Wow… that was a lot!
Linda asked how I felt and I said I was very nervous again. She asked what I wanted to focus on today and I said, ‘shall we start with the nervousness?’ She nodded and I told her I’d been reflecting on the pre session nerves and anxiety yesterday and I got a bit muddled trying to explain it. I took a big deep break and said that didn’t have a nice clear, coherent, succinct paragraph in my mind but wanted to share my thoughts. She laughed and said, ‘you absolutely do not need a nice clear, coherent, succinct paragraph Lucy… just go for it.’ So I explained that I feel like my anxiety is linked to my abandonment fears. That Anna unintentionally triggered the abandonment pain by having to cancel session so often. I said, ‘I fully trust and believe that she cancelled for legitimate reasons and believed her when she said they were unavoidable you know, but that aside they did still impact me you know… and it’s hard for me to talk about this because there’s lots of noise… lots of different ideas about it in my head and uh… I can hear the critical voice saying the sessions shouldn’t mean so much to me and the problem is that I gave so much importance to each of the sessions when it’s only like one hour a week or whatever and it shouldn’t be such a big loss to me but it really is a big loss, the sessions are important to me, it is important.’ Linda had a furrowed brow and was nodding and agreeing. I continued to explain how painful it would be when Anna would cancel the sessions sometimes as short notice as on the day of the session and how disappointing and dysregulating that would be. I said, ‘paying for the session the day before gives me some sense of security but then there were a couple of times a few months ago when things really started to become challenging for Anna she actually had to refund me the payment so even that didn’t secure things, you know? And when I get the link through from you for the zoom session it feels connecting but then that could be cancelled… and I really do get that nothing is guaranteed and anything can happen to get in the way of the sessions but it’s this fear that it’s all just going to be taken away from me so that’s probably where the anxiety comes from.’
Linda said, ‘I’m listening to everything you’re telling me and I can hear how hard it felt when the sessions were cancelled and you know, we’ve not had very many sessions at all so there’s bound to be a big part of you that doesn’t trust that I’ll be there. You don’t know me that well yet, you don’t know if I’m just going to randomly cancel a session.’ I was nodding and thinking and said, ‘yeah and I can feel a pull to detach and not rely on you too much… it feels better to keep a distance. It took so long for me to trust Anna, like probably close to two years to fully trust her to the level I did and it’s my fault that I got so hurt by her leaving you know, there’s a very strong pull to make sure that doesn’t happen again and…’ Linda interrupted and said, ‘I just want to go back to you saying it was your fault that you got hurt can you elaborate with that?’ I said, ‘well if I hadn’t let her in it wouldn’t have hurt, it would have been like water off a duck’s back you know but I trusted her and it hurt!’ Linda had a really sympathetic expression on her face and said she understood and it made so much sense to her that I’d feel like that. She said she felt like there was a lot going on for me today and made an observation that I seem to moving quickly through things. I agreed and said that sometimes that happens when I have a session. It’s like there’s this flurry of many different things that want to be expressed or work on.
I explained, ‘Well, there is a lot going on inside me, it’s like a room of people. Way back at the start when Anna and I first started working together I drew a picture to help her understand what it’s like inside my mind…’ I cracked a joke about doing a Blue Peter style, ‘here’s one I made earlier’ reveal and said that it would probably help to show her the picture but my art folder is downstairs. I explained that the drawing shows a corridor with doors running down each side and it helped me explore lots of different things in my sessions but one thing we focused on was the idea that there were memories behind the doors or parts of me trapped at a certain age that were hidden behind the doors and they were separated and I didn’t have access to them. So a lot of the work we did was very slow, sometimes non verbal work trying to coax open the doors and I guess one by one a lot of them opened up and were sort of half open and not necessarily all worked on but then it’s like they all came out finally and that’s when she fucked off! So now it’s really noisy in there and I don’t know what to do with them all. It took me so long to trust her and I finally did and then she left me holding all this!’
Linda looked sad and said, ‘I can imagine that feels so abandoning and it sounds very busy and overwhelming in there, do you feel that they are all still out in the corridor screaming and shouting or maybe just a few, or one or two now?’ I loved that she was entertaining this analogy because it fits so perfectly with how I’m feeling. I said, ‘I think they were all out for a couple of weeks but I guess maybe some went back in their rooms and like there’s this teen… I’ve been feeling almost like regressed the past week or so, very teenagery feelings and there’s anger and frustration there and slammed doors and like ‘fuck her for leaving just when I felt I could trust her!’ that kind of thing you know and there’s…’ I paused and felt lots of different feelings come to the surface and then told her it was confusing because there’s lots of noise right now and one loud voice saying, ‘You’re gonna think I’m a lunatic if I tell you this…’ Linda smiled and said, ‘I absolutely will not think you’re a lunatic, just go for it Lucy!’ So I said, ‘right well around January/February time we did so much deep work with Four, you know the part of me that’s like well my four year old self but I still find it hard to own it so for now she’s still just Four. It took a lot of gentle patience from Anna to coax Four out and to begin with I didn’t want her anywhere near me but Anna welcomed her and I got to the point where I could imagine Four sitting on Anna’s lap and you know it took probably two years to get to that point where Four trusted her enough to come out and then Anna leaving her feels like my parents just turning their backs and walking away.’ I felt very present and connected to Linda as I explained this which is not how I usually feel when I talk about this stuff but I was aware of this safe feeling which was very grounding. ‘So she’s making a lot of noise, I’m aware of this constant crying inside me, constant… she only wanted Anna. I never knew how to show her any care and I always wanted to push her away but I could accept Anna loving her and I used to have this recurring vision of Four climbing up on Anna’s lap or being held by Anna and that would feel really comforting and now the image I have is Anna’s empty chair you know and it’s breaking her heart… but it’s not just Four that’s around, there are parts that think ‘let’s just get on with this’ and some parts that want to lie in the foetal position and be held,’ I noticed Linda do her really reassuring sweet smile she does sometimes when I talk about these vulnerable young feelings. I continued, ‘some parts want to tell you to fuck off and that they don’t believe anyone can be trusted and I was stupid to let Anna in and you know… lots of conflict.’
Linda said, ‘You know… what you’re talking about, I just want to say that I appreciate that this is.. woah I mean this is big, big stuff you know, it’s, these things are massive big things I really know that… and the corridor and all those doors and how you feel about them, that’s a lot, that’s a big deal and I’m really grateful to you for sharing it with me. You’re sharing your experience with me, your process and it’s big! I want to say that if you wanted to share them with me, your drawings that would be absolutely fine if you felt it would help you express how you’re feeling and you wanted to show me I’d be happy with that.’ That made me smile and I thanked her. I was aware of a part of me that felt like it was a private, special thing between me and Anna but I also feel like I would like to share with her. I talked about how I’ve packed these things away and packed away the Panda that I bought through Anna’s encouragement and how it hurts too much to look at it. I told Linda that when I look at the blue heart she gave me to help me feel more connected to her now feels meaningless because what am I connected to? Something that’s dead and gone and won’t come back? I am aware of a part of me that clings to the hope that I will eventually see Anna again at some point but I know that’s unlikely and it hurts too much. I explained that she knew I used to look at her photo to help me feel supported in the gaps but even that hurts too much now and so I’ve lost that too. I told Linda that I’ve lost so much more than just sessions.
I said, ‘this coming Tuesday it will be 4 weeks since the phone call. That’s the longest we’ve ever not talked.’ Linda said she had thought that would be the case, that we won’t have gone this long without talking. I said, ‘even when we had holidays it was only ever just under two weeks break. She would see me on the Saturday either side of her holiday. And when I went on holiday she would let me have phone calls or texts so I could stay connected to her… you know when the young parts were activated I’d find it really hard to believe that she would remember me, sometimes it even felt like I made her up and our sessions never happened. So the texts or calls, which were always very boundaried (which I loved that she did that for me) they helped ease the panic… but I’ve lost that too… and that’s’ what the blue heart crystal was you know like object permanence stuff. I remember one phone call during a holiday break I think, I told her it felt like all the doors had been flung open and I didn’t know what to do with all these really intense feelings that had burst out of them and Anna gently suggested that we ask everyone to go back in their rooms and pull their doors over until we’re able to meet again and then she can help me with them. That has really helped me even more recently, helped me to find a way to calm things down in my mind.’ I looked at Linda and she was smiling and nodding. She paused me here and asked how I was doing, asked what was coming up for me. I had my arms crossed and I had to really work at focusing in on my feelings. I said that I felt panicky and had a pain in my chest and tummy. She made an observation about how I am managing to talk about these things and sitting with the feelings. I did feel present.
There was a moment of quiet and then I felt a wave of grief. I told Linda, ‘Tuesdays are really hard because that’s the day she called me.’ She nodded. I continued, ‘I’ve been to her office the past few Tuesdays which I feel sounds a bit mad but it really helps me. I can’t express my emotions here you know there’s no privacy but when I go there I can fully cry or whatever I need… stare into space if I want to and I don’t care if anyone sees me or walks past the car, no one knows me there…’ Linda said it made sense. I said, ‘She said she would never leave me. I remember her saying it so many times. That unless ill health or death took her she wasn’t going anywhere and then that actually happened! It’s still there inside me it still hurts so much,’ Linda made that familiar compassionate sound and repeated back to me that it still hurts and it’s still very much there inside me. I then ranted a bit about how disappointing it is to have all of these things I had planned to talk about and never got around to. ‘So many things I still wanted to work on with her… unfinished sessions, sessions when I was sitting on the floor struggling to get the words out and she said she would hold it for me and there was no rush and we’d come back to it and now we never will! Anna knew me so well that there were things that I could say with just one sentence and she would totally get it. I just, I’m annoyed that I didn’t just go for it and cover everything with Anna. I shouldn’t have held back I should have just gone for it!’ Linda looked questioningly at me and said, ‘Can you find space for the notion that maybe you did make the most of the time you had with Anna? That in those 2 and a half years you worked on what you were ready to work on with her in the time that you had?’ I nodded and felt really sad and said, ‘I just wish I’d had more time. I thought I’d have years and years…’ I then said, ‘but I am really grateful that you are here… I’m really grateful for you and I also really wish she hadn’t left.’ Linda said, ‘I hear you and I really get that, I can feel that you’re grateful to have me here with you and I also feel your longing for Anna… it can absolutely be both of those things and a whole lot in between!’ I said (again) that Anna had always impressed the importance of going slowly. I told her about the time Anna talked about my little part and how small her feet are, ‘she’d say that we needed to take baby steps and that made me cry… with my head in my jumper.’ I rolled my eyes and shook my head and said, ‘I’m so sad that I couldn’t just express myself you know, struggled so much to cry openly with her and then the dam burst after she left and I couldn’t contain it anymore and cried so much with you and I just wish I could have done it with her!’ Linda pointed out that that was another understandably painful loss.
I said again that I felt like it sounded mad and she said, ‘I don’t think you sound mad and I don’t think you’re a lunatic, Lucy. The way I work is that if you were to say something to me that didn’t quite make sense to me or I couldn’t get my head around it I would say that.. I wouldn’t say, ‘that makes no sense’ but I would ask you to explain further. I’d say I wasn’t following you because you know it’s important that I understand you.’ That felt really reassuring and I said, ‘so does that mean everything I’ve said to you has made sense so far?’ she said, ‘Yes, absolutely so much sense Lucy, all of it.’ I said, ‘right, wow, okay that’s cool.’ She said I sounded surprised and I said, ‘I really think it’s important for me to hear you verbalise things like that because if you don’t share your experience of me then my inner critic goes wild filling in the blanks coming up with all sorts of things you might be thinking of me.’ She said that made sense and she was happy to regularly let me know what she was thinking.
I said, ‘wow I feel like I went off on a massive tangent I don’t know why I talked about all that…’ She said, ‘One thing I have noticed is that you do work very fast…’ she pondered, ‘is that the right wording Linda? Fast…?’ I made an hhmmm noise and she continued, ‘I don’t know if it’s because of all the work you did with Anna or if it’s something else but yeah… you move through from one thing to another. It’s like there’s just such a lot going on.’ I said, ‘yeah maybe that gives you an idea of what it’s like in here, it’s very busy, lots going on. I guess that’s the fragmented part of my experience.’ Linda asked, ‘Would it help to ask you at the start of the session whether you have one thing you want to focus on or if you want to do a broad ranging session where you cover lots of different things?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure I could know that at the start of a session, I don’t always know what I’m going to feel like through a session, but I really like you checking in with me through the session, I like when you check in with what’s going on in my body and slowing me down that way.’ She said that was good to know.
I then said I find it fascinating to think of the quote that says there’s a different version of us existing in the minds of everyone who knows us and I said that it really intrigues me to think about what she might think of me and then if Anna and her were to talk about me (which I know they won’t) then they might be surprised to hear each other’s opinions of me and Paul would have had a different opinion and then the version of me that I know is different still. We talked about that for a bit. Then Linda said that I was letting her in to my process a lot today. She said, ‘I’m interested about the fact that you’re sharing this with me today… you know…. like, why today?’ I had a think and then said, ‘I felt very connected to you last session and understood by you, maybe that’s made it feel safer to let you in. Made me want to go a little deeper with you?’ She looked really pleased about that and wanted to hear more. I told her that a couple of things in particular helped me feel the connection. ‘Firstly, you recapping at the end of the session about your understanding of why I appear to be giving an overview to you has silenced the inner critic… it was really great to hear that you understood me, you understood that I was sort of giving you my backstory before learning if I can trust you with the deeper stuff.’ When I worked with Paul I gave him the big overview and then if I revisited anything he’d say that we already covered that so I felt like I couldn’t go back to things more than once. In contrast, with Anna, she really encouraged me. She said even if I needed to talk about something a hundred times it was okay.’ Linda was nodding enthusiastically and smiling as if she liked hearing how well Anna handled it. I said that Anna would talk about it being like a spiral that we would circle round and round and maybe the same topic would be talked about many times but on a deeper or different level every time. I said, ‘Maybe I wanted to suss out if you were like Paul or Anna… so you don’t mind talking about things more than once?’ Linda said, ‘Not at all. Not. At. All!’ I said, ‘that’s really good to hear… my friend said it was like watching someone draw a picture… like if you watched me draw the corridors picture, you’d see me sketch the entire thing out first and only when you had the big picture would I then go back in and focus on details, shade, add highlights you know… deepen things after you’ve got the big picture.’ She liked that way of looking at it.
Then I continued, ‘and another thing you said that has stayed with me and I’ve reflected a lot on the past few days was that you’d read about the impact of joy on the effects of developmental trauma.’ She sort of finished this sentence with me and I continued, ‘I thought about how amazing it is actually that my system in some way tried to balance things out… you know my brother and I got on so well we used to have these intense hysterical moments, we had so much fun and my mum always hated it and sometimes she’d even take offense to us laughing and she’d tell us to stop laughing at her even if we weren’t at all.’ I looked at Linda at this point and she looked like she totally got what I was saying, ‘and sometimes she’d say she doesn’t have a sense of humour and she’d want us to calm down and go away. But yeah, Daniel and I laughed a lot through our childhood and then in high school I had this friend I would laugh with ‘til tears were streaming down our faces. I remember looking round thinking no one else is laughing like this, you know… it’s as if there were these intensely dark, lonely, awful times and then the polar opposite to that was this connected hilarious laughter as if my body knew how to balance things so that I wasn’t too badly damaged by what was happening at home…’ She said, ‘you know that kind of laughter which feels totally out of control, where you laugh so hard your belly hurts coz you’re using muscles you never knew you had and you don’t even know if you’re laughing or crying?’ I nodded and she went on, ‘I was thinking about this the other daym I maybe have a laugh like that maybe once a year and it’s cathartic, it feels cleansing and healing and I was wondering – when was the last time you laughed like that?’ I told her it was probably a few months ago on the phone to Daniel or maybe the last time he was here. I laugh like that with him a lot. I said, ‘and another thing that I was reflecting on about the developmental trauma stuff is that there is a lot of joy and laughter in this house and so even if I fuck up with my kids, maybe the fact that I laugh a lot with them, maybe that will help balance things out.’ Linda said, ‘yes and I remember you saying you laughed so much with Adam when you first met him and you still have a good laugh with him, I mean that’s a very special, powerful thing – worth it’s weight in gold don’t you think!?’ I agreed and said I feel really lucky in my relationship that we get on so well nearly 19 years on.
I said, ‘it reminds me of what I’ve read about the somatic processing of trauma, it feels like a very primal thing that type of laughing… I think it’s Peter Levine who talks about this… there are videos of him on youtube… one in particular he works with his young guy who experienced PTSD symptoms as a result of being in combat, Iraq or something and this guy has quite a pronounced twitch and Peter Levine talks about this being the body’s attempt to discharge the stress and trauma stored in it – that it is important for him to get to the point where he follows through with the reflex that his body is trying to process… the twitch is an unfinished response – whether it’s pushing or lashing out or screaming… he talks about animals in the wild and how they do that naturally. So he explains that if an animal is chased or attacked and it gets away from the predator then the animal will stomp or run or shake as a physical way of discharging the energy so it doesn’t get stored in the body and he talks about how humans aren’t as good at doing that and often after trauma we hold ourselves tight and still and tense so it ends up getting stored and comes out as body pains and mental health issues… anyway it interests me and I have a lot of pain in my body and I developed a twitch in my early teens… I’d planned on talking to Anna about it one day but never got around to it.’ There was more of a back and forth conversation than this continuous block of talking that I’ve described here. She was agreeing and responding to bits throughout it.
Linda said, ‘I just want to say, I’ve noticed that you are very dedicated to this work. When you say that you’ve been reflecting or preparing for a session I just want to say that hearing you say that really stands out to me, I don’t hear that sort of thing often… I mean when I go to my own therapy often I just sit down and talk I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to talk about and I don’t often hear it from clients that they’re spending this much time thinking about their sessions.’ I said, ‘It will probably be a sign of progress when I am able to just sit down without over preparing but right now this is where I’m at.’ She said, ‘But there is something very admirable about the preparation and reflection you do, you’re taking this work very seriously and I see that, you know?’ I said, ‘thank you for saying that, it’s really nice to hear actually. Anna said I gave more than a hundred percent to this work and it was a huge privilege to witness and walk with me on this journey… which you know, is lovely to hear… and I’d never have been able to take that compliment or kind observation in a few years ago I’d have deflected it immediately! I think this level of deep thinking and researching and reflecting is something I really value. I think that’s why I liked hearing you say you were reading about developmental trauma. I admire it. Anna asked me if she could use our work to help form a case study for her exam and I used to like that too… to think that she was reflecting and reading stuff that might impact me you know?’ Linda said, ‘Yeah I really get that. And actually, I don’t normally do this but I’ve been doing a lot of research recently and wondered how you would feel if I was to share some of the things I find if I think it might be helpful or relevant to you?’ I said I’d love that and I told her I was reading a really amazing article about developmental trauma that I’d thought about sharing with her but didn’t want to do it without asking and she told me to send the link to her. I explained that it was like reading me on a page… the emotional neglect, the dissociation, all of it… so I sent it to her just after the session. I’m really intrigued by all this, I never did anything like this with Anna and it feels interesting to be exploring a different version of ‘staying connected’ between sessions. (The article I’m referring to can be found here).
Around this time I said, ‘I know I dedicate a lot of my time each day to the therapy stuff and I know this is probably going to sound like a hyperbole but it really feels like this is my life’s work, this is what I’m meant to do… if all I manage through all of this work is to break the chain in some way or put up a protective wall between me and the kids so the impacts of my trauma don’t impact them in an acute way then it has all been worth it. Plus I’m in a lot less pain than I was when I started with Paul, although it’s very much like this (motioned up and down) and I’m really fascinated by the stuff I read, the mind and psychology – it all interests me.’
I said, ‘One good thing about working with someone new is that you are meeting me with fresh eyes now. You’re not as tentative or careful as Anna was because she had experienced a very different version of me and I guess she always held that version of me inside her. Anna was very cautious with me I think because when I started working with her I was really reactive and would self-harm between sessions because of things that had come up in sessions. I sensed her anxiety around that or her fear maybe, that she didn’t want to push me too far… and it felt loving, and caring, but also it sometimes felt like I wanted to tell her she didn’t need to handle me with kid gloves.’ We talked about how much has changed over the years.
I said, ‘so I actually had three dreams last night. I have very vivid dreams and last night I dreamt about all three of you… one dream about Paul, one about Anna and one about you.’ I laughed and so did she, she seemed interested in what they were about. I said, ‘in the dream about Paul he came to my house… he was standing there at the stairs and I was showing him all around my house and he’d just come from driving by my childhood homes and he told me he could sense my energy there… the dream about Anna, I bumped into her at the garden centre and we hugged and both cried and then we decided that it would be okay to text each other and so we were texting and she was putting kisses at the end of her messages which felt lovely. The dream about you we were having a phone session and Grace kept interrupting the session so you let me have an extra ten minutes at the end of the session which I was really grateful for and the you suddenly had to end the call when you realised your next client was waiting.’ I laughed and she smiled and I said, ‘I guess the dream is all about boundaries… haha… Paul coming to my actual house! Anyway… you know, also… you are all alive and present inside me. This relationship, these relationships have all been so important to me. It’s all about repainting myself. I said this already but I feel sort of regressed sometimes, this week I felt very teenagery and I was never allowed to be a teenager and I think a lot of this researching, reading, preparing and reflecting along with the sessions is an opportunity for me to receive or give myself the kind of attention and care that was lacking when I was a kid. Children need this very intense, caring focus and I didn’t have that. So I guess there are parts of me trying to constantly construct that around me. Maybe that’s what it’s all about.’
Bang on 50 minutes I said, ‘can I just ask, what days do you work?’ she said, ‘Monday to Saturday at the moment.’ And I said, ‘woah you work six days a week!’ and she said, ‘yes but I don’t have more than 4 clients a day and often don’t have as many as 4 and it was a different schedule before lockdown.’ I said, ‘at some point when things go back to some sort of normal we’ll need to talk about changing the Wednesday session because I’ll be working.’ She said that was fine and then asked me what I was doing this weekend. I laughed and asked what a weekend was and said, ‘do the weeks ever actually end..?’ I said we would probably do this new jigsaw I bought the kids and maybe go for a rainy walk to the river to see the fish. We said goodbye until Wednesday.
I feel really good about this work right now. I feel like Linda is making an effort to understand and reach me. I also feel like she is not only accepting what I say but also understanding it which feels amazing.