I posted for the last time on Instagram and my blog on the 9th May. At that point Anna had let me know that she was taking another break from sessions, she was ill with her asthma shortly after the last episode and needed to look after her health. I hadn’t sat in a room with her since February 29th. We’d had a few phone and video sessions then I had 6 sessions with Linda before going back to Anna again. In that time we were able to have three sessions which felt collectively very connecting and left me feeling emotionally close to Anna, secure in our attachment. I was feeling strong and present and wanted to spend some time living mindfully, focusing on the present moment. I didn’t feel the need to go back to Linda but I did contact her and she made it clear that if ever I wanted to get in touch with her that I should, without hesitation.
The 25th of April was my last video session with Anna. Since then I have sent her a text during each missed session time. I shared with her what I was doing to keep on top of things and I let her know of times I had been reminded of my growth. At some point into the second week I began to struggle with missing her. I reached out to Anna and she sent me a beautiful text in which she said, ‘It’s been lovely to hear how you’re looking after yourself. It’s okay Lucy, we are okay, hold on to that.’ Shortly after that I arranged for a session with Linda. I realised I was trying to push through life during a pandemic with a lot of stressors I wasn’t accustomed to without the support I usually would have in far less stressful times… it had began to feel punishing, why struggle alone when the help was there? Although unable to articulate it back then, I was aware of a sense that the support would be needed. I am constantly reminded to not underestimate the power of intuition.
Linda and I had two sessions that week where we confirmed that we would work together short term until Anna was well enough to start up again. Though I had this same ache in the very centre of my belly telling me I would never sit with Anna again. In the first session on the 13th May Linda was keen to understand why the change of heart. I wasn’t able to articulate what exactly had changed, I just felt the need to reconnect with her. The session saw me quickly rattling through some sort of blow by blow account of my early traumas in a very disconnected way. Linda kept reminding me to take my time as she noted that I was sharing one massive thing after another with no emotional expression. ‘Hello dissociation!’ I joked. She shared with me that it felt almost like a warning to her – this is what you’re dealing, with, are you up for it? I told her that’s exactly what I did when I started working with Anna and she said it made sense but to remember that she is there in the interim, until Anna returns.
The next session on the 16th I was very much in my feelings. We spent some time connecting to the discomfort in my chest and the pain in my throat. We focused in on what the sensations were telling me. That the ache in my chest was attachment pain – longing, and the pain in my throat was unexpressed grief and the need to keep it all down and not let it show. I spoke about anticipating the loss of Anna and Linda reassured me that Anna was not leaving me, though she understood that the fear was very real and valid. I was cycling through a lot of very negative self talk. I could feel Linda was connecting to my pain, she was empathising and her tone and words were very compassionate. But she was very direct with me and said a few things that were hard to hear.
At one point Linda told me it must be so painful to constantly hear these very cruel and unforgiving criticisms that I aim at myself constantly and that she can tell that I rarely get a break from the filter in my mind that distorts everything she is saying to me. At one point she told me, ‘it feels like there are 3 people in this session, me, you and your inner critic… it’s frustrating for me that she keeps getting in the way of your therapy… I wonder what it would feel like to have her step outside the door?’ I was aware of two very powerful responses to this. One voice of gratitude, ‘wow, she does actually want to reach me?’ and the other voice of anger, ‘how dare she feel that after 8 sessions she will be entitled to reach me without the protector being present!’ I decided to shelve that response for another day and quietly responded, ‘…actually there are 4 of us here… you, me, my inner critic and my child… there’s a very young part of me here and she’s the reason I keep dragging myself to these sessions. She needs this intense, caring gaze from a therapist.’ Linda immediately softened and said in a really clear and firm voice, ‘and I want her to know that she is always welcome here. Your child is always welcome with me, Lucy.’
There was another poignant moment where Linda addressed one of my self-criticisms. She said, ‘it really struck me when you said you feel like you’re ‘textbook’, I want you to know Lucy that there is nothing textbook about you. Nothing.’ She linked this to something I had said earlier (directed by the inner critic), that this all feels like a game… that therapists just say and do what they think needs to be said and done for the client to ‘heal’. She said, ‘it actually triggered a response here for me…’ (she put her hand on the centre of her chest)… ‘this is not a game for me, Lucy. This is very real. I could not do this job if I was faking, I could easily go get another job far less taxing… I’ve had plenty other jobs that were way easier than this… I choose to do this because it is the most real job I think I could ever do… and not a game at all!’ I really believed her, I could see and feel her sincerity.
As I reflected on the session I was aware of a sense of frustration and disappointed that Linda seemed to have completely misunderstood the fundamental basics of the nervous system – that my inner critic/protective part is an automatic response that my system has perfected over the years in response to perceived threat and not in any way a conscious decision. I wrote an email to her that I didn’t send but committed to talking to her about it the next time we met. I sent her a shorter email telling her that I’d had a kickback from the previous session and it was important to talk about it next time.
Despite this misalignment, my overall feeling of the session was that of connection and holding. I can feel deeply that Linda is a very sincere and grounded person who has a really clear sense of herself. I began to feel a deep awareness inside myself that I have begun investing a lot in this relationship… I didn’t know back then however just how much I was going to need it.