she understood and said, ‘I am here, I’m listening and we will work on this for as long as you need. What feels important right now?’ I said, ‘I was really disappointed in the session on Saturday, I didn’t really connect to you. I wanted to. I was really glad to see you, like relieved that you were alive. But… I really wanted it to be more sort of… I imagined crying, I imagined this big moment when I saw you and it wasn’t like that and it feels like, why? Why would I cry with Linda and not you? I’ve got so much more with you I should be able to trust you enough to feel the feelings with you but I don’t feel anything, it’s all numb.’ Anna said, ‘why do you think that barrier might be up for you right now?’I said, ‘well I talked it out with myself this morning. I thought about crying with Linda so easily and how first of all it was right there, I didn’t have a choice, I was grieving you dying and the tears just kept coming. Also, I don’t have any attachment shit with her so there was nothing to lose. Also, hasn’t hurt me. It was easier to tell her how I felt about you because it wasn’t about her!’ Anna asked me what the fantasy was that I’d made up in my head about what would happen if I said it all to her. I said, ‘I feel that I will tell you how angry and upset and absolutely beside myself I’ve been feeling and you’’ listen and you’ll sit there and say you are sorry it was so hard for me and that it makes sense that I feel this way and I won’t believe you. You’ll say all the right words but I just don’t believe a word of it, it all just feels like bull shit. You’re just saying what needs to be said… client says x, therapist says y. It doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Maybe it never did.’ I can’t remember exactly what she said here but it was something about noticing that this is a pattern for me – not believing her, feeling that she’s just doing her job and that it’s not genuine care. I was reflecting on this on my walk this morning and I realised that this is a multi-layered belief from many many abandonments growing up. It comes from my mother never being sincere in here life. Saying anything just to get her own way. It comes from my dad saying anything to keep the peace as his temper rises hidden inside him then suddenly explodes unexpectedly, terrifyingly. My parents emotionally abandoned me numerous times and then physically turned their backs on me as soon as possible. The only people in my life who were safe, at school, my teachers who I really believed cared for me, who were there for me time and again and never turned me away when I went to them for help and support, the day school stopped that support stopped too. And I was left with nothing. They only cared because it was their job too. Just like my mum would say, ‘I don’t like you and I HAVE to love you because I’m your mother…’ people only ‘care’ when they HAVE to. And Anna doesn’t really care about me. The minute she is ill or something else happens she’s gone. I know it because it happens. And I’m not feeling sorry for myself I’m feeling very strong in my position that I am right, I shouldn’t let people in.
Back to the session. Anna said, ‘so if this is the therapy and the importance of therapy is in the reparative nature of the relationship, that you get to express a whole spectrum of emotions and we focus on working through it, then is there a way that you can safely begin to express how it was for you?’ I said, ‘I just feel like it’s a total waste of time and actually also it scares me because I think it’ll push you over the edge again.’ She said, ‘what do you think I might say to you.’ I said, ‘that you hear that I’m angry and feel like there’s no hope and that I’m right and it’s probably best to not continue working together.’ She responded really quickly with, ‘so, how likely is it that I will say that?’ I said, ‘really fucking likely actually coz it already happened and you were away for 4 fucking weeks!’ she nodded and again responded quickly with, ‘so the worst case scenario already happened.’ I looked away and said, ‘yeah it did. It really was the worst.’ She said, ‘and you survived.’ I said, ‘I survived, but WE might not.’ I started to feel a bit dissociative and took a drink of water and stretched and looked out the window.
I said, ‘It’s almost like it happened to someone else I can barely remember it. I had to look back over my journals to remind myself just how broken up I was by it all. I could barely function. I completely went into myself. I didn’t tell Adam I just got in the car. When I got your text I got in my car and drove to the loch. I sat there crying my fucking eyes out in the car, sobbed, it was the worst pain in my chest like total panic and fear. I got out and walked a bit and I could have walked right into the loch and never gone back to the car. I was physically shaking from it all, from the emotions. I felt completely beside myself and alone in these very dark empty feelings. I was certain you were dying and now looking back I can see it seems ridiculous that I went to such an extreme but…’ Anna interrupted and said, ‘no I don’t think so, this wasn’t some far fetched fantasy, it was a very real scenario, the virus, everything was moving very quickly and there is a possibility that people we are close to will die. It didn’t feel ridiculous to me, it’s a real concern.’ I said, ‘so in that case… I mean, I don’t even know if you had the fucking virus so if you didn’t then you could still get it and you could still die for it, so it isn’t even over with!’ Anna said, ‘yes uhu.’ I said, ‘so your response makes me think you didn’t have the virus… fuuuck this is going to drive me insane and I don’t even know if it’s a self imposed boundary or if it’s a boundary of yours and I cant even ask you… fuuuuck why is it so hard to ask the fucking question?’ she said, ‘because you don’t want to hear the answer.’ I took a big breath and I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes. I told her I was feeling spacey and I shifted about and took a drink of water. I pulled Luna onto my lap and stroked my fingers into her thick fur. I’m thinking about this now and I don’t even know if how I feel about this is valid or not. I feel like she was wrong to hold this boundary. If she didn’t have the virus, yet she knew that I was going through this deep grief and panic, why wouldn’t she tell me she didn’t have the virus? As a friend said to me, these are completely unusual times and boundaries aren’t rules they are flexible and they change depending on the circumstances. These were not normal circumstances. She knew I was in crisis so much so that she remind me of our crisis arrangement… referring me to fucking a&e if I was suicidal. She knew I was going through hell. In the session I said to her, ‘you didn’t just have a cold, no one has a cold for 4 weeks… but if it wasn’t a virus then I assume it was a mental or emotional thing, that you weren’t coping with everything and then I cried down the phone at you twice and it was too much for you.’ She said in a firm voice, ‘you didn’t make me sick, Lucy!’ I said, ‘I don’t believe you.’ She said, ‘well you don’t have that power.’ I’m thinking in my head now… burnout happens! But burnout is not because of a clients needs it’s because of a therapists lack of boundaries… so that brings me to not knowing if I’m being unreasonable or not. Maybe she needed to maintain the boundary for herself. At some point she said that I really like boundaries, they help me feel safe. This is true but also it surely isn’t black and white. How does she decide when it is appropriate to bend the boundary and when she should hold it? I said to her, ‘I think we’re using the same word but it holds a different meaning for each of us. I’m hearing you say boudnaries as if it’s a caring and nice thing but when I talk about boundaries it feels punishing and withholding.’ I don’t remember what she said there. I feel like the video call makes it harder to take in what is being said or maybe I’m better at remembering when I am feeling safely connected to her and when I feel more guarded and protective it’s harder to absorb what she’s saying.
After I said I felt spacey Anna said, ‘is this reminding you of your mum?’ On reflection I know she asked me this because my mother is usually the one that triggers my dissociation. And just writing that made me have some sort of split second realisation that this… just this statement ‘my mother is the main trigger for my dissociation’ – what more proof do I need that she was abusive? I instinctively invalidate myself so much but my body tells me all that I need to know. I didn’t ever feel safe with her. So, Anna asking me if this reminded me of my mother angered me. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back I can see that it felt invalidating, as if she was saying, ‘your anger here is disproportionate to what is happening now so it must be transference from childhood’… I’m sure she wasn’t saying that but I will need to bring this up with her because what I said to her was, ‘it may be something to do with my mum but it doesn’t feel like that right now,’ when what I want to say now is, ‘this is fucked up, difficult and painful shit and I’m hurt and angry at you, your behaviour was the thing that hurt me even people without mother issues would find this painful, don’t blame it on my mother it was you!’
I said, ‘what it is bringing up is the really painful reality that this is your work. You are so fucking important to me but I am just your work. I mean you know so much about me, you know more about me than anyone else on this planet and I know fucking nothing about you and I’m not even entitled to information about why you have to stop working with me instead I just have to sit here wondering and worrying, asking Linda every few days if you’re alive. I mean you told me you were sick in a text… I don’t even deserve a fucking phone call to tell me that you’re dropping off the planet for god knows how long, instead you just send me a generic text because I’m not owed anything!’ at this point she moved or made a noise, I was ranting and not looking at her but she responded in some way. I think maybe she had thought that the texts were good and useful and boundaried and hadn’t considered that I’d want more than just a text. I can’t remember where this led but I went on to say that the two phone sessions were really hard. She said something about boundaries in the therapeutic relationship being important and I said it felt rejecting.
I said, ‘I was so upset in the phone sessions, I’ve never cried like that with you before. In fact I’ve never cried with anyone like that. Sobbing on the phone and in the last one, I don’t know it’s like I’ve enmeshed you and me and it feels like you were feeling what I was feeling and I don’t even know what is real and what is not. You just didn’t feel like the normal you and I felt like you were just as upset as I was and like it was too much for you. I believe that you already knew you were going to be off and you were preparing me for that, it was really intense but it felt like you couldn’t contain it all for me and you were struggling with everything that was going on and you thought to yourself, ‘I need to put up a barrier here between me and this girl because she is causing me to feel worse’ and that was it, no more contact.’ Anna thought for a moment with a sort of puzzled look on her face and then said, ‘I didn’t know I was going to be off, I was still working at that point.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t believe you.’ Anna said, ‘Shall I tell you what my thoughts were on why I was telling you to prepare for me being ill?’ I nodded and she said, ‘The covid stuff just suddenly started ramping up very quickly and I wanted to make sure we had that conversation just in case anything happened. I was still working at that point I wasn’t ill I didn’t know I was going to be ill but a lot of people were getting ill and it was important that we had a plan in place. I’m sorry that I got sick right after that phone session, it wasn’t good timing, but I am really glad we had that conversation and we were able to talk about it being Linda. Then in your text you said that if it was going to be more than two weeks you would want to work with Linda. I felt it was good we’d had that talk.’ I said, ‘I didn’t feel I had a choice, I wasn’t able to cope by myself I don’t feel like I can fully express to you what it was like.’ Anna said, ‘it was important that I look after myself and it works both ways. Prior t the phone sessions you had to take a break from the sessions when you were ill. You were looking after yourself. A year ago you would have come to your sessions ill, you would never have cancelled 3 sessions.’ I said, ‘I wish I had come but I wasn’t well enough.’ I feel like it’s not the same thing, I told her what was wrong with me. I had a virus with a cough so I needed to stay in the house. It feels like she is using this against me. as if to say – you cancelled these session so I did it back to you… I don’t see the relevance in bringing it up. I hold my tongue too much with her I need to just say what’s on my mind because that is where the healing will happen.
We moved on and I said, ‘It was really weird working with Linda. I had to very quickly connect with her to get the most out of working with her. It was good and helpful but then I’d have moments of feeling really guilty talking about you. I didn’t want to betray your trust… most of the time I was just really sad and grieving, I wasn’t bitching about you and I’d ask her permission before talking about you…’ Anna smiled and said, ‘Lucy, it’s okay! It’s okay… you’re allowed to talk about how you feel. It really is okay.’ I said, ‘at one point Linda said that we were obviously doing very deep attachment work and that made me feel deep shame and…’ Anna said, ‘lets stay with that feeling of shame for a bit, do you know where the shame came from?’ I said, ‘well yeah that’s just therapy speak for you’re fucked up. Like when I’m writing reports and I’ll say something like, ’Dylan is energetic and very sociable, when what I actually mean is he can’t sit still and won’t shut up’ Anna finished that sentence with me and smiled and said, ‘That’s not what she said though is it. You know about attachments, you’ve read about it.’ I nodded and said, ‘but it still means like oh you’re doing hard long deep work because you have massive issues…. God the inner critic is having a fucking field day with all this, telling me you and Linda think I’m intense and needy and no wonder you wanted a break from me.’ Anna said, ‘and what do we say to the inner critic?’ I paused for a bit and then said, ‘I’m feeling a compassionate response actually, I don’t want to tell her to fuck off.’ Anna said, ‘okay lets hear the compassion!’ I laughed and said, ‘right… um… well… okay maybe I would say, I know you’re trying to protect me, thank you for that, thank you for trying to keep me safe, I know you think you’re going to get hurt again but it’s not helping here. I want to try to connect to Anna…’ Anna was nodding and smiling and said, ‘yeah it makes sense that the protective parts are there, I really let you down.’ I said, ‘but I didn’t feel this walled up with Linda,’ and Anna said, ‘she was there for you when I wasn’t. She didn’t hurt you like I did. You talked to her about the wall between you and me, you boarded that wall up. That makes sense. I imagine you didn’t want to come back to me,’ I said, ‘yeah, I didn’t… I read your text telling me you were ready to start up your work again and actually I just felt like saying, ‘fucking good for you! NOW you’re ready? I’ve only had to wait 4 fucking weeks with no replies and now you’re ready? Great! Well maybe I don’t wanna come back…’ I told Linda I was in no rush to go back to you. I didn’t want you to come back before you were ready because actually things were working fine with us.’ There was a silence and I sort of glanced at her. She said, ‘so what made you come back?’ I felt a wave of something when she said that, like a sadness. I said, ‘because I like you and we have worked hard at this and I want to try to make it work and because I do have this overall perspective you know, I do know that this is my main core wound and that I need to work at this rupture with you I need to give you the chance to heal it with me.’
I said, ‘I don’t know if you remember our last session in the centre. It was February 29th and you were sitting beside me and I was talking to you about how I could never tell my mum anything because she would tell everyone and you said to me that you completely understood why it was so hard for that small part of me to trust you and then you said that you hoped she was listening as you told her that she could test you any way she wanted… and I remember thinking for ages, how could I possibly test that? We don’t know anyone mutual, how could I test that you won’t talk about me to people, that you won’t betray my trust? Then the universe threw this massive fucking curveball and I suddenly had Linda there in front of me who did know you. I asked her what you had told her about me and I don’t know if this is the truth but she told me that you hadn’t told her anything about me, I don’t know if that’s true but she said all you said was you asked would she work with a client of yours while you’re off and that was it.’ Anna said, ‘yes that’s right. That’s all I said. I told her I was sick and that I had a client who needed some support and asked if she could help, told her you were agreeable and said I wasn’t sure how long I’d be off. She said yes could work with you and that I could give you her email address so I told her your name and that you planned on getting in touch with her. She told me when you emailed her and that was it.’ I nodded and wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. I think it’s one of those situations that feels like she can’t win because it almost feels rejecting if she didn’t ever ask Linda how I was’ but also I want her to be professional and not disclose anything. Maybe this is like what my friend was saying earlier about boundaries… they are flexible and responsive to the changing needs. Anna could ask if I was doing okay and Linda could say that I was coping with her support without going into details that breach my privacy and confidentiality. Maybe they did have that kind of interaction but it possibly doesn’t feel right to share that with me. or maybe I’m being very egotistical to imagine they wouldn’t have anything better to say than talk about me. Also, I don’t know what Anna meant by ‘agreeable’. Did she mean ‘in agreement?’ I told her that I found it easy to build trust very quickly with Linda, that it felt like I was starting off a few steps up the ladder because I knew that Anna knew and trusted her. I said, ‘I don’t know why I brought that up,’ and she said, ‘I think you do,’ I tried to retrace my steps and she said, ‘It shows trust, you could trust me and my judgement and through trusting me you could trust her…’ I said, ‘oh yeah I mean that’s absolutely the case and I did feel supported by you through Linda… coz she knew you and you had connected us.’ Anna was smiling and nodding and saying she was pleased about that.
At one point I told Anna that I’d discussed the texts with Linda and that we had this boundary where you wouldn’t reply. Linda had told me she doesn’t normally do that with clients but would I want to do that with her. I said, ‘…and I immediately said NO, no… I do not want to start the messages with you!’ and Anna laughed knowingly and I laughed too. She is right, I do like boundaries. It makes me feel safer when I know where I stand. I don’t want there to be the possibility that I can take things too far and push someone away. She asked me what was going on for me coz I think I was smiling and I said, ‘I like it when we laugh together, it reassures me that things might be okay between us… I may not know details of your life but the person that has sat in front of me for two and a half years, whatever makes a person who they are, the responses and the way you are with me, I do know that about you… maybe that’s what is meant when people say they feel a connection with someone.’ Anna said, ‘yes it’s knowing someone and connecting and being familiar.’
It was quiet for a moment. Maybe even a full minute which is quite a long time when you’re being watched on a screen. In this quiet stillness I sort of calmly asked, ‘When I was crying on the phone to you… did you feel overwhelmed by me?’ She said, ‘I felt very moved Lucy.’ I said, ‘I upset you?’ and she said, ‘no, I was moved and honoured, knowing how hard it has been for you to share your feelings, that you were sharing your feelings with me. I’m really sorry that the last phone session felt unsettling for you, that must have made it feel even harder for you to then deal with me going off.’ I shrugged and sort of curled the corner of my top lip. I said, ‘I do feel pretty fragmented. Part of me wants to just say it’s all fine and to forget it. Another part of me can barely look at you she’s so angry, she just wants to tell you to fuck off. Like why would I ever trust you again? It feels like it’s all gone to shit and it can’t be repaired. I will never trust you again. Maybe I never did. There’s all this confusing noise in my mind… one part of me saying what’s the point of talking about all of this you’re never going to believe her again just fucking cut and run, then there’s another part that feels like my life’s fucking turned upside down and I need to be talking about the very real shit show that family life is right now. Gracie’s lost the plot Anna and I do not know how to parent her. Everything’s blown out the water and I need to work on that in therapy!’ I was aware we only had ten minutes to go. Anna said, ‘What’s the important thing here? I’m not saying Gracie’s not important, she is, but what is the really important thing right now?’ I said, ‘that we mend this? But then I think maybe we can just deal with all the family stuff without mending things between us because you’re still a good therapist and I can still get that worked on. Coz I feel like I’m having to waste my fucking precious therapy time dealing with this rupture that wasn’t even my fault, I didn’t cause this and now I’m having to spend my time working on it.’ She said, ‘can you think of a reason why it might be worthwhile to deal with it?’ and I said, ‘Yeah coz this IS the work I mean THIS IS IT! This is the core of it all. The pain of this. It’s all attachment stuff… its lacking trust. It’s wanting to walk away when things go wrong. It’s believing nothing will work out, we will never move past this, I will never forget and I can never trust you again.’ She nodded and said that it absolutely was the work and it was testament to my strength and determination that I did go back to her and that I am prepared to do very difficult work to get to where I want to be.
In the last couple of minutes I shared my analogy with Anna that I had explored with Linda about the therapeutic journey being like a car. Before this break I believed her to be the engine and that I would break down if she wasn’t there but through this ordeal I have begun to see that she is a guide, a co-pilot and I am the driver. She said it was a really good analogy and that she was glad that I learned through this that I am in charge of my own healing. That she wished it hadn’t been this way but was glad that at least I was able to see how resilient I am and capable of pushing through, asking for help, looking for solutions and hoping for repair.
At the end I said I wished I could have a hug and she smiled and said, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘do you think we’ll ever be int hat room again… she asks with 60 seconds to go!?’ and Anna said, ‘I hope so but who knows what will happen… businesses are being affected by this too.’ I said, ‘but if they go bust will we have to stop working together?’ she said, ‘there are other therapy businesses.’ I thought for split second she meant I could find another therapist and she said, ‘I would just go and rent a room from somewhere else.’ I nodded and smiled and said, ‘I just wish everything would go back to normal I hate the uncertainty… anyway… thank you Anna… see you Saturday.’