On Monday this week I had my first in person session with Mark and it was massively triggering, though I didn’t realise it at the time. We talked about his new plants and the commute and my day at work and we briefly touched on the past year and how crazy life has been and how ‘great’ it is to finally meet in person. I repeatedly said things like, ‘this is so weird’ and ‘I can’t believe you’re actually in the room with me,’ but other than that, it was the least in-depth session I’ve ever had with him… by a mile. On the drive home I could feel my whole body tingling and I was noticing the familiar city buildings around me as if seeing them for the first time and I suddenly realised I was coming back into my body. For the whole session I had been numb and dissociated. I began to realise how disconnected, cold and impersonal it felt and there was this huge grief… like I had lost him as well as Anna. I couldn’t get the adult rational part of my brain on board who clearly knows that this was inevitable and of course we would just have a light ‘hello’ style session in the beginning. I was distraught. Seeing Mark in person, after 60 video sessions filled with deep and powerfully connecting work, felt open and exposing and abandoning to the young parts of me. They felt as though I’d betrayed them, shared their personal secrets over the past 8 months and then thrust them into his room with no protective walls… no wonder they/I escaped through the power of dissociation. It was the weirdest experience. Small differences felt enormous to the younger parts of me. The slight difference in the tone of his voice compared to the ever so slightly more tinny tone on the zoom calls, the more three dimensional experience of sitting in a room with him and seeing his whole body rather than just his head and shoulders, the fact that he could see my body, the air in the room, everything… a part of me was noticing everything. I was super hyper-vigilant – looking at every detail in his room. And at the same time I was noticing nothing.
After the session my thoughts and feelings spiraled through the rest of the day to the point of sending an uncharacteristically unedited block of text in an email to Mark that evening telling him that I was scared that we would never find our way back to each other, that it didn’t even feel like it was him in the room with me, that I’m sure he doesn’t want to keep working with me and that everything feels different. I sent two more distressed emails yesterday morning and freaked out for most of the day. I told Mark that I felt far away from him, that he was too quiet and distant in the session. His room is truly beautiful but it’s just so powerfully ‘him’ and there was something so painfully confronting about that. I felt so ‘on the outside’ of it all. Separate from him and his life, separate from him and his group of clients-who-worked-in-person-with-him-pre-pandemic… isolated and ostracised from everything.
Through the day, I spoke to a friend and I spoke to my brother. Both massively helpful conversations! (Even the fact that I can reach out to people now is such a big difference to what I used to be like… as Mark said recently ‘the repression is lifting’… I no longer keep everything under lock and key, hidden from everyone… these days I talk pretty openly with a few trusted people about these very personal, vulnerable places in me which is so liberating and such a relief).
Thanks to these conversations I was reminded of a number of reasons why this first in-person session would inevitably trigger big feelings. For a start, today is the one year anniversary from the day Anna phoned me to tell me she was closing her practice. Today, a year ago, I heard Anna’s voice for the last time. That’s obviously bringing some feelings up! Then there’s the fact that I haven’t driven into the city since losing Anna… the anniversary of losing her and the body memories of that journey being so closely linked to her was bound to bring stuff up. Also, it’s a big change going from only meeting him on a screen in my livingroom to suddenly being in person in his office – the young parts would understandably be confused and scared shitless and feel overexposed… hence the dissociation. AAANNNNDDDD Mark’s office is in the exact same building that my very first therapist used to work from 8 years ago. I haven’t been back there since he left me in 2015… there’s a whole load of unprocessed grief wrapped up in that one too! And lastly, as I realised late yesterday afternoon, visiting Mark’s office in the city took me right back to the time when my dad left and I visited his new flat in the city… where there was nothing familiar to me, where I felt like we didn’t know each other anymore and that he’d be glad if I never came back.
I sent this revelation in a brief forth email to Mark. I also told him that I like that I can clearly see his face up close on the laptop, that I feel safer and more connected to him on video and that I don’t want it to be that way forever but that’s the truth of things right now.
Mark replied not long after my final email with, ‘well done you, Lucy… I will be there to help you through this on Friday.’ annnnd breathe.
Interestingly when I listened back to the recording initially I found it triggering again because it was still so unclear to me why I felt how I felt but listening back a second time I can hear lots of little points of connection, many moments where Mark reached towards me. I can hear me touching on a topic I haven’t delved into yet that will need to be worked on… that I haven’t yet processed the way my life was turned upside down by the pandemic because I was too busy trying to survive the loss of Anna… I can hear Mark saying what a joy it is to meet me in person… none of that went in when I was there in front of him! I’m actually looking forward to teasing all this out with him on Friday, which thankfully will be a video session.
What a crazy ride this is!