Finding some acceptance at the end of a long tunnel of anger and need… and a little Adele!

Therapy was intense for a long time… months in fact… not just therapy actually… life has been intense. Hmmm, it wasn’t life that was intense, it was me – inside my head was the intense thing! Everything around me looked mostly the same, but something huge was happening inside me. Some very big things have been coming up, wave after wave of intense feeling memories and somatic flashbacks that were so loud, they were unignorable.

I wanted to blog about it as it was happening. I sat down to write for the blog numerous times but just froze at the very thought of sharing. I would write a few words, ‘Things are feeling really hard just now…’ or whatever and then just stare at a blank page. I managed to get that last blog post out but that was all I could cope with and in fact, I haven’t managed to share a lot of what I’ve been working on with anyone. It seems that something inside me really needs it all to be kept very private. There is still a sense of needing to protect this deep work, so I’m honouring that need and being careful about what I write here.

Just now it feels like I’m coming out of this extended period of intense, deep, dark depression, intensified anxiety and a great neediness that has caused agitation and distress in every fibre of my being. It was so massive that I had no choice but to express is over and over and over to Mark in sessions and in emails. A desperate neediness that we’ve met with compassion… or at least he has! A lot of the time I was meeting it with disgust and shame… he said, ‘you reject your own needs, and you expect me to do the same… I’m not going to reject your neediness, Lucy. I want it to be here as fully as it needs to be, it feels too much for you but together we can hold it.’ Slowly, slowly something more resembling kindness emerged in me, as I was repeatedly met with kindness from Mark, and I could literally feel my container growing.

The neediness came first in the form of a grasping longing inside that was so painful it frequently made me think of harming or killing myself. There was a need for constant reassurance. Constant contact. A need for a transitional object. A need for explicit repeatings of the words, ‘I have no intention of leaving you… I am wholly, fiercely committed to our work, I am here with you, you are not too much for me.’ I tested him, constantly. At some point the direction of need morphed and I was able to deeply feel the longing and agonising unmet need directed at my parents. So much grief.

Along with the neediness has been anger. Powerful and sometimes frightening. Anger directed at Mark, for not being what I need him to be, that he can’t be there for me at 3 o’ clock in the morning when I need him most, that he wasn’t there when he was on holiday and I was in hospital, that he can’t be with me in my most lonely moments. Even anger at him referring to the younger me as a ‘little girl’… the anger seemed to be so easily triggered. As this anger has been consistently greeted warmly with compassion and understanding and respect and sincere apology, it slowly changed, and I was able to finally feel the anger towards my parents. Fully feeling the hate and anger and disgust and rage at the things they did and didn’t do. I have carried this anger deep inside me all my life. Pushed down, swallowed down, silenced. In sessions the anger spoke – it wanted to hurt my mother, we played around with that… ‘What would that rage do to her? It’s safe to express it here, your words won’t hurt her, it’s okay… you can let your imagination fully explore this.’ I wanted to shake her, punch and kick her, I wanted something back for all the years of childhood she took from me. I wanted her to hurt for what she did. But then the guilt and remorse came flooding in and that was so much worse than the anger. It told me I was bad for thinking and feeling and expressing my rage. I wanted to take it all back. Mark helped me explore this young loyalty to the woman who had hurt me the most… the love I can’t help but feel for her… this sense inside me that I needed to protect her, that I have always been stronger than her and that she couldn’t cope, so it always had to be me that suppressed my feelings. Then we explored the fact that this was one of my biggest defences against helplessness. The helplessness is something that resurfaces frequently in sessions and it is one of the hardest things to work on because it is so debilitating and brings with it the depression. But I’ve noticed that actually allowing myself to he helpless and be cared for by Mark is the most powerful way to shift the helplessness. Blocking it just held it inside me.

Like the silent sunrise – gradual and steady, there’s been an easing in recent weeks. I can’t pinpoint when it changed but I’ve noticed I feel freer and more able to relax and just be myself these days. Things are not so dark and filled with anxiety. The anger has dissipated, the neediness just isn’t there anymore. I feel a trust in myself. I think there’s this sense of safety inside me that I’ve never felt before, that has been carefully and patiently fostered by Mark. The work he’s done has planted roots inside me. I’m becoming more aware of who I am as we strip back the trauma. Given the opportunity to cry out and curl up and shout and rage and give voice and body to the young and ever so wounded parts of me, without the overbearing presence of inner criticism and silencing, it has allowed something new to grow. The image of pulling weeds away from a tiny shoot in the ground comes to mind. Digging at the earth til my fingernails are filled with dirt, giving the new growth space… that’s what it feels like. We have tugged and pulled apart the weeds and the thorns dug in, and my hands bled and now here I am… a little tender… but with so much more spaciousness. I feel like I’m meeting myself. It is delicate and tentative and curious and patient and like a home I don’t quite remember but has always been there, beneath it all.

A funny thing happened this weekend actually that relates to all of this. I had listened to Adele’s new album back to back for hours. I moved through so many different emotions while I listened, and it felt explicitly linked to the therapy work I’m doing. As with anything that triggers something deep, it was all about me and none of it truly about Adele… but I’ll share some of what happened, here.

I absolutely love a few of the songs (Hold On and To Be Loved are probably my faves), but some of the songs I instantly hated (the first sign that something young was triggered). I even hated Adele for some of the lyrics she wrote, for using private voice recordings between her and her son (on My Little Love), his little voice too young to fully consent to the whole world listening to him, forever. I hated her for saying to him, ‘tell me you love me’… it triggered the hurt parentified little girl inside me… forced to meet the needs of my mother while having none of my own emotional needs met. I heard her sing, ‘I changed who I was to put you both first, but now I give up.’ Adele has dedicated her album to her son, who is 9 years old… he was a couple of years younger when she wrote this. I wanted to scream at her, ‘don’t tell him you give up! Never give up on him!’ It brought vivid memories of my mother saying she wasted years of her life on me and ‘now’ it’s her turn to live her life. There were so many points where my ‘mum stuff’ was triggered and I felt for her little boy deeply. Caught up in this break-up and with an emotionally fragile mother expressing herself so openly. It was all a little too familiar.

I spent hours on the phone with my brother who was experiencing the same thing as me. We talked about how triggering it was to hear Adele singing about soaking up wine… like our mum who is an alcoholic and chose drink over being there for us many times. Adele singing about new love interests turned my young stomach as it reminded me of my mum and her boyfriends. I started to feel like I was going under again. Emotionally sinking underground. And then it dawned on me how present I was around these triggers. This wasn’t dragging me under, it was beautifully illuminating the unhealed wounds. As I realised that and began observing more with curiosity rather than activation, I noticed other spaces in me start to open up. I was aware of ‘me – the mother’ and my own need for space and solitude, as Adele cried in a voice message on one of the songs that she is lonely for the first time since leaving him… that she loves being on her own but she’s lonely. Words my mum cried at me when I was a child and I hated her so much for it… but I too know that loneliness. Then the lyrics, ‘I hope I learn to get over myself…’ and it hit me, I suddenly felt this wordless understanding of something deep inside me – my humanness and all of the parts. Instead of defensiveness making me superhuman against my mums weak helplessness, or shame making me entirely bad and toxic… I felt something less binary and more nuanced – that I am a mixture of many things, and so is my mother. The generosity and selfishness and everything in between. The patience and impatience, the anger and calm, the deep deep depression and the joy and hopefulness, the traumatised parts and the whole, healing parts. I felt them all together and in seeing them in myself, I could also see them in my mother. A shared humanness. It’s more complex than I could ever explain here and has really been an accumulation of 9 years worth of work along with this very intense period of somatic trauma work in the past few months. It’s also been impacted by my growing capacity to deepen into my meditative practice. Especially my confidence and stability in the metta bhavana practice and an ability to hold presence for the sense of loving kindness, towards the core-self inside my mum and dad… this is all brand new – I would have told someone to fuck off at the suggestion of this just a few months ago!

I took all of this to my session last night. At first, a frozen part made herself known in the room. Grounding my conversation to a halt and demanding to be felt and witnessed. We worked somatically with this part as Mark coached me through sitting with it and meeting it with kindness. Mark helped me bring awareness to the parts of my body holding tension. What started out frozen in fear, eventually could move a little, breathe a little and look at him. As soon as the triggered part took hold, I had requested the lights be dimmed and I asked for a blanket. I felt safe and held and this part of me felt seen. We spent almost 40 minutes on this, just tracking what was going on in my body as the frozen trauma space made itself known. After this subsided and I came out of it with a few deep, automatic, shivering breaths and a familiar twitching and shaking, I was able to see Mark again and feel my presence with him. This enabled me to go into the new, expanding sense of compassion I’ve been feeling for my mother.

Mark and I have learned together that we always need to prioritise any young parts at the very start of the sessions, the adult stuff has to wait. It works so much better that way and saves me from a painful kickback after the session. After the young part settled down and I felt more grounded and present I was able to explore the stuff about my mum. I said to Mark, ‘it’s like a tiny seed of forgiveness, but not like I imagined forgiveness to feel… it doesn’t feel like it’s FOR her at all, it feels like it’s for me… like… I can see her limitations and how much she struggled and I can feel a loosening of the hope that any of that could change. I know all of the ways she hurt me and that is all true and a lot of it still needs to be put into words and felt through, but I can also see she is just a lost and wounded child in an adult body… she had less support than me, less awareness than me, less ability to change and evolve and heal. I feel for her. Her whole life has been swallowed up, year after year living the same life, doing herself the same way over and over… every relationship she’s ever had has been the same relationship with a different face and name… no growth… that’s agony for her! I can see now that she couldn’t have done herself any other way. I always thought that the phrase, ‘she did her best’ meant what she did was the best but it’s so not that… it’s that she couldn’t do it any other way. So, I’m not saying what she did was right or anywhere near what a child needs or deserves… I’m just saying I see her incompetence, her limitations, her lack… with clarity. You know, four people came out of that family wounded. All four of us. And yeah, there’s still anger and pain and regret and everything else, but there’s also this other feeling, it feels a bit like it’s rooted in something grounded and secure in the very core of me. Like a pure thing that’s untouched by trauma.’ Mark and I talked this through a lot and we explored the way being able to persist with Adele’s album helped me relate to her as if she was my mother and as if she was me. That in doing this I organically tapped into something that feels like compassion or a tiny tiny drop of forgiveness or at least acceptance. And that is huge!

We also talked a bit about the depths we’ve been to recently, and the ways he has proven himself to me time and again. I can’t express how relaxed and ‘in his stride’ he is about everything I bring to him, but not in an uncaring way, he can be intensely focused and passionate about the work, but never seems bowled over or intimidated by it. Another thing that’s hugely impacted the therapeutic work is that Mark and I have been sharing the recordings from our sessions. Since the very early days, I’ve found it helpful to refer back to previous sessions. Thankfully (unlike Linda), Mark really sees the benefit in weaving our reflections through the work and there have been a couple of times when he’s said he’d be curious to hear the recordings himself. I have always felt that they’re OUR sessions rather than mine and it made sense to me to let him hear them if he wanted to… I just never imagined he’d actually want to! We had a few serious conversations about what it would actually be like to let him hear them back and talked about how it felt for me. We discussed how I would share them safely/securely, how and when we would talk about it and any feelings that came up for me around that. We talked about what he was listening for. He said he imagined it would deepen our work together, that having the opportunity to reflect on how he works with me would enrich the work and help him reflect on his practice professionally. We agreed that my sessions are not his supervision and so he would only touch on things he’s noticed with me, but that I am free to ask anything I want about his observations. I felt really excited about sharing them with him and I chose a selection of sessions to share with a brief description beside each one with any specifics that I knew I’d want him to notice (to avoid any potential feelings of being missed / abandoned if he didn’t bring up something important in the session that I secretly hoped he’d notice). Each time he tells me he’s listened to one of the sessions, it’s blown my mind that he’s chosen to use his free time to sit and listen back to an hour of my session. One thing we’ve noticed is that it’s helped me trust him, I feel a deeper sense of his genuine care and my fear that I’m too much for him has almost vanished! He has proven time and time again that he WANTS to work with me, in fact I really believe that he loves working with me and that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed at all. He chooses to listen to sessions in his spare time, he gives me extra sessions or longer sessions if he’s able and I ask, he responds in a boundaried way to emails and he gives me space and really hears me when I bring any feelings I have about any ‘no’s’ he has to give me. He even wears a specific pair of his glasses that I’ve told him help me feel safer and more connected to him… calls them his ’Lucy glasses’ and looks them out specifically on my days. I honestly wish I could give this kind of therapy to everyone who hasn’t experienced it. My husband started therapy this year with a very similar therapist and in just a few short months the changes in him are monumental. I feel like he’s come back to me. This therapy should be gifted to us upon reaching adulthood! Ohhh how different my childhood would have been if only my parents had been as privileged as me and had access to this healing journey. It’s in no way ’finished’… I can imagine doing this kind of work for years and actually I feel empowered by the idea of it always being part of my life in some form or another. I probably wont need such intense somatic work for years and years but I do love introspection and feel very driven to deeper conversations that are rich with learning.

I’m glad I was able to write that out… it’s been quite a journey the past few months and I feel like I can breathe a bit easier now. In the session yesterday we tracked the coming and going of my attention. How I would feel very ‘there’ with Mark and then how I would take myself away, retreat to the safety inside… a familiar process. At one point when I verbalised how my mind was trying to take me to a million different places Mark said, ‘Let it wander… let it go… where do you want to be right now?’ and in a heartbeat I said, ‘right here! I want to learn how to be right here, all the time… not in the past, not in the future… right here.’ He smiled and said, ‘You’re doing it, gently and patiently you’re guiding yourself back to ‘now’… all the time.’

I’ve decided I’m going to work towards another digital detox. I’m not on here often but I do go through peeks in online activity and feel that the upcoming holidays and house move will be a good time to come away from the web for a while. I’ll probably close things down over December and January in an attempt to give myself space and permission to fully experience the time with family (all that ’family’ entails – the joy and the triggers combined!). Not that anyone here is hanging on my posts… but I wanted to let you know if you notice an absence, this is why. So if I don’t post before I deactivate, then I send all reading this a warm and safe couple of months.

She broke something inside me

I’m not really sure how to write about this. I guess I haven’t written a post like this in a while… one where I don’t have ‘all the answers figured out’ and haven’t processed it in therapy yet. But that’s the point, I haven’t processed this yet and I feel in a bit of a weird space about it all. I feel a need to write and share, so here it is. Any encouragement gratefully received.

We’ve been working through one of the most painful parts of my childhood that just kind of felt like a shadow of a memory but it’s slowly coming to the surface before my very eyes – like the separating of oil and water… I can’t mix it back into the dissociative fog no matter how hard I try. It’s right there pulling on my sleeve day and night.

I can’t really put into words here just now exactly what it is because it is so unprocessed and raw. It involves sexual stuff and my mother. This subject has lingered in the background and I always expertly minimised it and invalidated any feelings I might momentarily have felt. I have been unable to share or work on it with anyone. I can’t remember exactly how it came into the therapy room with Mark but it started a couple of months ago. We moved into a deeper layer of the work, we started doing more work on the developmental trauma, the stuff around what life was like when my mother was pregnant with me and what I know to have been my experience when I was born and the first few days, weeks, months and years of my life. A lot of body stuff was coming up and I didn’t always have words for it but amazingly it felt like we were really getting somewhere. There was a lot of temperature changes through my body and shaking showing me that I was processing and discharging stored traumatic energy. Then the other stuff started creeping in… as if I’d worked through a layer and we were stepping down further. And the shame was like a thick black plume of smoke that emanated from my pores and filled the room and I was so scared it would suffocate him or make him scared to stay close to me. I spent many in-person sessions with my hood up, curled in a ball, tolerating more and more contact with the shame being ever present. It really is quite remarkable how Mark is able to so slowly and gently help me feel safe with him, with myself. He is so very patient.

Last Monday my anger surfaced. And with it a huge gust of dissociation. We rode the waves together, the foggy dissociation slowing us down for respite between the crashing waves of anger. I attempted to tell him something specific related to sex and my mother and slipped into a very young space. Listening back to the recording is hard, my voice goes so quiet and shaky and I can hear Mark reassuring me in a quiet, gentle voice, ‘This is such important territory for you but it feels so yucky doesn’t it?’ I made an agreeing noise and managed to tell him I was scared he could see me through her eyes. He gently asked me what he might see, if he were to see me through her eyes, though he assured me he wasn’t seeing me through her eyes. I said he’d know how disgusting I am. We felt around the body energy of that, as much as I could bear, and I shared my fear that he’s going to want to stop talking to me. I told him that I felt like she broke something inside me that was meant to be innocent and pure and still there and it’s not there anymore because she broke it and I was crying so hard at that point and I have never felt so held. He was repeating, ‘it’s okay,’ with the most soft tone. With emotion in his voice he said, ‘just offering you so much support now Lucy, I’m right here with you in this… and I am not disgusted by you… you were a wonderful little girl, a beautiful, bright, clever, adaptive, creative person… your mother couldn’t see it, couldn’t celebrate it, but we can see it and hold it together… you so weren’t given what you needed… starved of what you needed.’ With any kindness, praise and love, comes more shame and a tightening and resistance and so then he guides me to slowly let a little of it in. Towards the end of the session I said I felt raw and exposed and I was scared he hates me now, after what I told him. He reassured me, ‘I absolutely don’t hate you and I love working with you and I love the work we’re doing together, painful though it is. And in no way am I disgusted. I am moved by your courage in opening this up given the amount of disgust and shame you feel towards the part of you that went through this with her. And it’s good that we’re lifting the repression off this, a little piece at a time and then you’ll be free of it in time, it won’t be all locked up inside you forever.’

Between sessions I’ve felt such an intense need to be close to Mark. I know he won’t reply at length to any messages but every so often the need for contact becomes unbearable and at some point I sent a message asking for more time. He offered me a 90 minute session which gave such relief, just having it to ‘look forward to’ helped the neediness and longing quieten down. In that session I was able to open up another very painful wound and we’ve touched on it a couple of times since. Then on Monday, for some reason it was like the gatekeeper just went ‘whatever’ and threw open the door and I ended up telling him a handful of things I’d never told anyone before. Some of it was horrifically embarrassing but I just seemed to be on a roll. It helped, I felt liberated and validated as he told me how awful it was, all of it. Then on Tuesday I listened back to the session and was so triggered with the guilt from ‘telling on her’ and shame about him knowing what he now knew, that I almost cut myself for the first time in longer than I can remember. In my head I could hear, ‘but I love her so much’ going over and over. It was agonising, this conflict between the anger and rage about what she did and what she took from me contrasting with the pure unfiltered child love I had for her. I haven’t felt a love for her in decades. I emailed Mark in complete distress, crying my eyes out, telling him how guilty I felt and he replied with a very connecting and reassuring reminder that he will be there to help me with it all next session.

That next session was yesterday. I talked of my guilt around everything I told him. I told him I felt so bad telling him all those things about her, the worst parts of her… I then took a step deeper into the murky waters and said, ‘but I feel like it reflects on me in some sort of merged way… I mean, I was there too… like I was complicit, I feel ashamed as if it was me… I didn’t refuse to get in her car, I didn’t tell her to stop…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘you were a child,’ slowly, twice, which made me completely leave my body. When I was eventually able to speak again (after a lot of careful connecting grounding from Mark), he asked me where I’d gone and I told him that what he said to me felt like the most humiliating, insulting thing anyone could say to me… it felt exposing. ‘Like two people dueling and one person knocks the sword from the other persons hand… you disarmed me and I felt totally vulnerable and unprotected and so I left my body.’ Mark said, ‘I rather aggressively knocked your sword from your hand, without your consent, I’m sorry I did that… are you in touch with how you felt towards me when I did that? When I humiliated you like that?’ I told him I didn’t feel anything towards him I was just aware of feeling threatened by him. He said, ‘I don’t want to put words to your experience but if someone says something to me that feels humiliating or threatening, I’m going to have difficult feelings towards them, and I want you to know you can have difficult feelings towards me, I want you to express it all towards me.’ Eventually, after he repeated, ‘you were a child,’ a few more times I could finally feel the heat of it and not dissociate. I told him I felt anger towards him. He said, ‘Anger, yes well done, good, yes… anger… really happy to hold your anger with you Lucy… can you let the anger come forward towards me? Let it be felt and take up space?’ I said, ‘I didn’t want to be a child!’ and he said, ‘wow… yes… you were a child and you didn’t want to be a child, and me pointing out to you that you were a child rubbed salt in that wound.’ I told him I wanted to be bigger and stronger and that I didn’t want to be weak. That it made me feel helpless.’ he asked if there was any spaciness around the helplessness and I said a little. I said I needed to be more grown up and leave the child behind. He said, ‘When you were a child you wanted to be somewhere else in yourself, you wanted to be something else, hard for you to own your child in a sense, understandably. There’s the vulnerable child underneath the protector part… your young part… you had to grow up above it, with your sword. You found ways of looking after that vulnerability, you needed to do that back then. And I’d hope over time you wouldn’t need to do it with me so much.’ and then the connection cut out and we lost each other with just a few minutes to go. A minute later he phoned me and made sure I was feeling okay before ending the call. He then replied to a panicked email from me reassuring me that we were ‘okay’ and that I’d see him Monday.

And so here I am with anger and shame and guilt and grief and love with nowhere to go and longing and everything else in the mix. I’ve been going over things this afternoon and I know what’s coming… I just can’t imagine saying it all to him. How the fuck do I say all these words to him? I remember trying to explain to him why I feel I can’t say in words to him what I know I need to say… I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to say gross, crass, vulgar words to him that I would never say conversationally to anyone. He asked me what I think might happen if I make him uncomfortable and I said he would want to stop working with me. It always comes back to being left. I’m scared to make him uncomfortable. I’m scared he’ll think I’m just like my mother. Vulgar and hyper-sexual and seductive and abusive and completely inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. I’ve also realised today that I’m scared I’ll become aware of his sexuality when I bring more of this stuff into the room. I really feel in my bones that I’m safe with him but I also know he isn’t a robot. He is a heterosexual man… and I can’t bear to think of him like that. How can I talk about body parts and sex acts to him when he is a grown man who has experience with these things and I am a grown woman who in my adult life has also had experience with it all but I’m not talking from my adult mind… I’m talking from my child heart space and arghhhhh I can hardly cope with the intensity of it all. But the truth is I couldn’t come close to any of this with Anna. Because although I have been hurt, sexually, by men… but I was hurt more by my mother. I could never tell Anna any of that because she is a woman and to my child, women = abuse, it complicated things so much. I have never trusted someone the way I trust Mark. I’m just so scared of what’s to come. I know that the way forward is going to be telling him that I feel like this before going any further but it’s just so yucky and painful and gross and terrifying! And even posting this feels scary because it’s vulnerable and doesn’t feel ‘finished’… help!

You chose this

Something kind of unnerving has been happening in my sessions. I’m remembering things that I wasn’t consciously aware of before… though I had a shadow of a memory of it all. It’s like knowing something again. It’s hard to explain. A few sessions ago I remembered my mother used to say to me, ‘we choose who our parents are going to be, before we’re born,’ and I remember feeling such a twisted confusion around this. She’d say, ‘you chose me,’ in a tone that sounded almost like delightful gratitude to other people, but it felt threatening to me. ‘You chose this life and you chose me to be your mother…’ I chose this? Why would I choose her? It was my fault before I was even born!?

She didn’t feed me for the first 48 hours of my life, didn’t hold me either. Requested that I be fed only distilled water. For two days and two nights. Mark has been helping me process agonising body memories and what feels like life threatening needs as they gnaw at me from the inside. Birth trauma. Infantile annihilation fears. Complete terror. Dissociation. Grief. Longing. Core shame.

And there’s a new layer that’s peeled back. That maybe she knew what she was doing. That maybe it was deliberate. Mark said, ‘it’s hard to imagine she couldn’t see the pain she was causing, that she didn’t know how wrong it was… I think maybe she did.’ I sobbed lying in the fetal position, head covered in pillows. ‘I’m still here, holding you in this,’ he’d gently whisper.

I’m feeling so in touch with this heavy grief. I remember writing about this before, that grief is grief is grief. The heavy grief I’ve felt over lost relatives is the same as the grief over losing Anna and it’s the same as this grief… what is this grief? Am I grieving the loss of the hope for a happy childhood? Grieving the mother I never had? Am I grieving the realisation that despite all the love I poured into her, she never loved me back? That I still love her… and I loathe her… and I loathe the part of me that loves her… it’s all I can hear in my tear filled head, ‘but I love her so much!’ Am I grieving the part of me that died in childhood to keep her afloat…?

This grief is heavy and keeps blindsiding me.

My neediness…

After a few months of my intense ‘neediness’ heightening (noticing my avoidant/distancing parts receding and the needy parts becoming more powerful and all consuming), I experienced my needs being expressed loudly and with agonising urgency and passion, and then experienced having the needs MET by Mark… which has been so deeply healing. And the one occasion where he missed a cry for help and we worked on it tenderly and with genuine compassion and holding. I thought I’d write a poem about the experience because it’s been so huge.

Needs

‘Need’ – turns out it’s not a dirty word,
Deserving of shame and contempt.
And maybe I’m not too much…
Just the people I was asking, had nothing to give.  

All those years…
Believing I was a damn needy child. 
To ask for anything, felt like I was robbing a charity…
Their need always greater than mine. 
Of course they held on tight
To what little they had.
I’d give them the shirt off my back if it made them stay. 
Two sizes too small but they squeezed themselves into it anyway. 
Then left. 
Leaving me naked and wanting. 
Always wanting. 

Bone dry with need. 
Always so fucking thirsty. 
Gasping for a drop,
Tapping their dry wells.
Trying to get what I needed,
From desert folk.

‘You were starved of what you needed as a child…’ 
Starved of what you needed. 
What you needed. 
Needed. 
How can a need be wrong?
Being starved is what’s wrong! 

Always so fucking hungry and empty with the aching pain of it. 
Hollow and gulping down the shame of the need in an attempt to fill up the gaping spaces inside me. 
Who wouldn’t need, when they’ve been starving all their life. 
Spent all my life pushing it down under the water. 
It haunted me. 
Taunted me. 
It screams beneath the surface of the ice.
Drowning in its own expansive emptiness.
It lies there like a turgid corpse,
Glass eyed face pressed against the frozen blanket of silence – full of its own want. 
Staring up at me through the freezing glass. 
I stare back like my life depends on it…
A sense of so much wasted time,
Hurry up. 
She’s drowning! 
Urgently, impatiently waiting for the cracks, the heat of another, the thawing. 
Waiting for the hand. 

And this time – a hand is willingly given. 
With no catch?
Who knew…?
Some people want to help!
My needs don’t scare him. 
When able, he’ll meet them, 
Fill the cup, 
Offer the plate, 
Wrap with a blanket, 
Extend a hand.
And when it can’t be met,
It’s felt through with kindness. 
An open hearted kindness that’s so fucking gentle it’ll blow your skin off with it’s delicate touch. 
Tenderly, tenderly exposing the naked need. 

And the hand 
didn’t demand. 
It waited. 
For trust. 
There’s no rush. Slowly, slowly. 
‘One little piece at a time’. 

And I learn…
Met needs don’t breed… 
Like the rapidly multiplying cells of a bacterial culture in a pitri dish. 
They melt,
Like flakes of snow on a river. 
They’re absorbed. 
And slowly, slowly
The ice cracks,
The barrier melts. 
A hand is grasped. 
A breath is gasped
And many more!
Breathing. Breathing. 
Delicious and satiating. 
Hunger satisfied. 
Thirst quenched. 
Shame neutralised. 
Need met. 

And life feels a little easier to live. 

The Tree

This woodland of mine.
A perplexing mystery of knowing and not knowing.
For so long, couldn’t see the wood for the trees…
Or the trauma.

Tiny incremental changes, in their almost invisible way
Appear to me, every day.
New shoots, push eagerly through the thick carpet of leaves,
Past decaying fallen trunks.
For every one shoot that journeys up to drink the fresh air and sunlight,
there are five dozen others that are drowned in darkness.
Not all that is planted will take root. Some lay dormant, not dead.

Deep in the shadows, obscured and dangerously easy to overlook
stand the oldest trees.
These trees, planted before this woodland belonged to me,
they steal the light.
Twisted, knotted giants, weaving and overshadowing,
threaten to cast darkness over the entire grove…
Swallowing whole
any new growth.

Nature – don’t let it fool you with it’s butterfly wings and easily bruised petals,
It is anything but delicate!
It bursts forth and crushes,
It consumes and overpowers.
Vines threaten to strangle the life out of the trees they climb.
Mother arachnids eat their lovers and babies,
Survival of the most ruthless and cunning.

Nurture – not always given freely and without cost…
Resentment and generational debt,
Handed down in the form of inherited shame. Given with one hand and taken with another.
For the crumbs of kindness – forced gratitude’s.
Nothing like a mother’s love…
and other platitudes.

In this woodland of mine – One tree, ignored for so long…
Sits syphoning oxygen from it’s young neighbours,
It’s offspring.
Silently tearing at their new roots beneath the ground. I always knew it was there. And also, I didn’t know.

When it’s foreboding presence became inescapable, I set about to tend to it’s poisoned leaves… accompanied by a guide. Turning over each leaf carefully, We painted over the dark spots. Until they were all undetectable.
And thinking I’d succeeded in eradicating the dis-ease, I wandered far enough away to take a breath.
To reflect on the healing work I’d done.

Only to notice, from a distance…
Whole branches decaying.
Threatening to reach out and throttle anything living nearby.

And so, I returned to hack and strip bark,
With a new companion I removed the dead and broken shards,
Break the brittle shell.
Heart pounding,
Digging fingernails into the soft rotten flesh until it was all gone.
But this work ended prematurely, Once again alone and facing my greatest loss yet.

I turned my back on the stump to find new support.

His calming presence came to shine a light and hold a mirror to what was there. To ensure I would not have to do this on my own.

Together we looked at the woodland, the stump and her surrounding beaten land. From this new vantage, it appeared, Like an invisible web – a thread connecting everything…

It was all being starved.

Underground we went,
Heaving lungs and crawling skin…
Amongst the grotesque and wretched.
I dug at the diseased heart,
the roots…
Uprooting, wrenching the tightly gripping crippled fingers of trauma from the ground.

It all must go
And it does seem to go,
One piece at a time.
Slowly.
Slowly.
As we move gently around the fog.

And the earth feels the agony of it being dragged and exposed into the light,
The gaping hole where it once was,
Empty.

And I am not alone in the agony.

And the other trees move in to grieve,
And bow their heads at what should have grown there.

And through the tears and hurting heart,
I hear my trusted witness offer a kindly reminder…
The forest is not the tree.
The forest did not ask for the tree to be planted there, it was there before it even became a forest.

I am not my mother,
And her pain was passed on to me before I had the chance to refuse it.
I tear at her legacy and rip the layers of her wounding from my soil.

And now the whispers of green leaves all around…
With room to move and grow
They utter with gratitude,
‘Here we are…
with all of this space,
to spread tentative fingertips of branches and
the softly outstretched relaxing of roots…
here we are…
and now we can breathe.’

(After another insanely intense session delving deeper into my core wounding and the rage and anger and grief I feel towards the abuse I suffered at my mothers hands, I found myself describing the work of healing this wounding in therapy to a diseased tree… a tree that I tried to heal by first treating it’s symptomatic diseased leaves with my first therapist Paul… then with my second therapist Anna I noticed all of the branches needed to be torn down. Finally with Mark I am digging at the roots. And it is pure agony and also the most healing thing I’ve ever done.)

Whose voice is that?

A miniature update and a poem.

In therapy, every time I criticised, chastised or shamed myself, no matter which therapist, one way or another they asked the question… ‘Whose voice is that?’ and I’ve been unable to answer it. I know that they are implying it’s a voice from my past but I’ve been so resistant to admit it’s anything to do with my mother. I’ve always said that voice is mine. I haven’t wanted anything of hers inside me. I have wanted total blame because then I have some sort of feigned control… but really that control is all an illusion.

Over the past few months something huge has crumbled, like a defensive wall, a barrier… something that’s been up around me forever has broken down and I’m feeling things I’ve never felt before. And it is intensely painful and right there, unavoidably loud. I can’t put into words what’s being processed just now, the sessions are intense… yesterday’s session was mostly wordless and a little scary when I was right in the middle of it. Something big being felt and held by us both. I’m feeling very vulnerable just now, experiencing a lot of reliving a lot of emotional flashbacks… physical rememberings. I think a part of me is finally coming to terms with what happened to me and all the ways I was failed, neglected. The things I needed and had to live without somehow, and how that has impacted me. What my life is like and what I am like because of all the ways I was so badly let down and hurt.

I wrote the following a few months ago to help me process what was coming up for me then. The anger I’ve been feeling recently is a little more raw and unrefined but it helped to revisit this poem and remember the core of it all.

(It’s more like a spoken word poem but hopefully it works in the written form too.)

Whose voice is that?

Whose voice is that?
I hold my breath each time the question is repeated, lest I learn the truth.
Then one day, unannounced and uninvited, it came up my throat like acid.

Whose voice is that?
It is the voice of shame.
The shame that my mother fed me daily,
Wrapped in the guise of love.
And I swallowed her shame willingly and gratefully and claimed it as my own,
Because it was the only gift she readily gave me
In abundance.
And there was such a lack of anything else.
The hunger for anything from her was so powerful that had she withheld it, in fear of starvation, I would have begged her for the shame.

Whose voice is that?
It is the voice of the only thing that connects me to her,
This one directional tether of shame.
She is shameless because I am full of it.
To no longer believe that voice would be to abandon the only thing she gave me.
How do I let it go when it is a part of me?
It grew in my cells as I grew inside my mother’s resentful womb.
The shame coursed through her blood, from her hurting heart into mine.

She did not want me.

Who am I without that voice?
Implanted inside me like a weed.
Without it’s far reaching roots I’m an empty cavity.
And the emptiness echoes.
The self hate grows.
Like a black hole, it sucks everything into it’s vacuum.
The hungry space within me drew in the shame willingly.
Filling me up with words of hatred and disgust that multiplied.
Poison set in cement inside the hollow in my chest.
What would I be without it’s dense knowing?
The truth that I do not deserve love.
The truth that I am not worthy.

And at times, so violently thrust inside of me.
It dug into the very bones of me.
Woven through the fabric of me.
It can’t be extracted with the same force with which it first penetrated.
It has to be carefully teased out, unravelled. Unpicked.
One painful lie at a time.
The lie that I do not deserve love.
The lie that I am not worthy.
Like the staples from a scar, torn from the skin that has so desperately tried to heal around it.
Removing it will hurt.
It will gape and the exposed wound will be bruised and bleeding.

Whose voice is that?
It is the rejected voice of a wounded woman, who refused her role as mother.
All of the shame that seeped from her pores had to go somewhere.
Through the process of osmosis, my skin absorbed it.

Whose voice is this?
This is the voice of my inheritance.
Generations of reluctant mothers who could not or would not heal their own shame and instead forced it down the throats of their girls.

It’s been said that shame is the closest thing to death.
I’d argue it’s like being buried alive.
Or maybe burned alive.
Trapped in a casket of searing humiliation.
To be seen and known is to be set on fire
Like the women branded witches and burned with the second hand shame of those who tied the ropes, lit the tinder and watched the smoke rise.
How many of those women held their breaths?
How many screamed?

Shame is like being withheld the relief of death.
Screaming in silence.
It won’t let me go.

Whose voice is that?
That voice is mine.
And for as long as the voice of shame is inside me, there is no space for anything else to grow.
I could try to wrestle with the words and tear them out of me, force them into my own child.
The pain of that would surely kill me.
I could try to throw them back towards their rightful owner.
Like a boomerang, I fear they would return.
My only choice is to tease each morsel of shame out of it’s darkness and into the light.
Like worms pulled from the ground,
Each one resisting the cold air.

It didn’t start with her just like it didn’t start with me.
Why is it we fear the witches more than the monsters who burned them?
Who first planted the voice of shame?
I feel the weight of all the mothers before me who only knew how to purge themselves by putting their shame into those that came after them.
I hear them willing me to find a way to neutralise the heat of the burning voice and take back the power.

It will take intention.
And time.
Force will not silence it.
The shame cannot be hated into submission.
I have to love it into evaporation.
I will persist.
I have no choice.

Whose voice is that?
It is the voice of a ghost named Shame.
Traveled through generations,
Desperately seeking the one
Who is ready to perform shame exorcism.

A letting go

(This will most likely be my last time writing about Anna. Unless something monumental happens. It no longer feels like a new chapter I’m on… more like a new book…)

Dear Anna,

I noticed you popping into my mind every so often today, softly reminding me of something I wasn’t wholly aware of yet. For years you were a constant presence in my mind, never far away. Now you are a familiar guest that pops in from time to time but never stays long. So strong was my urge to feel connected to you today, that I spent my lunch break looking back over our final emails to each other. Retracing the words I know by heart, imagining what you might have been thinking or feeling as you typed them to me, ‘I want to thank you for your email which touched my heart and I will treasure it forever. Your words mean so much to me. Please know that I also will never forget you. It has been a huge privilege to work with you and I have learned so much from you. Love Anna.’

There is still so much grief about the way things ended Anna, and anger too if I’m honest, but I’m not afraid of the size of it anymore, there is more space inside me now and I know how to go into it in a way I was never able before. Though there has been growth and change, I can’t romanticise the memory of you, as if the gratitude for what you gifted me could in any way erase the pain of losing you. There has been so much sadness and anger and grief, and yet in that suffering there has been opportunity to heal places I just could not access before. Like a lit match dropped on a petrol drenched land. Without the fire I felt nothing but the parched fragments of my childhood. What was already buried there, so desperately needed to burn… without the flames there could be no new growth.

You’re still such a powerful catalyst for positive change in my life. You were and still are the most positive female influence in my life and I love you still. Loving you was always the work. To let a woman be someone I could love and trust. To let you know me. To let you close. To even let you hold me like I’d never been held. These things were once unfathomable. I remember back to the days when I thought your kindness would kill me, what it actually did was plant seeds. Even if I could only ever let in the tiniest splinter of your love and kindness, it was enough to aggravate an ancient wound… just enough to bring it to the surface to be worked on.

I wonder if you’re even aware of the impact you had on me. Two and a half years is hardly anything really. And yet here you are still, inside me. I want you to know that I still think of you often, whenever I’m anywhere near Glasgow I wonder if we’ll bump into each other. I imagine sometimes that you’ll see me with the kids and you’ll smile, and I’ll smile. I think about what the past year and a half might have been like for you and I hope so much that you’ve been well. I can’t tell you how much I want that for you, that you be well and happy and safe.

There’s a part of me that longs to update you on everything, to tell you about all of the pools I’ve managed to plunge into after standing so tentatively on each diving board when I was with you, so afraid to jump in. I think you’d be proud of me, Anna. I’m proud of me. I thought about how there might be a part of you that wishes you could have witnessed each dive. Maybe you wish you’d accompanied me as I swam about in the waters I struggled to dip a toe into when I was working with you. But I want you to know that you have been there with me. It’s because of those patient moments of waiting and watching and listening, that I’ve since been able to leap.

Tonight, as I reflected on my day and the inexplicable pull back to our emails, our connection, it suddenly dawned on me, today is the 16th of September. Four years ago this afternoon, I walked into your office terrified, barely speaking. I couldn’t even drive myself to my own sessions back then, had to be driven. I felt barely alive. I barely felt anything at all.

Anna, I know that our time together is over. It’s been 16 months since we said goodbye through tears, a burning throat and an aching heart. I imagine you rarely think of me or your life as a therapist anymore. A distant memory maybe. When we said goodbye I pleaded you to reconsider, told you I’d wait however long it took. You gave your word that you’d contact me if you ever started your practice again, in response to my desperate begging. I couldn’t imagine at the time that anyone else could give me half of what I needed. I felt that you were my only hope of healing. But I’ve come to learn that the hope for healing is inside me. The work we did together gave me the strength to know what I need and to recognise when I’m not getting it. Because of that I was able to leave Linda and find my way to Mark. An incredible therapist, to whom I’ve committed myself wholeheartedly. He is exactly what I need right now. I know that if you were to get back in touch with me now, all I would ask for is a proper goodbye. And I would give anything for one last hug. You guided me on a part of my journey that I was on back then – that stretch of the road is gone now. I’m on a new path and it’s deeper and more complex than was ever possible before. But I could never have got here without you.

This is a letting go, of sorts. Though I’m learning that with all things to do with the heart, there is never just one door that opens and closes. The layers will peel and the grief resurface. But from where I am right now, this is a final goodbye.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Love Lucy 💙

Sometimes it is Necessary to Reteach a Thing it’s Loveliness

The past week has been insane. Long story short, the whole family has Covid and we’ve all been pretty ill with it. I’ve had a few scary nights with the coughing and up until this afternoon I’ve been thoroughly exhausted, feverish and aching all over. It’s day 7 for me. To add to that, my five year old son developed lymphangitis from a small cut he had on his hand and had to spend a few nights in hospital while he was treated with IV antibiotics. There aren’t the words to adequately express the worry and stress this week has held for me. Sleepless nights in the hospital lying on a fold out bed beside my son, watching his chest rise and fall. Both of us struggling with Covid. In fact it was Covid that compromised his immune system so much that his little body had to choose to fight the virus first and the tiny cut on his hand became infected and the red line rapidly crept up his arm to his lymph node under his armpit. The GP told me not to worry about it when I sent her a picture, effectively said I was overreacting… but when the mottling began to show on his forearm, I took him straight to a&e. The consultant told me it would have been a very different story had I not brought him up when I did. He looked me straight in the eyes and told me I did the right thing and should always trust my maternal instinct.

It was a very scary few days but we’re out the other side of that now and he seems on the mend, though still struggling with Covid symptoms. It makes me so angry to hear people say that kids aren’t affected by the virus… they are! Both of my healthy kids and many of their classmates have struggled with this virus. And both me and my husband have been double vaccinated, and this feels worse than the flu… I don’t want to imagine how ill we’d be without it, because this is hellish! I’ve been mainly existing on autopilot, being a mum and getting through things. There hasn’t been much time to be introspective or dwell on things. I’ve had too much real-time worry to contend with. And it’s been Mark’s third summer break… and to be honest I don’t think I’d have had space for therapy. It’s been the most present, most proactive ‘survival’ type week. There’s been this powerful thread of gratitude running through all of this. I am eternally grateful for the NHS. So grateful for the nurses who cared for us both when we were in hospital. Grateful for the hospital care we received. Grateful we were lucky enough to be born here, in a country that is not at war, I didn’t need to pass my baby over a wall to soldiers to keep him safe this week. Instead, we had free immediate access to high quality health care, friends dropping round home cooked meals, bags of food and fresh fruit and veg and medicine… honestly, so many thoughts and feelings about how lucky I am.

Tonight, has been the first night in a week that I haven’t been sitting with a very ill child and I felt the desire to write. It’s been a rare thing for me to be online over recent months. I’ve missed the connection with the few special people that I got to know online over the years but there has been this strong sense from deep inside me that I really needed to turn towards my ‘real life’ (for want of a better phrase). And ‘real life’ has been busy and full. I’ve taken on a new role at work that involves greater responsibility, more hours and a leadership element that feels really fulfilling. We’re planning the final stages of our new house build which is something that I seriously thought would never happen. My husband has been rehearsing with his band more frequently and I have watched them play live which was a total joy to see him so happy and in his element after so long without playing with other people. I have witnessed a softening inside myself towards my childhood and my parents. Many layers of grief and anger and sadness and regret have gently eroded to leave behind this quiet compassion and seeds of forgiveness. Now THAT is something I never thought possible.

This time last year was a turning point for me. I was coming to the end of 6 intense months of working with Linda in the aftermath of Anna leaving. In august 2020 I took an all-mighty dive into self-advocacy when I realised Linda was not going to be able to do the deeper trauma work with me. Her words, ‘I’ve had to hold a lot for you through this and maybe it’s been too much,’ echoing in my mind as I searched for a new therapist. One that could definitely hold what I have. I knew in my heart that I had to let go of what felt like the last link to Anna, in order to continue on my journey of healing in the direction that I needed to go. I knew in my soul what I really needed and I knew that it wasn’t Linda, nor was it Anna anymore either… it was always going to need to be something that brought me closer to myself… then along came Mark.

In just over a week, I will have been working with Mark for a year. We’ve had close to a hundred sessions and I’m sitting here now trying to find a way to describe the depth and value of the work we’ve done so far and the unfathomable healing that has taken place in such a small space of time. Losing Anna changed me enormously and working with Mark has changed me even more. It was all part of the healing. I can see that now. I have brought all of myself to Mark, uncensored. And he has welcomed it all as if it were the greatest thing he’s ever seen. Which has enabled me to do the same. One of the most profound and life-changing aspects of our work has been talking about, rejoicing and feeling into the ‘good stuff’ and really letting it be there between us. Often, we will turn our attention to the light energy inside me, the empowered, grateful, joyful… the calm and accepting, the love and the compassion. It’s all growing inside me because we tend to it. I spend less of my time in that painful place of inbetween… the fuzzy push pull of grief or anger or attachment, wrestling with resistance and protection and dissociation. It just isn’t there so much anymore because we spent so much time honouring all those terrifying places. They haven’t completely vanished, they never will… but they are far less frequent visitors. What tends to happen these days is I can go into the darkness, accompanied by Mark, without the fearful, shaming, critical pull of resistance. And from there we work on truly witnessing it all together, hand in hand holding the pain. This seems to allow for the joy to be there also. The victories can be celebrated without fear because the once intolerable pain is held and explored. With the repetition of a consistent caregiver, Mark has held me as I’ve fallen into the depths of despair and bore witness to my contraction, the need to close off and disconnect for safety, and not fought against it. And as he has stayed true and patient and ever present, it has allowed a tiny opening to grow, so that now, even when the terror rises, I appear more able to open into some sort of expansion. To let it be here, whatever ‘it’ is. To stay with him and stay with the feelings. All at once. To feel the fear and the faith. To feel the grief and the joy… in one body.

I’m now at a place where I feel I’m able to give companionship and support to myself. And if I sense a need for company or co-regulation, I don’t seem to have the same fear or resistance around asking for help. Unconditional love and limitless possibility… that’s what it feels like inside. Mark told me a poem recently and the following lines he holds in his heart and believes to be true… ‘sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness’… he said that’s all he ever does… just reteach, re-show, hold a mirror to all that is in there already. And that’s exactly what it has felt like. It doesn’t feel like he is the good one and I’m the bad anymore… it feels like he can see clearly whereas sometimes I struggle to see, but always we are equal and always the truth is that there is loveliness even if I am momentarily blind to it. And more often now I am able to see with more clarity, that it is there in us all and in me.

In the last weekend of the summer holidays, I watched my kids practicing some pretty impressive new skills at a climbing centre and it made me think… our journeys include it all – the triumphs, the falls, the scraped knees and the second, third, fourth go. And as my son cheered his sister on when she was able to do a trickier part of the course that he isn’t tall enough for yet, I thought about how important it is to let ourselves be the highest and fullest version we can be, without fear of the falls that may come. And to let others celebrate and surpass too. I have said it more times than I can remember but healing is not linear and actually part of the healing is the fall and the climb, on repeat. Just being where you are in that moment and witnessing and celebrating others for where they are.

I think this is the most stable, settled and secure I’ve ever felt as an adult and it’s been slowly, steadily growing for the past year.. or maybe it’s all been leading up to this, from my first session back in February 2013. I have this deep knowledge inside myself that I’m okay and that I will be okay. And when I say what I’ve just said, I don’t mean I’m happy all the time… far from it. I have moments of grief, moments of sadness, stress (soooo much stress and worry this week), anxiety and the sharp spiky triggers are still all there. But there is something different now about how I contain it all… I think that’s it, my container has grown. I can hold it all now. I remember being in despair saying to Anna, ‘it’s all bigger than me, it’s too much, I can’t cope with it all.’ That’s the difference. It’s not bigger than me anymore. And it kind of blows my mind that I’m in this place… where the stuff that used to floor me, feels manageable. I am so so grateful for that.

So grateful for all the people and moments that show us the loveliness that has always been here all along.

Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;  

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;  

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch  

blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow  

began remembering all down her thick length,  

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,  

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine  

down through the great broken heart

to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering  

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Sunset on Summer Solstice

(Posting the day after because I had no signal last night).

My session was exactly what I needed it to be. Connecting, grounding and containing. we sat with the fear and doubts. We noticed the growing excitement and hope.

I left Mark’s office and drove straight up into the highlands. I could feel the anxiety melt away with each mile.

I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve leaned into this solitude. Perhaps I do quite like my own company after all. There’s this body felt sense of remembering that I do know myself and I’m safe inside myself. I feel calm and I keep catching myself smiling. I think a lot of healing has gone on under the surface and because ‘family life’ is still my biggest trigger, I never get to feel into the growth when I’m around my family. This time by myself feels solid and real and grounded.

Tonight I drove out of the valley to a point where I could watch the sun setting. It was breathtaking. On my way back, I stopped the car in the middle of the forest and listened to the birds and rustling life enveloped by the trees and although it sounds like a cliche, I really did feel at one with it all. The scent of the forest has to be one of my favourite smells. It smells as life giving as it is.

Around 11pm I took a walk, at dusk, to post this and then head home to get some rest but I couldn’t get enough signal so I waited until today.

Another beautiful sunny day… feeling so much gratitude for the stillness inside.

Summer Solstice 2021 sunset

In person sessions and solitary holidays

Since our first in person session, Mark and I have worked at feeling present with each other in both forms of therapy… it was like a violent disruption to the calm rhythm we’d created together, the first in person meeting. And it’s taken time to process and work through that. Working towards a new rhythm. One that swings from one side to the other. In the room therapy on a Monday, zoom therapy on a Friday. It has felt like pendulating between two energies. Connection and disconnection. Trust and defence. Self-consciousness and openness. Comfortable and tentative. Familiar and new. Contraction and expansion. Talking in detail about our experiences with each, slowly letting the experiences become more conscious. From the beginning, Mark found it a delight to be working in person with me, while the initial meeting for me was disregulating and triggered a huge array of confusing feelings. That misalignment needed time to work through.

Last Monday during our fifth in person session, in the last 15 minutes, I finally managed to move my body to the floor… where I’ve wanted to be since our first meeting but was always too frozen to move. I talked a lot about moving but could never move a muscle. Instead of forcing the movement, we spent a lot of time consciously tightening the muscles that were holding tension, following the desire to hide more. Hiding. Tightening. Turning away. Gripping the seat. Folding my arms. Hide. Push away. Shut out. Build the wall. Close my eyes. Say no. Say it louder. Shout ‘stop looking at me’. Letting the protective parts do what they felt the need to do. Then all of a sudden, on Monday, I said ‘I’m going to sit over there, stop looking at me while I move’ and he did, and I moved. It felt good. On the floor, leaning against one of Mark’s beautiful bright red floor cushions, I asked him to join me, and so he pulled a meditation pillow over and sat in front of me. We played with distance and it felt connecting and relaxed and lovely. He told me he really enjoyed having me in his space and that however I want to be, I would always be welcome. We talked about babies and toddlers and proximity and the need for space and the need for closeness and the need to be seen and the need to feel safe. The behaviours present in secure children and the behaviours present when a child does not feel connected.

As has been the pattern recently, the session on Friday was a breaking down of how it feels to sit in the room with him, we tend to process together, we take a few steps forward and then psychologically retrace those steps and feel in to what comes up or root down into any kickback I experienced post session.

I’ve been struggling massively with being seen by him and at the same time wanting to be physically as close as I can be. I often ask him to stop looking at me but I crave sitting closer to him. I talked about how I witnessed my babies play, how they experimented with proximity, how they knew in their bodies what felt safe. I questioned what life must have been like when I was just months old. Who held me? For how long was I left alone? Was I held but not safe? Did they ever see me and see something they could love? How could I have grown so fearful of being seen?

We’ve had a similar conversation before but I think I was able to take it in a little bit more this time. I told Mark that I wished I could be as comfortable with him in the room as I am on the screen… I told him I think I’m getting there but it still feels so overwhelming. I asked him what he noticed about in person compared to zoom.

He said, ‘I see more of your soul when we’re working in person… and it’s beautiful. Your living, breathing personhood, your energy breathing into the room. We can learn to dance with the intensity and feel it, which we do already when we’re together… and that way you can learn to grow your capacity to feel the intensity of being deeply seen and witnessed by me. As I see more of you and you begin to tolerate and maybe even grow to love that closeness. We can stand in solidarity with the need to contract when it feels too much and we can roll out the red carpet for all that unfolds as you expand into new spaces. And I’m right here, taking you in and supporting all parts of you, no one left behind, you’re not alone in this.’

I can hardly bear it. It sounds beautiful but I rolled my eyes half way through his poetic speech and he laughed and told me he knew it was a risk to he so honest… ‘but you did ask me about my experience of sitting with you and this is it,’ he said. I can hardly tolerate being in the room, but I do feel reassured by his words… when I let them touch me.

He reminds me that we found safety through zoom sessions and we’ll slowly find safety in the room.

I’m actually looking forward to being in the room with him tomorrow. I want to really feel his calming, connected presence. On Friday I told him that Thursday mornings are always torture for me because usually it’s when I’m on my own for the first time all week and despite wishing to have time by myself all week, when it finally comes it’s intolerable and I’m flooded. Rather than reminding me of my list of ‘tools’ like my first therapist did or ask me what I might need in that moment like Anna would say. Mark said, ‘it’s so useful for me to know that Thursdays are hard for you. I hate the thought of you being alone with those intolerable feelings, flooded but them. That’s a repeat of what life was like for you when you were very young and we want to undo those patterns not repeat them. So I’m really glad you told me and now I know, Thursdays are not always easy for you.’ It reminded me that he isn’t afraid of my need for closeness. He isn’t overwhelmed by my distress. He wants to support me in my suffering. Any time I’ve reached out to him asking for help, if he’s been free and able to, he’s helped me. And I’m reminded that if I feel the need for support again, I can ask him for it.

I’m doing something I’ve never done before this coming week. After my session I’m driving a few hours into the highlands by myself and I’m staying in a cottage, intentionally seeking solitude. I’ve never spent time truly by myself and I believe that if something so ‘normal’ and ‘every day’ like being by myself scares me this much, then it’s something I desperately need to do. So… I’ve written my list, packed my hiking boots, got my drawing pencils, sketch pad, journal and a couple of psych-books and I’m all set.

My trip is sandwiched between two sessions… thank goodness! I think I’m gonna need it.

See you on the other side!