11.08.20 PART TWO
I suddenly got the sense I’d probably used half the session talking about how surprisingly well returning to work turned out to be and I realised I needed to dive into some of the more painful stuff so I said, ‘okay that’s enough delaying… let’s talk about the email!’ she laughed and asked me what I wanted to talk about. I told her about my interaction with my friend earlier in the day and how they had said that it sounded like some outdated beliefs and not my true voice. Linda asked how that sat with me and I used my hands to do a sort of ‘mind blown’ explosion at my head and she widened her eyes. I said, ‘yeah it’s exactly what was going on. They’re not my words.’ I then asked, ‘So, were you angry or annoyed at all when you read the email?’ Linda had a completely open expression and said, ‘Not at all. That didn’t come up for me at all when I read your email… oh and thanks for your birthday wishes by the way!’ I said, ‘yeah, you’re welcome, it looked like you were having a great time from what I saw. It’s a lovely photo.’ (then I totally cringed and wrinkled my nose. She said, ‘Thanks! Well it was lovely and warm and there was cake… what’s not to be happy about!’ I said, ‘do you think it’s weird or do you feel angry that I looked at your facebook page again?’ Linda looked thoughtful then in this really matter of fact tone she said, ‘Not at all. I just think I knew you’d look, yeah I definitely knew you would look to see if I had a new profile picture. I don’t mind that you looked, it makes sense to me, it’s like there’s a comfort there, a reminder of the connection. It was our first break. I knew you’d look Lucy and I’m okay with that.’ I found this really interesting. I wondered if she had carefully chosen a picture with the thought in mind that I in particular would see it. I talked about how I used to look at Anna’s photo to try desperately to feel the connection because I found it so hard to hold on to it with her. I pondered whether that was because of the maternal transference or because she unfortunately cancelled so many sessions that I always had this anxiety around whether we would actually see each other or not. I said, ‘I think Anna knows I still look at her profile picture and that’s why she’s kept her work photo up… I think when she changes it, that’s going to be a whole new grief. I really feel like she’s kept it up there to be consistent, it’ll be the last thing to go.’ Linda nodded and said she understood. I said, ‘do you feel frustrated with me bringing Anna up again?’ Linda said, ‘no, this is your work right here, this is what’s coming up for you so it’s really important you feel you can bring it to me… this is a very unusual situation you know, there’s a parallel relationship here, a duality to things. I obviously have my relationship with Anna and my relationship with you and it’s my job to hold that. I have to hold that. And I contain and hold it by maintaining the confidentiality and boundaries. That’s very important.’
At some point I said that looking at social media photos felt very painful and like it was almost self harmy… ‘it’s like looking in a window at something you really want to be a part of but you’re not allowed in the room.’ Linda said, ‘I wonder if the pain was already there? I wonder if instead of it being self harmy, perhaps it’s a soothing thing. Perhaps you’re self soothing by looking at the pictures?’ I thought about that and it really felt very true. She wondered if it was shame that made me accuse my behaviour of being like self harm. A fear that I could be judged or criticised. I said that was spot on and that I didn’t want her to think it was creepy. She said, ‘I don’t get any creepy vibes from you! I see it as you seeking connection and soothing… and I don’t see anything wrong in that. Lucy, you’re very open about how you feel and what you’re doing… it all makes sense to me.’
I started to question why I felt the need to send the email in the first place. I said, ‘I wrote loads of emails to you through the week and never sent them… I guess I knew that by the time our session came around I would want to focus on talking about work. Maybe the part of me that was struggling through the week feared all of that would be forgotten, that it wouldn’t be shared.’ Linda said that was all valid and true and then said, ‘but also, that was you on Sunday and this is you now and it’s important to see that you experienced that and you got through it and now you find yourself here, feeling differently.’ I laughed and said, ‘yeah you love bringing me back to the present moment!’ she said, ‘it’s important that you see that you did it, you got through it.’ Linda asked me what message I thought I wanted her to receive from the email. I said, ‘well Sunday had been so hard. There was a lot of grief coming up that hasn’t come up for weeks. It was really intense, like that primal howling type crying from the core of me. Adam and the kids were out and I was in the bath. I was fine, just relaxing in the bath and then I started to imagine a year or two from now what it would be like if she started her practice up again and I could have one final session. I was fantasising in my head telling her everything that I wanted to tell her and then all this grief poured out of me.’ Linda seemed to really understand this and didn’t seem phased by my crazy bath session. I said, ‘it was so visceral, just as powerful as it felt in the first couple of weeks and I felt like I was going crazy you know? Like I’d never stop feeling like that.’ Again it seemed like Linda really understood.
I said, ‘When I saw that Anna had liked your photo, that hurt so much.’ Linda said, ‘hmmm yeah…’ in a concerned tone then she encouraged me on. I said, ‘I really want her to be well and happy and to be living a good life you know and I’m glad that she’s still alive. Also, it’s hard to accept that she’s out there but isn’t coming back to me.’ With no judgment at all Linda said, ‘did you look at the likes to see if she’d liked it?’ I said, ‘yeah.’ Linda had a sympathetic tone and said, ‘hmmm, you were looking for her.’ I said, ‘I look for her everywhere. But then when I find her, it’s so painful. She’s gone from my life but not from other peoples.’ Linda asked me to go on and I said, ‘I feel like there might be some anger there… it’s not fair you know? I just don’t get it. I know that you have the full story so this may sound really insensitive but I don’t have the full story, all I know is that she has asthma and then the pandemic happened and then she made the sudden decision to close her practice and I really don’t get why! The amount of times I begged her not to leave me and she told me we wouldn’t stop working until I was ready and that we could have as many ending sessions as I needed, months of it if that’s what I wanted and all she gave me was a 14 minute phone call… why!?’ Linda said, ‘I wonder if there is a part of you that can trust that there was a reason. A very good reason. I wonder if you can trust that Anna gave you the time she was able to give you and that there is a damn good reason why she couldn’t give you the ending sessions you needed? Can you find a space inside yourself for that trust?’ I let that sink in and quietly the word ‘trust’ whispered out of my mouth as I looked out the window. I said, ‘I do trust her but also its hard to let go of the control, I want to ask you what the reason is you know? I can not imagine what the reason could be… also it makes me sad… it must be something so serious… she was such an amazing therapist and she worked so hard, she deserves to be happy.’ Linda was nodding and said, ‘it really is unfortunate.’
I said, ‘the boundaries are so fucking weird… the therapeutic relationship is like no other!’ she nodded and I went on, ‘I get why the boundaries are there but it’s so shit, I want you to tell her that I still think about her every day. You know? I want you to tell her that my silence is a symbol of how much I love her… I hope she knows that me not texting her has been the biggest expression of love and respect of her boundaries. It is because I love her that I have not texted her… I know it would put her in such an awkward position where she would have to in some way tell me not to contact her and I would never want to make this harder for her than it already is. Plus there would be no resolution for me. If I text her and she didn’t reply, which I know she wouldn’t, then I wouldn’t be able to wait til my next session to ask her if she was angry with me. There would be nowhere for me to go with it.’ Then Linda said something that surprised me. She said, ‘I know it feels like an eternity since you last spoke to her but actually not a lot of time has passed. Maybe in six months or a year you’ll feel differently and you will text her but I understand it doesn’t feel like a good idea now.’ This really confused me so I said, ‘Anna’s boundaries are really firm though. In her last email to me she said, ‘I’m really grateful for this final interaction’… she also said on the phone that I can’t text her anymore.’ Linda said, ‘oh I didn’t know she’d said that, I see why you feel it would be important to not text her then.’
I said, ‘I thought about texting her on the 16th of September. That’s our anniversary of starting work together. She brought the date to my attention both years and I remember so clearly last September she told me we’d been working together for two years on the 16th and I said, ‘wow I can’t believe you remember the date. But then maybe if it’s a significant day for you like a birthday or something maybe that’s why you remember it,’ and she said, ‘it’s a significant date because it’s the day I met you.’ I paused and felt a wave of sadness rise up. I took a deep breath and looked at Linda. She asked me what I was feeling and I said I wasn’t sure. I said, ‘I miss her a lot. I just want to ask her to come back to me.’ Then I panicked and told Linda I was sorry for still going on and on about Anna and that a few weeks ago Linda had pointed out that I was finally giving myself permission to do therapy with her and now I’m back to obsessing about Anna. Linda said, ‘this is therapy though, this is what’s coming up for you right now. This seems to be a very understandable stage to your grief.’ I nodded and said, ‘I hate that I have no control over any of it.’ She said, ‘I know.’
I said, ‘when we were working together, Anna and I talked about what we would do if we met in public. We agreed that we’d just smile at each other. But now… well when the world goes back to normal and she’s allowed out, if I saw her my heart would burst I’d want to run up and hug her and talk to her and ask her how she is and thank her and tell her she’s still impacting my life. I’d want to tell her there’s not a single day that I don’t think about her!’ Linda was smiling and nodding and I said, ‘there are so many things I’d want to say to her, we didn’t have a proper goodbye, and now I’m wasting time going on about it here… I have this tiny 50 minute slot and I’m wasting time talking about how great work was and how much I miss Anna.’ Linda said, ‘I do not experience you as a person who wastes time, I think this is all really important. What happened at work was very powerful! And you haven’t been able to say these things to Anna so this is the perfect place to say it. It feels very important that you just say these things out loud. Very important.’ I nodded and agreed and she said, ‘I can hold this. Knowing Anna and working with you. I want you to know, all I can really say is, if you can try to make peace… trust that Anna could not give you any more than what she gave you and there was a damn good reason why she couldn’t give you the ending sessions you needed… that’s all I’ll say on that.’ I think I find it reassuring to hear Linda talk like this but also very curious. I can’t for the life of me imagine what could stop a person being able to have one hour phone conversation with someone. But I guess it could be anything.
Before we finished the call Linda asked me about the rest of the week and I told her the days my kids are back to school. My youngest is starting school tomorrow and my boss has kindly given me the morning off so I can be there with him. Linda said, ‘Wowww! I mean, this week is big!’ she put her hand on her chest and said, ‘so many big changes happening for you and your family just now… reconnecting with the outside world, facing fears, advocating for yourself, preparing your kids for going back. This is all very powerful and important stuff!’
She mentioned something about taking every few Saturday’s off as she’s wanting to phase out Saturdays and I suggested I change my therapy days. I said it didn’t need to be a Saturday and I could do Tue and Fri or something similar. We agreed to talk about it on Saturday. We actually finished a few minutes early but it felt like a natural ending. She always gives a smile and wave as we sign off which feels really sweet and connecting. Oooh the attachment/transference stuff is building!