Turns out it is actually still incredibly painful to exist in the space where I have opened my heart to Anna, and she has not replied.
And she will not reply. I always knew she wouldn’t. I do respect that. I respect that there will be a good reason for her to have made this decision. Maybe she made the decision back in May last year not to respond ever again to any subsequent messages from past clients. Maybe she had to make the decision this week, on the spot, to not allow me to open the door on things again. Maybe she knew right away as soon as she saw the text or maybe she is still deliberating on it… maybe she talked to her own therapist about it. Maybe it hurts too much for her to be reminded that she is no longer practicing. Maybe she is worried I wont be able to hold the boundary if she replies. Maybe she changed her number or blocked me and never got the message. Whatever the reason for the silence, all I can do is hold in my heart the knowledge and sense that she loved and cared for me. She helped me in ways that try as I did, I could never quite put into words. She was the mother I needed and never had until she gave me a taste of it. Then I lost her. Now my work is to heal that wound.
There was a moment where the waiting was like pure agony and I reached out to Mark via email.
Mark, I sent Anna a text, and I’m now in this vulnerable ‘what have I done?’ space where I’m questioning myself massively and wondering what she must be thinking of me. I know she won’t reply. I knew she wouldn’t reply when I sent it and I thought all parts of me were okay with knowing that I would send the message and not get a reply. But I guess I’m now feeling into a younger part of me that is definitely not okay with it and it hurts like hell.
I was just so aware of the anniversary. Like she’d died all over again. I intended on journaling to try to lean into the pain in my chest and tease it out a bit but as the words came out, I found myself writing to her and then I just sent it. I haven’t been in touch with her since our final goodbye. What was I thinking!? I mean, the message was very adult… it was mainly just thanking her and letting her know that she still matters to me… giving her a sort of update. Now I feel like I massively misjudged the situation and I’ve taken something that felt solid and neatly closed off and I’ve ripped it open again and made things messy.
I got caught up reading old session notes and it felt just as alive and powerful as it was back then. It’s as if my connection to Anna was a living, breathing animal that was being nurtured between us… a living tether. When she left and the connection was severed, I let it ache and wail for a few months and then I bundled up my half of the tether and shoved it into a box inside me and left it there in this timeless space. It doesn’t know that the earth has made an entire journey around the sun since I last saw her. It doesn’t know that life has changed beyond recognition. It feels like it was only last week that I walked out of her office, down the stairs and out onto the street, got in my car and drove away from her. For. The. Last. Time. Ever. It’s been a whole year for her, but for me it’s just been 365 days of thinking of her, keeping our connection alive but dormant inside that box. Sending her a text felt as natural as it did a year ago but for her to receive a message from me out of the blue could easily have felt unwelcome and intrusive and brought a whole world of stress and unwanted worry.
I just miss her so much and I think I started to keep this grief locked away for fear of it bleeding into everything again… I can’t let it thrash and cry out like it did in the beginning. But I need to let it breathe and I don’t want to do that alone. It’s feeling quite raw, this wound, and I just wanted to reach out and tell you that I’m hurting and I hope (if it’s accessible to me on Friday) that I’m able to let it speak and feel into our connection, Mark. I so need that.
I realised today, that in those early months after Anna leaving, mixed in with the grief and loss was this enormous fear that I would never find someone that I could do this deep work with, that I’d be on my own with it forever. I am so grateful that’s not the case.
Dear Lucy, I hope you are holding your feelings in a warm embrace and I will see you tomorrow. Kindest regards, Mark.
And that’s enough… that’s all I need to keep me from going out of my mind. I will see him tomorrow, and I know that he too will hold my feelings in a warm embrace.
It’s been a wild ride this past year and I’ve been reflecting! The last month or so has been pretty good actually, all things considering. I’ve found a new love of my job which was completely unexpected. Another thing I’m appreciating is that I have been feeling deeply connected to my kids and husband which has been joyful and liberating and directly related to some of the deep work I’ve done with Mark. This year has already held so much for me… one significant thing being that we lost my grandmother last month, 13 days after her 100th birthday (which is truly remarkable) and I wrote her eulogy and was very involved with the whole ceremony (from a distance) which was such an honour and pleasure. The whole thing has helped me find a greater perspective and sense of forgiveness and respect for my female lineage… all of the women, the mothers before me… it’s worthy of a whole other post which I may write at some point. I have found a compassion for my mother and her mother and all the mothers… and gratitude that I am in the position to heal all of their handed down wounds. The work I’m doing with Mark is moving mountains inside me and I know deep inside that I’m heading in the right direction. Despite things feeling so good, I knew I’d want to slow down and feel into things today… the last day of February, a year on from the last in person session with Anna… it’s been a year. A year since I sat with any therapist in person! Ten minutes in to reading last years journal entries and the grief came flooding up and out. And I decided to write Anna a message. This time I actually sent it!
Hi Anna, it’s Lucy. I’m just sending you this one message today (please don’t worry, it’s not the start of something, I respect the boundary very much, in fact the respect and love I have for you is the only reason why I haven’t text you every single day since May 19th).
The last face to face session we had was the 29th of February and I can feel the anniversary in my core today. I still think about you every single day and often write you messages that I don’t send. Allowing space for all parts of me to express the grief and longing. Thankfully I’ve had a little space to breath over recent months and the grief isn’t as overwhelming as it once was. Today however it feels just as raw and I’m holding my aching heart with compassion and understanding.
I spent some time reading over my journal entries from this time last year and it threw open the door once more. The work we did together was so powerful Anna and impacted me in ways that words can’t express. It amazes me to revisit it all. I want you to know that you remain the biggest force of positive change in my whole life. I know now that you really did care very much about me and I am so grateful for that. If I close my eyes I can put myself back in that room, hugging you… I hope you know that it was like magic, your kindness… so deeply healing. And looking back I know now that there were times where there was no wall between us, no glass… just you and me connecting in a way that I’d never connected with another human being. Even in the silent moments where I couldn’t look at you or when I hid my face. I felt you there and I feel you still.
I took four months off work after the summer. It was like a complete break down. I needed to reduce my life to just focusing on survival, to restore, to build my reserves and focus solely on myself and my family. In that time I had the space to let myself grow a little. I met parts of myself that had been walled off all my life. There are aspects of the grief that are still too hot to touch. But I am noticing them, pacing myself. I haven’t been able to take Luna and her panda family out of hiding. I tucked them away in my wardrobe in May and any time I catch a glimpse of them or smell your perfume, it floors me. Maybe one day, but not yet. It was such an integral part of the work that you and I did together, so personal and delicate… I’m not yet ready to feel into it by myself or share it with anyone else. But I know I will get there in time… baby steps.
Though I wish with every part of me that I could go back in time and change what happened and continue working with you, I want you to know that the grief I have experienced through losing you cracked my heart wide open and with it, exposed all of the wounds I so desperately needed to get in touch with and wasn’t able to. I have cried more this past year than in my whole life. The grief demanded to be felt and expressed and witnessed… and I have to the best of my ability been letting it do what it needs to do. The quote, ‘what stands in the way, becomes the way,’ became my mantra after I got through the black haze of the early days after our final phone call and remains a helpful source of grounding whenever I lose myself in the ‘it’s not fair’ cycle. This was not how we planned it but it is now part of my journey. You never planned on leaving, but losing you became a doorway to untapped grief. And I felt in my soul that by openly grieving the loss of you, I was honouring all of the work we did together and the love I allowed myself to feel for you. It has been a year of grieving.
I am still working deeply on myself, still exercising the muscle of tenderness and care, working hard to turn towards my younger parts with love and feeling into the beautiful buds of growth and change that we planted together. The therapist I’m working with now is gentle and patient and kind. He understands my need to go slow and he is doing a great job at helping me continue the work you and I started together. In the absence of you, this feels like the right path for me. I feared so much that I was having to start all over again but he reassuringly said to me, ‘You’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work… Anna was such the good mother for you and that will stay inside you forever.’ He knows how amazing you were for me and he can see the impact that our work continues to have on me. I feel like you’d be glad to know that I am in safe hands doing good work. Building on the foundations we laid.
The whole world completely turned upside down this time last year and tore me away from you when I had only just felt myself opening up in a way I never experienced before. But just as you said, the work we did together will never leave me. I think of your words often and they give me great comfort, they support me when I need it and often make me smile. I can feel into the spaces inside me where your kindness took root. It is all still there. I would give anything to have one last hug with you, one last conversation. I’ve had countless conversations and hugs with you in my mind. If there was ever the opportunity for us to speak one more time, or if in the future we happened to bump into each other, I’d welcome that very much. But also I know and I am learning to slowly accept that what we had has come to an end.
Anna, I have no idea what really happened with you last year but knowing you as I do, I know it must have been very serious for you to have walked away from your practice. I really hope with all my heart that you are well and happy and that whatever your life looks like now, that you are okay and that the people you love are okay. You deserve nothing but happiness and love. I hope this year brings you what you need and that your world has settled into something that makes you happy.
I just wanted you to know, you’re still in my heart and I meant what I said… I will never ever forget you.
A year on from our last in person hug I am sending you a virtual one and feeling into it inside me.
The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. RUMI.
Hello 👋 it’s been almost 5 weeks… I’m popping on to reconnect and give an update but I’ll be taking another break shortly.
The time away from social media has been exactly what I needed. I have focused my attention on myself and my family. I felt a compulsion to mute the busy distractions of the online world and noticed a number of different responses inside when I did this. The initial reaction was discomfort and agitation… I was confronted with my life – raw and unfiltered. I found myself repeatedly looking for the apps in the early days. That impulse has eased recently and now I find myself more comfortable with the silences. The gaps where I am not entertained, busy, distracted, numbing. I feel more connected and awake… but I am also more aware of the dark corners. I am finding myself in these spaces and that brings up a whole host of different aspects of my self and my life that need attention.
My therapy has been intense. I am beginning to explore some core wounds that I never even uncovered with Anna. I am in the thick of attachment work. All of my parts are forming a deep connection with Mark and the transference is proving to be a fertile ground for our work. It feels delicate and intimate and very healing and deserving of space and patience and time.
I hope the start of this new year has been kind to all who have read this and that it continues to bring hope and light 💕
I’ve not been around much though I have dipped in and out. Things have felt quite overwhelming to be honest and I’m approaching another therapy break with a lot of anxiety. Christmas is a difficult time anyway, on top of that I’m missing Anna massively and there are a number of other things weighing heavy just now.
I have this gut feeling that I need to try to pull my focus in a little. I’m spending so much time online and although it seems like a distraction, it’s actually hurting me and it’s getting in the way of my relationships. As much as the online world brings me validation and a sense of belonging… it isn’t my ‘real life’ and the exchanges, though full of meaning and connection, leave me dealing with a sense of loneliness at times. People are there but they’re not really there. This is a reenactment of my childhood. This is purely my experience, I’m not assuming others are the same… it’s my own lack of whatever resources it is inside that I don’t have that I think other people do have. Comments and conversations on here bring me so much affirmation and they really fill me up… but then they’re gone… it doesn’t last… because it isn’t inside me. A bottomless pit of need. I’m constantly looking outside of myself and that isn’t where I’m going to find peace.
The next two weeks will be about focusing on my little family and trying to navigate the waves of triggers, trauma responses, grief and all the other things that make life complex and challenging. I will also be making a conscious effort to lean in to love and joy and silliness and fun. Though family life and face to face interactions are deeply triggering for me at times, maybe reducing my phone use and being more in the room will bring me a little of what I need.
I’ve had three sessions this week in order to try to process the magnitude of what is coming up for me as I quickly approach a year since the last time I sat with Anna. Mark is very much in encouragement of my desire to turn towards my little family, to slow down and try to take stock a little bit. I haven’t had a digital detox since the weeks leading up to Anna leaving back in May.
So I will take a break. I’m going to temporarily close my accounts tomorrow morning for two weeks (that’s the plan). If you want to keep in touch you can email me… I’m not turning away from all the lovely friends I’ve made on here, just turning away from the noise and bright lights of the web… firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone who finds themselves reading this, I hope the next wee while brings you a little of what you need.
Be gentle with yourselves and take a moment, as the end of the year approaches, to quietly marvel at everything you’ve survived in 2020.
I’m going through a proper rollercoaster with Mark at the moment. The usual push pull, disorganised attachment shit. It is pure agony as always.
Basically a very young part poured her heart out to him last Monday. I have no idea quite how it happened. Almost a whole hour of unfiltered sharing. Stuff I never told anyone, even Anna. And it felt good to share. And he was so lovely. And he really got it!
I then faced the painful wrath of the protective parts all week. Mark then met a very angry, critical protective part through email mid week and then in session on the Friday as she told him how violating and intrusive he’d been. Listening to the recording I can hear myself saying he behaved like a predator… I can not believe I said that to him.
The truth is that he’d been wonderful and gentle and patient and slow and careful. Not a single ounce of predator in him at all! I’ve listened to the session at least half a dozen times and all I hear is him respecting me and supporting me. Yet on Friday, when faced with my ‘feedback’, he graciously took responsibility for the pain his enthusiasm had caused and offered a heartfelt apology for overstepping my delicate boundary and making me feel unsafe. I asked him if he felt critiqued by me (like Linda used to say…) he said ‘I don’t, but if I did it would be mine to feel and mine to deal with, not your responsibility.’
And now I feel like I’ve pushed him away. Even though he says I haven’t. But he said we need to slow down and listen when parts of me slam on the breaks. But I want to feel him with me, I don’t want to slam on the breaks. I don’t want to build a wall!
I’m thinking about sending him this to help illustrate the internal battle. Although I know he knows. He said to me, ‘even just my presence is frightening to some parts of you and it will take as long as it takes for me to earn their trust… they will test me – you might not want to but they will need to test me, and I’m okay with that. This is the work Lucy, welcome to the work.’ With a gentle smile.
The repair of this mini rupture was so healing and exactly what I needed. But I’m afraid I’ll never get to where I want to be… it feels like a constant uphill battle sometimes. Rolling this boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down and crush me whenever I feel like I’m getting somewhere.
The remnants of my trauma (most of which used to be hidden so deep I couldn’t even feel it beneath the heavy ocean of numb that rested on top of it) has been actively bubbling under my skin for a few weeks now. It has intensified recently to the point of me experiencing heat fluctuations, twitching and convulsions during my sessions as the energy is surfacing and discharging. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and I’ve been unable to put these experiences into words. As Mark said the other day, ‘appreciate the wordless space, we could load a lot of words onto it which can be helpful but words are not experience. It’s not the story about what happened it is how the story touches us.’
I found this video tonight and my mind is blown. Thank you Gabor Mate… once again you are teaching me… broadening my mind and deepening my understanding. I mean this makes so much sense and I guess I knew it, but also I didn’t. GRIEF is the antidote to trauma! The video is only a few minutes long but the first 50 seconds blew my fucking mind… just watch the first 50 seconds if nothing else…
I have recently found myself contemplating the impact of Anna leaving. (She says as if this hasn’t been something she’s been contemplating for most of the year). It’s been nearly 10 months since I sat in a room with Anna and 7 months since she phoned me to let me know she was closing her practice and I would never be able to speak with her again. I don’t need to write here how much Anna leaving me ripped me apart. I wrote about my experience extensively through that whole period. The grief broke my heart wide open and I thought I wouldn’t survive the intensity of it all. I drove to her office more times than I care to admit and sat sobbing my heart out in the car, often feeling unable to leave the last place that connected us. And even in those moments of pure torturous grief where I felt like my body was being turned inside out, if I had to put a name to it, I would called it love. Grief is love turned inside out… it really is. In those early days when I would walk into the forest so I could cry in peace (as the lockdown rendered me permanently accompanied by my 3 housemates)… I cried outloud… to the point where people would hear me… and I would place my hand on my chest and feel that my crying was a way to love her. It was my only way to love her. It’s because of who she was to me that her absence was so devastating. Me grieving her fully, has been about me honoring all of the great work we did together and all of the work she and I wanted to do with each other. Grief is not only about what you have lost in the present moment, it’s about having to rewrite all that you hoped for. Your whole life changes in an instant.
Recently I’ve been talking to those close to me about how I’m sensing in to this new sense of gratitude and a slight shift in perspective of the whole thing. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt like hell, the waves still drown me from time to time (though less frequently than a few months ago)… they still blindside me and render me unable to function while their swelling tides. But what I am also aware of is that the road that this tidal wave has carried me onto is a road that will lead to deeper healing. This direction that I would never have taken, had she not left, has led me towards something I couldn’t have experienced without losing her. I would not wish the pain I felt on anyone, not even myself (and I have a pretty good track record of causing myself pain!)… but as the well worn saying goes, ‘what stands in the way becomes the way’… this grief became my work. And something miraculous happened… it opened up a portal to all the grief… the stuff I could never feel. The stuff I was numb to. I have access to it now and my god am I feeling it. Not just emotionally but somatically, viscerally, literally physically feeling the grief surge through me. It’s not sadness. It’s not depression. It’s grief. And the grief that I now have access to is slowly breaking away the calcified trauma. Like the ocean wears away at the cliff edge… I can feel it happening!
It’s all making so much sense now that I’ve watched that video. OF COURSE grief is the antidote to trauma. Linda was wrong! Joy may ease the impacts of trauma but it is not the antidote… grief is. As Gabor describes it. And yes you have to actively grieve. It’s a process that you have to live through, let it destroy parts of you… it knows what it’s doing and it is truly miraculous when left to do it’s thing. I’ve watched my own kids grieve their mini losses (and some pretty big losses as they’ve lost great grandparents and great aunts and uncles)… they grieve, therefore they don’t carry the trauma. And all of their little injustices, their playground upsets, their disappointments and their missattunements are all grieved in relationship and released – not stored as trauma in the body. And in therapy… it’s what we do to heal. We access the pain from childhood and we grieve. I mean, it’s way more complex than that but that’s the nuts and bolts of it all… grief. NO fucking wonder this enormous loss has felt in some ways like the most empowering thing that’s ever happened to me… like a catalyst for healing. It literally has been! In all of it’s agony, it has also been rejuvenating. Within the grief I have found myself.
For the first time in 6 months I actually feel like myself. I feel grounded and alive and awake and like life can be smooth and easy. For the first time since Anna left, I feel truly hopeful. For the past few days, since Friday’s session, I have felt light, energised, capable and joyful. I have tidied the whole house… for the first time in 6 months. I have played with my kids. I’ve tasted my food. I’ve felt in my body. I’ve moved in my skin with more care and kindness. I’ve stretched and I’ve rested. I’ve planned a strategy to get me ready to return to work… not immediately but soon. It feels possible now.
Nothing monumental has changed and yet I do feel a change. ‘A seismic shift,’ as Mark reflected today… a shift in my internal landscape. One I am aware of.
Today’s session was very adult. We stayed with the ‘good’ feelings, we explored what it means to feel like this from the inside and we processed where I’ve been the past few weeks and the intensity of the last session and the powerful awareness I had of his presence and holding when I was very upset. We revisited Mark’s exclamation from Friday that my childhood was, ‘pretty fucking bad.’ We talked about the fallacy of ‘it wasn’t that bad’ and how that narrative has followed me around my whole life. We talked about the powerful impact validation has on me and how I can feel myself breaking free from the minimising lies surrounding what happened to me. We talked about the fact that my body tells the story… my struggles with coming into relationship tells the story. There is a wordless energy here that doesn’t need to be proved. I said, ‘Me constantly telling myself it wasn’t that bad… what is that? Denial? It’s probably a good thing to loosen my grip on that?’ Mark said, ‘Yes exactly, I think denial is really the only truly pathological defense because it stops you acknowledging what’s actually happening to you which is usually not a good idea for very long.’ There is a safety in seeing things for how they really are. You can’t protect yourself from things you deny the existence of.
I told Mark that I trust him and that it blows my mind. That I feel an ease with him and that I trust he won’t shame me. That there’s a trust in me… an ability to let go and feel things and cry with him and let him witness and be with me. I said, ‘For so long I didn’t think I would ever be able to cry in the company of someone else, or even by myself! It’s fucking huge that I can cry with you… massive! I’m actually excited about it. And I’ve realised it’s so much more painful to feel the feelings and not cry.’ We explored my history of self-harm and how short lived the relief would be when I would cut myself, compared to the real relief of crying with someone with me. I said, ‘There’s a new road, a new option… one that doesn’t carry the shame or guilt that self-harm harbours.’ Mark gently reflected on the ebb and flow of these connections I’m making, that the old habits often present themselves to us and that sometimes we will be aware of the other options, other times we won’t.
I told him, ‘I feel your authenticity. I think that helps with the trust… I don’t feel any games… I don’t feel like you’re having to ‘switch on’ your therapist mode for me, I feel like this is genuinely who you are, that it is threaded through you, the way you are being with me… in relationship with you I feel an ease that I’ve never felt, even with Anna.’ Mark said, ‘That’s good to hear, we’ve got to somewhere really important here. There is an ease. A trust. I imagine you’ve got a pretty good radar for when people have any agenda or are game playing. Your history will have given you the ability to read people. It’s delightful to hear that you feel your hyper-vigilance relaxing and a trust growing with me. And you know you can check things out with me, ask if you feel that something isn’t quite right.’ I said, ‘With other therapists, I would sense an effort sometimes, that they were having to work at it… I don’t feel that from you, I feel like you enjoy this work and that it’s not a huge effort for you to sit with me through this.’ Mark brightly replied, ‘Yeah, I think you have seen me quite clearly there, it’s important… I’m here with you… very here with you. It’s quite lovely, you’re very astute. It’s delightful that you can pick up on my enjoyment of working with you.’ This felt so nice to acknowledge. It made me smile.
We spent some time sharing the qualities we enjoy in each other and then Mark suddenly realised the time and said, ‘Oh, we’re coming up to time! I was so engaged in what you were saying I forgot to do my job!’ This also felt nice and he noted that he feels an authenticity from me and that the way I am makes it easy for him to be himself around me.
I told Mark to remind me of all of today’s reflections when I’m back in the pit of despair and he said, ‘that’s the beauty of life, we go round the loop repeatedly… and we learn as we go… what do you feel towards that part of you that will come back at some point…?’ and I searched inside and found two strong feelings. One was a desire to push that part away.. to ask her to never come back because it is too painful. The other feeling was of compassion for those dark and tortured places inside me. I marveled at these two feelings and then we said goodbye.
I’ve been aware of a slight sense that younger parts may have felt spoken about but not spoken with today. There’s a feeling of talking over the heads of the children. By listening back to the session I have reassured those parts that although the session didn’t feel as intensely intimate as Friday’s… we were still there, sitting together, talking and feeling together. And these thoughts and feelings will be welcome whenever I feel compelled to bring them to session.
I spent some time reflecting on all of this today. I’ve done some more tidying. I journaled a little. I filled the house with music and I did some online Christmas shopping. I am very aware that nothing is permanent. Just as the darkness passes in time, this light will also fade. So I am making the most of it while it’s here. Taking a breath. Holding this spacious ease with gratitude and bringing mindful awareness to things as they are.
I went to my husband for a cuddle in the kitchen yesterday afternoon and as I rested my head on his chest he said to me in a gentle voice, ‘you’re back…’ I smiled and asked what he meant. He told me that nearly 20 years of living with me has taught him that often I go away, slip into darkness and fog but I always come back and he was glad to have me back. I told this to Mark and he said, ‘how wonderful that he could see you and welcome you so warmly and how wonderful that you allowed him to share this with you.’
The first time I let him see me cry… without asking him to look away.
I reached out to Mark via email just before the session…
Hi Mark, I just felt the need to let you know that I’ve been in the thick of massive waves of grief this morning and for hours last night. I was really triggered yday afternoon and it just spiralled to the point of total despair. I managed to hold it together until the kids went to school this morning and then I lost it again. I felt myself shutting down about half an hour ago and was freezing and very spacey so I’ve put my electric heat pad on and I’m starting to come back a bit but I still can’t feel anything in my body. I guess I just wanted to say all this before the session although I’m not really sure why I couldn’t just say it at the start. It’s going to be really important that I feel a connection with you today coz I’ve been completely alone with these massive, scary feelings and now there’s this numbness which is also horrible. I really hope I’m able to let you in a bit like I did on Monday coz that was really nice and I really need that a lot today. See you soon. L
…and he replied…
Ok – I’ve got you. M
I felt so shut down as the session approached that I wanted to sleep. Just log on and sleep right there with him keeping me company. As soon as we connected on zoom Mark said, ‘Let’s take all the time we need to just arrive together.’ There was a pause and he continued, ‘I’m glad you let me know a little of what you’ve been struggling with this morning. I might need to come a little further forward for you to sort of feel me here with you.’ And he sort of moved forwards in his seat but also I felt a sort of energetic moving towards, like he knew I wasn’t going to be able to make the effort to reach out today so he was moving closer.
It took me some time to communicate anything at all. I told him I didn’t feel like I was really there and he encouraged me to be ‘as not here as you need to be, don’t push past that… there it is, the not here…’ and we just took some time to feel that. Then I guess I was able to look at him a little more as I started to sense in to the fact that he wasn’t forcing me, and he wondered aloud if I was able to be ‘a little bit here and a little bit not here’. And so we felt in to that too and I said I was starting to feel a warmth in my hands and feet that I hadn’t felt earlier. Like my body was slowly filling up with a life force again. The talking was slow and gentle and spaced apart with lots of time between words.
Eventually I said, ‘I hate feeling like this. It’s when I need to feel the most with you but I feel the most away from you. It’s been really hard.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah, I know. I absolutely got that. And that’s coming in with you and stopping you being fully here with me and stopping you from fully feeling me here with you. Which is maybe what you most need. How much of us making contact are you in touch with?’ I said, ‘the tiny bit I can feel is making me so sad, so I want to not feel it.’ Mark encouraged me to feel the edges of that contact and the edges of the sadness and I said it was because he was being kind to me. He said, ‘yes, it’s there, the sad part… the kindness brings up a range of emotions, I get it. It’s problematic for you because of your history. Kindness is not straight forward especially when you’re feeling like this.’ There was some more quiet and then he said , ‘I cant not feel kindness towards you because I really can feel that you’ve been going through it so I do feel that I want to reach out.’ I felt a disbelieving part turn away from this and indignantly questioned, ‘Why?’ Mark patiently said, ‘Why? Well It’s a heartfelt thing… there’s a pull to move forwards.’
At some point I tried to explain what had been going on for me. I talked about the grief that was coming up about Anna. I went right back to the previous day and reflected on the fact that there is something very triggering about hometime which makes me completely disengage. The energy and the smells that are noticed on a body level at the transition time of the kids coming home from school. I felt myself moving very deeply into this somatic memory. There were no words but my body was shaking and Mark encouraged me to notice with curiosity what my body was telling me about what it remembers from this time in the day.
I talked about what happened in the evening that layered on top this bodily felt sense of happenings from my childhood that are largely wordless. I told Mark that as we move in to a second lockdown here, although I never felt like I came out of the first one, there is a shift in the air and things are starting to feel restrictive, constricting and oppressing again, the powerlessness feels suffocating again. I told him that my husband had gone out to the studio to get one more session done with his band before the lockdown and so I put the kids to bed by myself which is unusual. As I lay on Reuben’s bedroom floor listening to him fall asleep I began moving in to a deep grief. I told Mark, ‘something about my face on the carpet, the darkness… and I was looking under his bed and I remembered, not in words but in a feeling.. I remembered… I could feel in my body… it was a feeling of a need to crawl under the bed and hide… and then along with that there was a realising that its not normal for kids to want to hide. That my kids don’t ever hide under the bed or anywhere and they’ve never ran away from me and I guess I just really felt it when I was lying there, powerfully felt what I used to feel and uh… that was a lot to feel… and then I had to supress it to get through him falling asleep and then get out of the bedroom and down stairs and then there was just so much sadness…’ Mark said, ‘yes you’re grieving for your past in a way.’ We talked about how my grief for Anna has reopened all the other wounds and that talking about her with him in the previous session opened that up. I told him that I reread my journal entries from our final sessions and the last phone call. ‘it was like walking through a door and the wave just hit me, so powerful, she’s really never coming back.’ I felt like I was struggling to articulate myself and I got into a cycle of self damning when Mark said, ‘You’re doing just great Lucy, I really want you to hear that, you’re doing great. You’re doing a good job with trying to help me connect with what you’ve been experiencing.’
I told Mark that I listened back to the last session many times and the bit where he said that I’m not back at the start really helped reassure me. Then I said, ‘and I do know I’m not back at the start of my whole journey, but I am back at the start of a new therapeutic relationship.’ Mark said, ‘Do you mean that it may feel better when I’ve sort of downloaded on my disk a lot more of your history and what you’ve been through so it doesn’t feel like the early bit of the work? You’re looking forward to us being on the other side of that? And it’s a process.’ I agreed and continued, ‘and losing Anna… having her alive but not in my life… well that’s just like my mum. I mean, she’s not…’ Mark made a noise and said, ‘yes… she’s not meaningfully in your life in a way that’s good for you.’ Then he apologised for finishing my sentence and there was a lot of space where I felt the emotions well up inside. He then said, ‘where’ve you gone?’ but I couldn’t speak I just started to cry. Eventually I said, ‘it feels punishing, it’s not fair, she’s sitting in her own house half an hour away, it hurts so much, it feels unnecessarily painful when she could make it go away… I don’t know… I’m getting annoyed with myself… I don’t think she meant to go away. The last session she said, ‘see you on Tuesday’… and we never did… and I read over all my notes, I didn’t record the sessions back then so I’d write them out immediately afterwards so I would remember them.’ Mark said, ‘yeah sure, makes sense. And a way of keeping her close as well as just remembering the sessions.’
Mark said, ‘lets take a little pause and maybe focus out the way and just connect with each other and see what happens.’ We were looking at each other and he had his hand on his chest. I ended up with my hands over my face and he asked me what I was aware of. I felt a small voice escape, ‘I want to be sitting with you I don’t like this I feel on my own.’ He said, ‘mmm yes. It is limited isn’t it. How it would feel, and it would feel different if we were sat together.’ That amazingly brought me back out of myself and I sat up, had a drink of water and continued talking about the grief. I said, ‘it feels like walking through a long corridor in a hospital or something and you’re walking quickly straight forwards and then bang through the double doors and through another corridor and then bang through some more doors and each corridor is a different state, different emotions and it changes so quickly, I told him that’s what my mind is like just now. The really intense grief and then bang it’s off, nothing, then it would happen again then nothing and I cant control it and it’s really big and scary in my whole body.’ I got frustrated again and said I couldn’t find the right words. Mark said, ‘I think I’m getting it, I’m getting the territory. Griefs a bit like that you can be floating along quite okay and then all of a sudden from nowhere this whoosh comes in and this wave of feeling that is hard to put into words just overtakes you and almost steels time almost as if you’re in this altered state and then you come out of that you come through the doors and you’re going along with life as normal and then through the doors and another bit hits you. That experience makes sense to me. And I also feel confident that, painful though it is, it is a good thing. You are touching on layers of grief and it’s moving through. It sort of rises and peaks and discharges. That strength of emotion is a bit woah, rollercoaster. So the scary feelings makes sense and they’re coming because they can and because you’ve got a big enough container almost to let that wave through you if you like.’ There was some silence and he asked where what he said landed with me. I said, ‘it’s a softness inside, gentle like a layer of something soothing over the panic… but those aren’t the right words…’ Mark said, ‘can you stay with that? Without words even?’ I quietly said yes and he said, ‘just welcome that in, it sounds like a good thing to feel. don’t pressurise yourself to put it into words just let yourself have that.’ Which I did for a while.
I told Mark that I’m realising on a deeper level how much I miss Anna. That I know I will be able to do deep work with him, there’s not the panic around that which I did feel with Linda. But there is this sense that you can’t just replace one therapist with another, ‘its not like you can just pull out a plug and push in a different plug hoping it’ll be the same it’s not the same and what I had with Anna was special between us and now that’s gone.’ I struggled to stay focused on that conversation and he said, ‘let me say a couple of things and you don’t have to make too much effort. What ive witnessed in you is that you’re acknowledging a little bit more how it is. You are mourning the loss of Anna a bit more deeply. And I always really love your metaphors they speak really well, you said it’s not like you can just unplug and put in a different plug of course it’s not the same. You do feel a confidence with me, you said you will get to do deep work with me… I think you already are actually, I think you are touching some very deep places right now. You’re touching the heart of your grief. We’re finding a way to speak about it which is hard because it’s more visceral than cognitive in a way and a making sense of it. And I would have a strong hunch that you are grieving for more than just Anna. And we’re just letting that move through.’ I sat looking to the side of the screen for ages and then he said, ‘and I’ll be with you, every step of the way with your grief, when we’re together.’
I have listened to that bit of the recording on repeat. There’s this settling of the anxiety that happens when I can hear that he really gets this. I said to him I like that he said he likes my metaphors and I started to try to tell him that Anna said that. I wanted to tell him that in our last phone call she told me she loved my analogies and to remember to use them with whoever I work with. I wanted to tell him that she told me that every time she uses an analogy she thinks of me and it makes her smile. But I couldn’t get any of that out and I felt myself being pulled out of my skin and float up above again.
I was able to eventually say that I was struggling to stay focused and I knew what I wanted to say but couldn’t say it. I told him it felt like the doors were locked. He said, ‘There is no need to say any of it outloud. This is sensitive territory for you and notice what is happening inside as you’ve said the pieces you have said. And also there’s something that stops you saying any more. Just honouring that, you might feel annoyed with it but it’s trying to protect you in some way I’m sure of it.’ I felt more alive again and said, ‘It happened in the last session and I listened back closely to see if I could figure out what had freaked me out and made me go spacey… it’s the critical voice telling me that what I’m saying is stupid and you don’t understand what I’m saying and it drives me away and I go away and that happened again just now and it keeps happening coz this is really important and then it’s like I panic and think ‘if you share that and he doesn’t get it or he doesn’t say the right thing it’s gonna be really painful’ and then it makes me go and then I cant find the words anymore and then you talk and that brings me back down into my body again coz I can hear that you’re safe and you understand.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah, you know what you’re doing right now is you’re really skilfully clocking the process… and it’s not wrong… and it sounds like it’s going to keep happening between us and if you can just be curious about it rather than wish it were different. And to really notice those places that we go together when we go through that cycle. I think that will be really helpful, because it is something from the past and it is the way you’ve helped manage difficult experiences particularly of loss or that someone’s not gonna be there for you in relationship and your psyche has found ways of making that as bearable as it can.’ I was really quiet and eventually Mark asked, ‘can you hear that?’ and I said, ‘yeah’, he said, ‘does that makes sense?’ and I said, ‘yeah’, he said ,’good’ and then I said, ‘it makes me feel sad. I was thinking a lot of things. It does make a lot of sense. I’m so glad you get it. And it’s nice to hear you talking about being curious about it rather than being critical…’
I then said, ‘and I thought about how my kids don’t do that.’ And he interrupted and said, ‘they don’t need to do that,’ in a more firm voice than before as if he was really trying to make me hear it and I quickly switched and said, ‘I know but fucking hell how bad was it then for me to feel like I needed to do that?’ and in the same firm voice Mark said, ‘pretty fucking bad,’ and I said, ‘what the fuck?’ as if I was just learning this for the first time. I said, ‘I don’t think I knew… that’s awful then!’ and started to cry and Mark said, ‘it is awful, it was awful. Yes it was. It’s horrible that your psyche had to find all those clever ways of helping you through that.’ Through tears I said, ‘I don’t think I really fully got that.’ He said, ‘no you wouldn’t have done, course you wouldn’t have done. I mean, it would happen… I know you’re getting upset… it would have happened under your radar, it would have done it for you and you’re just clocking how it does it now between us and that’s really good because you’ll grow awareness of these places and something will come together over time. You won’t need to do that with me forever I’m sure of it. It will shift and you’ll have a trust that we’re here together and it’ll be okay. But given where you’ve come from and your history it makes perfect sense that you’ll go down that rabbit hole or round that loop or whatever metaphor speaks to it you know.’ I said, ‘it’s like these layers of realisation… you think that your life… that its normal, when you’re a kid that’s just the way it is. Then when I read all the books I learned cognitively, I gained awareness, the knowledge that all the stuff that happened was not a healthy environment for a child and but then I really feel like I’m feeling it and lying on his floor I really felt it as if for the first time. The fear that I had… all the time.’ I was crying a lot at this point. Sobbing in my hands. And it’s only on listening back that I realise I didn’t ask him to look away. Mark said, ‘Yes you touched that place because you were able to…’ I quietly spoke in a disjointed way through the crying, ‘…the carpet and the dark and it felt safer under the bed, what the fuck?’ Mark said, ‘yes it’s upsetting to know that’s how you felt back then and you can connect with that part of you. It’s desperately sad isn’t it for that child that felt safer under a bed rather than just sort of sat on it trusting that things will be okay, you didn’t have that trust… and your tears are very welcome by the way.’ I said, ‘and I was totally on my own.’ And he said, ‘you were, with feelings you shouldn’t be on your own with and you had nobody to trust to help you with those feelings so you were totally on your own which makes them hard to come into relationship now with, with me and you most needed it, it’s what you need, and it’s so good that you’re not on your own now and we’re able to thread through it together, you’re doing really good work and it’s fucking painful.’ I was audibly sobbing through him saying all of that and it felt intense and alive and powerful and unlike anything I’ve ever let myself experience and listening back to it I can feel the intensity again.
Eventually I calmed a bit and sorted myself out and told him I felt like a fucking mess and he said, ‘I sometimes think as human beings that we’re all messes in progress… but we tell ourselves we’ve got to have it all together, and that’s what we put out to the world… and you don’t have to here, you can just be however you are.’ I said this feels like a very messy time in my life and he said, ‘it is you’re feeling all sorts of things, its like your past is coming straight through, you lie on a carpet and up it comes and you clock it and it’s deeply wobbling to the core and its almost an opportunity to sort of reclaim that child that you were ,’ I told him I didn’t think I knew how to do that and he said, ‘you’re doing it you just don’t realise you’re doing it. Something being worked through here.’
We talked that through a bit more and I talked again about the triggers that brought these body felt emotional flashbacks to life. I talked about how the kids come home happy and they’re both fighting to tell me about their day that they both run up to hug me and they don’t question that there will be snacks there for them, that they don’t feel the need to be apologetic about asking for anything and it just feels like I’m noticing things on a painful, deep level. Mark said, ‘yeah they are how you should have been and it confronts you with how you were.’ I said, ‘yeah and it feels like I’m just learning this for the first time. Just how bad it really was.’
We were talking about this thing that I feel I’m going through and trying to put words to. I explained it as being like a shedding or an evolving, a relearning. Experiencing a new way of being that is painful and hard because change is painful and hard but that I know in the long run it will be for the greater good. I talked about having to walk over hot coals to get to where I want to be and then I said, ‘It reminds me of Platos allegory of the cave. I remember learning about it at uni and it’s come back to me a few times on this healing journey of mine…’ Mark said he knew it and I elaborated on how I felt it fit here. ‘So all the people were imprisoned facing the cave wall watching the shadows of life projected onto the wall thinking that the images they saw were the truth and all there was to life. Never experiencing these things for themselves, just trying to make sense of the limited things they were being shown… like me reading theories and stuff in books about healing from trauma… Eventually one of the prisoners broke free and turned around, he struggled away from his old life and the new one confused him. The sun blinded him. It was painful and hard and unpredictable and so full of things that seemed familiar but very different to what he thought was the truth. So I’m now feeling body memories and emotions and waves of grief and I’m crawling through the healing and it’s actual agony… I recognise the experience as being familiar from the pages of the books but living it is completely different.’ I said to Mark, ‘there’s this dilemma… well you can’t really ever go back to staring at the cave wall once you know the truth… but you have to adjust to this new way of being. There’s this painful breaking free and the sun is blinding me and my body hurts…’ Mark said, ‘notice – you turn (on my screen) that way…’ he pointed to my right, ‘freedom lies this way… notice that, notice where your body looks to.’ I made an agreeing sound and he said, ‘just notice that spot that your eyes go to and let yourself have that, just as an experience, a wordless experience.’ I did. I sat and felt in to the space I was leaning and looking. Imagining the fresh air outside the cave and all the possibilities. Then the pain of it all approached me again and I said, ‘there’s just so much heartache and grief and questioning I’m going to have to wade through to get there. It makes me want to turn back sometimes. I feel really kind of ‘in it’ at the moment and there isn’t really a ‘there’ anyway, because even when I get ‘there’ there’s still going to be all this living you know? Its not like some destination where everything’s gonna feel completely peaceful and fine.’
Mark said, ‘No, but you’re in a different relationship with your way of being. Its like you’re not so transfixed by the mirage at the back of the cave you’ve got a different perspective and that shifts everything. We can get hypnotised almost by our mental contents cant we and project them on to the back of the cave and it’s an appearance that doesn’t have substance to it. It just feels very real. And actually from another perspective it starts to be put in it’s place. And there’s this thing of kind of turning towards the light. And it was quite palpable where you went to with your body and where your eyes went to, just sort of saying that out loud to me and I just thought I’d bring that to your attention.’ I said, ‘one other thing… this is for another time… if you’re in relationship with someone who’s still sitting there staring at the wall of the cave, that’s really hard to function in a relationship when you feel like you’re breaking away and working really hard going towards something else, towards reality, and they are still sitting there, chained. But that’s maybe for another time.’ Mark said, ‘hmm… hmmm yes I hear you. I’ve got it.’ I told him that’s why the therapeutic relationship is so important to me. I just don’t have this level of emotional intimacy with anyone else, even my husband. Mark said, ‘yeah and sometimes that’s the way of it isn’t it. And you do have this space where you can go to places you cant go to with anybody else and feel things together and it’s okay you’ve got somewhere to put them. You’re not just holding them on your own which I feel is hugely important. Hugely important, especially for you because you were so alone. Finding your way in the dark on your own and that’s not right is it so you don’t want to reproduce that, so you have this space.’
I told Mark it surprises me every time I get the sense that he’s okay with me wanting and needing connection with him. That he’s not trying to force this independence onto me. I told him that I keep expecting him to think I’m too needy or clingy but each time I feel a need for him he seems happy I’ve reached out. He jokingly said he’s not into John Wayne therapy… there’s no sending me off into the sunset by myself. ‘We do have clingy, needy parts. We all do. I mean basically speaking from two energies… the polarities – we wanna go like that…’ (hugged his body) ‘…and we wanna go like that…’ (pushed away with both hands). I laughed and said that’s exactly what I want and he said, ‘yeah yeah, join to the human race, you know. Its how we all kind of react. We contract in, we expand out, we push away and we grab towards us. And actually what I think is more important is that we become intimate with those energies and intimate with those forces inside ourselves.’
After a couple of quiet minutes Mark said, ‘I know there are a lot of thoughts going round but my sense is that you’re a lot calmer now, is that right?’ I said it was. I said I felt more connected with myself and him. I told him that it still felt like all the words were in a different language in my head and I cant translate them and get them out my mouth but I did feel a calmness. He said, ‘notice that. Notice what tells you that inside.’ I told him I wasn’t deliberately being resistant and that I do eventually want to share things with him and he said, ‘I’m not reading it that way. Just to respond to that there’s plenty of space. Don’t give yourself a hard time for taking time with it. From my side, it really isn’t wasted time. That moment where I just asked you to check in with your calmness and you felt it. I think that’s important. You know, there’s no content in that is there, just a ‘oh yeah I’m feeling a bit different and I can feel that from my insides’ I mean nobody’s going to write a novel about it I mean we could try to put words to it but there is value in feeling it and noticing.’ I wholeheartedly agreed and told him how hard it is to put this work into words and he said, ‘yeah and if you could put the welcome mat out and appreciate that wordless space, you know your experience. Experience isn’t wordless, we could load a lot of words onto it which can be helpful but words aren’t experience. And what I’m helping you to do is touch your experience a bit more deeply and it’s not the story about what happened its how the story touches us. And it’s a deeper level of connecting. And I think you’re getting it.’
We wandered around the areas we touched on in this session and I reflected on how I was feeling throughout, the ebb and flow of connectedness and the ebb and flow of grief. At one point Mark said, ‘we will get through it together, the only way is through, you’re going through real experience, rather than an idea about it. And the grief unlocked that. It was a painful gift if I can put it that way. You can see that but it doesn’t make it easier.’ I said, ‘yeah it is a painful gift… like she is impacting my healing journey even after leaving.’ I started to say that I felt much more stable and could tell him what I wanted to say earlier about Anna and the analogies then immediately changed my mind and said, ‘oh actually I can feel that upset so I’ll not go there just now.’ And Mark laughed and marvelled at that, he said, ‘that’s great isn’t it, I love that. I love that… you were like ‘oh I feel okay now I’ll just say it’ and then ‘oh no actually that does feel painful maybe not’ and so you caught the edge of something. Isn’t that fabulous how you steered yourself.’ I was laughing and said it’s like I was about to burst through another set of double doors but instead I felt the door with the back of my hand and felt the heat of the fire on the other side so decided to back off, with only 5 minutes left of the session. Mark said he loved that metaphor and I said that was brand new, I’ve never done that before. Mark said, ‘There’s a choice there, a conscious choice that’s taking care of you. What’s it like to notice that new thing that does that, even without you having to think about it?’ I said I was really grateful because I used to retraumatise myself by oversharing and then the regret would eat me up between sessions. he said, ‘That’s really lovely to hear, good for you, you’ve learned a different way of doing yourself. Slower is faster, I’ve said that to you before. Being able to touch the door but yeah not for now, we’ll come away, we don’t want to get burnt.’ We laughed as he continued the analogy with the fire brigade and all sorts of unnecessary detail and then in the lull after the laughter died down I said, ‘I do really appreciate you doing this with me Mark.’ He said, ‘Yeah I appreciate doing it with you as well. It’s delightful to see the quality of how you’re engaging with yourself. You’ve got everything you need and the way you’re doing therapy I have no doubt that you’ll get to where you need to be. You’ll get somewhere good for you.’ I told him that felt nice and that I could feel the warmth of it in my chest. He said, ‘ahhh let yourself have that. Stretch that out for a minute, that nice thing.’ And then there was quiet. For a minute or so. And Mark said, ‘Were just resting together. No more work.’ In a gentle tone that you might speak to a child at bedtime. Settling them down for sleep. And I did feel calm. And connected.
When I was very little we lived in a tiny white cottage tucked away beneath the hills. It was a beautiful little sanctuary. We were only there for two years. For those two years we were all genuinely happy. When we moved away, reluctantly, a little piece of me was left behind. Seven stayed. She couldn’t bear to leave.
During one very intense session, Anna and I went back there to that cottage and brought Seven ‘home’. But it doesn’t feel like we made it all the way and now Anna’s gone and it feels as though we are in some sort of black void waiting… we’ve not quite completed the journey. I want to take Seven back there and to bury myself in those hills.
I have cried for 3 hours on and off tonight. The grief has ripped through me as if it’s fresh and raw and brand new. I guess my system has fragmented this pain into a little box to dilute its intensity. It’s insanely painful tonight. This grief, it rips apart all the grief my body has ever felt. It tears at the old scars. It opens the wounds. Demands that I feel them.
This grief, it is the doorway to it all and it is demanding that I feel it. I read over my last few sessions and final phone call with Anna. God what I’d give to call her right now. I have a session with Mark tomorrow thankfully. Just got to get through the next few hours.
I came to Monday’s session with one intention and told Mark straight away that my only agenda was to be in my body, connected with myself and to feel a connection with him. That was it. I told him that after listening to and reflecting on my last few sessions I could hear that he has been gently encouraging me to go slowly and connect with him and I’ve been rushing. Mark said, ‘Okay, lets hold that as an intention and see where we go…’ he then asked me if I needed him to sort of disappear into the background a bit so that I could connect with myself more and I panicked and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this by myself, I don’t want you to disappear into the background.’ Quite firmly he said, ‘No, I’m not going to disappear, sorry, what I meant was, let your awareness of me drop away slightly. What happens when you draw attention to yourself and let me fall away a bit? It might not be the right way of doing it, you might need to connect with me first.’ I told him I definitely needed to connect with him. ‘I want to talk mindfully, in connection with you and myself.’
Mark slowed his voice down and gently suggested, ‘Let’s have a little pause then just now and see what it’s like to take a breath and feel yourself supported by what’s underneath you and just have a moment to settle. Together.’ I must have looked really unsettled because he asked inquisitively, ‘What comes forward as I say all that?’ and I told him I was really uncomfortable and he laughed in a kind way and said he sensed that. He asked if we could make a little bit of room for what’s uncomfortable to have a voice, ‘I’m wondering, can you speak from it? If the uncomfortable could talk what would it say?’ I said, ‘I want to hide.’ Mark repeated that back to me and I said it was a tight ball in my stomach, ‘a heavy ball and there’s tension all around it… it’s making me wish I could cover my whole self up so you can only see my eyes.’ I laughed and Mark suggested we get curious with that desire. He asked if I wanted to pull my duvet over me or something and I cringed. I talked about how hard it is to go deeply into the work when I’m sitting on my bed. ‘I think I’m actually just done with all this you know? This whole having therapy in my bedroom shit. I miss having a therapy room that I can go to deal with this stuff and then leave it all in the room.’ Mark said, ‘That makes so much sense, you’re certainly not alone in feeling that. Normally you have a safe and boundaried space for therapy and then your home is just your home. It is harder to manage and it can be harder to feel the connection, hold the space.’ I agreed and said it did feel less safe having my sessions in my home with the kids downstairs. Mark said, ‘Yes it is unboundaried in a sense, less safe, harder to separate from once the session is over and harder to bring yourself fully to the session because you are always conscious of your family life around you.’ We felt into that frustration a little and I tried to speak from the place of frustration which seemed to emanate from my throat and chest.
A little later I told Mark that I was feeling concerned that I hadn’t shared many memories with him yet. I told him that by this point with my previous therapists they already knew so much about me. On the one hand I was critical of myself for this. On the other hand, I’ve gone deeper into my emotions with him than with anyone else. Including Anna. Mark listened carefully and made his usual encouraging, empathic grunts every so often. I said, ‘I realised something last night that really upset me. The temptation is to overanalyse this and say that it’s a result of growing up with a narcissistic mother who didn’t see me, but there’s this part of me that feels like I don’t exist if I’m not known very deeply and very well by someone. And the thing I realised is that Anna knew me better than anyone, but she doesn’t know who I am now. If we were to meet again now, we wouldn’t align, she’d have to learn who I am now. I’ve changed so much since the last time she saw me in February. And you and I haven’t been working together long enough yet to have reached that deep knowing you get from years of this kind of work… it makes me sad… it’s a panicky feeling that no one knows me that well any more. No one knows me that intimately. I want to hurry up and get to the place where I’m known very well.’ There was a pause and I panicked and blurted out that when he is quiet I assume he thinks I’m an idiot and that he doesn’t get what I’m talking about. Mark said, ‘Yes, you convince yourself, in my pauses, that I think you’re stupid and whatever else. You give yourself a thumbs down… I want you to know that I don’t think that at all… in fact I think what you’re saying is very important. There’s something in you that longs to be deeply known. You want to be seen and known intimately. And there’s a part of you that wants to push that quickly. It’s a sort of, ‘I need to speed it up, get to that point of being very well known or else I’ll drop out the universe and no one will have known me’ or something?’ I was silent for a while and then I said, ‘Exactly that yeah, well I want to hurry up and get to the point where I’ve shared everything with you, all the things that I think will make you leave me. And you’re still here. I want to hurry up and get to that bit.’ Mark sounded more energised and said, ‘Ahhh yesss. So, let’s have a little play with that. Imagine we’ve got there. Imagine you’ve given me all the details, all the memories, all parts have shared, we’ve worked through and touched in to all parts of your life. I know it all and I’m still here and you’re still there and we’re still together and you feelknown. What would that be like? Can you imagine?’ I started to get upset and said it feels too risky to imagine. ‘It would be great, but I don’t feel like I can trust it.’ Mark said, ‘Yes it feels risky, you got to a place of feeling known with Anna and then you were left. Alone. There’s a very real fear that could happen again… what happens inside as I say that?’ I said I could feel the panic in my chest getting bigger, the pain. He said, ‘Could we hold that painful panic together now? Maybe just for 30 seconds and then we can move away from it, just notice it, the panic and the pain, feel it there and notice any other sensations that are around it.’ It’s hard to articulate what happens in these moments when Mark is really encouraging me to sit with the feelings while being connected with him. It’s incredibly intense and unlike anything I’ve experienced in therapy before.
We talked a bit more about my reservations around sharing more of my history and I said, ‘I wonder if I’m angry that I have to go over all of this again… I’m frustrated to be back at the start.’ Mark said, ‘You’re not back at the start, you’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work. I might not know your biographical history, I haven’t read your memoirs, I’ve not got that piece… It will come forward in it’s own time and when it does it will be different because you’ve not said it to me. It will be a different process. I know you have this worry that you’re wasting time and you’re pressuring yourself, why haven’t I covered all this by now... it’s another way for you to make yourself wrong. Rather than trusting that something below the radar is organically doing what it needs to do in order to connect and speak from where you are.’ I liked that a lot and he asked me what inside tells me I like it. I said it calmed something inside me, it felt safe and soothing. We felt into the safe, comforting feeling in my chest, knowing that he was in no rush and that he understood my journey and my process. I asked him to say it again, ‘you’re not back at the start, you’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work.’ I liked that a lot. I said, ‘so maybe it’s not all been a waste of time then, maybe the work I did then was what I needed then and the work I need now is what I’m doing now?’ and we breathed in to that together.
Anna came up a few times conversationally and Mark asked me, with a curious tone, what it was like to talk about her. I told him it was nice to talk about her again, that it’s not often I talk about her these days but I think about her every day. He leaned forwards a little and said, ‘And what happens inside as we talk of her?’ I said it was upsetting and that I felt sad and he said, ‘Yeah… a sadness… yeah I can feel that, just go very gently with yourself, slowly.’ I told him a few of the things I miss about Anna and that it’s hard to be going through this grieving process mostly alone. He told me he knew it was deeply painful and hugely significant, that it is a real loss and he understands. I ended up reading some of mine and Anna’s final messages we sent to each other through the months leading up to our last session which really brought it alive. I remembered how much love I had and still have for her and how much love I felt from her. I explained to Mark that Anna worked hard to encourage me to acknowledge my young parts despite a huge amount of resistance and denial from me. I told him about the session where I finally admitted that I felt the youngest part, Four. That I hated her. Didn’t want her anywhere near me. I said, ‘I felt like she was dirty and gross and I felt ashamed for feeling like this about a child but Anna helped me through those feelings.’ I told him that Anna had said she wanted to scoop that little girl up and give her a big hug which was really powerful to hear. I said, ‘I told Anna that I could just about imagine her being kind to Four. I couldn’t do it myself but the closest I got to being nice to her was letting Anna do it.’
Mark had been making these, ‘mmm’ noises that seem to push these pain buttons in my chest, every time he does it it’s like pushing further in to the feelings. It’s a deep listening and deep empathy. He finally said, ‘Yes I understand, she was able to do what you couldn’t, that rejecting, shaming energy was quite strong in you. Which is hard to feel because you know it’s the last thing you’d want to do to a child but you’re sort of doing what was done to you aren’t you, that relationship that you’ve got inside… it replicates what was done to you when you were a small child.’ I was nodding and looking down and he said, ‘What happens when you hear me say that? Listen inside.’ I said, ‘um, I’m relieved that you get it and you don’t think it sounds silly. Also… I still feel that rejection part, I still feel the hating.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah and that’s okay. I know on some levels you’re saying it’s not okay but I’m glad you’re able to have that come forward.’ I talked more about the hatred I felt for Four and then said, ‘but then I started to get these images in my mind every so often, of Anna holding Four’s hand and it sort of made me feel reassured, connected me a bit more to the possibility of being less rejecting of that part of me.’ Mark made another pained noise and then said, ‘Would it be okay to let that image form now? You can say no, I would realise why, could you form the image of Anna holding her hand?’ there was a lot of silence then a small voice, ‘but she left, she’s gone.’ Mark said, ‘mmm yes, you had your hand held and then it was dropped and you were left alone. I know I’m knocking on something that carries so much pain. She offered something and it was withdrawn, it was taken away.’ I then leant in to talking about this feeling of Anna just playing the therapy game, that it’s all fake. It didn’t mean as much to her as it did to me. Mark listened and helped me feel in to that fear and sadness and the painful rejection.
Quite organically I ended up talking about Luna and how Anna encouraged me to connect to my child through drawing and soft toys and the time when I asked for Anna to bring her perfume in to a session and the very intense session I had when I cried inside my hoodie and Anna sat with me, next to me, her hand on me. That was our last session together. As I spoke of this I started to feel very floaty and Mark said, ‘Notice the floaty feelings. Maybe you could sort of connect with me a little bit as you notice the floating, could we come together? Can you find yourself here with me?’ I took a big breath and he gently said, ‘What’s happening inside?’ there was a big long silence and eventually I said very flatly, ‘I’m not inside. There’s nothing inside. There’s just spaceyness.’ He said, ‘Yes, you’re spacey, there’s more floatiness than insideness.’ Still pretty monotone I said, ‘I feel like I could burst into tears but there are no feelings inside.’ There was some quiet and then I said, ‘I want to share this stuff with you about Anna but…’ and he said, ‘it’s delicate and personal.’ I nodded. I said, ‘I was a fucking idiot to fall for her niceness, it’s over now and the exact same thing could happen to us and you’re encouraging me to connect back with you but that’s risky!’ he said, ‘yeah I get it, it’s really difficult because a part of you really wants to and longs for the connection but you did that before and look what happened. There’s a push pull around it. And that does make sense.’ I had a shaky voice when I said, ‘I’m scared that I’ll share this and get even the tiniest hint that you think that what me and Anna had was wrong or bad or weird.’ Mark said, ‘I’m not thinking that at all. I think it was what you needed and I’m deeply moved by your journey actually. You swam against the tide in yourself to reach something you knew you needed.’ I said, ‘yeah. I’m feeling more in myself now.’ Mark asked me, ‘whats that like? What tells you that?’ I held one hand over my face and one over my chest and said, ‘I just feel here again, you know? Not here.’ And waved a rainbow above my head. He said, ‘yeah, you’ve come down. There was a place up here that you went to protect something and now you’re down here.’ He mirrored my motions. Then he said, ‘What else do you notice as you notice being here?’ I said, ‘You are here with me! I can feel you here.’ He said, ‘Yeah, great, that sounds really good!’ and I told him the things in the room I was aware of. He said, ‘yeah I think you just moved through a whole wad of anxiety and fear, you went away because things went too painful or you felt threatened and you’ve let things settle and come back down into yourself… it’s one of the things that you said at the start you wanted to feel in yourself and connected with me.’ This felt really powerful and Mark said that. He said that talking about Anna and the work I did with her was alive and really strong. He pondered whether it would be a good idea to come away from that piece and save it for another time as I looked down at my phone to share some more texts. We talked about that and I said I wanted to share one more memory and he said, ‘Yeah, you want to complete something, that’s important… I guess my intention is to look after you while you do that.’ And this seriously felt like being held. It felt so safe and holding and lovely. And we felt into that warm, comforting feeling of being genuinely looked after.
I read to Mark the message that I sent Anna on International Woman’s Day and he said, ‘Wow. Gosh… yes… you let her know, you said all these important things, you expressed your deep gratitude and she received it.’ I said, ‘I do still feel all of that… it’s not a game. Whatever part of me said that, that’s not how I really feel… I’m glad I was able to have all of this before my work with her had to end.’ I talked to Mark about how grateful I was to feel him with me today and that it’s scary and horrible when I don’t feel him. I said it was nice to have the space to talk about Anna again and thanked him for helping me come back into my body. I told him it takes me some time to process the sessions and we talked about how that feels. That things are in transit, moving through my body. ‘An analogy I’ve used before, these sessions are like shaking up a snow globe… it’s painful and unnerving and unsettling but at least it’s alive.’ Mark said, ‘Yes. It is very much alive. Not resting at the bottom unnoticed. It feels very alive.’