Making and Maintaining Connection

(Apologies this post is long but it was the best session I’ve ever had with Linda and actually may be one of the most profoundly impactful sessions I’ve ever had so I wanted to write as much of it down as possible).

I told Linda that I was feeling good today but that the past few days had been very very hard and although I’m feeling fine today, it would be a good idea to explore what the past few days have been about. I said that I wasn’t even sure why I felt so different today but that it happens quite a lot, feeling awful for a day or a few days and then feeling fine on session day. She asked if I had an idea of why that might happen and I said, ‘It might be a protective thing, avoiding going to the very painful place. So like I can feel my heart pounding right now as I say this as if my mind is saying ‘talk about this’ and my body is saying ‘don’t go near this’ you know?’ She said she totally understood. Then I said, ‘or it could be that I feel okay today because it’s session day, so I know I’m going to be able to connect with someone who gets it… it could be both of those things… or neither!’ I laughed and she laughed and said, ‘yeah I know exactly what you mean Lucy, if we focus on the present moment we could talk about how you’re feeling fine today but then you’d be missing what happened the past few days. Hmmm… so you feel like focusing on the past few days?’ I said, ‘yeah but it’s like talking about a different person, it’s really hard to connect to what was going on for me… especially yesterday I can barely remember what it was like.’ Linda said, ‘okay, would it help if we just go over what you do remember and build on it from there?’ I agreed.

Linda said, ‘so on Wednesday we were talking about Adam and the emotional labour you were putting into the relationship and we talked about Anna…’ I said, ‘so after our session I was in a really dark place, very very sad… lots of crying and just feeling all the grief. I guess I thought I was feeling better about Anna and then it reminded me about all of the pain and the fact that she’s really gone… so yeah the stuff about Adam is really so important to me and I wanted to try to inject what we had been working on into my real life… so I had a couple of big conversations with Adam. We went for a walk and I said to Adam that what happened with Anna was the hardest thing that has ever happened to me, I feel like a broken record coz I’ve said that so many times to you but I haven’t said it to him. I told him that I felt as if this really hard thing happened and he wasn’t in my support toolbox, like he just wasn’t there, but I explained that it’s not really his fault or mine it’s just the way the relationship has developed… I just don’t know how to ask for support and actually don’t even want it, it makes my skin crawl to imagine him being there for me I feel really disgusting and sick to think about being vulnerable with him…’ Linda asked me if I knew what that feeling was about and I said, ‘the thing is Adams a really lovely guy, he’s so so lovely, this isn’t about him but I just can’t figure out what it is about, it’s something psychological, maybe I’m transferring or projecting stuff about my mum onto him I don’t know…’ I continued to explain the conversation, I said, ‘thing is, you know we can never really fully get into things because our conversations are always sandwiched in between the kids interrupting us so we were on a walk and the kids were running off exploring the woods and we’d squeeze in a bit of the chat then one of them would run back to us so the conversation would be put on hold… but anyway, he said to me that he just hoped that Anna would change his mind and come back to me and I was like ‘you and me both mate but it doesn’t look like that’s happening but what is happening right now is that I’m living with this grief and you’re not seeing it.’ I told Adam that I find it really hard to open up to him and he told me he understands that my feelings run deep and that it takes me a while to process things…’ Linda said, ‘what is the fear, Lucy? What is the fear that comes up for you when you imagine being vulnerable with Adam?’ she said I didn’t need to answer if I didn’t want to. That’s something that Anna used to say to me, that there was no pressure to answer them. It really appeals to my avoidant parts, that there’s no pressure and that they’re not violating my privacy. Anyway, I was struggling to find an answer and I repeated under my breath, ‘what am I afraid of?’ I eventually wondered out loud that maybe if I let him see the real me then he will hate me and leave me but then I said ,’but that doesn’t feel exactly right…’ I said, ‘I just remember how overtly emotional my mum was, like hysterical at times…’ Linda was nodding enthusiastically and I continued, ‘and I just remember the pressure to try to make her happy and be there for her, support her… all of my childhood memories are consumed by her Linda, whenever I think about anything it’s as if there’s this giant cardboard cut out of her in front of every memory and whenever I talked about anything as a kid she would tell me something about her life, if I talked about a friend she would talk about one of her friends, if I talked about something I was learning at school she would talk about something she was learning about at school, so my memories became so enmeshed with her memories and there are points where I don’t even know what are my memories and what are hers…’ Linda encouraged me to say more about that and I said, ‘so it feels like I’m scared that if I am vulnerable with Adam, I’ll be being just like her, but I know I’m not like her,’ Linda said, ‘no, you’re nothing like her,’ and I said, ‘but it feels like I’m standing on a cliff edge and if I start to cry I’ll be taking one tiny step forwards but I will plunge into the depths of hysteria and there’s no way back and I’ll be just like her.’

I then started talking about what was going on for me yesterday. I said, ‘I was just so separate and disconnected from them yesterday and these horrible feelings that I hate… I just didn’t want to be around them, the kids and Adam… I mean I must have said a maximum of 50 words all day, out loud. I was just very much in my head all day. I spent a few hours up here, I slept a bit. I sat in the garden listening to music on my headphones. I stayed away from them.’ Linda asked me what I had needed and I told her in needed to be by myself. I said, ‘thing is, I didn’t feel like I do now, it’s hard to even put into words how I felt yesterday, just so empty and like I didn’t want to have to talk to them or do anything, I couldn’t do anything and I feel so awful about that because I’m not being a good mum when I’m like that, it’s like I’m not even there. And that’s not what I want to be, but I don’t feel like I have a choice it’s not a conscious decision to go offline it just happens.

I remember, I mean I’ve had this happen before, this mood or whatever you call it. It comes along every so often and it happened twice in session, this part of me showed up in session with Anna. It was a very stark marked difference to my other sessions. I was very moody and irritable and angry and couldn’t look at her, couldn’t make eye contact and had myself curled up in a ball on my chair and I remember saying to Anna how tight and coiled up I felt and she asked me what it would be like to relax my legs and body and put my feet on the floor and I refused to do it and snapped at her that I didn’t want to. She had smiled and laughed. Later when I was reflecting on it with her I told her I felt teenagery and she had said, ‘yeah I got that’…’ Linda smiled and nodded. She said, ‘so this part that was around for you yesterday, do you know what age you were feeling?’ I said, ‘Fourteen.’ Straight away. Then continued, ‘yeah I got that feeling very strongly towards the evening as I started to feel a bit more like me again, that Fourteen was around, the thoughts of feeling like they would be better off without me and that I should just kill myself, the self harm urges… Anna always said to me to remember the things I can do with the energy when those urges surface – I can draw or write or walk or go out in nature or listen to music or talk to a friend, if the urge to cut is there, so I drew. And what I drew was very teenagery.’ Linda said, ‘and, this might just be me so tell me if it doesn’t resonate but I wonder if, I wonder… does that part know how to parent herself?’ I said, ‘no! exactly, and she doesn’t want to parent these kids either, she isn’t a parent or a wife…’ Linda said, ‘she really needs to be parented doesn’t she.’ I started to feel a lump in my throat and the tears were welling up. I noticed a split second tightening, a ‘don’t cry’ and then I relaxed and let the feelings happen. Through tears I said, ‘yeah she needs a parent and I know that I’m meant to be able to do that for myself but when I’m in that space I just cant do it, I don’t have a connection to this part of me that can mother. Linda said, ‘so would it be fair to say when you are in that space, there is no connection between the different parts? A complete disconnect?’ I said, ‘yeah. Its like… well if I think about the analogies I’ve shared before… well there’s the corridor with the doors… but there’s another analogy that I’ve used before with Anna, so it’s like I’m a bus and different parts of me drive the bus and then everyone else is just along for the ride. So yesterday Fourteen had taken the wheel and no one else has a say, you now?’ Linda was really looking right at me and nodding a lot and she said, ‘and there’s no warning, there’s no discussion about who takes the wheel it just happens!’ and I was like, wow she fucking gets it! I was staring out the window and then Linda said, ‘Lucy, what’s happening for you right now?’ and I was like, ‘uhhhhmmmm…. uh… I guess I’m feeling a bit spacey.’ And she said, ‘okay yes, hmmm… are there any parts around for you today?’ I was so grateful to her for asking. I told her that I felt fuzzy and that maybe because we were talking about her, Fourteen was around.

Then someone knocked on the front door and I had to leap off the bed and run downstairs and answer it because Adam and the kids were out at the park and I was waiting for a deliver. When I got back Linda asked if everything was okay and I explained. My heart was pounding and I had to calm myself a bit. I said I couldn’t remember what I was talking about and she said, ‘the parts that are around just now.’ I said, ‘when I’m in the space I was in yesterday, I take myself away from Adam and the kids because there isn’t a single part of me that wants to engage with them, you know? There are these feelings of like ‘god get away from me, it’s always about you and your needs’ when I’m in that mood and with the kids and I hate feeling like that, they’re my kids for god sake! But when I’m in that space they don’t feel like my kids and he doesn’t feel like my husband, they’re just these people I have to live with and I hate it I want them all to go away.’ Linda said, ‘so, yeah, that makes a lot of sense, so you’re feeling what, is it resentful or the kids? Resentful and begrudging..?’ I said, ‘I think it’s jealousy.’ she said, in the most compassionate tone, ‘jealousy.’ And I felt my heart breaking. I said, ‘you know, I really want to do what’s right for the kids and I work so hard at it, so when I’m feeling that horrible numb spacey way, disconnected, I go into robotic mode. Anna and I worked a lot on this in the early days because I didn’t know how to play with the kids. You have to be so present with children, they demand it of you… but being present with them just totally broke my heart so I would play with them but I’d dissociate and go through the motions in a really robotic way so I could get through playing with them without it hurting. So Anna encouraged me to do it a bit at a time, really slowly drip feeding… and I would play for a little and be present and then I’d have to leave the room because I’d burst into tears.’ I started to cry while I was talking and said, ‘I don’t remember ever playing, as a kid… I don’t remember the carefree joy that I see in my kids, and I want them to be carefree, I want them to be joyous… but there’s this painful longing and jealousy, so I shut off to it all.’

Linda said, ‘could you let them hug you, when you’re feeling like that?’ I said, ‘the kids?’ and she nodded and said ‘uhu’ and I felt myself snap into the teen feelings and said angrily, ‘no, fucking hell no, I could never let them do that…’ she said, ‘why not?’ and I said, ‘because I remember what that feels like and I never want to make them feel like that,’ I started sobbing, head down with my hands over my face. Linda made a sound that felt like complete attunement and said, ‘oh Lucy… you are not your mum. You are not your mum.’ I said, ‘If I cry like this with them and make them comfort me than I would be just like her, I never want to make them feel responsible for my feelings.’ I cried for a couple of minutes. I can’t explain just how miraculous it feels to me that I am actually crying in a session with a therapist I have never even sat in the same room as. Considering how hard it has always been for me to cry. When I first started therapy with Paul I never cried. Then when I started with Anna I cried but always silently and always by myself, shrouded in shame. Now I am actually crying while someone is watching me on a computer screen and she can hear me crying through the microphone which is right by my mouth going right into her ears… all of this crosses my mind fleetingly as it’s happening. I eventually calmed down and complained about the fact that today of all days I decided to wear mascara that is not waterproof. I said, ‘When Adam hugs me I completely numb out, I just can’t let myself feel any of it. I leave myself. I want to feel it but I can’t. I so strongly feel that I don’t want to cross the line and be too demanding, too emotional, too needy… so I shut it all down and be nothing. And… god it’s the last thing I want. I’m so desperate to be nothing like my mother that I…’ I started crying again, ‘I’m so frightened of fucking up my kids that I create this distance between us, in case I pollute them or something just by being near me, just by knowing me, I’m so determined to not fuck them up when that’s actually what I am doing… by creating so much space between us I am hurting them. I imagine when the kids look back on their memories of this time they’ll barely even remember me being here.’ At this point I was sobbing into tissue and I’d taken my right ear piece out so the microphone wasn’t right by my sniffing nose. She was saying things like, ‘they want to know you, Lucy. They want to be close to their mummy. They want to know who their mummy is.’ While still crying I looked up and said, ‘I don’t even know who I am.’ She had this agonisingly compassionate expression on her face and the sympathetic lips pressed together smile she does where her eyebrows go up in the middle. She said, ‘oh Lucy, you do know yourself… I think after 7 years of therapy you know yourself very very well.’ On reflection now I’m thinking that parts of me are known well, some parts are unexplored. I think maybe that’s what I was meaning.

I said, ‘I’ve really failed them, Linda, I’ve really neglected them…’ Linda said, ‘Lucy, I do want to remind you that the past few months have been anything but normal, the past few months have been very hard… all being together for such an intense and long period of time.’ I said, ‘it really has been so hard. But I just feel like if I look back on this time in a few years or like say when Reuben’s going to high school I’ll look back at this time and think, ‘what a fucking waste of time that you will never get back, you had months with those kids and what did you do, you obsessed about some fucking therapist that you weren’t even working with any more and you moped about depressed ignoring everyone!? You know?’ Linda said, ‘hmmm… firstly, that’s very unkind Lucy, a very unkind thing to say to yourself…’ I started to well up, again. She continued, ‘and secondly, you have never experienced anything like this before, you have been surviving any way you can.’ I said, ‘I have spent so much of the past few months shutting myself away from the kids, I’m going to look back and really regret that I didn’t make the most of this time we have. I hear how some of my friends have talked about this time in lockdown, they talked about how it’s been such an amazing gift to have all this time together.’ Linda said, ‘this may be my shit, my cynical part but when I hear people talking like that I just think, ‘aye right… really? Loved every minute of this have you?’ haha.’ I said, ‘My friend Chloe, she left teaching a few years ago to be a stay at home mum and she’s been talking about how much fun she’s had with her kids, she’s been doing loads of home baking, she’s made home cooked meals every day, she’s done crafts with the kids every day and just loving every minute of her time with them. They’ll look back on this time as the happiest memories.’ Linda said, ‘she isn’t going through what you’re going through though. Is she having to fight through what you are? Is she in therapy?’ I shook my head and stared out the window. There was some quiet and then Linda asked me what had come up for me in that moment. I said, ‘I think… it’s not fair…’ I started to cry again… ‘it’s not fair that I have to fight this battle before I even consider doing normal parenting things. I do all the stuff Chloe does but I do it very sporadically, I do crafts, I bake, I make home cooked meals but it’s every so often not every day… it’s not fair that I’ve had all of this to deal with it makes life so much harder.’ Linda was really empathetic and said, ‘it really is not fair and it makes sense that every day things are so much harder for you because you are having to deal with therapy and losing Anna and everything else you’re dealing with. Lucy, you are using this comparison to shame and hurt yourself, you are weaponizing the comparison, aren’t you?’ I said it was true and told her that I felt very strongly that that’s the type of mum I want to be but I just can’t do it.

There was a moment of quiet and then Linda said, ‘I want to make an observation but this may not be the right time, can you let me know if this doesn’t land for you, is that okay?’ I said it was and she said, ‘all of this… it’s about connection, for you. It is all feeling connected and staying connected.’ I looked at her and looked away and said, ‘it hurts to be connected to people, it makes me connect to myself and that’s painful…’ I started to cry and through the tears, while not looking at her I said, ‘this is mortifying.’ There was a moment of me quietly crying and her not talking then she said, ‘why are you mortified, Lucy?’ I said, ‘crying in front of you.’ Linda said, ‘you’ve cried with me before.’ I said, ‘but not about this stuff, not like this… crying about Anna is different to crying about me.’ Linda said, ‘I know.’ I cried some more and Linda gently said, ‘I see you Lucy. I see you crying and I’m staying with you, I’m still connected to you.’ That felt so fucking powerful, it was amazing. I whispered, ‘thank you,’ and then drifted back to looking out the window. Linda asked what was going on for me and I told her I felt spacey. I then quite quickly said, ‘there must be something glaringly obvious about me that you therapists can spot, you are noticing it… Paul and Anna and you all have pointed it out to me, that connection is a big thing for me, Anna used to come back to it repeatedly in sessions and she would ask me how the connection felt, she’d say ‘do you feel me in the room with you, how does the connection feel…’ you know?’ Linda was kind of wide eyed and looking intrigued and I said, ‘I mean I guess you guys sit with so many different people so it must be really obvious to you when someone has a particular pattern so for me it’s connection…’ I felt energised and focused and Linda said very directly, ‘You’re moved into your head, Lucy. I just want to bring your awareness to that. There was a very obvious shift there, you’ve moved into your head. Is it okay that I’m pointing that out to you? I just noticed it very acutely, you disconnected in that moment and moved into your head.’ I wasn’t expecting her to say that and I felt myself searching her face. Eventually I said, ‘it’s the shame… the shame pushes me to disconnect. All the emotions feel overwhelming but shame is unbearable.’ Linda asked me what I was ashamed about and I said, ‘…how difficult is it to stay connected to people? What kind of weirdo can’t stay connected to themselves or others? I’m ashamed that I’m so broken.’ And the tears came again. Linda met my critical voice with compassion and then said, ‘I just want to go back to something you were talking about earlier. I’m going to ask you something but feel free to bat it out the court if it doesn’t sit right… is that okay?’ I nodded and she asked, ‘when you were in the woods with Adam, and you guys were talking, what did you need from him?’ This has got to be the hardest question ever in therapy… what do I need. It’s still so hard despite being asked to analyse and dive into this question many times over the years. I said, ‘When I’m feeling like that, really low, my gut reaction is to always ask for space. To ask Adam to take the kids and give me peace.’ Linda was nodding, it was the sort of ‘keep going’ type nodding. I said, ‘but it’s almost like, it’s like I’m repeating a pattern or something when I do that because then I get further into the isolation. Like I’m saying, ‘I’m in this awful mood and it’s unbearable and I’m too much for everyone and you all need to leave me along… or I need to be on my own…’ like a punishment or…?’ Linda said, ‘so your gut instinct is to ask for space but what do you think you really need?’ I said, ‘for him to be there for me? To be with me? To not be on my own?’ Linda said, ‘and what is the fear, if you were to ask him for help, what might happen?’ I said, ‘that he wont get it, he wont attune to me, he wont know how bad it feels for me or it will get too much for him and he’ll send me away to be by myself…’ Linda said, ‘just like when you were little and you were too much and they’d send you to your room to be by yourself. You’re frightened that Adam will send you to your room, punish you for feeling.’ At this point I cried so hard, like it was pouring out of the centre of my chest. Linda quietly said, ‘I’m here Lucy.’ Which felt painful and beautiful. Like being hugged through a screen… by a person doesn’t do hugs! I could really feel her support. After I calmed down I said, ‘so when I feel down, I punish myself by sending myself to my room to be alone, preempting that I will be sent away into isolation if I reach out for help. I reject myself before anyone else can reject me.’ Linda was nodding.

At some point when I was talking about being afraid to let the kids know me, Linda said, ‘my dad died twenty years ago, I don’t have any memories of him. I didn’t like him very much but that’s another story entirely but my point is, it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other, there is a grey area, the kids don’t have to know all of you or none of you, they can know parts of you, bits and pieces.’ I didn’t really understand what she meant by the comparison to her dad but I do agree with her on the binary thinking trap that I keep falling into. I’m so scared to be so extremely like my mum where she had no filter and was overpowering with her presence that I am diluting myself to the extreme so as to almost white wash myself out of their memories. But I can be somewhere in the middle.

I can’t remember how we got onto this but I said, ‘there’s something so heartbreaking about kids and how they have no inhibitions, no self consciousness… the other day a memory popped up on facebook from two years ago when we were fruit picking and Reuben was 2 yeas old. He’s in the background of the photo, totally oblivious to the fact that anyone can see him. I’m taking a photo of Grace who is smiling for the camera and he’s on his tiptoes in the background reaching a berry high up. I could cry my eyes out at that photo… the fact that he is just very present and he’s focused solely on picking that fruit… I don’t even know how to describe it.’ Linda was smiling and nodding and said she knew exactly what I meant and so I continued, ‘my kids love stripping down to their pants and dancing round the livingroom to music and they have absolutely no self awareness or self consciousness at all, they just enjoy the music and like bask in this safe, innocent, joyful loving environment, you know? They’re thriving. And I want them to thrive. I want them to be innocent and joyful and it’s so beautiful but it makes me ache inside. I don’t remember ever being like that, so carefree. I always knew, even when I was tiny, that I needed to be careful how I behaved around mum, that I shouldn’t be naked around her, I should look a certain way. I was always thinking about what I needed to behave like for her to not be mean to me… but I guess that can be saved for another time!’ I’d noticed we had 2 minutes to go. Linda smiled and said it was nice to hear about the kids and also that she understood what I was sharing about my childhood.

Linda said, ‘How are you feeling now? Do you feel connected?’ I said, ‘to you or to myself?’ and she said, ‘hmmm… both!’ and I thought, I looked at her and checked in with myself and said, ‘yeah, actually I do feel connected, I feel okay!’ we smiled at each other and I said, ‘thank you so much for this Linda, I’ve never been able to do that before, I’ve never talked and cried about my childhood like this, this has been really powerful, making the connections between…’ I interrupted myself and laughed and said, ‘well I don’t need to precise the session in the last twenty seconds… it was all really useful and important and I’m really glad this is what we talked about today.’ She did a sort of laugh smile and said, ‘you’re welcome, I’m really glad. It did feel very important and I feel connected to you too.’

I have felt so good since the video call ended. Emotional but also kind of euphoric. I feel hopeful and like we’re on the right track. I really felt like Linda was confident in the way she navigated me through this session. It felt deeply connecting. I am so grateful to her for tuning in so specifically to the parts work, to Fourteen. I’m also astounded at how I was able to move into the emotions and stay with them. I never ever thought it was possible for me to cry in front of someone like this, let alone cry about my childhood and to connect so deeply to the pain of it. And to be able to do this on a video call with a therapist I didn’t choose to work with and have never met in person. I am just so grateful that this work is working. So profoundly grateful to Linda and to myself for sticking at this when really all I wanted to do at times was give up and walk away from it all.

This afternoon has been such a joy. I have felt so much more connected to Adam. We played with the kids for a couple of hours in the garden and they both had fun on their roller skates. We listened to music and danced around a bit and I felt comfortable and safe with them all. We cooked dinner together and ate it as a family and laughed and chatted. I spent a few minutes looking around the table and really soaking it all up, taking it all in. I thought to myself, ‘they want me to be here, they want to know their mummy… I feel connected to them and it feels safe and I feel full of love.’

17 thoughts on “Making and Maintaining Connection

  1. slantgirl

    I agree with Eliza — *YOU* manifested this connection! But I am glad that Linda was able to meet you were you are, and can do the work you need to do. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Powerful ❤ My T said my need was connection too, and when I go into my head (though I don't look away like you do), she feels it and says "You've gone into your headspace". I hope my anecdote helps, you're not alone ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really interesting. I’m so fascinated by what they must notice with each client, because we are obviously all so different. So I guess I just take it for granted that I look away quite a lot. But for her she must notice it because not everyone does it. 💕 yeah – the need for connection is very powerful – thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I’m really so glad that it’s working. Loosing Anna was hard enough, so having the connecting with Linda really is such a great support. She plans on waiting til September before making any decisions on face to face. I’m happy to respect her decision on that. For all I know, her partner is shielding or something. Whatever her reasoning, we all have our own boundaries around the virus and I am happy to let her lead on that. We’re still being very cautious up here and I’ve been very very careful (ie not spending time with other people and def not going inside anyone else’s house until yesterday when I visited my friend for an hour… even then I stayed a couple metres away from her). I’ve never known Linda ‘face to face’ so this feels natural. Plus it cuts out an hour drive time either side of the session. Schools go back in less that 4 weeks and I’m dreading that! I wish I could wait until sept/Oct. xx


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