It’s been over a month! Hello to those of you who can still see me! The past 5 and a bit weeks have been full. I noticed the absence of my social media apps every second of the first week or so and had to consciously undo my habits (I swiped looking for the wee pink square almost unconsciously multiple times every hour). But at some point, that impulse to log in and swipe subsided and I settled into a different way of being. It took intention to step out of the addictive behaviour and because of that there is huge resistance inside when I think about ‘coming back’ but there is also a pull to be back. I love the connections I make here, I just need to be watchful that it doesn’t become habitual again to the detriment of my relationships on my side of the screen. So, I’m going to listen closely and see what comes up for me as I post and interact again. If you’re still here, thank you! I’ve thought of my insta-friends often through this break wondering how everyone is doing. Anniversaries always bring up a lot and the sporadic bits of warm sun we’ve had here have reminded me on a visceral body felt level what it was like this time last year. If I could send a note back to the Lucy of May 2020 I would tell her, ‘You get through this, in just a year you will have had the vaccine, there will be routines in place that help you feel safer, you will lose people you love and you’ll survive the pain of it. You will have an amazing therapist and your husband will have finally started his therapy journey! You will not hear from Anna again and it will hurt but you’ll ride those waves. Keep letting the grief tear you apart… it’s all part of your journey.’
Next week, I will drive in to the city to have my first in person session in 15 months… FIFTEEN MONTHS of zoom sessions. The prospect of meeting Mark in person has thrown up many different feelings. Most of them good… I know this will intensify and deepen our work even further. There are aspects of the somatic work he does that are near impossible to do remotely. I can’t wait for us to use the physical space of the room and to feel his presence with me. To literally feel the touch rather than just playing it out through the screen. It’s been interesting to reflect on this with him, Mark said in our last session that he forgets we have only ever worked through zoom as he often feels he’s in the room with me and I share this sense of presence and togetherness. There has been so much preparation for the ‘in the room’ work, I feel totally ready for it on many levels. And yet, I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when we’re in the same room. When Mark initially told me we could meet soon, I felt a flush of past hurts. The shame of being physically seen beyond the nicely controlled little window I allow him to see. And this old pain… the frightening, recurring sense of being the new kid at school again… I told Mark it feels like he has his group of long term clients that are all metaphorically sitting in the classroom, strong, familiar and united as a group… they’ve already met him in person and know what they’re doing. I am standing in the doorway, new and alone, alien. I asked Mark what he felt about it and he said, ‘You don’t feel new to me, I feel like I know you really well, as if we’ve been meeting for a long long time. And getting to know you has been a joy, you are so committed to this work and we’ve worked hard together to consistently meet the parts of you that need tender care and attention, this connection is strong because of a lot of hard earned relational work.’
Exactly a year after Anna phoned me to tell me she was closing her practice, I will be sitting in a room with my ‘new’ therapist for the first time… and I can hardly believe I’m going to say the next bit but here goes… I wouldn’t change any of it! Honestly! And if you followed me through 2020 you’ll know that Anna leaving me nearly killed me. It stripped me of everything I thought I was and broke something deep inside me. But now, one year on, still carrying the grief, still crying my heart out frequently about how much I miss her, I can stand and look back down the road I’ve travelled and see that there is growth there that just could not have happened if I’d stayed with her. I needed something catastrophic to happen to break the ground I was standing on, to open my heart up to all of the pain and loss and love and gratitude. To feel any of it, I had to feel all of it. It’s not been a beautiful transition, it’s left me battered and bruised. It’s a cliche but the butterfly metaphor really does fit here, there were dark, uncertain, terrifying times where I did not recognise myself and had no idea what was ahead of me. Times when I have never felt so alone and yet, because of the support I had on here, and a couple of beautifully compassionate friends and Linda and Mark, I also felt so supported. And in some way, I even felt supported by Anna… by the foundations we built together. She had to drop my hand and leave me to journey the rest of the way without her, but that didn’t undo all of the work we’d already done together… if anything it illustrated just how much work we had managed to do.
At the time of the initial loss, Linda said I could have chosen to close my heart around the pain and to harden and shut down but instead I chose to let it rip me open and to feel the full force of it all. I didn’t see it as a conscious choice at the time, it just happened to me. It was a flurry of sheer panic and shock, medication and heart wrenching howls, suicide plans and dissociation, returning to old coping mechanisms, shame and regret, hopelessness, anger and despair, running away and sleeping for hours through the day and obsessive thoughts about her coming back and so much pain… but I can see it has all been the key to my healing. I spent my whole life shutting down and shutting out the world to protect myself. I’m so grateful I’m now in the position where I can care for myself and ask for help and let that help in. And losing Anna, who I still love dearly and who will always be the single most positively influential female in my life, led me to Mark… and he is doing work with me I could never have done with Anna. When I was with Anna, she was perfect for me, I miss her so much and the work we did was profound and lifechanging AND there were limitations on both sides of the therapeutic relationship. I couldn’t imagine anything better than Anna when I was with her AND I am now working with someone who is better. There really is no need to compare them, other than to say that I thought I couldn’t ever find a therapist as amazing for me as Anna was, and the unbelievable happened… I wish I could go back and tell my past selves that there is hope for positive change, it’s coming!
I told Mark that I always felt like too much but I don’t feel too much for him! That maybe it’s because he’s such a good therapist and likes a challenge. He said, ‘I don’t experience you as a challenge!’ Which made me laugh and do the ‘mind blown’ motion above my head. He said, ‘Lucy, you’re not hard work… you’re transparent, you take risks, you come up against the hard edges of yourself, you’re so loyal to seeing this process through… why the fuck would a therapist not love that?’ I reflected on the ways I’d got the message from various people (including my previous therapists) that I was too much. Mark very diplomatically suggested that a therapists own limitations and counter-transference can interfere with a clients journey and that he works at being aware when that happens to him. I told him how grateful I am that he knows his own process enough that he’s able to not let it get in the way of mine. And that he is open to hearing from me when I feel like that’s happening. I’m also aware that I am a different person to the girl who walked into Anna’s office in 2017. I am more open, less afraid, more willing to take risks, more aware of the depths I can endure. I wish I could tell Anna… but I trust she knows on some level.
A couple of sessions ago I was crying from a very young place. A voice coming out of me that had never been heard, even by me… ‘I just want my mum.’ The inner critic was absent from the internal dialogue and after this vulnerable declaration, I reflected on the young voice saying, ‘God that’s just so sad, isn’t it?’ Still crying, hiding behind a cushion because I still feel shame when I cry. Mark agreed with me, ‘It’s heart breaking… it’s such a healthy move towards, you want your mum, of course you do, but that cry has never been heard. You asked for an extra session and you asked for me to move closer, you showed that you want me, you want support and love… and now we can give that little part of you what she needs. You spent your whole life supressing that natural movement towards because you knew you wouldn’t get what you needed… you just want your mum… and we’re here now, hearing that little girls distress… she just wants her mum, a mum who never came.’ So much grief came to the surface in that session that I’d never been able to access before.
There is a natural flow to the process of our sessions now. After this very deep session where the young parts of me had their voices heard and their cries comforted came a session of integration. A more adult space where we talked about what happened and how it felt to all parts of me. In these sessions we make sure the young parts don’t feel ignored while I tell him what worked and what didn’t in the deeper session. I tell him how the young parts of me were able to take him in or what they needed more or less of. I can sense into the places in me that feel rejected or missed and I’m able to voice those misalignments near enough as they happen which enables him to bend and move and grow towards what I need. It’s often painful, awkward, embarrassing and scary… but taking the leap always pays off. No matter what I’ve brought to him… even the transference and agony I’ve felt about the things I’ve found out about his personal life from online stalking… he’s taken it all as being part of the work and as I said to him yesterday, I feel safe with him. I know he won’t shame me. I know I’m not too much for him. I know he won’t deliberately leave me. This is all brand new for me. I’m witnessing myself doing things differently in a way I was unable before. And I am so so so grateful.