The past few weeks have been a total rollercoaster. I have had moments of feeling kind of okay and moments of feeling complete despair. I’m coming to the end of my two week therapy holiday and I feel like it’s been way longer than that. I have so much I want to take to Mark. SO MUCH. How do you choose? How do I bring exactly what I need to bring while also leaving space for the therapists care and connection to get through to you? This feeling always leads to chronic anxiety that I’m gonna waste the session and not talk about anything important and not feel connected and feel like everything has gone to shit.
Last night I was triggered by a dream I had of Mark the previous night. I’d unconsciously put it to one side all day in some sort of dissociative walled off way and by the evening when I had time to feel it, it took over me. Thankfully my friend was on the end of the phone and I was able to share my distress with her. To be honest I felt like I was a completely different person. A split off fragment of myself or something. A very troubled teen who did not feel remotely related to the 37 year old woman and mother that I am. At one point I was so troubled by my thoughts that I started to hyperventilate and nearly had a panic attack.
Basically, every single night since the last session, I’ve had these amazingly connecting, soothing, lovely dreams of Mark. I’ve dreamt of awesome sessions and lovely woodland walks. They’ve all had this boundaried sense of safety and connection. In one of the dreams I went to his house for a work related meeting that had been prearranged and involved a number of agencies I work with. I felt very in my adult, I met Mark’s partner and we prepared a meal together and I felt respected and valued and like they enjoyed engaging with me. It was seriously such an awesome gift from my subconscious to be able to feel this connection with Mark through the therapy break. Then Wednesday night happened and all that crumbled.
In the dream I was going to a session with Mark, an actual face to face session, in a therapy room. I felt really good about it. It was in quite a dark room at the end of a corridor. Previously we had worked for many sessions preparing for this session and I knew it was going to be really healing. In my dream we were going to do this therapeutic tool called ‘skin to skin attachment work’ which consisted of lying in bed with the therapist, both with tops off… (yes I know this sounds really weird in waking life but in my dream it made sense and was a thing people did to heal developmental trauma) with the therapist holding the client in a comforting, gentle, parental way, like you would hold a toddler in the crook of your arm. In the dream I felt safe and fully trusting of this process. I was a teenager in the dream and I was aware I had the body I had as a teen. I could feel his skin on my skin and in the dream I regressed to a young child state that both me and Mark were aware of. I felt soothed by his calming presence. It felt so healing and nurturing and lovely. But very slowly and gradually everything changed. I won’t go into details because despite it being a dream I am pretty traumatised by it but basically he had tricked me into believing this was a therapeutic tool. He violated me, slowly. It felt horrific. I felt so disgusted with myself. I felt like such an idiot for believing him. I was aware that I felt very young and powerless and almost hopeful that if I went along with this maybe he wouldn’t reject me. Afterwards he told me that would be our last session. I paid him (???) and left in tears. As I walked down the corridor, completely destroyed, I passed three open doors… one with Linda at it, one with Anna and one with Paul. I cried out, ‘now I’m going to have to find another therapist’ and then I woke up crying.
Through the day, like I said, I wasn’t really that aware of the dream. But last night it all came pouring out of me… this part of me was absolutely inconsolable at points. In fact I was the closest I’ve been to cutting myself for a long time. If it wasn’t for my friend who was messaging me, I would have cut. This part of me felt like everything was destroyed, there was no hope, she longed for Anna and was stuck in a cycle of disbelief that she’s really never coming back, she felt like a reject who could never be helped and she was left with no trust for any therapist. This part (let’s call her 14) was certain ‘I’ am just like my mother (in fact this is the thought that triggered the almost panic attack). My friend reminded 14 that I am a caring and attentive mother. She tried to encourage self compassion by sending me photos and voicenotes I have previously sent her when in my adult space but 14 could not associate with that role at all. She felt like ‘I’ was a fake. She felt that everything ‘I’ talk about is bullshit. That ‘I’ talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
To be honest (because isn’t that what this space is for?) I binged most of the morning… and on reflection I’m thinking maybe this is what 14 was freaking out about last night. She kept saying that ‘I’ am a farce, I buy the books but I don’t fully read them all, I start watching meditation videos and don’t complete them, I share stuff on Instagram and don’t follow the advice myself… as 14 said ‘I’m just like my mum!’… Basically, I’m not looking after my system. I am on some levels. I did my physio exercises for my pain and took my meds this morning. I tried to read one of the Pema Chodron books I recently bought. But I’m still living this very mixed up life where I know one thing and do another… but maybe that’s healing. It’s messy… not linear. 14 feels very let down by everyone, including ‘me’. And I’m not sure where to go with that. I’ve been signed off work this month and I recently got signed off for November too. The fact is, I’m really really struggling. Like I’ve said a million times, 2020 has been the hardest year of my adult life. It feels like I’m drowning.
I watched quite a lot of the Embodiment conference when the videos were live and two in particular really grabbed my attention. So much so that I watched them both in full twice. One was a session with Alanis Morissette and Richard Schwartz which was amazing… she basically let him therapise her in his incredible Internal Family Systems style. The other also involved Alanis but it was a panel talk with Dan Siegel, Peter Levine, Gabor Maté and Richard Schwartz. It was so fascinating. Anyone who knows me knows I adore Alanis. I have loved her for 25 years… love her music, love her parenting style, love her beliefs, her philosophies, her self awareness and her openness to talk about her own therapy journey through CPTSD and addiction recovery. I just think she’s awesome. Anyway, these two videos were so interesting and helped me feel less ashamed of a number of things. One being talking about parts. There was my icon talking about, to and for her parts… in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Wow.
I really wanted to talk to Mark about this as soon as I saw the videos, but I watched it at the start of the therapy holiday which was five hundred and seventy eight years ago so it feels completely irrelevant now. Honestly, this is why I need very frequent sessions. My brother is having therapy 3 times a week just now as he’s got more time because his work still hasn’t started up yet and his progress and healing has just exploded. Attachment work needs very frequent, consistent work… two weeks off from sessions is a lifetime.
Anyway… this is a kind of mixed up ramble… I guess i’m feeling a little all over the place. I keep oscillating between wanting to shut down all my social media to wanting to be on it 24 hours a day. I have been so scared that Mark won’t come back to me or that when he does he will feel differently towards me. What if he’s ill or has decided to stop working as a therapist? What if he decides he doesn’t want to work with me any more? What if I can’t actually trust him? What if I’m too much for him?
To reassure myself I re-listened to my last session from Friday 16th and in it I shared my fears with Mark. I told him, ‘I’m scared you’re not going to come back to me, please come back to me… two weeks is a very long time and I’m going to miss you… but I hate feeling like that, I hate that I feel so scared that I’m going to lose you. I wish I was the sort of mum that looks forward to immersing herself in family life rather than obsessing about my therapist, I’m just so selfish…’ He said, ‘Yes, you judge yourself harshly. There’s one hell of a lot of guilt backing up in you and making you wrong for the way you perceive yourself to be. And I want to say this… people need people. End of.’ I talked about how it really doesn’t feel okay to need anything from anyone and we delved a little into the way my mother was when I was younger. Mark said, ‘This is how you’re left as a child with a mother who doesn’t reach towards you, doesn’t make that effort to lean in, lean forward, she didn’t find you.’ I was pretty upset and through tears said, ‘No, it was a whole childhood of me trying to find her.’
A little later Mark said again, ‘People need people and right now you need me, and I’m okay with that. You aren’t okay with it, you have feelings about it, but I wonder if you can find a little wriggle room to accept that right now you need me, and this is a growing up process – from a very young space through the developmental stages to a more grown, stable space… and that process is happening now, you’ve started it… you should be very proud of yourself. You won’t always feel like this but right now this is where you are. And I’m okay with it, it doesn’t feel too much for me, it doesn’t make me want to leave.’
I told him I was aware of really young grasping feelings that wanted to cling to him, and shaming parts that were ridiculing me for feeling this intense attachment after just ten sessions. I said, ‘I really don’t want you to go, but you are going, so I guess all I can say is do make sure you come back.’ In such a kind and gentle tone he said he intends to come back and he said, ‘it’s great that you can let those parts speak… you’re engaging with the whole of you, there’s a lot of you here engaging and that’s good… at the moment you’re feeling the burn of that but it is good. I know it’s an ongoing worry of yours that you’re too much for me but you’re not. All parts of you are very welcome here. In a sense, it matters as a much as it does that it’s painful when we have separations, there’s feelings around that because this connection feels right. It makes sense because this is an important relationship. We will survive this separation. It makes sense that you need reassuring because you didn’t have trust or security… historically… it will take time… it’s that drip drip of taking something in and it filling out from the inside.’
I have the sense that he gets it… even if not all parts of me do yet… and I can not wait to see him again on Monday to try to unpick all of this and find some sort of calm again.