There’s a hole in my chest where all the pain is.

I sent the confession email to Mark at 10pm the night before this session. Had to eventually take a diazepam at some point because my anxiety was through the roof. Had a very restless sleep and then somehow got through the day with bouts of intense nausea and numbness. Mark didn’t reply to my email other than to send the zoom link which massively intensified my fear that he was angry with me. By the time I clicked on to the call I was certain he would terminate with me immediately and I could barely look at the screen.

I was beyond nervous. I immediately asked him how he was doing and he said, ‘I’m alright!’ in a really sort of reassuring tone. He said, ‘I’m a bit tired this afternoon but other than that I’m in a pretty good place. How are you? You might have been a little bit anxious coming into the meeting… take a moment just to check in.’ I said, ‘yeah I’m fucking shitting myself actually… yeah… um.’ I couldn’t speak and was looking at my hands in my lap. Mark said, ‘Yeah. And you don’t need to hang your head in any shame. I just want to say that.’ I could barely hear him. I blurted out a garbled, ‘Can you. can you like, tell me… can you respond to what I said in the email?’ he said, ‘Course I can yeah. Yes of course I can I was just wanting us to arrive together a little bit first. Just to sort of land and make a little bit of contact. I can see why you might have recorded things and I can see how it would be useful for you so it doesn’t upset me. I think in some ways when you first meet someone there’s so much going and that kind of intimacy gets our threat and anxiety going so we can’t quite remember the session… ‘what was that like?’ sort of thing, so I can see how revisiting that afterwards would be really helpful for you and allow things to come through for you, it would be reassuring. One thing I really got from that was that you really took me in, what I offered and that was helpful whereas in the moment you’re probably quite activated. But in the quietness of your own space without me sat there you’re able to kind of hear yourself and hear me. And that ability to connect… and that makes perfect sense. You’ve kind of done that for good reason haven’t you. And you did it with Linda like a double check so you could revisit it from another space outside too much contact and what that brings up for you. So…’ he then smiled and slightly laughed and said, ‘it would have been good to have known about it but my sense is that you’re giving yourself a much harder time than I ever will.’ I said, ‘yeah. Yeah. I’m really struggling with this.’ He said, ‘hmmm yeah I sense that, your whole face looks different. The other thing to add is that if you find it useful then do it. Its okay, this is for you. Its to be helpful for you. This is for you to be able to get to know yourself more deeply and to connect with me and to ground our work and it might make sense that its helpful sometimes to do that after the sessions because you’ll catch things that sometimes you might miss.’

I said, ‘I’ve never done it before and because things that were happening between me and Linda were so confusing, whenever I would bring something to her about our relationship I would end up feeling like I’d made it up in my head so I wanted to be able to listen back and hear whether I was experiencing it the way that I felt like I was.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm it was kind of validating in a way wasn’t it.’ I said, ‘yeah and it was really clear to me when I wasn’t feeling emotionally all over the place when I listened back to it that I was right in feeling the way I felt. But, I don’t like dishonesty or…’ Mark spoke over me and said, ‘I really hear that Lucy, it came across loud and clear in your email and you can say it again now, I really felt that. It’s like you’re in a bit of bad faith with yourself for doing something behind the scenes as it were. And I appreciate your courage because you took a real risk telling me because you thought I might have a tantrum and sort of you know not see you again and that’s not the case. That’s not the case. I will not stop wanting to work with you. That never entered my head for a nano second. Because in a sense its you being committed to your own work isn’t it. You trying to get what you need.’ I was really struggling with some very intense emotions and Mark said, ‘how what I’m saying landing with you?’ I took a deep breath and there was a long pause. I put my head down again and Mark said, ‘no rush,’ I was staring out the window and my eyes were filling up. Mark said, ‘I can feel your upset. Lots of room for it.’ Eventually I said, ‘I want to hide from you I don’t want you to see me.’ He said, ‘I sense that and if you want me to look away I will.’ In a tiny voice I said, ‘yes please.’ And he said, ‘okay, I shall look away.’ He then spoke every so often as I cried with my head in my hands. First he said, ‘tell you what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna look out the window. And the sky is blue which it wasn’t a few hours back. I’m pleased to see that.’ I was crying audibly and he said, ‘notice with me not looking at you, the difference that makes if anything.’ He said, ‘I can hear your tears and your tears are very welcome. We were talking last time about tears. It may feel really sore right now and you’ve been holding a lot over the weekend but maybe there will be some release, some relief in your tears that will be good.’ there was a long pause of me crying and eventually he said, ‘and I’m just gonna keep you company say the odd thing unless you ask me not to just so you know you’re not alone in your distress.’ After crying for some time I blew my nose and sighed loudly and Mark asked gently, ‘how you doing?’ In a really muffled and swollen voice I said, ‘you can look at me now,’ and he said, ‘you sure?’ he said, ‘I tell you what, notice how it feels when I just turn my attention in a soft kindly way towards you.’ I looked at him through my hands and he said, ‘notice what happens inside. And if you need me to go away again, to look away again, I can.’ I was absolutely roasting in a thick wooly jumper so I told him I’d be back in a minute and got up and walked away.’ He said, ‘do come back.’ When I returned I had changed my top and told him I was hot and he talked about how weird the weather is at the moment and that it’s hard to know what to wear.

There was some quiet and then I said, ‘um… fuck sake… I don’t even know what to say.’ Mark said, ‘take your time,’ and I said, ‘I’ve been all over the place all weekend and today and pendulum swinging from completely numb and coping with life to feeling everything and being overwhelmed by it all. So… obviously I was teaching today!’ Mark said, ‘yeah I was just thinking that, yeah.’ I said, ‘so all of this has to get switched off, not consciously it just happens,’ Mark said, ‘Well, good that something clicks in! To help you in those moments, something just clicks in and you can rely on that.’ I said, ‘but then I got home and lost the plot.’ Mark said, ‘do you mean when you got home on your own all your feelings came up and you let them out a little bit?’ I said, ‘no I ended up shouting at Reuben, and I wasn’t even angry with him and I did go back and say sorry to him and reconnected with him and gave him a cuddle and everything but um…’ more silence.

Eventually I started up again ,’I find this really hard and I’m angry with myself coz I’ve done this already. I didn’t attach to Linda but I did with Paul and Anna and I’ve been through this shit and I’m really frustrated with myself for still finding this so difficult.’ There was a pause and Mark said, ‘yeah I’m hearing you.’ I said, ‘there’s massive needy vulnerable young feelings. Big, big, huuuge overwhelming feelings and I can hear it and then there’s this shame and silencing other part that comes in stopping any of the other stuff from coming out and its just a constant battle and then also another part saying I’m not making any sense.’ Mark said, ‘you’re being really clear.’ I continued, ‘I read over my email so many fucking times I could probably recite it to you! Before and after sending it.’ He said, ‘so much fear in that.’ I said, ‘because it felt very very important to be honest with you and also it felt risky to do that,’ Mark said, ‘which took courage didn’t it… I needed to be honest because I’d be in bad faith with myself if I weren’t, that’s not who I am, yet I also had a need to make sure that this was right to me to not reexperience some of the things maybe that you did with Linda..?’ I was nodding and said, ‘but then it became a really nice thing where I really enjoyed listening to bits of the sessions…’ Mark laughed and said, ‘yeah I’d quite like to hear it myself! Yeah it should be a nice thing to listen back to!’ I said, ‘but then I feel really ashamed of that.’ Mark said, ‘well that’s big for you isn’t it, shame. And you said it well I think – there are some young parts of you that are reactivated right now and in some ways I see it that its good that they are, and you’ve been through it in your previous therapy and no surprise they resurface again and give us an opportunity to sort of meet those parts of yourself. And it saddens me in some ways that there’s a shaming that happens internally. It’s there for good historical reason and it’s trying to make sure you don’t get hurt again. But it’s there and as you were saying that piece to me I thought oh god that sounds exhausting because there’s so much that wants to come forward and another bit that’s trying to clamp it so there’s lots of tension. It must be tiring and confusing and painful.’ I said, ‘Yeah. But it’s really frustrating as well coz it feels like… um… the parts of me that need to be heard the most are rarely if ever heard. The image that I have in my mind is of at work, I have to do sort of hearings and board meetings for vulnerable kids. So, you’ve got a room with a teacher and a head teacher and maybe a parent or two or guardian, you’ve got a child psychologist and social worker and nurture teacher and maybe ASN teacher and any other agency involved in the care of the child. And there’s always this really uncomfortable feeling in the room, for me, of like everyone is talking over and about this child that’s sitting at the table and, um… maybe even arguing, or maybe a parent is getting shirty or defensive about something that’s been said and there’s tension… and as the teacher sitting there witnessing it, not leading the meeting but sitting as an advocate of the child, knowing the child very well, there’s this desire to tell everyone to be quiet or leave the room and just let it be the kid sitting there, so they can speak. Like… I’ve never experienced that from a child’s perspective in reality but that’s what it feels like inside. All these other parts are much more powerful and much louder. But they’re not the ones that need to be heard.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah, that says it very well and yeah, feeling for the child in those meetings as you do you just want to kind of take them away and create a safe space and paradoxically that’s supposedly what the adults are doing but how horrible to have ones voice squashed or drowned out. And that’s what it’s like inside sometimes and we are here to hear the young parts of you. We’re here to hear the whole of you actually but those young parts that haven’t had a chance to express themselves need to be received and not shamed.’ I had my knees up and my hands clenched in fists holding on to my sleeves. One hand half covering my face. I said, ‘but I do feel ashamed, even just sitting here talking about this it feels so embarrassing and… and… it’s hurting so much in my chest.’ Mark quietly said, ‘and is there an emotion in that feeling in your chest?’ I could barely speak, ‘I whispered, ‘it feels like a big hole.’ I was almost turned away from him at this point. Still peeking at him. He put his hand on his chest and said, ‘if you’re willing, if this makes sense (you do what you need to do, there’s never any pressure from me), sometimes if there’s a big hole in someone’s inner chest it can be helpful sometimes to put a hand there to support it. You’re saying to it internally, to a part of yourself, you know it’s there and it’s hurting and we’re both hearing it.’ I was still looking at him and slightly nodding but hiding most of myself with my arms and just couldn’t bring myself to move an inch. I eventually said, ‘I want to do that but what the fuck, I’m so resistant.’ He said, ‘yeah well stay with the resistance, that’s speaking, yeah, so part of you wants to do it and part of you is just not on board at all and wants to cover your face, that’s what your hand wants to do.’ I started crying again, with my head down and Mark continued, ‘And if you need me to look away again, just say.’ There was some space with me crying and he then said, ‘I tell you what, I’ll hold that pain in my chest listening to you. I’ll hold it for you.’ I cried and cried. He said, ‘hmm, yeah, lots of room for those feelings of yours.’ Eventually I calmed a bit and blew my nose and sat round and somewhat reluctantly and somewhat defiantly, I placed my hand on my chest and looked at him. He gently and non- judgmentally said, ‘well you got there, I don’t know whether you can feel your hand or any support that its offering,’ I was looking away at this point and the words poured out of my mouth, ‘I don’t want to believe you when you tell me that you care and that you want to do this work with me and that you’re not going anywhere I don’t want to believe you,’ Mark said, ‘do you know what I can sense that, I can feel something that is struggling to trust, that it wouldn’t feel wholly safe to trust,’ there was a gap and we spoke over each other simultaneously, he said, ‘it’s also good that you…’ as I said, ‘but also I do want to believe you,’ and I started to cry again as he slowly gave me the following sentences, gently paced, ‘yeah, yeah. And we can have both. And you know what it’ll be in the post to you really, well to us, where you fully believe me that we’re not going anywhere, all things being equal, and this is a safe relationship where you can let yourself be seen and be as you are and that its okay. We’re not fully there just yet and that’s fine isn’t it, you wouldn’t expect us to be. And a bit of you longs for that space and a bit of you is scared shitless by it really. Difficult to trust that it will stay. That it wont be pulled away from you.’ I was crying heavily at this point with my head in my hands in my lap, sitting cross legged on my bed with a laptop in front of me on an upturned box that I usually keep rolled up towels in… with a man I met a few weeks ago staring at me from his house, wherever that is. I was sobbing. I have never, ever cried like that and had it witnessed by another human being, apart from perhaps in my infancy… even then I’d guess I was often left to feel alone.

Through the tears I said, ‘can you look away please.’ He kindly said, ‘course I can, yes course I can… I’m gonna look at my guitar which is a very good looking guitar let me tell you…’ there was a gap of him making ‘hmm’ noises and me crying and then he said, ‘I’m looking away, looking at my guitar, and I’m also holding a space for you and feeling into my heart making room for your distress at the moment and a real encouragement from me to let your tears out. You’ve got all that evolution, tears are good things, our bodies do it for good reasons. Might be relief on the other side.’ Despite this sounding like a lot of waffling and even at the time feeling like a lot of chatter, it seemed to help me stay connected to him. And I think that’s why he did it. Because I so rapidly become disconnected and lose the ‘other’ and especially because I wasn’t looking at him and I’d asked him to stop looking at me, he was finding a way to connect us, so I wasn’t left alone again. Eventually I settled and sighed. Mark said, ‘I head a big outbreath and I normally take that to mean there’s been a shift inside but you can tell me.’ I blew my nose and joked that I did not bring enough tissues. I said, ‘fucking hell!’ took a drink of water and sat back. I said, ‘I have never cried like that in the same space as someone before.’ I sound like I’ve been crying. Mark was still looking away though I was looking at him. Which was quite sweet. I continued, ‘this is really, really intense.’ He said, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah well I take it as an honour that your body’s let that happen with me, its intense and how else is it for you? Check around that intensity to see what it holds there might be other feelings. They might arrive later in the day.’ I laughed and told him he could look at me again. He said, ‘can I, I have to say I’m glad, much as I like looking at my guitar… and partly just to take us a little bit outside the world of the intensity…’ I said, ‘it doesn’t feel intense at the moment it feels like relief actually,’ Mark said, ‘relief, yeah… a real encouragement from me, before you go anywhere else, to let yourself feel that relief, just rest into it, even just for 30 seconds just let yourself have that.’ I gave it 3 seconds then started talking again… ‘there were times when I read the email (out of the hundreds of times that I did) when my rational brain was on board and I was thinking ‘this is totally fine Lucy, its fine, you’re doing the right thing how could anyone be angry with this if anything if he’s pissed off he’ll just tell you and you can work on it, that’s what therapy is about.’ But that was very fleeting and then all this other stuff flooded in – totally fucking certain that you were maybe even gonna not show up to this session or just be really disgusted with me. Um… or let down, disappointed. I dunno, I don’t want to be viewed like, this definitely feels bigger than just recording a few sessions and then telling you about it.’ He said, ‘sure, yeah, makes sense,’ and I said, ‘It’s like… I don’t even know what the words are… I want you to feel like you can trust me and believe me and its really important, really really important that you believe what I say and that felt like I could have damaged that forever by being evasive with the truth in the beginning, you know like ‘that’s it, you’ve totally fucked it forever’ hes never gonna believe a single word you say, hes always gonna remember this thing and its gonna tarnish the trust’ or something,’ Mark said, ‘hmmm, a real disaster movie in your head, and not only that, I was very struck, you used words like ‘disgust’ that I’d feel that towards you. There’s a few very key things that feel beyond mistrust… so it feels like other people are standing behind me in that, it isn’t what’s happened but it’s symbolic, something much bigger in you.’ I had my head down and was nodding quite a lot. He continued, full of compassion, ‘…and just to hold that for now, I’ve got it, we don’t need to open that any more than it is already. It’s here.’ I took a big deep breath and there was some more quiet. He then said, ‘and it’s paradoxical actually, because what I’m experiencing is your courage in saying what you’ve done and it did take a lot of bravery, it was a big risky step for you and if ive read you right, if you hadn’t done that you would have known it was between us and that would have gotten in the way so in some sense you chose to but it wasn’t much of a choice because you couldn’t continue working in that way knowing that was happening without me knowing. You’re between a rock and a hard place… you risked stuff that’s beyond you and I but it’s brought it up and I think, I want to say, if anything I really appreciate your rawness in it actually you’ve been very straight up and paradoxically that builds trust from my side.’ It felt really amazing to hear this and he continued, ‘I dunno if you can hear that and you might not be able to fully hear it right now,’ I said, ‘I think coz I’m very unforgiving of other people…’ he interrupted and said, ‘you are. Towards yourself you are.’ I sort of ignored this and said, ‘yeah and other people… and I remember everything and often one event can ruin a relationship for me. Like if someone lets me down that’s it, I always remember that they hurt me in that way and I don’t like that about myself but yeah I guess I am like that about myself as well. Um…’ We had some connection problems, on my side it said ‘Mark’s bandwidth is low’ and on his side it said, ‘unstable’ which made me laugh outloud… as if it was describing me!

I then said, ‘I don’t really wanna go very deeply into this but my mum never believed anything I said and um… often even about really small things to the point where (and this is how it felt with Linda) you feel like you’re going mad trying to persuade someone that you’re telling the truth or that you’re giving them an accurate description of how you’re experiencing things or what happened. Its so fucking frustrating and agonising as a kid trying to make someone believe you.’ Mark said, course, what an awful thing. What a damaging thing to not be believed. And an echo of that with Linda there, yeah painful,’ I said, ‘I was really scared I was gonna make you feel that about me too,’ Mark said, ‘of course, yeah, and just to let you know I think I’ve got a pretty good bull shit detector personally and I’m not detecting any bull shit,’ we laughed and I said, ‘I mean you don’t spend 7 and a half years in therapy bull shitting, that would be a big waste of time and moment.’ He said, ‘certainly is.’ I said, ‘I want this to work and get the most out of it. So as agonising it is I, eh… it’s all fucking authentically me!’ Mark said, ‘yeah and I get that, you’re coming across as you. And it’s very painful aspects of yourself that you’ve been experiencing since our last contact and it’s the past coming into the present. In some ways you’re being very authentic and in another sense its kinda not you its your history isn’t it, some very strong patterns that are deeply painful.’ I said, ‘and that brings up the image in my mind of the drawing of the corridor with the doors and almost like things being frozen in time behind the doors. I guess I said that in the email actually… I had to close a door on all of this when Anna left and because the shaming part of it is like ‘let the guy adjust to you before you start all this crazy shit, its literally been just a few sessions… not even a few months just a few sessions… tiny amount of time and already all of this is coming out… but it was all waiting on the other side of the door.’ Mark said, ‘yes I got that, yeah.’ I continued, ‘again not deliberately but none of this came up with Linda… maybe ones inner child has got a good bull shit detector as well…’ he said, ‘has to have yeah,’

I said, ‘even the first time we talked that wasn’t even a session I felt it all bubbling under the surface and said to you in that meeting that I wanted to work with you which triggered the shame immediately coz I was like ‘oh my god you’re so needy and too eager, reign it in’ and so scared that I’m gonna do something and make you want to stop working with me. I feel totally powerless in that fear and even if you say… like, I’ve got three therapists before you who had their own version of ‘I’m not gonna leave you’… you know… Paul would say, ‘I can assure you that I have nothing but unconditional positive regard for you and I’m not going to abandon you.’ Anna would say, ‘as long as I’m not ran over by a bus I’m not going anywhere,’ then COVID happened.’ Mark said, ‘that was the bus.’ And I felt like I could cry my eyes out again. He said, ‘its important because it wasn’t you. The bus wasn’t you.’ I said, ‘I remember saying to Linda that there’s part of me that wanted to act out and be a bad client and like shake her and force her to tell me why Anna can’t work with me. It cant just be asthma I work with people who have asthma and they’re working in schools right now it cant just be that! There’s something else. It drives me crazy not knowing. And she told me to try to find a trust inside for the fact that Anna had a damn good reason for needing to close her practice. But my brain is like a fucking dog with a bone trying to make sense of it all and obviously I keep going back to ‘it must have been me’ coz why would she have to keep it a secret if it wasn’t me? The rational part of my brain is thinking it could be mental health stuff and really because of my abandonment shit she’s not gonna say that her mental health was the reason because I’m obviously gonna automatically go to ‘I broke her, I made that happen, I caused that, I was too much’ you know?’ Mark said, ‘hmmm I can appreciate your awareness of where you might have gone to if certain said had been said, but it does sound to me as if an explanation would have given you peace. There was good reason, I don’t doubt it, I don’t think you do too but if you had a reason it would have allowed you…’ I then interrupted him annoyingly and I said, ‘we talked often about how important it was going to be to have an ending that was within my power and that it would be a long process. Because Paul left before I was ready, Anna understood that I really needed that. Also, my dad left and my mum repeatedly left emotionally and then physically and moved fucking 500 miles away from me. So I really needed to have someone not leave me. I know that she wanted to give that to me but in the end we had a 14 minute phone conversation. Why couldn’t I have had an hour? Just a session? But then she could have been in hospital, unable to speak at length. It might have been impossible for her and distressing for me to see her like that. I don’t know how to just let things go. My brain is going over and over and over all these possibilities.’ Mark said, ‘yeah I can really sense that which is why a straight up explanation would have given you a shelf to put it on even if it was a painful shelf it would be a shelf and you’d have some clarity over what happened.’

I asked Mark what the time was and he said, ‘The time is about 17 minutes past five… is there reason why you asked there?’ I said, ‘I guess my inner clock felt that it might be near the end and I want to keep talking about that but didn’t know how much time we’d have left and its always really awkward when you keep going deeper into stuff and then the therapist has to stop you.’ He offered to give me a ten minute warning at the end of sessions and I said I would like that.

I then leapt onto another topic, ‘When I started working with Anna she used to record the sessions, always asked my permission, because she was doing her advanced clinical training and used it for that she used to take notes. Then there was one session where she forgot the recorder and it was so connecting. I experienced a real opening to her and eventually realised I needed her to not have the sessions recorded. I don’t feel that now, I feel like I’d be fine for you to listen back to the sessions. The place I was in back then, 3 years ago, even more shame and mistrust than currently. And she used to write notes but I asked her to stop because it felt like it stood between us and also sometimes if I was feeling spacey or disconnected she wouldn’t always notice. She did stop nd was happy that I told her.’ Mark said, ‘both of those things make sense. I’ve never recorded sessions, I think it can be inhibiting and as you say it was, even though it would be useful in some ways.’ I talked about how sometimes its really hard to remember what’s happened in the session. Especially if it’s a very dissociated session. I said, ‘I’ve not felt spacey today I’ve been feeling it all today. Sometimes after a session I really struggle to remember anything that was talked about or experienced.’ He said, ‘hmmm and that’s not been true of today. And you’ve certainly felt some very raw feelings so that’s good isn’t it. It’s very interesting to me actually coz you’ve described your day a little bit its like you were dealing but not feeling when you were doing your teacher thing and makes sense that you have to access the bit of yourself that knows how to do that and just trot it out and it worked perfectly… and then we can get to a place when we just reel but don’t feel and we’re not sure where we are and we’re all over the place and you’ve not been there actually either. You’ve been dealing, feeling and relating. And at some points you’ve been quite raw but you’ve been able to ask for what you needed whether it was for me to look away or to look back. Or to express yourself and you know, you stayed in yourself and also receptive. The bit when I said ‘give yourself a supportive hand’ because if there’s an emptiness or something feels tight sometimes it helps to hold it. You were aware of wanting to do that and the resistance and your body did it eventually but you were like…’ and he sort of mimicked me forcing my hand from covering my face to placed on my chest as if pushing against a force. He did it in a fondly comical way and it made me burst out laughing. He smiled and said, ‘its nice to hear you laugh… yeah you eventually got there but you had to push through the resistance. You were receptive to your own process and letting it do it’s own thing. Because you were in yourself… how is it for you to hear me reflect back some of what’s happened today?’ I said, ‘I like it. I guess I feel seen in a safe way.’ He said, ‘notice that, take that in.’

I said, ‘I know that this is really big young feelings and I could feel that… it happened all weekend… I ended up taking diazepam. I felt like I was gonna have a panic attach I was so fucking beside myself with worry about all of this and I felt like I’d really fucked up this good thing that had come into my life. You know… anyway…’ he said, ‘that’s where you went and it’s horrible to hear… if it’s a good thing I’m going to fuck it up… what a thing to carry!’ I said, ‘yeah coz I don’t deserve it,’ he said, ‘I don’t deserve it.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm and that is a young part speaking, isn’t it.’ I said, ‘and when I was crying earlier I could hear, ‘please don’t leave me’ and I guess that’s the kid in the room that I was describing, that’s what the kid’s saying but nobody can hear her because of everybody shouting over her and one of the voices shouting over is, ‘don’t be so needy, everybody leaves anyway, no one can guarantee what’s going to happen, that’s disgusting being so needy and… yeah a repulsion…’ Mark said, ‘and without wanting to take you back into it, it’s a very powerful dynamic because in a sense the need comes forward with a power and its visceral and actually there’s health in that because people need people and that urge to move into relationship, there’s health in that. And you’re right nobody knows, we could all be run down by busses or whatever, shit happens, there’s no guarantee despite good intentions. But the other piece of it is there is a rejecting energy. There’s a needing energy and then there’s a rejecting energy – it’s wrong to need I’m going to reject my need I’m going to push that down, that’s not right to feel that. Like the kid being drowned out by all these adults talking over her. And it sounds like need and rejection do a push pull thing in you.’ I nodded and agreed.

Mark said, ‘we’re a few minutes off time and perhaps just to sort of breathe together and let some of that settle and just sort of connect a little bit in an ordinary way. Just see how you land.’ Which of course makes me feel very uncomfortable… not that I’m aware of that in the moment its only listening back to these recordings that I can hear how quickly I fill the spaces that he suggests space and breathing and connection. I immediately said, ‘In the whole 6 months I worked with Linda I didn’t once feel like I wanted to sit in a room with her. I felt fine that it was zoom sessions. I’ve realised that one of the big needy feelings, one that I feel a lot of shame around, is that I really wish I could sit in a room with you. And I cant believe that’s coming up because I just thought zoom worked for me and its frustrating that it’s not gonna happen. I mean, I totally agree with the reasons why we wont work in a room until its completely safe and if I could work from home I would. Just as we were ending there I felt the need to voice that feeling… that a part of me wants to be in the room with you… that’s it really! And that’s not a request… we don’t know what the fucks gonna happen… just I feel the longing.’ Mark said, ‘yeah I hear that. You were just saying what came up for you and actually a little surprise because you had it in your head that zoom works no bother but actually something about our connection would make it good if we could sit in a room together and yeah it’s not going to be any time soon by the looks of things… the shit rolls on doesn’t it… but yeah…’ I said, ‘yeah I’m just so grateful to you and also to the universe for like crossing paths with you and to myself for looking again and for it working out and that you had space and I’m really grateful that this is working. That kid in that room who hasn’t been heard for 6 months, as much as it’s scary, they’re feeling safer with you than they did with Linda and I’m really so glad about that. And that’s why I like the idea of sitting in a room with you and that’s why the feelings are all coming up… that doesn’t just happen with anyone.’ Mark said, ‘I hear you, it’s a good thing. That’s good to hear and you can sit a while when we stop in a second with those feelings and it’s good they’ve come forward. They bring other things in their wake perhaps but it’s good that we’ve managed to create together something that allows the kid to come into the room so to speak and be heard a bit more.’ There was a slight pause as I nodded in agreement and then he gently said, ‘So, okay… I’ll see you on Friday then? Take the best of care of all of you!’ I thanked him and wished him a good week and we said goodbye.

Confession

Hi Mark,

I wanted to try to explain something to you and can’t quite bring myself to say it to your face for fear of what I might see in your reaction. I’m really scared that this will damage our relationship at this early stage and very much hope that’s not the case.

The preamble to this confession-of-sorts is that when I tried to figure out how I felt about working with Linda I would often end up tied in knots trying to express myself and many times left the session feeling more confused and unsure of things. So for the final two sessions I recorded the conversation without asking her permission. I know that was wrong. It was only ever to help me decide on the right path to take. To be able to revisit the recordings when less activated in the hope that it would help me have a clearer idea of what I wanted to do and what was going on between us. Which it did. I then deleted the recordings.

So that’s the preamble, here comes the main purpose of this email. I have to confess that I also recorded our first meeting and I’m really sorry for doing that without asking you first. My reasoning for taking the recording is that when I’m very anxious or stressed I find it so hard to trust myself, trust my judgement, trust my memory and especially because of my inability to always stay present a lot of the time, it’s hard to trust that I won’t lose chunks of the session in the abyss of dissociation. My intention was to use the recording to help me decide if I wanted to work with you and then delete it and never do it again. It did help me decide without a shadow of doubt that I wanted to work with you, but more than that, an unexpected aspect of replaying that conversation back when less activated was that it felt lovely to be able to listen back to your kindness and care. I was able to take it in.

I’m not sure how to explain this but basically listening back to that conversation helped ground me in our connection and because ‘feeling connected’ is usually such a slippery and illusive thing, I’ve ended up recording all of our sessions so far. When I reflect on this, it feels very wrong and like a boundary violation because I haven’t asked your permission or let you know about it. It’s not something I ever did with Anna or Paul. I’m not a dishonest or devious person by nature and having experienced parents who lied and manipulated and were dishonest, I would never ever want to be like that with anyone. Now that I’m a couple of weeks in to this, it feels like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole that I can’t get out of without ‘outting’ myself like this.

To be honest, another really painful aspect of this is my need to have something to hold on to. I’m actually deeply regretful that I never recorded any of my sessions with Anna. I would give anything to be able to listen to her voice again and to replay some of the very soothing and connecting sessions we had. I can’t remember what her voice sounds like anymore though I’ve memorised so many of the things she said to me.

Anyway… it feels of absolute importance that I tell you this. I value openness and honesty so much and it doesn’t feel right that I have recorded our sessions without you knowing.

I want you to know that the recordings are encrypted and can’t be accessed by anyone else apart from me. I will only ever use them to help me revisit the session, process what we’ve covered or remind myself of the connection that we’re slowly forging. And therefore, I would like to ask you two things. Firstly, please forgive me for not initially asking for your permission to record our sessions. I really am sorry that I did it without your knowing or consent. If you were to ask me to delete them, I would. And secondly, please will you consider how you feel about allowing me to continue recording our sessions? Ever since I started therapy over 7 years ago I have written lengthy journal notes after each session as this really helps me process the work. Having recordings of our sessions has helped me make much deeper notes and be able to connect to my feelings and notice patterns or gaps. It feels like such a useful and important tool.

I’ve got to be honest with you, my fear of abandonment has made it very tempting to not tell you about any of this because I am so afraid that you’ll decide to stop working with me once you know. But if I was to continue and not tell you it would always be lingering in the space between us. It’s imperative that I’m completely transparent with you.

I just want to add, as a side note, that I’m actually feeling a lot of shame and disgust with myself for how quickly I’m feeling attached to you and how much I already feel like I ‘need’ you. So much has come up for me this weekend and I’m not comfortable with these feelings at all. For example I have found myself feeling very anxious about your 6 week review rule… I don’t want you to tell me at the end of October that you don’t want to continue working with me. I really want to do this work with you and I’m so scared I’m going to fuck it up somehow and lose you. I’ve been trying to put the feelings into words and can’t which makes me think it’s preverbal stuff. It feels massive like life or death, like I can’t live without you. Which my rational brain knows is ludicrous. But if I attempt to be compassionate I can see that all of this stuff was behind a door that I had to close the day Anna left.

It feels like I’m taking a huge risk in sending this and I really hope that you can see past my ill informed decision and accept my apology. I really hope we can talk about it tomorrow. I’m finding myself tempted to sign off every email with ‘please don’t leave me’… bloody hell this is such painful and difficult work.

Speak to you soon,
Lucy.

An email from Linda

So, exactly a week after I sent my initial email to Linda, she replied. It literally just came through.

Good morning Lucy, I wanted to acknowledge and say thank you for sending this, your last email. I really appreciate you taking the time to think about and let me know how you felt about our ending, I’ll be sure to return to it again. I wish you all the very best with the next part of your journey. All the very best! Kind regards, Linda.

If there was ever any doubt in my mind… here is a perfect example of how she just didn’t ‘get it’. She wasn’t invested in the relationship and she didn’t understand the depth of connection that I needed. That doesn’t discount or diminish the good work she helped me do through the past 6 months. Also, I am really grateful that she was there, immediately, in the aftermath of losing Anna. But when it came to the deeper work I needed to do, there was a lack.

I’ve had a hard weekend on some levels and I’m very much in need of tomorrow’s session. With Mark. Who can hold this and help me go deeper.

So much wasted time…

Mark started by telling me that if I want to have a second session on Mondays, he’s made a space available for me and I immediately said yes. I told him I had planned on asking him about that and he said, ‘ahh, beat you to it,’ and smiled kindly. I told him it felt good to have that in place and that I’d benefited a lot from having fewer days between sessions. I said it was good to feel connected with him and said, ‘I have missed that level of attunement, I used to have it with Anna and I didn’t with Linda and I think I should have trusted my gut. I kidded myself into thinking we would get there but we never did and really I knew from the beginning.’ Mark said, ‘You’ve probably got a good gut sense and like all of us we don’t always listen to it as much as we could. You put your good faith there and maybe it wasn’t a good fit. For other people she might be brilliant but for you she wasn’t quite what you needed and there’s learning in that isn’t there.’ I said, ‘yeah and the Anna stuff got in the way quite a lot.’

I then told Mark that I had emailed Linda last week as a follow up from our ending and she never replied. I told him a bit more about how shit the last session had been, that she didn’t really have much to say to me and that she told me that normally people just email to end their work, they don’t have an ending session and that even she has ended therapeutic relationships as a client by email. Mark said, ‘you didn’t body swerve the final session and I’m glad Linda noticed that, it takes a certain amount of courage to rock up and say ‘I’m not getting what I need from you and that’s why I’m leaving’ which is the short way of saying what you were doing. So it does take a certain amount of guts.’ I laughed at the idea of this effectively being what I did and said, ‘it felt really important to do it you know, I think there’s this naivety about me where I believe that the therapist is always going to have the clients best interests in mind and I don’t think she did all the time or maybe her intention was to do that but she struggled with it because I know that it was really important for me to have a last session and I’m angry that she couldn’t bring anything to the table for it. She didn’t have anything to say.’ I told Mark that Linda had teased me saying I could have one last email and it had taken me a couple of weeks to figure out if I wanted to say anything and eventually I did email her and she hasn’t replied.  Mark asked, ‘how does that leave you?’ and I said, ‘it’s really disappointing that she couldn’t… part of me feels ashamed and embarrassed that I sent the email like I opened myself again to a rejection and that’s the naivety,’ Mark asked, ‘does that feel familiar?’ and I said, ‘yeah the one making the effort, the one trying to build a bridge or reaching out. I wanted it to end on good terms you know? And really how much effort would it take her to email me, even fucking lying and saying, ‘I enjoyed working with you, it was nice to meet you, I wish you well’… how much effort does that take? But by not emailing me back it either shows that she really didn’t get to know me, over the 38 sessions we had, or she did know me and there’s some sort of anger in her that’s making her not want to give me what she knows I need. Maybe she felt rejected.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm she knows it would be important for you to try to end well,’ I said, ‘especially with what happened with Anna!’ Mark said, ‘that’s what I was thinking… you cam with a difficult ending. The endings were around from the beginning. Just like they are here. It’s partly what’s alive for you.’ I said, ‘yeah and you said in the last session right at the end, ‘I’m liking getting to know you’ and that really touched me and I felt… like I believed you. That is the work for me, learning to connect, trusting and staying connected, being in a relationship, a real one that both the therapist and the client are in this real relationship where it needs to matter to both of them and it did with Anna and it didn’t with Linda. I think I described it to you before like this, it felt like a drive through therapy with Linda, she didn’t invest anything in the relationship so she was really useful in certain capacities if I brought a day to day problem to her she would help me work through it.’ Mark said, ‘if it was away from your relationship,’ I nodded and said, ‘the fact that she would have been quite happy if I had emailed to end our work, she didn’t care, its not like she would miss me or…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘I’d feel upset if you did that to me, I would,’ he laughed and continued, ‘it’s not good I think people who end by text, I don’t get that a lot actually but I feel sad for the person when it does happen because it shows that they’re not ready to end, if you can’t show up, like you did with her…’ I said, ‘exactly, I know its not my job to analyse her but I don’t think she’s finished doing her own work, I don’t think she was able to be vulnerable or emotionally intimate in the relationship. She kept herself at a distance the whole entire time and when I kept trying to pull her into it (because that’s what I need to work on) she became defensive or would subtly gaslight me or tease me. She couldn’t see it. There were times when I would say something and she’d say it was a nervous laugh because what I described sounded horrific or whatever and I’d realise that she would make it about herself rather than seeing what I needed. Like, ‘this is MY therapy’, you know? ‘You go to your own therapy and figure that out but I need to deal with this in my therapy’. And I think coz I really wanted it to work I kept going through it and it was quite painful. And there were so many red flags. Like her saying she’d never had a client come twice a week, she’d never talked about the therapeutic relationship with clients… and I’d think ‘how can you work with people with developmental trauma/attachment stuff and not have the relationship come up? There are so many parts of this relationship that re-enact and mirror and bring up painful grief from things you lacked growing up, how can you not talk about the relationship. It was as if I was speaking a different language to her. She totally didn’t get it.’ Mark said, ‘and did that feel familiar to you? That dynamic? what does that remind you of?’ I said, ‘yeah my mum!’ and took three or four big breaths in and out. I said, ‘its really hard to talk to somebody who… it’s a lack of self awareness actually and I find it hard to tolerate. Which I know is a flaw in myself but I find it hard to tolerate people who lack that self awareness where they don’t realise the things they need to work on. So all I wanted was for Linda to say ‘I hear you and that’s som….’ oh well I guess she did say she was gonna take some of the things I said to supervision but, em, with my mum it was as if I grew up past her when I was quite young and she stayed at a maturity level… some of the ways she behaved it was as if she was the child in the relationship with me and her, very little self-awareness and no awareness of how or why her behaviour impacted me, also not taking responsibility for yourself.’ Mark said, ‘if I rewind slightly, you started saying maybe you should grow a tolerance and actually I think your system knows what you need and you know what it feels like when you get it and you weren’t getting it and its fair to expect therapists to own their part in something or come forward with these things and not put it all on you and leave you as the bad person,’ I said, ‘yeah so I think what I mean is that this is a thing that triggers me in my husband, his lack of self-awareness and I would like to be more tolerant in that relationship, I agree it’s the therapists role… yeah. I think there was some sort of insecurity with her, where she felt threatened by me sometimes, like if I quoted something psychology related she would tease me or question my need to do that, and it made me think that there’s something underneath her need to tease me, she’s not comfortable with me knowing things. She quite likes being the one who knows everything and having the person on this side not knowing things and I do know stuff I’ve read things. What I need is for somebody to be willing to go right down into the deep vulnerable intimate stuff. Coz I can have the cognitive conversations about things, but she wasn’t willing to go deeper…’ I trailed off.

I then said, ‘och I don’t know, I’m getting annoyed talking about this coz I’m like this is a waste of time and I already wasted 6 months with her…’ Mark said, ‘well that’s a theme isn’t it, with you, this sort of ‘waste of time’ thing comes up a lot. What I’m appreciating actually is that you certainly didn’t give over your power to her and you were able to clock when you were coming up against her defences and maybe asking her to show up more than she was comfortable with which does take a lot of courage. You’re right to do that with people and I’d hope you would do it with me, at some point I’m bound to disappoint you or piss you off, it’s just human relationships and I’d hope that you could tell me and I’d hope that I wouldn’t be overly defensive. In a sense I hear you having to do another difficult ending in a very different way. With Anna you got what you needed and then you didn’t and it leaves you with a whole lot of feelings that we’re learning from.’ I said, ‘wow yeah. I feel like I did give away my power by sending the email and I’m annoyed about that. I don’t know what it is with me and emails. I don’t know why I feel like I have to… why I even wanted to send it. I wanted it nicely tied off and it wasn.t the session was so awkward Mark I don’t even know how to describe it. Its like as soon as I said, ‘the conversation with Mark went well and I think that might be the direction I should go down,’ she was like ‘we’re done here’, you know? Rather than what I wanted to do was explore it and maybe reflect on the work we’d done but she just sat back and let the minutes go on. And then at like 35 minutes I checked how long we had left… she did the 50 minute hour which was another red flag for me coz how can you work with dissociative clients in 50 minutes that’s no time, that extra 10 minutes matters… if you’re really struggling you’ve got to finish 15 or 20 minutes before the end to ground and get back to reality so you’ve got this tiny sliver of time in the middle of the session where you’ve gone into something and then you’ve got to come out of it again. Anyway… I so she told me we had ages left of the session and is aid ‘actually this is excruciating, I’m happy for it to end now’ and she was like, ‘alright, well, good luck. Wish you well!’ and that was it… it was horrible!’ Mark said, ‘she didn’t support you to stay til the end and check in with what was excruciating, she wasn’t willing to meet you in it.’ I said, ‘ahh no… she never asked those kind of curious questions to try to investigate what was going on. Never took things further… ummm yeah… so there’s the part of me that feels angry about that, I wanted her to be more… and the other part of me is like ‘well who do you think you are? Wanting more! She is what she is and you know… and then but then I also feel like she said right at the start she doesn’t tend to do long term stuff, she tends to do 6, 8 sessions with people. Um… I mean right at the start I was like, really?? And I said to her, I need deep work, I’m probably gonna get attached to you, its gonna be the relationship I need to focus on and she was like ‘I can handle that’ but I think if she’s never experienced it or maybe if she’s never been the client experiencing it then maybe she wouldn’t know even that it exists or what it feels like. Ummm…’ there was a pause and then I said, ‘and again I feel like I’m wasting my time talking about this!’ Mark said, ‘I thought you might come in with that I was kind of thinking I bet that’s the next thing she’ll say!’ I laughed and he said, ‘Yeah, I mean, we can have a little laugh about it… yeah…’ I said, ‘yeah coz it’s only an hour and I want it to matter and why am I talking about this fucking woman I already wasted time on her you know? It was hard work I put in a lot of hard work and it wasn’t therapy, it didn’t feel like therapy for a lot of the time. And there’s a time investment, there’s a financial investment, there’s an emotional investment to all of that and she’s just kinda like walked away. And see at the start I asked her if she wanted to take a note of any of my details or take notes and or whatever and she said she didn’t do that… that was another red flag – there’s no relationship for her, its just work, someone shows up for the session or they don’t. she deals with that current thing and they might never come back… whereas Anna wrote loads of notes until I asked her to stop and she took notes between the sessions and she would bring her reflections to me. The relationship mattered to Anna but it didn’t impact Linda at all and I think it needs to be, for me, the relationship needs to matter to both of us. You know?’ Mark said, ‘Yes that makes sense. How are you feeling towards her as you speak? Can you just notice what’s there for you?’ There was a long pause and then I pondered what the feelings were. I wondered if it was resentment. I said, ‘its so fuzzy. Its like its behind frosted glass what I feel. um. I mean there’s a phrase in my head that I’m reluctant to say coz it sounds really arrogant. Ehhh…. but I feel like I could do a better job than she did and that annoys me and I know that’s probably ridiculous because I’m not a therapist. But you know, I can sit and give people space and be compassionate and empathetic and I feel like I know how to be far more emotionally intimate in relationships than she was able to be and that fucking annoys me.’ Mark said, ‘yeah there’s clearly anger there and in a way you’re just talking about human qualities and I imagine there must be a fair bit of disappointment because you do invest in relationships and certainly in your therapy you want to bring your whole self and have it met in other words you invest in this thing. And that’s great, I hear it as great because otherwise the thing doesn’t work you know, and you didn’t feel that coming back to you so I imagine that to be a huge disappointment.’

I said, ‘okay so that’s completely summed up what my relationship with my mum is.’ Mark said, ‘yeah so its also a re-enactment,’ I said, ‘she’s nothing like my mum so its really weird… a lot of mum stuff came up with Anna in a different way because she offered me things that my mother was never able to give me so there was a lot of loss and grief there but with Linda… so my mum is the sort of person where its like ’out of sight out of mind’ so if she doesn’t need something from me ill not hear from her for months. She’s not interested in maintaining a close relationship. Well she’d have to start one first before maintaining it.’ Mark said, ‘and how is that for you that she’s like that? Big question I know.’ There was a long pause and I said, ‘cognitively I know that it’s painful but I’m not feeling pain. It is disappointing. There’s a fucking massive amount of wasted time and emotional investment there, I mean the amount of effort that I put in to that relationship. To try and bend and mould myself to be the type of person that she might want to have around. ‘ Mark said, ‘well children do don’t they, we do with our parents and knocking on the door that can’t open til your knuckles bleed.’ I was quiet for a while and he said, ‘sorry that was a strong metaphor’ and I told him it was accurate. I said, ‘I constantly felt like she did not notice me at all and as if she was forever faced in the other direction, preoccupied with her relationships. Whether it was with my dad or after they split up it would be one of the many boyfriends she had. She was so obsessively focused on these very unhealthy relationships and I would be sort of tugging at her sleeve so to speak and she wouldn’t notice unless I was able to support her in some way. So maybe listening to her talking about it or accompanying her if she felt lonely but then she’d drop me if she managed to get a date. It was a very one sided relationship.’ Mark said, ‘yeah.’ And there was some time.

He then said, ‘So who was there for you?’ and I thought for a long time. I told him I had some good relationships with my teachers. I told him I didn’t remember ever going to anyone for comfort or anything as a young child. He said, ‘you sort of held it on your own?’ I said, ‘I had a really vivid inner world and would just go inside quite a lot. Ehhh…. that feels like too much.’ Mark said, ‘okay so we’ll pause there.’ I felt horrible and very spacy and I curled up with a pillow hugged to my chest. Mark said, ‘maybe sort of come out a little bit and take me in or maybe you could keep a small part of yourself here with me… it felt to me that you were going way back in time or away almost, way back inside and then you clocked that and it felt too much and you noticed the spaceyness and now I feel you slowly coming back to me and now I feel you sort of taking me in and the connecting with me and yeah, I am here with you and we can move things on and in a way, I hope this is okay, in sense I was pushing in to things a little bit to check out who you’ve had around for you, when you would fall who would catch you. And we’ll leave that to one side just now. But yeah…’ I said, ‘I was desperate for attention and care and found various ways to get that attention. Normally by just being very good and meeting all the needs of the grown ups. It was mainly teachers.’ Mark said, ‘school was very different from home, and you are a teacher now which is significant. There’s something in that, you provide that for other children now.’ I told him that when school stopped it was probably at the worst part of my life. I lost all the support and structure that I had in my life and the start of lockdown felt the same. That mini community and all the things you have just ends. Out-with your control. He said, ‘the bottom fell out your world.’ I talked some more about how chaotic family life was like and that losing school was awful and how the lockdown reminded me of that even though my home life now is not chaotic at all.

I suddenly said, ‘I feel weird,’ and put my head in my hands. Mark said, ‘let’s pause and notice what’s telling you that you feel really weird, let’s just feel it for maybe about 5 seconds…’ I said, ‘I feel sick and spacey,’ Mark leaned in and in a super soft, gentle voice said, ‘Hear me here with you. We’ll just sort of rest a little bit. There’s a kind of intensity here and a part of you is looking after you by going a little bit spacey. No rush.’ I drank some water and he said, ‘waters good! were meant to drink gallons of the stuff aren’t we…’ and he took a drink too which made me laugh. I said, ‘I get really frustrated with myself. Everything takes so long. This is the sort of thing where… if there were a million things that I would deal with in therapy I touched on a handful with Anna and it took so long because I slowed everything down so much and it really fucking annoys me that I cant just… I don’t wanna feel like that I just want to focus on things and talk about them and get them done! And then move on to the next thing.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah of course you do and we will. There’s a fight part on you isn’t there, it comes out in relationship to your own process ‘I just want to get things done’ which maybe doesn’t allow things to be and have a little bit of space around them. And what we took there in slowing down and having a drink of water, it might not feel like much is getting done, in getting through the list of things to talk about, but there is something about sort of riding that level of activation where we space out and come back and in that a lot is done actually, a lot is done even if there isn’t a story about it a lot is done. I don’t know if this makes sense to you or what you’re making of what I’ve said. And I’m not trying to discount what you’d like to get done.’ I said, ‘what I’m making of what you’re saying is that you understand this process and that makes me feel safe actually.’ He said, ‘and what does safe feel like right here and now?’ I said, ‘I want to answer that and then I hear ‘that’s the wrong answer, don’t say that, that sounds stupid’…’ Mark said, ‘it’s a bit like when I said the stuff about the body before and you said in your email to me that you were worried about being wrong, ‘not enough not enough not enough’ in some way… so I felt slightly hesitant but you do know actually because you just told me and I know I’ve thrown you back on yourself to sort of colour it in a little bit, and you might feel like the kid at school who didn’t know the answer but it’s all fine and…’ I interrupted and said, ‘I feel like if I say something you’re going to say it’s the wrong things to say.’ He said, ‘isn’t that interesting!’ I said, ‘I feel that in so many areas of my life like… this is a really stupid example but I feel lit when I’m at the optician, you know? When they’re changing the various lenses and asking, ‘any better now’… ‘a or b’? and I’m like, ‘you tell me! I don’t know what’s right!’ Mark laughed spontaneously which was lovely to hear and so did I. He said, ‘actually I was at the opticians yesterday and I was steaming up coz of the mask and couldn’t see the fucking letters!’ I burst out laughing, it was honestly very funny. I continued, ‘I know its ludicrous coz its my body, my eye sight… even when I’m at the doctor or osteopath or whatever I’m thinking they’re gonna tell me that what I say is wrong. Is this how I feel? Is that where the pain is? So youre asking me what feeling safe feels like, it feels like ‘oh phew he’s not gonna ridicule me’ I think that’s what safety here feels like. So when you were saying it might feel like we’re not doing a lot in that moment but we are, whereas someone who doesn’t understand the process might want me to hurry up and speak. You know that all of this is important.’ Mark said, ‘Absolutely, especially when we go a bit spacey. I want you back in the room with me but something has triggered that need to leave.’

I said, ‘I don’t think I ever had an emotionally safe intimate relationship growing up, with anyone. And it’s really terrifying… it’s like touching fire but you want to touch it.’ Mark said, ‘course you do, you long for that and you’re scared shitless of it.’ That totally stopped me and I just sat nodding looking at him feeling completely understood. I said, ‘yeah… I really want this thing, it feels good, I want him to know me, I want to invest in this , I want to be open, I really wanna talk about all these things and feel it and all of that and then I get a tiny touch of it and its like ‘fuuuccckkk’ it’s too much but not consciously and then it goes and it’s like I’m drowning and I don’t even know what I was talking about and I’m not feeling anything and there’s a complete disconnect and I don’t even know where I am or where you are and that feels just as scary as it did to connect and then I get frustrated because this is what slows everything down.’ Mark said, ‘and you’re wasting time or something like that,’ and I laughed and said, ‘exactly that… not something like that’ and laughed. ‘fucking wasting time staring out the goddam window when I should be focusing on this work that I wanna do!’ Mark said, ‘but in a sense you very articulately led me through what goes on for you and that is the work, that’s part of your process, that you do that… and for good historical reason. You know, it’s how you managed things when you were young. With all that longing for connection and it not being met and somehow you had to manage the unbearable. So I think your psyche has been quite clever at supporting you in coming through. And now we have the opportunity to take little pieces of the sequence of that and bring some curiosity and interest and say ‘well this is what happens for me and then that happens and before I know it I’m in this place,’ and over time something will come together with that, something in you will relax and come back quicker or not need to do that or only do it when you really need to do it or you’ll have some choice in when you do it rather than now when it happens to you.’ I said, ‘and it gets in the way of my relationships,’ he said, ‘it’ll have an impact for sure,’ and I said, ‘it really gets in the way, with my kids as well. Which really I feel so awful about, quite often they can be my biggest triggers especially in happy times which is so shit because like if were having fun together and I get a sense of connection with one of them, especially Grace, then this spaceyness kicks in… either I feel really disconnected… what happens is I feel like… uh… like this! Why cant I think of the fucking sentence!’ Mark said, ‘yeah you kinda get the brain fog, something in you… your articulateness that we were talking about before and I was appreciating does a bunk and is not there for you, you’re in a different space, a spacey space. Which is a sign that somethings been touched in you that’s difficult for you to be with so you sort of ping out in a way. There’s something protective in that and then you get frustrated to fuck about it happening and probably tighten a bit more I would guess,’ I said, ‘I literally cant even remember what I was gonna say! I really wanna try and remember what I was gonna say,’ I sat with my head in my hands and eyes closed and he told me there was no rush and I swore a few times in frustration. I said, ‘imagine trying to be a competent, present, attuned parent and feeling like this, it’s a fucking failure.’ He said, ‘there’s so much pain in that for you,’ I said, ‘I don’t wanna let them down like this…’ then suddenly ‘I’ came back online and it all was very clear again. I exclaimed ‘oh that’s what I was going to say!’ and sort of thanked the universe and continued, ‘It’s like being an observer. So, I go for being in the moment with her to then feeling like I’m watching us playing and I’m not part of it, or I’m watching them all playing together – Adam and the kids and I might as well not be there, and I get visions of me not being there and them being perfectly happy without me and this all happens in a split second and I get really upset and I have to go away because I don’t wanna ruin the moment for them,’ Mark said, ‘that’s really painful, some part of you comes in there,’ I said, ‘I feel totally fine now, I can talk about it when I’m not feeling it, it’s like I’m talking about somebody else.’ Mark said, ‘and there’s what you feel towards the part of you that does that,’ I said, ‘I hate it.’ He repeated that to me with total gravity. ‘You hate it. Yeah. Something in you gets triggered and goes off and doesn’t feel you can join in, you’re sort of outside the city walls… I’m not in this family.’ This phrase made me well up… I’m not in this family. That’s what I felt growing up all the time. I’m not in this family. He said, ‘but of course that’s not where you wanna be, the bigger part of you so wants to be in your family and connecting and responsive and there as a full open being but something happens for you that’s i a way I imagine something touches a memory in you and off you go, and a bit of you is trying to manage your experience,’ I said, ‘it’s all those different parts of me, you know like I’ll hear… for example one of the things that used to upset me a lot was playing with Grace’s hair, brushing her hair, plaiting it, getting her ready for school, and I’ll hear ‘no one ever did this for me’… and you know its painful, its almost like there’s a kid looking out of my eyes at this situation feeling really hurt watching this thing happening for someone else, again!’ Mark was making very compassionate noises while I explained this and said, ‘and that makes complete sense. Yeah. Nobody did that for you and how lovely that would feel as a child.’ There was some quiet as I sat with that and then Mark quietly said (as he motioned a cupped hand to his right), ‘I’m going to keep that one there, bookmark that, because that’s big, it speaks of a mountain of grief behind it. I really want to take our last five minutes just to sort of be together and perhaps even waste time together or for you to be able to say how its been or whatever you might need to do to sort of come out gently.’ I smiled and breathed deeply and said, ‘this feels like the fastest hour!’ I was going to continue but to my surprise Mark said, ‘it does feel fast, it feels fast to me!’ I said, ‘wow okay that’s not coz I’m just fucking weird,’ and he said, ‘well no it’s nothing to do with you being weird or not its time… time is very interesting. Psychological time can last ages or compress. I take it that I’ve been engaged that’s what I’m reading from it.’ I said, ‘oh okay, well the spaceyness steals time from me you know, I don’t always notice how much time has passed and then I get panicky and think I wasted all that time,’ I laughed and Mark smiled and said, ‘ahhh yeah this is really important isn’t it, when you get spacey you lose sense of time or maybe you spent quite a bit of your life feeling spacey,’ I interrupted and said, ‘hours and hours and hours every day,’ Mark said, ‘yeah yeah so that’s why its so big for you. That’s why it’s so big.’ I breathed audibly and Mark said, ‘big outbreath of recognition there.’ I said, ‘you know, I don’t notice my kids ever doing that. They’re so engaged and playful or talking all the time or interacting in some way. Its really interesting to watch how much kids talk and interact and move and are expressive when they’re relaxed and happy, you know?’ Mark said, ‘yeah, and another word for that is when they’re feeling safe. And what you’ve done is enabled them to feel safe. So they can be happy and relaxed and engaged and that’s great it shows you’re doing a bloody good job but its also painful because it didn’t happen for you so there’s grief there I imagine. And I’ll be with you in that to work through that I really want you to hear that before we stop. However long it takes and whether we feel like we’re wasting it or not.’ I said, ‘well you’re gonna need to look after yourself for the next however many years then so that you don’t fucking leave me!’ and laughed and he said, ‘I’m very good at looking after myself.’ I said, ‘good. that was nice to hear thank you.’

We clarified that we’d do half four on Mondays and I said, ‘I’m so glad that you’re able to do that, it really makes a big different. Thank you!’ and he said, ‘yes I am too, I wanted to and circumstances… well it just worked and sometimes thing shine…’ I said that the planets have aligned, and he smiled. We wished each other a good weekend and said goodbye.

A bit of you could leave at the moment and you could keep a little bit of yourself here…

So this was an impromptu session, offered after a panicked email sent the night before. The meeting began and I considered immediately turning off my video so he couldn’t see me. I was sooooo nervous. The bell rang in my ear and I said ‘hi’ really quickly and he said, ‘hello, let me get rid of my self view and then I’ll be more present to you… Lucy… there we go.’ Then he said very purposefully ‘hello’ in a gentle voice.

He said, ‘how are you on starting?’ and I told him I was really nervous and I apologised for the email and thanked him for the session. He said, ‘yeah, you were kind of saying the week felt a long time and I sort of felt, I didn’t want you left with a load of stuff over the week gathering momentum or however that would have played out and as I was able to offer to see you… you also said in your email that you anticipated either feeling relief or panic after sending it so I’m slightly curious as to which one it was.’ I smiled at this (thought felt a bit exposed by him referring to the email immediately). I said, ‘so I immediately felt relief and just got on with the rest of the evening and then this morning I felt regretful and ashamed and was very close to emailing you saying please ignore that email and its fine lets just forget about it.’ Mark said, ‘something in you wanted to do that, the reaching out (as I saw it) and letting me know some of your process and what I stimulated in you and what you worried about what I was left with and all that sort of stuff. So you kind of wanted to do that and then you felt bad for doing it and almost wanted to undo it.’ I said, ‘that hasn’t happened in a while, a couple of years. I described it before like there’s lots of different parts of me all wanting very different things and so today I was getting on with being a teacher and mum and kind of shamed myself for my ridiculous email…’ he said, ‘so that’s how you feel about the part of you that reached out?’ I said, ‘yeah in such a childish way!’ he cut in and said, ‘it didn’t sound a childish email, it sounded very articulate and a very truthful look at some of what you’re experiencing.’ I said, ‘right… I was pretty articulate when I was a child!’ we both laughed and he said, ‘you were! You’re doing better than me!’ there was some hesitation and I said, ‘vulnerable, then?’ he asked how what he said had landed with me and I said, ‘I’m not getting an angry vibe from you so that feels good,’ he said, ‘yeah you were worried about me being angry,’ I continued, ‘I like being called articulate!’ there was silence and then I said I didn’t know and he said that was okay. I started to well up and said I felt grateful.

I said, ‘what came up for me yesterday, I’m frustrated because I thought I was ‘over that’ but actually what I think happened was that I’d got to some sort of place of security with Anna and then with Linda those parts of me just knew not to reach out to her at all, there was no way she could hold any of that and so… and yeah I am articulate! But that’s almost my undoing because that’s a really great way to hide the very vulnerable, young, scared parts… I can analyse myself, I know what was going on. After I sent the email I was like ‘hmmm that’s that whole testing thing, I’m testing him, I’m seeing how he’s gonna respond to this’ and then this morning I thought now that I figured that out I should just say it’s fine, lets forget it… but then I thought actually its coming out for a reason and that part of me has been in hiding for 6 months and something made it come out yesterday.’ Mark said, ‘yeah… so your young parts are very welcome.’ And there was this wash of emotion and prickly shame that felt like it might bowl me over. He continued, ‘and I really hear wat you say about hiding them with your articulateness, it’s a good skill, but it could mean that they don’t get met and so letting them take up a little bit of space here and now and just seeing if we can hold them together… I can see that’s bringing up some feeling and I’m also not wanting you to feel too overwhelmed coz you said it was a hard session on Friday.’ I said, ‘but I actually think I’ve always hidden behind that articulate mini grown up type thing my whole life.’ He said, ‘hmmm and maybe you don’t have to right now.’ And the silent tears came again. There was this slow burning sadness in my chest and my throat through the whole first half of this session. Every so often a tear would escape.

I wrapped my very fluffy cardigan around myself and folded my arms and Mark mirrored this and asked if it felt good to give myself a hug. I felt really embarrassed and hesitated before saying, ‘a bit like hiding maybe?’ he said, ‘It could be yeah. You let yourself… your body did it organically. I take it as something protective and if I do that I can also experience myself sort of holding myself in a good way, in a soothing way. I don’t know if that’s true for your experience.’ I said, ‘hmmm I just feel very visible and on show and…’ he said, ‘its how it is to be seen at a number of levels.’ And again I felt like I could burst into tears. This all very incredibly intense and almost intolerable. I said, ‘but also it’s embarrassing to know what’s going on and it still goes on anyway. To understand what’s going on with me but I still can’t fix it and…’ Mark said, ‘it’s not about fixing in my book it’s allowing us space, in this case for your young parts to be fully felt for what the yare and when you can be present to them with some support from me, in a good way, something will just ‘do itself’.’ I couldn’t really respond there was a lot of silence.

Then I said, ‘it is hard to go a full week between sessions, I wish that it wasn’t hard but it is. I think… I dunno…’ lots of multiple short sighs here. I continued, ‘it was really working with Anna and then I tried really hard to make it work with Linda and… that dynamic with Linda, the side to me that does all the intellectualising and researching and reading psychology books really kicked into overdrive and I just read and read and read and Anna had encouraged me to put away all the books and just let her do her job but with Linda that became like a compulsion again and I found myself trying to almost educate her on what I needed as if trying to find validation in the pages of the books… like ‘this thing exists, attachment stuff, developmental stuff’ this is a real thing and people do work like this, because Linda was so not getting it.’ Mark said, ‘you were trying to help her get it and also looking for validation for your own experience to see yourself in those pages…’ I actually liked him doing this, the mirroring, it helped me feel less alone. I continued, ‘it’s actually similar to my relationship to my mum – me trying to make her the mum in needed her to be basically,’ my voice was very shaky here and I felt really young. He said, ‘a bit of a reenactment, with your childhood.’ I said, ‘I have not felt that I need to do that with you,’ Mark said, ‘so that allows something in you to relax perhaps? I know you came in anxious but it looks to me like you’re settling a bit now?’ I said, ‘but then it’s also really scary to be seen like that. Really scary.’ He said, ‘really scary.’ And I said, ‘when you point stuff out like that I’m like ‘fucking hell I hate this!’ he said, ‘ah… okay I might need to back up slightly with that, I don’t know coz its our relationship with being seen. I think we all want to be seen and also it scares us shitless all in a oner.’ I laughed and thanked him for swearing saying it made me feel better for swearing. He laughed and said we could swear together! It was nice, I felt like he had really taken everything I said in my email on board and was making a conscious effort to help alleviate some of the things, like me feeling bad for swearing.

I told him that in the very early months I would get Anna to look away from me, when it became too excruciating for me to be seen by her. He said, ‘You can do that with me too. We’re walking a little bit of a tight rope, it’s a good tight rope between us. You want me to see you. You want to feel felt as well. You didn’t get that so much with Linda and a bit of you kicked in like with your mum and tried to help her to help you…’ I was really emotional here.

I said, ‘I almost would be more comfortable if you were angry with me. I could deal with that. I could fight against that.’ I started to get a bit spacey and tried to meander through my thoughts… ‘It feels really… um… I don’t know…’ he said, ‘take your time.’ I said, ‘its really hard to trust people and its hard to trust that its authentic and… it’s the therapy game… client says something, therapist responds… eh… I think this feels authentic which is scary coz then we’re both being real… uh… I keep hearing this ‘undeserving’ in my head’ I put my hands on my head and closed my eyes and quoted the inner critic, ‘you shouldn’t have asked for this session…’ Mark spoke over me, ‘well you didn’t.’ there was a gap and I opened my eyes and he continued, ‘I offered it.’ There was such kind, firmness in his voice. Really engaged and caring. I can’t explain it, it was like he was sticking ‘up for me. There was a gap as I let this sink in. Then I said ‘hmmm, I pretty heavily implied it in my email!’ and he said, ‘yeah you let me know what you might be needing, yes you did,’ and we laughed together. He said, ‘yeah you can ask for what you need but it comes with a kickback by the sounds of it.’ I started to get emotional and said ‘I think I don’t wanna believe that this is going to work out actually.’ He said, ‘oh right okay, part of you is invested in holding the view that it wont, or… hmm… maybe a part of you is worried about what would happen if it does work out?’ through tears I said, ‘well it was working out with Anna.’ He said, ‘ahhh, and look what happened there. It does make sense that that part of you is scared it might happen again. Being left.’ Oh the silences between his words… it was pure agony. I quietly said, ‘yuhu.’ He said, ‘how is it for you talking about this? Its important. To let you know I’m fine with it, I’m totally okay and I think you’re doing really good work here, but I am aware its been so raw for you with Anna.’ I said, ‘yeah it’s hurting a lot.’ and i began to silently cry. He said, ‘lots of room, to hold your feelings. And no rush.’

I said, ‘ummm…. I’m going in and out of feeling uh, quite spacey and like I’m not here.’ He said, ‘aw well spotted.’ I said, ‘this feels like quite a lot.’ He said, ‘it is, so see if you can… we’re just gonna slow down around this piece and see if you can kind of stay a little bit here with me, without making the spacing out wrong in any way. Notice that a bit of you could leave at the moment and you could keep a little bit of yourself here and we’ll just see what happens. Nothing wrong if you go away or find yourself wherever but… lets just see if we can just breathe together.’ There was then two minutes of quiet as we sat there together and I felt the emotions welling behind my eyes. Eventually I said, ‘I miss her so much… I find it really hard to cope with how much I miss her still.’ He said, ‘yeah. Yeah huge feelings.’ I said, ‘there were parts of me that only she had seen and I didn’t even know were there and I don’t really know what to do with all that now…’ I then explained about what it was like when I started working with Anna. That I found it so hard to talk in the sessions that she encouraged me to draw. I told him of the drawing of the corridor with all the doors off it and explained that behind each of the doors were parts of me… that it’s a visual for what its like in my mind. That when I’m coping and adult, all the doors are shut and everything feels fine but through the work I did with Anna more and more doors would open. I explained to Mark that sometimes all the doors are open and it’s fucking chaos and I have all these different thoughts and opinions and sometimes its like a different part of me is running the show… then I paused and said, ‘now I feel like I wish I hadn’t said all of that,’ Mark said, ‘oh, what came in there? Something came in and you felt that you wished you hadn’t said all that.’ I said, ‘you’re a fucking idiot you sound like a complete lunatic, this is too much, he’s gonna get scared off, shut up, why are you saying all this in the third session!’ Mark said, ‘So there’s some part of you that’s worried about losing me perhaps? In the way that you lost Anna?’ I said, ‘no coz I don’t think that she did that deliberately, she didn’t leave because of me.’ Mark said, ‘no, sure… I didn’t mean it like that, that came out clumsily apologies…’ I said, ‘I’d let her bed in for about 18 months before I let this crazy shit out and now I’m giving you three hours with me and you know you might be like… wow this is intense, I don’t need this shit!’ he said, ‘I’m fine with it actually, I am. I am listening deeply to those bits of you that are a bit scared, there they are, they’re worried about what might happen. and it came in there quite beautifully and then you told me what they were saying inside. And um… not to push past that.’ Through tears I said, ‘I have missed working like this so much and if I had said something like that to Linda… I’m so fucking angry with her actually… I wish she had just admitted that she couldn’t do the work that I wanted to do instead of taking 6 fucking months over it… she said to me that it felt like there were three people in the sessions… me her and my inner critic… I told her there were four coz my child was there too not that she’d ever notice that or know what I meant. She said, ‘I wonder what would happen if you put your inner critic out the door’…’ I sighed and Mark said, ‘it’s trying to look after you isn’t it. Trying to do something for you at least.’ I said, ‘but you don’t get someone to trust you by telling them to drop their guard. She just didn’t get it. It annoys me that I do that… I’ve gone into analysing again.. but I liked the way that you responded’ Mark said it was good that I could let him know that and I did some big sighs.

Mark asked if we could check I with the spacey feeling. I said I felt it again when I was talking about putting the inner critic out the door. I explained, ‘anger is not an easy emotion to feel for me, as soon as I start to feel angry it flicks a switch.’ He said, ‘he asked about the switch and I said, ‘it just makes me feel distanced from everything like ‘pffffh’ everything just goes… uhhh…. like now… like foggy…’ Mark said, ‘yeah…. lets just hang out with the fog and give it a little bit of space. It’ll clear in it’s own sweet time and remember anything I suggest you can be the judge of whether to go with it or not… it might be helpful while you’re feeling a little bit foggy just have a little look round the room and see if there’s anything that makes you feel good or safer. You’re in your own room…’ I said, ‘there’s a part of me that wants to tell you everything and answer what you’ve said and tell you what I’m looking at and then there’s another part of me that is saying its too much too fast.’ Mark said, ‘we go with the voice of safety, don’t we, we go with the voice of that would feel too much. So don’t tell me what you’ve looked at or even thought about or know is in your room but let yourself have it with you. You don’t need to tell me about it.’ There was some silence and I took a big breath and said, ‘I like that.’ More big sighs. Mark said, ‘noticing, what inside said I like that. Something in you liked it. Notice it. Deepen into that a bit. You don’t have to tell me anything, just be in this moment. Sort of settle into it.’ Eventually I said, with a shaky voice, ‘you’re not forcing me to do anything. It feels really respectful and gentle and slow and nice. I do feel like… how dare Linda feel like just coz she’s a therapist I’ve to immediately trust her and drop my defences. She totally doesn’t understand defences if she things you can just put your inner critic out the door that’s not how it works. Also… if the inner critics there its coz there’s vulnerable parts there that feel the need to be protected and she didn’t understand that either…. soooo many times I told her this was the type of work I wanted to do and tried explaining it and read from books and was really respectful about the fact that we didn’t choose to work together and she kept telling me she was fine with this kinda work but she couldn’t do it… anyway… I’m grateful that she stuck around and she didn’t just quit but I’m angry…’ Mark said, ‘what would that anger want to say to her, here and now, she’s not here so you can say it.’ I paused and ummmd and then laughed and said I didn’t know. Mark asked what came up for me then and I said, ‘I’m so shit at this, the anger just turns into compassion and I’m just like, ‘ah maybe she didn’t realise she couldn’t do it, if she’s never gone this deeply or had this kinda shit gone on for her then maybe she doesn’t know what I’m talking about and maybe I was making her do something that she really didn’t know or understand… she didn’t choose to work with me and maybe it was hard for her and I spent hours and hours crying about her friend leaving me, maybe that was hard for her.. the anger goes and I…’ Mark said, ‘that’s very interesting, well I find myself very interested, everything you said there was very reasonable and empathetic and maybe totally on the money. She’s not here to say and that’s fine but… the anger has been there and its surfaced but its hard to let that speak. I trust for good reason.’ I said, ‘I find it hard to balance that you can be angry and also understand that the person didn’t do the thing deliberately to hurt you. I found that hard to do with my mum too… so if there are valid reasons for something then you shouldn’t be angry and I know that’s not the case and you can have both it doesn’t need to be one or the other. But as soon as I touch in on the anger, this other side kicks in and makes the anger melt away and I’m left with ‘she didn’t do it deliberately, she did kinda hold space for me twice a week even though she said she’d never worked with someone twice a week before… I was too much for her, the work I wanted to do was different to what she was able to do.’ Mark said, ‘there’s disappointment in that actually,’ I agreed and said, ‘the last session was fucking shit and I’m embarrassed and disappointed about that.’ He asked why embarrassed and I said, ‘disappointment and embarrassment are hand in hand for me… don’t expect anything more, why would you think you deserved anything better than that, why would you think that it should be more meaningful when she doesn’t give a shit about you, that’s embarrassing, wanting it to be more meaningful than it actually was, realsiing that she probably actually was relieved, and not sorry to see me go. Then it brought up more grief because I know Anna would have done a fucking amazing ending for me if she’d been able to and that was really important to me because I didn’t get an ending with Tom either and the last session I ended it at like 40 minutes I couldn’t stand it, it was excruciating, she had nothing to say.’ Biiig sigh. ‘I got the sense from her that her ego was in the room a lot and obviously that’s just my perspective but just from working with Anna and knowing how good she was at not letting her ego get in the way and how willing she was to be gracious and keen to reflect on herself, like you said earlier ‘sorry that was clumsy of me’ its so easy to do that, whereas Linda would say ‘that’s not what I meant, you’ve taken that the wrong way…’ she couldn’t see that both of us were in that relationship. It was always going to be my fault coz she was the therapist up here and I was the client down there… I sent her a couple of emails trying to explain to her how some things she’d said hurt my feelings and she told me that I’d turned her empathy into gaslighting. I tried to explain that even her saying that was gaslighting because I was telling her how I felt and she was telling me I was wrong. Mark said, ‘you really stood up for your reality there, didn’t you.’ I said, ‘Anna put all of that into me, one of the last things she said to me was ‘use your voice’…’ Mark said, ‘and you did, you should be proud of that.’ I said, ‘I wasted it on the wrong person because she couldn’t hear it. She called me sensitive, which I find really hard to hear… and because I found it hard to hear it proved her point, that I am sensitive. And there was no way round that. And that’s what my relationship with my mum was like. No way round… if someone calls you sensitive and you’re hurt by that then you ARE sensitive… its this cycle.’ Mark said, ‘yes I see what you’re saying. You’re made wrong and then you’re made wrong for feeling hurt by that. Digging yourself a deeper hole in that relationship and for you that was a direct reenactment of your relationship with your mum so it’s really charged.’ I nodded and said, ‘and then Linda said she felt that I was critiquing her, which immediately makes me want to stick up for myself to you!’ Mark said, ‘go for it!’ and smiled. I said, ‘I was not critiquing her! That’s not who I am. what I was trying to do was get my need met in the sessions after having two and a half years of working with someone who knew how to do that. And I was feeling the lack of that, painfully and naively believing that Linda was gonna be able to do it as long as I could explain to her what I was needing.’ Mark was agreeing and nodding the whole time and I continued, ‘Anna would love it when I would bring that stuff to a session you know, when I would tell her how I felt about things she’d said. We would explore our relationship and explore how we responded to each other and we’d look at how it maybe related to my childhood or other relationships… whereas Linda would just say ‘that’s not what I meant’ and that would be it, we’d not explore things deeply, or she’d tell me I was being sensitive. So I wasn’t critiquing her, that’s the ego thing, she couldn’t see past her own sense of ‘I’m a great therapist’ ummm… so I said to her that I was really sorry she felt critiqued by me because that wasn’t my intention at all. I told her I was trying to look at our relationship because that’s what most of my therapy had been about for the past 2 and a half years with Anna you know? She was a transactional analysist so almost all of the work we did was on our relationship, how her nurturing made me feel, how her going on holiday made me feel… because it all linked to childhood stuff. It was all alive in the room and Linda was like blown away by this and said she had no idea Anna worked like that. She told me she never worked like that and asked me if I felt like I needed that in my therapy which I said I did and she said she couldn’t do it. So that’s when I really started to look for someone else.’ I sighed and felt so exhausted with the whole thing. I continued, ‘I don’t know why I started talking about that…’ Mark said, ‘notice how you feel having said all that.’ I said, ‘do you think I sound like I’m really full of myself? Like I’m criticising Linda?’ he said, ‘it sounds like it wasn’t a very good fit really, it sounds like she didn’t work in the way that you needed her to work. Not only that but she was caught in a reenactment almost becoming a bit like your mum… you trying to get your mum to be a better mother to you. It didn’t work.’ I said, ‘see if I had brought that to her, she would not have wanted to look deeply into it….’ I went on to explain about times as a young child when I would try to find ways to help my mum. Self help books, mood boards… grown up conversations… being told I was a wise head on young shoulders, ‘what would I do without you’ that kind of thing’. Mark asked if that was my mum who would say that and I nodded. I felt quite unsettled talking about this, trying to explain the ways I had tried to ‘help’ my mum. Mark said, ‘and there was a young child who was abandoned in that really because she couldn’t be there for you in the way that you needed and you tried to be there for her in the way that she needed so that she could be there for you.’ There was a pause and I said, ‘hmm… and I got a tiny tiny flicker of anger and now it’s gone.’ Mark, ‘well, well done tiny flicker of anger.’ There was some silence and then he said, ‘and what’s happening now?’ I said, ‘I feel really upset.’ He said, ‘yeah.’ And we just sat with that for a bit. Then I spoke, ‘that’s the wasted time. That constant feeling of a fear that I’m going to waste time…’ I got more upset and said ‘it was all a fucking waste of time. And I tried so hard and no matter what I did nothing ever fucking changed.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah. How can there not be a lot of feeling about that. You tried so hard and nothing fucking changed.’ I broke the tension at this point and laughed and told him, ‘I really like hearing you swear.’ He laughed and said, ‘I get that.’ And then we went back to serious.

I said, ‘Just like I feel angry and frustrated with Linda for not seeing it and not being professional enough to notice that it wasn’t working, the way that I needed. You know… I could wait until I’m on my death bed before my mum would notice that it was wrong and that she should never have put me in that position and…’ Mark said, ‘she couldn’t see her part in how you related to her and what it was doing to you. She couldn’t see you in it or her part in it.’ I said, ‘my mum is really selfish so as long as she is getting everything she needs, she’s happy… and if I was ever upset or hurt she would call me sensitive or selfish or…’ Mark said, ‘you were made wrong for having feelings.’ I said yeah and he made an agreeing noise. He said, ‘so what did you do as a child with feelings that were wrong to have?’ I had to think for a while then said, ‘well, a lot of the time I didn’t feel. I just didn’t feel.’ he said, ‘makes sense.’ Then I told him about the times when I would feel my whole body shake, just like it did after I had my serious car crash and my whole body shook from the adrenalin. As a child I remember my body doing that and I would think it was so weird because I wasn’t cold but I was shivering. So I would go and lock myself in the bathroom or wardrobe or whatever and cry and cry, then wash my face and go back as if nothing had happened. ‘being part of the conversation and being praised for how mature and wise I was, that was when they would want me around… but then the shaking would come and I would think there was something massively wrong with me.’ Mark said, ‘how does it feel telling me about it?’ and I said, ‘bit embarrassing!’ I went back to the shaking thing to describe it further and Mark said, ‘course yeah bodies do that, they’re meant to.’ I said, ‘I wasn’t in any physical threat but it was an emotional trauma or something… these are not conversations that children should be a part of, really very adult topics. But it was either that or be completely ignored or ridiculed, so I chose that.’ Mark said, ‘and they gave you brownie points, your so wise… you’re so this, that and the other… blowing smoke up your arse at an age when you didn’t need that really. You needed to be looked after and protected and for people to have those kind of conversations when you’d gone to bed or something…’ I said, ‘yeah but they never ever censored anything, ever.’ Mark said, ‘that’s not right, is it, for there to be no boundaries.’ I said, ‘yeah there’s so much stuff there, in the stuff my mum would tell me… yeah.’ He said, ‘and of course as a child, we like to get bumped up don’t we, you know, go where you get the praise, that’s where you grow more into as a kid, but it would mean you grew up before your time.’ I said, ‘its like grooming, like coercing someone into moving someone in a direction they don’t wanna go in.’ Mark said, ‘or is not good for them to go in. hmmm.’ I said, ‘and you should be able to trust these people. To have your best interests in mind. And that makes me think of Linda. But I’m putting too much on her I can see that it’s a lot of transference stuff its really my mum that I’m angry with.’ Mark said, ‘well, yeah and it wouldn’t be wrong in this space to use Linda as a little bit of target practice so to speak, it wouldn’t be wrong. And yet your mum might be the person standing behind Linda, you’re right. But however it wants to come out is fine it just needs to come out and be expressed so you can feel it. Particularly anger which you can kind of do for a flash and then it gets pulled back or something washes over it, something happens there. It feels like what you’ve said is current in that you just come out from working with Linda but it also links so much to your history and you’re making those links which I think is great… but anyway, doesn’t matter too much what I think about what we spoke about, how are you left and how’s it been to talk about this?’

I said, ‘no it does matter what you think actually, it matters to me, whether it should or not it does.’ Mark said, ‘all I meant is that its your experience, its your truth that we want to let speak. Ill have views that I wont be slow in letting you know what they are so you know where I am with it but I’m open to being corrected by what your experience says about it, I think that says it more clearly.’ I said that made sense and told him that the corridor in my mind felt quieter. I told him the wasted time ting would come up time and again because there are so many parts of me all wanting to be seen and heard. That certain parts will feel seen while other parts feel like it was a wasted session. When it might not necessarily have been a waste for whichever part it was that spoke.

I then said, ‘I think all of that was really Important and I’m really glad I talked about it all and I have felt you here, connected a wee bit… which I’m glad about.’ Mark said, ‘ahhh well that’s really important yeah coz it spooked you a little bit that you couldn’t keep hold of that on Friday. Maybe you feel a bit more connected and actually its delightful for me to hear both those things that you said. Both claiming the importance of what came forward for you today and especially actually that it feels a little bit more connected, your left feeling a little bit more connected – even if its only an inch or something. I think that’s probably the more important thing perhaps.’ I agreed and said, ‘can I ask how you feel?’ he said, ‘course you can, yes course you can. I feel pleased that we’ve had today and I do feel good about how its gone so I am feeling quite expansive, um… and there’s also quite a bit to digest which will happen over time and I’m liking getting to know you and that we’re able to speak about what happens between us and let that be the work. That pleases me. And um… yeah and there’s something for me… I know this from experience… letting it find its place over time and in it’s own time.’ He smiled and I thanked him and it all felt really nice. We wished each other well and left the session.

He replied…

Hi Lucy, Thanks for reaching out, and letting me know whats happening you. We can speak on friday and if that feels too long, I can happily make some space for you at 4.15 today. Let me know if you would like this, otherwise see you on friday.
Best wishes Mark

So… I’ve accepted the session and now I don’t even know what I feel. Last night I came to realise that my younger parts had freaked out and sent the email in a way to test him.. I remembered talking to Anna about this behaviour in depth. She told me my child could test her any way she felt necessary. When I told Anna I didn’t want to be ‘difficult’ Anna said, testing isn’t being difficult ‘it’s about establishing safety’. And once again Anna’s work blew my mind.

I was testing Mark. Or rather, my child was (let’s blame the child). Testing his boundaries. Testing that he’ll be a safe person. Testing that he really does want to do the deep developmental work. Testing that he understands parts work and attachment wounding. testing to see if he’s easily angered or if he can be patient with ‘acting out’. None of this was consciously in my mind when I sent the email but it very much came up for me when I settled down in the evening.

This morning I began to regret sending the email and I wanted to tell Mark I’d figured out why I sent it and not to bother replying. Then I realised, from a more compassionate place of reparenting, my child needs to follow this one through. I can’t step in and protect my child from whatever relational issue this is. It needs to be worked through with Mark. And my child needs to see how he’s going to respond. In the early day’s it’s a fairly independent relationship they’ll forge. I can’t step in the way of that and not should I try to rescue Mark from this situation. I’ll have to let it pan out. I need to.

What’s interesting is that obviously all of this came up with Anna, massively. It came up with Paul, my first therapist, in a different way. It never came up with Linda. My child parts figured out very early on that Linda was not the right person for them to work with and so they went into hiding. Any emails I sent Linda were from my perfectionist, critical, inner parent/teacher/adult. I don’t recall sending vulnerable/needy emails or even meeting her in that space.

So with Mark, it’s taken two sessions! And they were fully out yesterday when I sent that email… let’s see what happens this afternoon. I’m feeling quite nervous about it and worried that he’s going to go in with the boundaries which I always find really hard. Despite the knee jerk reaction wanting to say I’m fine and see you Friday… I replied…

Hi Mark,
Thank you so much for this. It would be good to have a session this afternoon.
I have put the money through just now. See you at 4.15.
Lucy

And he’s just replied saying…

‘Grand – see you later. M.’

Which has made my whole system relax 💛

An email to Mark…

…here comes the flood!

Hi Mark,

I know we haven’t talked about your rules around contact between sessions so I’m sorry if this is not welcome, when we meet next I’ll be happy to discuss it with you and will agree to whatever boundary you put in place. I just really wanted to send this because I’ve been so activated since our session and there’s a lot of young/vulnerable stuff coming up…  I need to get back into my adult space and sometimes writing it down and sending it helps with that. Friday’s session was really really hard and I struggled to feel connected to you for most of it. In fact I felt like I was on my own for a lot of the session which is a familiar feeling, it’s just what I do when I’m feeling really dysregulated… the walls go up and it feels so painful coz then I’m alone and I’ve exposed parts of myself to the other person and STILL I feel alone. After the session ended I wrote out my session notes like I always do because that helps me remember all of the things the therapist actually said and helps me remember that you were actually there and how you tried to reach me. I remembered that you said, ‘we’ll go very slowly and hopefully you can feel me with you a little bit’ which was so nice. Also when you said, ‘it’s often facing feelings alone that makes them so unbearable’ and when you said, ‘I want it to be safe with us over time… for your emotions to come forward’… I’m holding those words inside me and trying to feel them. But it’s hard to believe that they’re real and that you really mean them.  

I just need to say that when you ask me how I feel in my body I don’t always know what the right answer is and sometimes I just make it up in my head what I think the answer should be. I’m worried that I’m not self-aware enough for you and that you will get bored or frustrated with me and want to stop working with me. I find it really hard to tune in to my body and sometimes it’s so scary that I don’t even feel like I have a body and even just hearing the words ‘how does that feel in your body’ feels too much for me. I don’t really know how to slow down and when you said for me to slow down in the first two minutes of the session and you laughed a bit when you were saying it, it felt like you were laughing at me even though I know in my head you wouldn’t have been doing that at all… I mean I 100% know you definitely would never be laughing AT me but that’s how it felt. I just am so overly sensitive to any perceived mocking and I felt like an idiot for not knowing instinctively how to slow down. It’s embarrassing. Like I imagine you would expect someone with this much experience in therapy to be much further ahead than I am. But there’s still so much that’s wrong with me and I’m so ashamed of that. 

There is so much going on all the time inside me. I miss Anna all the time but I know you’re not going to want to talk about that forever. I feel confusing mixed emotions about stopping work with Linda. I miss her and I’m angry with her and I’m exhausted with how much effort I put into that relationship hoping it would work and it didn’t. It all just feels like such a mess. I should be trying to get to know you and letting you get to know me… which is really fucking hard. I don’t know what I should be telling you, there’s just SO MUCH… and then all that crap came out about the caesarean stuff which I’m now really embarrassed about telling you but at the time it was in the front of my mind because I was so sore and full of the memories of it all after being worked on by my osteopath the previous day. But I’ve never talked about any of that to anyone in therapy or out of therapy before and it feels like such a weird and bizarre thing for me to have focused on. Why did I talk about THAT!?? And now I feel like I wasted the one single hour I get a week with you… and I don’t feel like one hour a week is enough. I’ve had two sessions a week for nearly two years and it’s been a big wrench going down to one. I want to have two sessions a week with you but I’m afraid you’ll say no to me and also I can’t remember the reason why you said we should wait before we go to two sessions a week. It’s just so hard for me to hold it all by myself and I’m worried you will want to stop working with me if I’m too demanding. Seven days is a long time, I lose any sense of connection between myself and the therapist when it’s that long.

I can’t even really put into words what this deep desire to reach out and email you is all about but it happened a lot with Anna before we went to two sessions a week. I know in my head that there’s a possibility I’ll regret this if I hit send… I just need to know you’re still there and that you’ll come back to me on Friday and that you won’t suddenly leave me. But those needy feelings make me feel gross and disgusting and they are the exact thing that makes people want to leave… because this is too intense. It IS too much. I know you said I wasn’t too much for you and that you made a point of saying that but I was really behaving myself in the session… this neediness that I’m showing you in this email… THIS is too much. It makes me sound stupid and needy and not like the intelligent adult I want to be.

So, there you go… I think this is a record for me. Two sessions in and this attachment stuff is kicking off already. Fuck! Oh, also I feel bad for swearing so much. Sorry about that! I spend all my time with kids when I obviously don’t swear at all and sometimes it all comes out in therapy! 

There’s a 50/50 chance that when I send this I will either feel relief or panic… if me sending this to you makes you feel angry please just let me know what you expect of me and I’ll not do it again. 

Lucy

A final goodbye to Linda…

So… as if things couldn’t get more complicated… I’ve been missing Linda! I decided to write her a final email goodbye, and it has helped.

Hi Linda,

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last session and your offer for me to email you one last time. It’s taken me a wee while to figure out what I want to say and actually if there was any need for me to say anything at all. Obviously, we had the opportunity to work to an end in the final session which I was really glad about and I didn’t want to just email for the sake of it. I had actually imagined I would need more sessions to work deeply on an ending but I do feel like we were able to talk things through together and have a mutually positive ending… despite it being quite painful and upsetting to say goodbye to you for the last time. I think the fact that we started talking about the possibility of an ending a couple of months ago was really helpful, it felt authentic, healthy and open and a totally new experience for me. I’m so grateful for that… I finally had the opportunity to have an ending that was within my control, rather than one that happened to me. I know you’re aware of the significance of me being able to work through that with you and I’m very grateful to you for allowing me the space to feel my way through that process.

I actually found it really hard in the days following our last session to adjust to the fact that we weren’t going to see each other again and I’ve been missing you a lot. Not missing ‘therapy sessions’ but actually missing you. I always found it really easy to talk to you, from the very first session and I’ve missed that. I really liked working with you, the way you are really helped me fully show up in sessions and brought me in touch with a side of myself I wasn’t really aware of before. I can’t remember if I ever told you this but before I worked with Anna I could never envisage working with a woman and there were no women in my life who I could imagine getting close to. I didn’t trust women at all. I feel really privileged and thankful that I’ve been able to work with Anna and you and experience a growing trust in being emotionally intimate and vulnerable with you both in different ways.

I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to talk in depth about the reasons why it was best for me to move on to someone else. Our dual relationship with Anna was always going to be between us and unfortunately would continue to impact my therapy. I’ve been thinking about you a lot recently and wondering if it was the right decision to leave because I miss you and how easy it was to talk to you, there’s been a lingering sense of regret. But today I realised that it’s okay to miss you and I don’t need to do anything to alleviate the longing (except maybe to send you this final email). We had 38 sessions over the past 6 months so it makes sense I would feel the absence of us meeting and that I would miss the relationship we worked on. I’ve reflected on all the work we covered in that time… it was a lot! I know it wasn’t always easy for you to work with me, but you always showed up for me. It was really important work we did together and I’m glad I got to work on everything I brought to you.

The past 6 months have been intense, beyond words! I stand by what I said about it being the hardest period of my adult life. I confronted some very dark and uncomfortable feelings with you as my witness. Those early weeks following Anna leaving, I genuinely believed I wouldn’t survive it. You were right when you said that I jumped in with both feet and so did you. I feel like six months ago I was a person existing in a space of shock and internal chaos, now I am in a far more stable, grounded and autonomous place. Thank you for meeting me exactly where I was, each and every session, and for walking with me through the past few months towards the next stage of my journey.

I really do wish you all the best, Linda and I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet and work with you.

With gratitude,

Lucy

Bringing my feelings to a session is a bit like baking a souffle… one false move and it collapses!

(Sorry this is a long one… it was an intense session and covered a multitude of traumas!)

After this session I wasn’t sure how I felt. I had an uneasy, disconnected feeling and a very heavy disappointment in the pit of my stomach. I explored it with my friend and found that a part of me was wanting to pull in the direction of not trusting Mark… thoughts of ‘he can’t help me, what did he even do or say today?’ were going round in my head. My friend reminded me that it’s in the nature of my attachment wounds that I find it hard to connect and she reassured me that Mark probably turned up to the session exactly the same way he has done the previous two times I’ve met with him and that most probably a part of me was feeling protective and was blocking my ability to feel his presence. I sat at my laptop for about 40 minutes unable to type, feeling really low and in a lot of pain because of some osteopathy I received the previous day. I sent a message to my friend saying I wanted to quit typing and just go to the beach and get chips for dinner. She encouraged me to do just that and so that’s exactly what I did.

I have listened to snippets of the recording of the session since then and it’s actually amazing to hear the contrast between the reality of the conversations and what I felt while it was happening. I can hear Mark is present, engaged, trying to attune to me, trying to make deep connections. There are long pauses from me as I struggle to take in his kindness and as I hear the inner critic in my mind discrediting everything Mark says.

I had been full of grief and other emotions all morning and was ‘looking forward’ to bringing that to the session. Around mid-day my husband came home from work earlier than usual (his work times vary) and that disrupted the flow of my emotions. He is a very active, practical person and is constantly on the go. So, he came home, put a wash on, opened all the windows and doors, emptied and loaded the dishwasher, hoovered and cleaned… like a whirlwind of action and activity around me. While I tried to sit very still containing these precious and vulnerable feelings lest they disappear amongst the busyness. He eventually went out to clean the car and promised he’d stay in the garden once finished so as to not disturb my session but I still found it harder to sense in to my feelings now that he was home.

I logged on to the zoom session and I asked Mark how he was. He said, ‘I’ve been enjoying a nice burst of summer before Autumn comes… warms the heart as well as the skin,’ which I thought was very sweet then he said, ‘how’s the inner weather with you today?’ in the gentle tone I’m beginning to grow fond of and also find irritating (depending on how I’m feeling that particular minute). I explained that a lot was going on and said, ‘I’m feeling a real rush of emotions right now,’ and so he encouraged me to slow down as I was just about to launch into random utterings. There was an immediate sense of panic and of not wanting to waste time. He had a gentle smile/laughing tone as he reminded me to go slow and it made me tense up as if he was laughing at me. On reflection I can see that I was feeling very self-protective and wary. I never know what to do when I’m encouraged to slow down. I just sit there in silence and maybe take a breath and it always feels like an age has passed when I finally speak but listening back to the recording I can hear it’s milliseconds.

I told Mark that a lot has gone on for me this week and I explained that I’d found not having a session at the start of the week really hard. He didn’t say anything and I interpreted that as him thinking negatively about me as if he was hoping I wouldn’t keep going back to needing two sessions a week. In the initial meeting we had and the first session Mark assured me he was happy to go to two sessions if I felt it necessary later on but mostly due to a busy schedule right now he wanted to start with just one. But obviously my inner critic went straight to imagining that his silence meant he was sick of me already. My voice sounds closed off and robotic interestingly. He didn’t really respond, he just sat there. Sometimes he speaks but his audio doesn’t kick in so he’s possibly making reassuring noises that aren’t’ being picked up and if I’m not looking at him then I won’t be aware of it.

I told him that Wednesday marked three years since I started working with Anna and I recalled this time last year when she had highlighted the date to me and told me, ‘it’s a significant date because it’s the day I met you’. His lack of input was making me feel a bit uneasy so I said, ‘it feels a bit silly talking about it now but it felt meaningful at the start of the week’. Mark said, ‘she remembered and called your attention to it, it was in her consciousness and it makes sense that it was highlighted this week for you.’ I told him that her remembering the date made me realise she actually did care and that this was important to her too and Mark said, ‘it landed somewhere quite deep in you and as you think about it now that place is probably a little bit up,’ I nodded. He said, ‘I think our bodies remember anniversaries as well on some level. It makes sense to me that it would be a big deal for you.’ I told him I really did feel that my body remembers anniversaries and I explained how for so many weeks after Anna stopped working with me I would feel myself pulled to checking the time every Tuesday morning at quarter past 10 in the morning which was the time she made the call. My voice sounds really depressed and I’m casually and needlessly swearing and sighing quite a lot. A bit later something came up where Mark asked if I was angry and looking back I actually wonder if I was angry from the start and it was coming out in a passive aggressive way. I guess I find it really hard to get in touch with anger, maybe it was to do with feeling angry at Adam for coming home early and disrupting my feelings which I so desperately wanted to feel and work on in this one precious hour I get a week in therapy. I’m only just learning to feel and process emotions so it feels like a very delicate and fragile balance. Like baking a souffle … the minute you open the door the whole thing collapses and it’s ruined. Okay, so now I’ve figured that out I need to learn how I can contain everything I want to work on, regardless of what is happening around me. Not quite sure how to do that, maybe the first step is bringing this back to Mark next week (which feels like a hundred years away!)… okay… maybe I’m also angry about having just one session a week and that he didn’t take the very subtle bait and ask if I wanted an extra session when I was telling him how hard it was not having one.

I told Mark that on Wednesday I felt a strong connection to Anna and that I felt certain she would have remembered me which he said sounded lovely. He asked me if I was in touch with some of those nice feelings now and I told him no. he said, ‘you’ve been on quite a journey this week and you’re in a different space today. You’re letting me know some of the important points of that.’ I told him I felt all over the place and didn’t know what to talk about. I said something important happened yesterday that I wanted to work on but that I felt separate from it and fuzzy and not connected to anything any more. I told Mark the situation with Adam and that I was feeling more guarded because he was around. Mark said that made sense to him and that it was one of the big drawbacks of zoom sessions when you live with other people, that we have to manage the possible presence of others when we are needed privacy and space. He then said, ‘it sounds like some things are inhibiting you,’ and I said, ‘yeah I think I’m overthinking things.. because the session last week was so connecting and powerful and like I was able to hold on to that and I had a focus for the session but now I don’t really know what I want to talk about and I panic that I’m gonna waste time and angry because I thought I knew what I wanted to talk about and now I feel like I’m prattling on…’ Mark said, ‘well I don’t think you are, you’re talking about the changing landscape in your day, you’ve been thrown a bit, you’re distanced from your experience and in a sense we’re just naming that, aren’t we?’ I agreed and then talked about how sick I am living with these restrictions, not being able to go to sessions but having them at home, everything encroaching on my personal space.

Eventually I said, ‘I think I should talk about what happened yesterday, but it feels random and bizarre to talk about this in the second session but it’s relevant to me right now so I think I should talk about it if that’s okay.’ Mark said, ‘yeah, of course its okay, you go wherever you want to and just sort of touch into how it is to approach speaking about it.’ I said, ‘I feel nervous and anxious, maybe because I’m going to be launching into something very personal but it’s important.’ Mark said, ‘yeah, it’s really important, it’s deeply personal but it matters actually, so, it’s important that you are able to bring your whole self here as it where and it also makes sense, because of the bigness that there is a little bit of anxiety and I just wanted to catch that because I picked it up earlier and I know what it’s like to be about to speak about something (which you can choose not to) but I’m perfectly happy for you to go wherever you want to.’ In that moment, his whole speech felt very contrived and fake to me… the ‘therapy game’ that I’ve referred to before where the client says something and the therapist responds in a certain way. In this moment he chose repeating, mirroring and affirming… and it all felt unreal to me. However, listening back to the recording I can hear he was being very careful to listen to what I was saying and create a safe space for me to feel comfortable enough to share and work on what I needed to.

I began to explain to him the back story which is that both my kids were born by caesarean and that they were both physically and psychologically traumatic experiences. I told him I had always hoped that I would work this through with Anna but never did which upsets me. I gave him some details of why the births were so traumatic. With my daughter I was induced at 40 weeks, in labour for 37 hours and eventually had an emergency c-section. She was over 10lbs, had to be resuscitated as my placenta was anterior they had to cut through it to get to her which meant I bled out and lost 3 litres of blood. I was very ill and they wanted me to have a blood transfusion but in my state of confusion and heightened anxiety I turned it down. I had suffered from SPD (where the pelvis separates through pregnancy) and had been walking with the aid of crutches for the latter half of the pregnancy. I then didn’t bond immediately with my daughter through thankfully was able to breastfeed her immediately and had a long and deeply bonding breastfeeding experience with her which was really one of the few good things that happened in the first chapter of parenthood. I explained to Mark that I healed fairly well physically but that psychologically I really suffered and began therapy after my daughters first birthday. I then moved on to my sons birth which was a planned section at 38 weeks, he was over 11lbs and was in the ‘frank breech’ position meaning his bottom was engaged but his head and feet were up under my rib cage. Once again my placenta was cut through on the initial incision when meant there was an emergency element to the operation, it becomes very important to get the baby out quickly at that point. Because of his position, the surgeon had to put his arm up inside me and grab Reuben’s foot and pull him round internally and out. I lost just over 3 litres of blood that time however this time baby was well and able to feed straight away.

I explained to Mark that I have avoided talking about or thinking about both of these experiences but that for me I am left with quite a prominent sense of disappointment and anger that this was how my babies came into the world. I told him that on a sort of whole body/spiritual sense it feels like a violation, that my babies were ripped from my body before they were ready to leave and that my body was violently cut open and forced into. I also told him that Adam found both of the experiences pretty overwhelming though he never showed it at the time. There were moments where he worried he might lose me and the baby. I checked in with Mark at one point, because he had been so quiet throughout, I jokingly asking that he’s not squeamish and he said, ‘It’s okay! I just feel for both you and your husband, what a thing to go through!’ I went on to explain that it must have been energetically such a wrench for me and the baby to be separated so violently and before we were ready. Then I got to the point of this whole preamble which was to tell Mark that I have permanent nerve damage and scarring since having Reuben and that there are various symptoms associated with this including bowel and bladder stuff, tightness, back pain. My osteopath has helped me with many different things including the SPD, shoulder and arm pain, back and leg issues. Yesterday, after much research, I went to her asking if she could work on the build up of scar tissue that goes through from my section scar, through my abdomen and right to my back. It causes pain during ovulation, pain during my period… all sorts of symptoms. Yesterday was the first time I had any of that worked on after years of dead ends with the GP, hospital visits and scans that came back inconclusive… being told by doctors there’s nothing wrong with me and nothing they can do. My osteopath was amazingly validating. She physically assessed the situation and agreed with me that the scar tissue was causing all these issues and my constant chronic pain and she started working quite aggressively with her fingers to begin slowly breaking down the scar tissue one layer at a time before using the laser treatment. The entire session was an hour long including the consultation and I felt many emotions come to the surface as a result. I explained to Mark that it put me in touch with my body and the pain and upset of the traumatic experiences associated with these parts of me. The pelvic pain feels so deeply connected to deep grief and panic and fear and numbing. During the treatment my osteopath suggested self massage between our sessions and I explained to her that I found it really hard to do that because it makes me feel dizzy and nauseous. She told me that makes sense because I associate that area of my body with the trauma and she encouraged me to consider instead just gently stroking the skin around my tummy, perhaps with oil, to get myself used to touching my body and bringing awareness to that part of myself. For the hours following the osteopath appointment I was completely overwhelmed with emotions associated with the c-sections and completely fatigued. Also my scar, tummy and back were agony and the palpations had brought on my period incredibly heavily so I felt lightheaded and just completely depleted. I had a bath and slept with a hot water bottle.

I told Mark that loads of stuff had come up for me and was still around, ‘I was so numb for so long but I am now feeling the pain of it all, the powerlessness, the violation, the disappointment that my labours didn’t go the way I wanted them to because I’d wanted to give birth naturally,’ Mark said, ‘I wonder if part of it is that it didn’t complete, it didn’t run its course and you’re left with that being un-done in a sense, aren’t you, the sort of energetic push of the body knowing what to do didn’t happen, something else happened that was traumatic and violating.’ I said I hadn’t let myself think about how disappointed I am about that. I said, ‘I can very quickly go to this place of shaming myself and criticising myself. If I’m in a difficult place my go to is to feel like I’m a shit mum and I obsess about it to the point where I even feel like the kids would be better off without me. I feel like I failed in the area that I really wanted to do properly by not being able to give birth to them. I don’t even know what to do with the energy of it all, it just feels massive.’ Mark said, ‘are you in touch with it as you talk it through with me?’ I stayed silent for a while and then suddenly this constant drilling from the street outside my window stopped and I exclaimed that I was relieved it had stopped. Mark encouraged me to feel that sense of relief in my body and we talked a bit about that, then it started up again so I decided to pick up the laptop and take it up to the bedroom.

I said, ‘I can feel a lot of something in my chest and a buzzing under my skin and around my whole body…’ total silence from Mark! I continued, ‘the critical thoughts are kicking in ‘why are you talking about this? This is a complete waste of time for Mark, waste of your time…’…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘it’s not, make some room for the buzzing sense in your body. We don’t have to make sense of it at all I think there’s something about just holding that as an energy in the moment and just noticing, ‘oh hello, you’re there’ you know?’ I immediately started to feel emotional and said that I was frightened to feel it. Mark said, ‘yeah so something in you is scared of what might be around. So, we’ll go very slowly and hopefully you can feel me here with you a bit and we’ll just not go any faster. It’s a big piece you’ve just done in terms with your history and what that’s brought up. It might have felt difficult to say.’

I said, ‘I think I feel embarrassed talking about this because you’re a guy!’ Mark said, ‘ah well I’m glad you’re able to say that,’ I continued, ‘I don’t know why that’s important but it feels it… a part of me doesn’t think it does matter because if you’re a human being and you understand pain and emotions then you’ll understand it… but I think the disappointment of not working on it with Anna was because I assumed that she would personally understand. But I think that’s unfair actually, to say that.’ Mark said, ‘Well it also makes sense to me and I’m glad you’re able to say it out loud because it’s around, you know. I’ll never know what its like to be pregnant from the inside, ill only know from listening to women talk about it. I’ll never know first hand what that’s like and I’ll never know what it’s like not to sort of complete a birth process the way I would have wanted it to be and I’d have never had what’s a violent and invasive procedure, so in a sense I can’t ‘get it’ from my own experience, I can get the emotional side of it. I mean, it sounds absolutely terrifying to me…’ annoyingly I interrupted here and I wish I knew what he was going to say but I think something unconscious in me cuts him off whenever I sense he’s going deeper into the emotional side of things even though that is exactly what I want him to do. I said, ‘I’m aware that I haven’t told you anything about my childhood so you don’t have a back story but, for now I’ll just say that I felt very strongly that if I was ever going to have kids it would be like my life’s purpose to break the chain, the generational trauma and do things very differently. I worked really fucking hard at that and read a million books and learned about psychology and child development…’ Mark said, ‘yes you really went the extra mile,’ I started to cry and he told me to take my time, I continued, ‘no matter how hard you try, there are some things you have no control over and I’m so disappointed that I hadn’t done all my healing work before having kids and I’m having to do it through their childhood and it does still affect them sometimes and I hate that… I had never been to therapy when I had Grace, didn’t know myself very well, had no faith in my ability to be a mum and felt very disconnected from the whole thing. I wanted to enjoy the pregnancy, I wanted to bond with her, I wanted it all to be perfect. I found it really hard to connect to her, which is hard to admit,’ Mark said, ‘go really gently with yourself.’ I said, ‘I just wish it had all been different. I wish that I’d had support, that I hadn’t been on my own with it all. Becoming a mum, having a daughter, your mum being alive but not giving a shit and not being in your life and not wanting to support… it’s a grief… there are definitely some parallels between that and… it’s one of the reasons it’s been so hard having Anna not part of my life any more even though she is alive. There is so much grief. When I had Grace it was like my mum was dead but she wasn’t, you know? You see other people’s parents being really involved in their grandchildren’s lives…’ Mark said, ‘it’s brought all that back up,’ and I started to cry again. I said, ‘you know, you sort of grow up lacking things, and you have to bear and tolerate emotional neglect and abuse and then you’re an adult and you have to experience that all over again but then also you have to witness your children growing up with grandparents who don’t know how to be emotionally available or present and I feel bad about that, guilty that I’ve brought children into the world where they don’t have things that other kids have. I remember before I was even pregnant with Grace my mum told me that if I ever had children she wouldn’t be a doting grandmother… as if she could suddenly have a personality transplant… she was never a doting mother! Going through the caesareans and everything, it took a long time to physically recover from that but then also you have to look after these defenceless human-beings who rely on you for everything and feeding them from a depleted body, not getting any sleep… I dunno I feel like all of this has been locked in a room for years and I haven’t looked at it for so long.’ I continued, ‘I struggled so much to access emotions when working with Anna, these emotions just didn’t come, I was completely numb for so long and I’m really annoyed with myself for wasting all that time. It took me so long for me to be able to feel anything with her. I had this backlog of things that I wanted to deal with and then I ran out of time.’ Mark said, ‘I imagine I might feel a bit angry about that.’ I said, ‘yeah I think I’m angry with myself. I had what I needed right in front of me and I just didn’t take it. I had her right in front of me for hours and hours and hours.’ Mark said, ‘it sounds from the little I know of your upbringing, what you’ve just said there, it would be so difficult to get to a place of emotional trust and let yourself feel your feelings. What I’m getting is that you probably didn’t have an upbringing where it was safe to do so, so your whole system probably clamped down in order for you to survive your upbringing in a way and it took hell of a long time to realise, actually this is somewhere I can let myself feel. and in a way your system was being your best friend there because it was saying until we really trust you were not going in it, were going to put a break on or were going to numb, were going to protect this vulnerable place until we feel there’s enough ground between us to let that come forward. And yeah there’s the critical part of you that comes forward and says you wasted all this time and you had a worry earlier I this session about wasted time,’ I said, ‘it’s a recurring thing for me, it comes up repeatedly,’ he said, ‘yeah I’m getting that’ and we both laughed. Mark said, ‘well the other side of that is that you want to use this opportunity to do well for yourself, to really grow and that’s a good striving, it’s a good force,’

I talked about the time Anna said, ‘it’s been a year and you still haven’t cried with me… of course you don’t trust me, women have never been figures of trust for you before.’ I told Mark that I don’t have a single memory of crying with anyone growing up. ‘I remember hiding under my bed and crying, hiding in my wardrobe crying… I never went to my parents for comfort. I remember my mum crying and me comforting her… from a very young age…. it was almost unfathomable for me to imagine sitting with another human being witnessing me cry… when I finally did let a few tears out with Anna I had my hoody pulled right over my head…’ Mark said, ‘It’s huge that you were able to do that. It’s not been safe for you, historically, to shed tears with another human being. I certainly want it to be safe with us over time and there’s no push for you to cry or not cry but I would like for your emotions to come forward.’ I told him I was pleased that I had cried a bit with him and he said, ‘it sounds like I should be honoured actually, given what you’ve just told me.’ I told him, ‘It had a big impact on me that you said you wanted to do deeper work because I always worried I would be too much for Anna. My mum was so emotionally unstable and blamed so much on me like arguments in the family so I worried I would break Anna with my strong feelings, as if I had the power to hurt someone with my emotions. I learned to hide it all, shut it down. I just had this massive need to hold it all in.’ I closed my fists and placed them on my collar bone as if closing the doors around my chest. Mark said, ‘and as you do that movement what happens?’ I said, ‘everything tightens and I feel safer and protected.’ Mark said, ‘ah okay, safer and protected sounds good doesn’t it but tightness maybe less good? You know how to do that.’ I said, ‘well yeah coz protected and safe also means separate and…’ Mark said, ‘and alone.’ I said, ‘yeah.’ In a really quiet voice. Mark said, ‘and that’s the key thing isn’t it. You probably had to endure a lot of emotional pain while feeling relationally alone or looking after the others emotional pain.’ I said, ‘yep… what time are we at?’ which sounds like such a hilarious side step but it didn’t feel so obviously avoidant in the moment. Mark said, ‘I can see that touched you didn’t it, me saying that. We have 18 minutes to go… and you asked that… there was an urge there in response to what I said, to check out the time, I’m not being critical but what I’m reading into that is that it’s probably that we’re touching something…’ I said, ‘do we have time to go into this is what I was thinking,’ and Mark said, ‘right and that’s a protective part of you isn’t it, that’s looking out for you in the sessions and actually I guess what’s coming across for me is that its huge and so no we don’t have time for it in this session and we can still touch that place and hold it together.’ I was crying silently and said, ‘doing everything alone, on my own… that’s like a summary for my childhood… there’s only so much that a person can take and then it becomes pretty unbearable for them to be able to go on… I was looking after my little brother as well…’ Mark asked the age gap and I told him 4 years. I said, ‘he’s my best friend and he’s awesome… but it was a big responsibility growing up… the loneliness… that’s really painful… when I was a teenager I self-harmed to try to cope with those feelings I guess and uh… I don’t know why I said that actually I don’t know what the end of the sentence is.’ Mark said, ‘there doesn’t need to be one. It makes sense. You self-harmed in some ways to help you deal with the feelings because you’ve had to face feelings that no human being should have to face alone. And it’s often facing feelings alone that makes them so unbearable so it makes sense to me that you’d have found other ways to manage your feelings… and before you said it I found myself wanting to pause you a little bit because I didn’t want you to go on to another big thing. So you weren’t with too much ‘feeling’ on your own that we pause together which I guess is what I’m doing now. But you found ways I guess to manage things and you’re finding more ways that have grown through therapy and life generally.’ I laughed out of embarrassment at the thought that he was trying to stop my tsunami of disclosures unsuccessfully. I told him I’d felt a lot of shame around the self-harm until Anna talked to me about the fact that I didn’t need to cut myself for her to know how bad I feel and that she believes me when I tell her how I’m feeling. Mark enthusiastically responded to this and I told him how deeply her words had touched me. I said, ‘I can hear her saying it and her words have gone round in my head and supported me so many times.’ Mark asked, ‘When you hear her saying it right now what happens in your body?’ I said, ‘it feels like a relaxing feeling, everything relaxes and eases a bit.’ He said, ‘Great. Let’s follow that a little bit. I want you to feel the good stuff as we close for today and take it in.’

Mark then asked if he could take things in a different direction and asked about my brother. So I told him a bit about Daniel, his job and his personality. The fact that he and I were very close growing up, had a lot of fun together. He’s going through his own therapy and we talk a lot about our own experiences. Mark said it was really lovely to hear me talk about Daniel. He said, ‘It’s great to hear you talk about him, great to hear he’s done so well for himself, he sounds like an interesting character and he’s also done some inner work. I’m interested in what supports you in your wider world as well as the things that have let you down.

With five minutes to go he said, ‘I want to check in with you. You’ve told me some big things which took some courage to say and there was some anxiety around so I want to make some space to talk about what it was like for you to share.’

I said I wasn’t feeling as anxious anymore, ‘That buzzing has gone… what even is that buzzing feeling? Is it anxiety?’ Mark said, ‘well our systems get activated. I quite like those raw terms like you used the word buzzing. In a way that speaks to me as much as a global emotional word we sort of slap onto it, sometimes words like buzzing or sharp or heavy are much more accurate because that’s our direct experience so I felt glad… and I guess we have to go back to it to see what it was if you wanted to slap a bit emotional word on it but I quite like that you didn’t. either way our systems get activated and that’s come down, certainly when you were talking about Daniel there I could feel that you were back in your ground, more regulated than when you were buzzing.’ I said, ‘yeah coz its hard to talk about that stuff,’ and he said, ‘course it is, it makes absolute sense… and it’s activating isn’t it.’ I told him I didn’t really know how I felt and that it would take me a few days to process the session. I said, ‘There’s always this possibility that I’m gonna overthink it and worry about what you might think of me and then that sends me on a spiral of stuff,’ Mark said, ‘well d’you know what, I was just about to say that is the one thing I don’t want you to feel and of course you’ll feel whatever you do but I don’t want you to feel that you’re too much for me or that you’ve been too much in any way because historically that’s been a big hook for you so it makes sense that sometimes you might have that anxiety in relationship to me so I do want to let you know that you haven’t been. I think you’ve been… you’ve taken some leaps of faith in letting me hear some very painful and sensitive, traumatic even, variants of life experiences.’ I thanked him for saying that and told him it really means a lot to me that he told me that. He asked if I relaxed slightly and I told him it did help me relax. ‘that is all I ever need to hear, then when the inner critic overanalyses I can remind myself that you said I’m not too much.’ He said, ‘yes you know where I am because I showed up and if I didn’t your head would go down the direction it’s been down a million times before with other people.’

We talked a little about that and I thanked him, wished each other well for the weekend and I ended the session. Now that I’ve listened to the whole thing I can hear his kindness and I feel connected to him… I couldn’t hear or feel it when it was happening but I can feel it now!

Therapaversary

16.09.20

Anniversaries in therapy can be so important, especially if the client happens to be incredibly sentimental and looks for meaning in everything… like me!

Last year, towards the end of August, Anna was reflecting on my progress and she said something about us working together for two years. She then said something like ‘well, nearly two years… September 16th!’ And I was totally stunned. I couldn’t believe she knew the date that I started working with her. I said something like ‘maybe if it’s a significant date for you like someone’s birthday then that’s why you remembered’ and she said, ‘it’s a significant date because it’s the day I met you!’ This was one of the most moving and memorable things she ever said to me, I honestly couldn’t believe she remembered.

Using the analogy of her being my ‘therapy mum’ it felt like the 16th of September was my therapy birthday and she was showing me how special me coming in to her life was. It felt joyous and loving. Like she was happy to have me there. Today would have been 3 years together. I know she’ll be thinking of me today, as I am thinking of her. Yesterday I was filled with heavy sadness about the approaching therapaversary and the grief poured out of me last night but today I feel connected to the gratitude and joy.

Working with Anna changed me, she changed my life forever. Even in her absence I’m still learning from the work we did together. I will forever love her for what she did with me 💕