A Short Look at My Life in Therapy

I’ve written at length about how completely devastating it was to lose Anna. In those early days after she left I really believed I would kill myself. Dark, hopeless, empty and full of endless pain. It is still an active, aching grief and I am letting it exist alongside daily life. I imagine it will remain in some form for many years. However now I understand, this loss is the end of a profoundly impactful relationship, it is not the end of my journey.

Through my time writing publicly about this loss I’ve received so many messages from people who have experienced similar losses and are struggling to see a way forward. Also I’ve had messages from people who say that reading about my experience has ignited their abandonment fears and that watching me ‘keeping on going’ has inspired them. They’ve seen that despite the worst happening, there is hope, there is resilience. It may not always feel possible but life does in fact go on.

In Lori Gottlieb’s book (Maybe You Should Talk to Someone) she explains that as a client we work on our woundedness across our lifespan. A therapist supports one piece of this life’s work. Growth does not belong to the therapist, it belongs to the client – the human being who is doing the work, who has enlisted the help. We likely won’t do a life’s work within just one therapeutic relationship. Numerous therapeutic relationships can actually bring a greater depth and breadth of healing. Even those of us who are deep in the trenches of the all consuming attachment work of development trauma survivors… those of us who’s progress greatly relies on the healing impact of an intimate, long term, trusting relationship… even those of us who momentarily become swallowed up by the therapeutic attachment… we too can benefit from the coming and going of these attachments. One person will not come into our lives to ‘save’ us… we are doing the work of saving ourselves by enlisting the help of others. And that help may come in the form of a long lasting relationship, or indeed it may look like one single unforgettable encounter.

The past week I’ve had this image in my mind. A diagram of my life’s timeline to date, accompanied by my therapeutic relationships.

The first was a single impactful session. I was 17. I was referred from my school. It was a three hour interview involving a child psychologist, my mother and myself. He was a gentle, compassionate man. He taught me that my mother invalidated all of my words, my experiences, my existence. He made her feel deeply uncomfortable and he let me know what ‘safe’ feels like for three glorious hours. I learned that me harming myself WAS ‘that bad’ and that I deserved better. She never took me back.

The second, also a single session – early twenties. I met a beige man in a tiny office at the back of my local surgery after 12 months on the waiting list. From him I learned that the NHS could not provide what I needed, just like my mother. I also learned that ‘she’s the one with the problem’.

My third was Paul. He was my first long term therapist. I practically crawled into his office dragging the heavy shackles of post natal depression behind me from my ankles. He released me from the debilitating chains of OCD. He helped me organise my thoughts and create a timeline of my life. He taught me mindfulness and broadened my awareness of therapeutic practices. He packed my toolbox full of techniques and encouraged my love of reading and writing. He brought the beautiful concept of unconditional positive regard into my awareness and he woke me up. He pulled me back onto my feet and showed me I was strong enough to face another pregnancy.

The forth and most impactful therapeutic relationship – my therapy mum… Anna. She patiently and delicately loved me back to life. She gave me my voice and introduced me to my inner child. She saw me and she gently taught me how to tolerate being seen. Through her I experienced true love and I learned how to be authentic, vulnerable and courageous. She encouraged me to draw again… to bring that creative little girl out from hiding and let her have the freedom to begin expressing herself. And through leaving me prematurely, she unlocked my grief. In her absence she is teaching me to have faith, to trust.. to believe that connections last, memories last, love lasts long after relationships end.

Now Linda, my fifth therapeutic ally. She is gifting me the space to grieve. She is opening doors enabling me to meet more hidden parts. She’s giving me permission to explore myself uncensored. She is encouraging me to brave connection with stark honesty and openness. She is opening my eyes and giving me the freedom to explore life and to find which direction I need to go in next.

Despite losing sight of the path ahead many times, despite believing there was no through road… my healing journey continues. I don’t know what lies ahead but I know where I am right now and really, that’s all we ever know.

My life has been touched by therapeutic magic in many more ways than those listed above. Amazing books, caring and protective teachers, lifelong friends and those who came for only a short period but still touched my life in a profound way, this blog and my Instagram page… so many healing connections. I am grateful for every single one.

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