Still standing, still breathing, still functioning. Still alive.

Some time spent looking back and some looking forward.

I had another session with Linda. It was our tenth session, but to be honest it feels like we are so much further in. I think it’s because my defences have been down from the start or maybe I always felt that Linda could be trusted because Anna trusted her… maybe it’s because I came to her in crisis and could only deal with what was right in front of me and saw her as my key for survival. Whatever the reason, I dived straight into the deep end with Linda from day one and skipped the months of delay tactics and dancing around the pain that had happened with Anna in the early days. It has fast tracked me to this really raw and authentic connection that I am actually surprised I feel especially considering we’ve only met on zoom so far. But I am not going to invalidate myself on this one, I know I can feel it, it’s real and she said she feels it too.

I did a lot of what Linda called ‘reviewing’ today. I asked if that was ‘a thing’ in grief work and she said, ‘it’s what you’re doing, so it’s a thing for you… I’m sure it is part of the grief work but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s what you need to do right now.’ I was retracing my steps. Making sense. I have felt so much more grounded today, the difference is amazing from how I felt the past few days. I told Linda I was worried that I’d dissociated all the pain away and that at least on Wednesday I was feeling. She assured me that these feelings are not polarized. She said, ‘you were in crisis on Wednesday and that is my word, you don’t have to use it if it doesn’t fit for you but it’s just my understanding of your experience, and it makes sense, but it’s not good for us, not natural to stay in that state long term. Your nervous system has settled and you are adjusting, you’re being afforded a break from the intensity of the shock. That doesn’t mean you’re numb it just means you’re somewhere in the middle.’ That felt so reassuring.

I went over things again. That somewhere inside me I knew what was coming. I knew back in March. Before the lockdown Anna stopped seeing clients in her office and I just felt in my gut that I would never sit with her again. The two phone sessions we had unsettled me. I know I already wrote about that but I can now see that my gut feeling was valid. In hindsight I imagine she was probably grappling with the idea that she may find it very difficult to cope with the logistics of the virus for a long time let alone deal with her own anxiety about being in such a high risk group. To be honest her experience of this whole thing must be terrifying for her and her family. She didn’t let me into her experience of this in an overt way but Anna and I have worked so closely with each other for the past couple of years that I know her and I am (by the nature of my relational hypervigilance) tuned in to the wellbeing of important attachment figures in my life. I just knew something was there. I felt that she was preparing me for an ending. Even if she wasn’t consciously aware of it. I had a number of clues that led me to believe I was her only long term client and perhaps the only one that was still working with her through the lockdown (she counselled part time around her non-therapy related day job and only ever had a handful of clients). In those two phone sessions we did a lot of reflecting on my progress. She did a lot of reminding me of my strengths. She told me again about her colleague who would be the one who would contact me should anything happen to her… reminded me that her name was Linda.

Then I had the 6 sessions with Linda because Anna was ill. As Linda articulated, I came to her ‘preparing for loss’ and worked through a process of preparatory grief through those sessions. Very open and honest in my fear and pain. Still both Anna and Linda maintained this was just temporary until Anna was well enough to pick things up again. I believe that was true for them both. Neither of them intended this to happen. However, Anna knew what I didn’t – her asthma had deteriorated and she no longer felt that she could control or predict it. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to imagine her being able to hold space for clients. Perhaps she had thought she could hold out for me (knowing how much I needed her due to the attachment work we were dealing with) but in the end maybe it wasn’t viable anymore. I had 3 sessions with Anna and these had a reconnecting and ‘ending’ feel to them. She was the most real and raw I have ever experienced her. Making it unmistakably clear to me that she cares deeply about me, that her being ill was not and has never been my fault, reinforcing all of my strengths and building me up… letting me know that I was the one all along who did all the work and got me to where I am. I have an image of a mother on her knees in front of her little 4 year old kid on the morning of her first day at school – straightening her tie, jacket zipped up, backpack on, socks pulled up, ‘you can do this, little one, you’ve got this! I believe in you… look how much you’ve grown! You’re my big grown up girl… I know it’s scary but I’ll watch you all the way to the gate… go get ‘em.’ And then she sent me off to Linda.

I asked Linda how she would feel about working with me on a more long term basis. I laughed and said it felt like I was asking her to marry me, I felt nervous… I put on a silly serious voice and joked, ‘can you, Linda, commit to me, Lucy, for long term therapy for as long as I need it?’ She laughed and asked if I remembered asking her that in our last session. I told her I didn’t remember (and was actually kind of bemused by this), she said, ‘that makes sense, that’s the crisis mode, you’re not actually meant to remember things in that state, it’s a defence mechanism… that’s okay… well I told you on Wednesday and I still feel it, I am happy to work with you, as far as I’m concerned we are working together now.’ I said, ‘but it was always just going to be short term… I mean… the longer I work with you the more chance there is that I’ll get very attached to you… you know I lost my therapy mum… I’m an orphan now… there’s a part of me that’s desperate to be adopted!’ Linda smiled and said, ‘I’m happy to do that work with you.’ I said, ‘it can get pretty intense with me you know…’ she said, ‘hmmm, interesting, I’m okay with intense Lucy, I can do intense… I can do this!’ with a big strong smile. I smiled back and took a massive deep breath. A little later I asked again if she was up for the challenge of working with me on the deeper stuff (when she asked if I wanted to continue doing twice a week) and she said, ‘Lucy, you’re not too much for me either. I’m okay with this.’ That made me smile.

I told Louse that Anna had replied to my email and I read the reply to her. I talked to her about how I’d declared my love to Anna in my email and Linda said, ‘yeah, love in the therapy room is very real. When it’s there you really feel it, its intense and powerful and real for both of you in the room. I’ve felt it before. I can only imagine what it feels like for you.’ I nodded and told her, ‘it’s the most I’ve ever loved anyone.’ Linda said, ‘wow.’ In a really genuine and active listening kind of way. I said, ‘it’s through loving her that I have grown so much. And I also said in my email to her that I feel like therapy is the act of love. Everything the therapist does feels like love.’ Linda was nodding and smiling enthusiastically. I continued, ‘I never trusted women before. I chose a male therapist to start with for a reason, that was 7 years ago and I grew enough in that work to feel safe enough in myself to try working with a woman but it was very scary… my mum hurt me deeply and Anna was the first woman I ever trusted. I never let myself get close to women before, which is sad really, I missed out on this community of amazing women.’ Linda said, ‘Anna opened that door for you.’

We covered quite a lot in this session. I told her I’d looked her up online and saw the photo of her cats on facebook and she laughed and showed me one of her cats that was sitting beside her. She said, ‘you’ll have checked out my crazy taste in music then!’ and I said, ‘you know, I feel like I might compare you and Anna quite a lot over the next wee while and I hope that’s okay but this right here… I like this… you seem really laid back, like when I told you about the blog you were just chilled about it. There was something uptight about Anna, and I don’t want to criticise her, I really hope it goes without saying that I think she was an incredible therapist and she helped me so much, but I did sense her anxieties sometimes and she was kind of wary about stuff like my blogging and the whole facebook thing.’ Linda was nodding and listening and making agreeing sounds. I said, ‘I know there’s only 5 years between you but you definitely seem more in touch with like relevant stuff and she was maybe a bit disconnected from it, Anna was worried because she knows how private I am as a person and she didn’t want me to put myself at risk of having my privacy violated by putting stuff out there but I feel like you get it and you trust that I know what I’m doing.’

Later I talked about how I could sense a difference in their experience as well. I noted that Linda has over 20 years experience working full time as a therapist and Anna had 8 years experience working one and two days a week around her day job. Again I reiterated that Anna was a really great therapist but there were some things where I felt like I was witnessing her learning on the job, witnessing her newness… like all the note taking and then adapting how she worked because of feedback I’d given her. I told Linda that I could tell she was really sure of herself and her ability to do the job, that it felt nice and safe. I said that maybe I was projecting and it’s only been a few days since the shock of her finishing our work so I am taking everything that’s coming up for me as part of the grieving process, part of the transition process… but it’s all also worth noticing.

I said, ‘you know how we can have different attachment styles with different people…’ she said, ‘uhhu,’ and nodded and smiled. I said, ‘well with Paul, I just fell so hard for him. He was like thirty years older than me and had young kids and I wanted him to be my dad so much, I loved him so much. I knew about his kids and who they were and it hurt like hell… you know, it felt so real, this desire for me to be his daughter. Pure agony, but because he said he didn’t work with transference and I was pushing him further than his capabilities I had to swallow all that and not talk about it. I related to stuff I read about preoccupied attachment with him. Then with Anna, I wanted her to be my mum and she really got it and was ready to work with it. But with her my disorganized attachment was massively triggered you know.. this push pull stuff.. I wanted her to know me and see me but it was terrifying and I tried to hide from her and push her away. That meant our work has been very slow. It had to be. She never told me about her family but in my head I imagined she is married with older kids… and it ached so much, the longing for her to mother me. And we worked a lot on that pain. And with you, because I know your life situation is so different from them, coz I know you’re not married with kids it doesn’t trigger me in the same way… but maybe it’ll all happen over time…’ Linda was nodding and said, ‘yeah, it’s just me, my partner and my fur babies… but yeah I get what you’re saying, it might be also that you have different needs now.’ I said, ‘yes I also have that feeling… I am very different to the girl who walked into Anna’s office in 2017. Maybe it doesn’t need to be a mother daughter type attachment I form… the word mentor comes to mind. I don’t know, I’ll find out in time but right now it feels different.’ Linda said it was really interesting the observations I was making and that it was important to keep talking about it. I said, ‘there are lots of different parts of me and I’m sure you’ll meet them all over time, the more we work together. Yeah, so I guess I wont always come across as this confident and secure…’ Linda said that made sense and she understood and was glad I could share that with her. Linda said, ‘I just want to say here, that I’m hearing how resilient you are in all this. You started therapy 7 years ago with a CBT psychotherapist and then you endured that relationship ending before you were ready. You then had the bravery 3 years ago to try again and you challenged yourself to work with a woman because you knew that the healing opportunity lay there and she was a Transactional Analysis and then that ended abruptly before you were ready for it to finish and now you are here, further along down the road of your therapy journey, with a Person Centred therapist… I guess I just want to have that said, that I see that you are so adaptable. Three modalities, three very different therapists all with different styles. I’ll just leave that there.’ I thanked her for saying that and then I thanked her from my heart for stepping in and working with me like this. I told her how hard it would have been to try to cope with the loss of Anna by myself.

I asked her, ‘do we not need to do some sort of intake session? Like, you only know my name!’ Linda explained that she knows Anna takes a lot of notes and does an intake form but she doesn’t work like that. She said, ‘its all completely verbal for me, I don’t write it down… I have a very good memory and all I need is your name.’ I said, ‘but what if a client dies then they just wouldn’t come to a session and you’d never know what happened?’ she said, ‘well that’s a really good point. That did actually happen very recently.’ I said, ‘to you?’ and she said, ‘yes, it happened recently to me and it was difficult because, you know you can’t tell people who you are…’ I said, ‘wow that must be really hard… well Adam knows I’m in therapy and if anything happened he would tell you.’ She said she appreciated that. She then told me she works in the centre on Saturdays and was curious how I felt about being there without Anna. We talked a bit about how I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it. She then told me she works from her home on Wednesdays and I joked that if anything was going to trigger transference attachment shit, going to her house sure would. I asked her if it felt weird to have clients in her house and did she always feel safe and she said the therapy room is separate from the rest of the flat and she does feel safe.

The session ended fairly abruptly bang on 50 minutes. This all feels very new and different and like I am stepping out and testing for solid ground. But I feel secure as I do it. There are now fleeting moments where I am filled up with the grief but on the whole I feel okay. And right now I think I’m going to leave the overthinking and the self doubting to one side and just focus on the fact that four days after my therapist stopped working with me I am still standing, still breathing, still functioning. Still alive.

10 thoughts on “Still standing, still breathing, still functioning. Still alive.

    1. She’s very direct. She said in our first session ‘I’m a no bull shit kind of person’ and yeah… that’s accurate. Lol. Yeah it made me cry when he gave me his top as well. He’s not letting me give it back ‘in case you’re still sad sometimes.’ 😢

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