Look for the beauty

We went on a road trip which took us on a ferry over the water to a small island.

We listened to live music and watched the kids play football with some other kids we didn’t know. People were laughing and dancing. The sun was shining. We ate lunch out and had ice cream. There were gardens with beautiful flowers and a pond with fish and water lilies similar to one I have tattooed on my skin.

I started to feel overwhelmed. So much peace and happiness, so much joy. It makes my small child’s heart ache. It is a reminder of what I never had. It feels like such a cruel punishment that as an adult, even when I’m experiencing joy, there is pain there. Emotional flashbacks… the body holds the memories.

I took a moment to breathe and look around. I walked away from the noise and looked closely at the lily. A breathtaking symbol of enlightenment. The beauty that blooms from the muddy waters.

I thanked it. Outloud.

Thank you for reminding me to slow down and be grateful for how I am blooming… slowly, in my own time, in my own unique way, through the mud and up into the light, with my slightly crumpled petals and delicate edges… thank you for reminding me how I fought my way out and up for air. Thank you for reminding me that my roots may be in dirt and muck but my face is turned towards love and my arms reach out for hopeful, nurturing things.

I wandered back to my kids and my husband and silently shared my gratitude for them with the little girl inside me.

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You were always worthy

Maybe they couldn’t see it.

Your worthiness.

Maybe they never felt their own sense of worth.

So couldn’t bear to see it in you.

Maybe their pain drowned them,

Rendering them incapable of loving you.

Maybe no one had shown them their worth.

So they couldn’t afford to show yours to you.

Their inability to see you,

To see your worthiness.

To love you…

Their inability to meet your needs.

It was never about you.

It was always about them.

You were always loveable.

You were always so very easy to love.

You were always just right, as you were.

No need to change.

You were always worthy.

You were always worthy.

YOU WERE ALWAYS WORTHY.

You were always deserving.

A hungry child doesn’t become less hungry,

When they’re not fed.

A worthy child doesn’t suddenly lose their worth,

Just because their worthiness isn’t met.

You are still worthy.

Now you can get your own needs met.

The biggest need of all…

Might be to grieve that you were in fact worthy,

All along.

Joy in the Therapy Room

I had mixed feelings all week about tonight’s session. It is the session before a therapy break. It’s only one week’s break… Anna’s going on a well earned holiday and will be back the following week. However, because of my attachment wounds, the relational trauma, the abandonment issues… therapy breaks always push me into the corners of my mind. It really accentuates how fragmented my internal reality is. The way my body/mind seems to hold several very different (often opposing) ideas/thoughts/feelings.

Tucked away in a deep, dark corner there’s a young part of me that’s felt very sad about Anna’s approaching holiday. Like she’s abandoning me. The overwhelming sense of being alone and on the outside. I wrote a couple of posts about it on Instagram… the feeling of being outside the therapy room and looking in at her empty chair. Wanting to curl up into a tiny ball on her chair and sob my heart out… the idea of being outside her family and looking in, longing to be embraced by her as if she were my mother. The familiar feeling of not being wanted, not being loved.

Leaning over the banister overlooking that child, there is an anger and resistance … it feels teen like. This part is furious at me for all the things I talked about last week. She’s shouting, ‘you’re an idiot, you should never have said that, you betrayed mum and dad, Anna will know you’re a terrible person, you’re disgusting, you make me sick, you should have kept quiet… get over it… stop going on about it, stop crying you fucking freak, what the hell is wrong with you, you push everyone away, no one will ever love you, no wonder she’s taking a break, she needs to get the hell away from you, you’re so intense, she’ll probably never come back you should probably just quit to save the last bit of dignity you have left…’ That kind of thing. It’s not pleasant.

Resting somewhere mid/foreground, there’s an ever strengthening adult part who is slowly flexing and stretching her muscles… she is gently, tentatively reassuring the anger that it’s okay to trust Anna. That the anger (and the underlying fear it’s masking) is understandable… it makes sense considering the betrayals and neglected needs of childhood… That it’s okay to talk about these things. That nothing bad is going to happen if I open up and share the secrets I’ve kept inside me for all these years. That Anna will not reject or abandon me because of what I told her. That no one will punish me for sharing.

In the hours running up to the session I actually felt good. I’ve been very busy with work and focusing all my attention on that during the day. I had also made the decision to not go deeply into things with Anna because of the missed session next week. Instead I thought we could talk about family life, little niggles, my husband and our relationship… day to day stuff that often gets ignored because there is always something bigger and muddier to delve into with Anna.

I was so pleased to see Anna tonight. I have so much warmth and affection for her, it hits me as soon as I turn the corner into her room. The way she behaves with me. That she intentionally smiles when she sees me (since I told her that when she greets me with a straight face it makes a part of me freak out thinking she’s angry with me or sick of me and sends the whole session into turmoil). I love her quirky dress sense and that I can tell she loves clothes and shoes by how many different items I’ve seen her in over the months. That she sometimes has a new candle on at the start of my session, that I can see she only just lit it and I wonder if she’s bought it with me in mind, to help ground me.

I explained that I wanted to keep things light and told her why. She agreed and congratulated me on the self-care I was affording myself. She did say she wanted to honour the ‘kickback’ I’d felt after the last session to help minimise the chances of it happening again. We talked about the critical voice and how I had brought myself back from the slippery slope of self-hate (that can so rapidly lead to self-harm). I talked about how I’d called on my learned knowledge of mindfulness. How we can train ourselves to observe and ‘notice’ the thoughts and feelings as opposed to ‘being in’ them. That once I had brought my awareness to the thoughts and feelings I was able to feel detached from them in an observer role. I could then give myself advice on how to deal with feeling so guilty and angry. She was so proud of me, she beamed. She told me, ‘well done, you really looked after yourself, you couldn’t have done that 6 months ago… well done!’ I thanked her. She wrote a lot of notes at that point and I wondered how she was wording what we just talked about.

I briefly mentioned my friends funeral that I attended a few days ago. We talked about how hard it was but that it was manageable. That since feeling my feelings more, I am less overwhelmed by funerals. I used to cry uncontrollably throughout and after funerals. As if it was the only time I thought it was socially acceptable to cry so I would finally let out all of the crying I’d held in for years. This time it didn’t feel like there was a heaving body of water behind a rickety old dam. This time it felt like the tears I shed were actually for my friend, because I have been shedding the built up tears of my own grieving bit by bit, every day.

Something really magical and amazing happened about a third of the way through the session. We refocused back onto the agenda for the session and at one point when I was talking about a few things that have been happening this week, Anna and I got the giggles. It started with me finding an anecdote about my kids amusing. I saw the ridiculousness of how annoyed my husband had been at the situation and then couldn’t ‘unsee’ how silly it was. Then I told her another story with the intention of trying to get to the bottom of why my husband gets so quickly frustrated with these things and why I find his frustration so annoying. The content of what I was saying wasn’t funny at all but it really tickled us both. It quickly escalated to the point where Anna and I were silently in hysterics, tears rolling down our faces, sharing glances at each other with smiles and tissues wiping the tears… it was so beautiful. I’ve never experienced laughter with her like that before. I’ve done the whole ‘deflecting the pain with black humour’ type laughter… but never have I shared a moment with her where we are both belly laughing. Every time we settled ourselves and I tried to start again something else would set us off. She said, ‘it’s so great to see you laughing, Lucy!’ and I said, ‘its really lovely to laugh with you.’ It felt just as intimate as the moments when I have been confessing my deepest secrets, crawling in shame, only this time I didn’t want to hide from her.

When I was a child, if I found things funny my mum would tell me to stop being silly or she’d take it personally thinking my brother and I were making fun of her. I’d be sent to my room or shouted at, told to go away… I remember trying very hard to supress my joy, just like I supressed other emotions in front of her. This evening, with Anna (who momentarily will be graced with the nickname ‘therapy mum’) I just let it all pour out of me. It felt so connecting and authentic. There was no need to analyse or interpret the laughter, we just let it be there between us. There’s something so powerful about knowing the person you’re with is feeling the same thing you’re feeling. No resistance, no defensiveness, no shaming or belittling… just an open, loving willingness to connect to your feelings and share the experience. I felt like an energetic, excited kid relishing in (therapy) mums attention and love. I felt like she was enjoying me tonight… that’s a new feeling.

I have quite a long drive home from my sessions and often that gives me time to reflect in an adult headspace (I have to stay in adult because I’m driving!)… tonight I thought about how the session was metaphorically like taking a holiday from the relentless hamster wheel of in depth therapy. It felt like after months and months of being submerged in the thick black depths of the ocean of my mind, we were coming up for air. Just briefly, together. Glancing at each other across the surface of the water, smiling at how far we’ve come, how attached and connected we are, before plunging again into the great unknown.

I reflected on how I never shared this carefree joy with my mother and although there’s a slight sadness there for the child who missed out on this, there’s also a sadness for my mother. I at least have experienced these joys in other relationships, I’m not sure she ever has.

Lastly, when I got home, I reflected on how this joyful interlude can be in some way transplanted into my ‘real life’ relationships. I thought about how my husband and I get so bogged down by family life sometimes, the mess and the constant daily chores, the nagging and the exhaustion. I thought about how once in a while we should allow our playful, joyful sides up for air – to laugh at these things as they are happening… the ridiculousness of life with young kids. To let the genuine, restorative love we have for each other spark a humorous interlude once in a while. Take a holiday from being ‘serious mum and dad’ and just laugh.

What a total joy it was to share this moment with Anna. To feel her accepting me and all that I bring to her, even if it’s not the most exciting, interesting ‘trauma’ she can sink her teeth into… I brought her raw, real connection and she gave me her authentic responses in return and that is what therapy is all about.

Hugging her at the end felt different to all the other times. I was completely grounded, no blurred edges, no floating, no dissociation. I felt my arms around her back, felt the fabric of her top rucked beneath my palms. I rested my face on her shoulder, smelt her perfume, felt her arms round me, felt her breathing against me. She said again, ‘it was so lovely to laugh with you,’ as she held me, and I felt it.

You Make Sense

This is genuinely one of the most beautiful and healing things Anna has taught me so far in therapy.

I make sense.

She understands.

All the things I’ve done. All the thoughts and feelings. The maladaptive behaviours. The defence mechanisms. The coping strategies. The difficulties with trust. The pulling away and withdrawing. The needs. The attention seeking behaviours. The anger. The pain. Addictions. Self harm. Difficulties in relationships. Anxiety. Depression. Obsessive behaviours. Intrusive thoughts. All of it and so much more.

She said, ‘I understand that I only know a fraction of what you’ve experienced and in time, when you want to, you’ll share more… but going on what I already know, you make perfect sense to me. The way you are, the way you think, the way you behave… all the things you value, the people you draw near, the fears and anxieties… all of it – it all makes sense to me. I understand.’

It all makes perfect sense.

When you look at how you are, think and behave through the lens of what you experienced as a child, how could you not view it with compassion and understanding?

You Want Too Many Hugs

I shared some memories in my session last night that all had a common theme. Times where I received the following messages:

you’re too much

you’re too needy

you’re not lovable

you’re not wanted here

One memory is of my mother pulling my arms from around her thighs and saying, ‘you want too many hugs!’

Another is of a time she told me, ‘you’ll never meet a man who wants as many hugs as you do…’

The times she literally said the words, ‘you’re too needy I don’t have the time/space for this’

All the times she moved away from me if I sat next to her.

The times she didn’t run her fingers through my hair like she did with my brother.

The times she wouldn’t let me play with her hair like she let my brother.

The times I was locked in my room so I wouldn’t bother them.

The times I was sent outside so they could be alone.

The times I was sent to my room in the evening as they sat in the living room while my brother fell asleep on the sofa.

She never wanted to hold my hand.

The emotions attached to these memories were somewhat suspended out of reach, dangling just in front of me last night. Or maybe the feelings were heavy inside my body but I was floating behind myself again. Unable to feel them.

But the feelings are slowly sweeping into my awareness now as I type this.

The grief I feel for that little girl who kept asking, kept reaching, kept seeking.

The pain for the little girl who stopped asking, who knew in her heart that rejection was so much worse than just never asking.

The anger about how god damn easy it is to hug a child and to love a child. To fucking hold their hand. To stroke their hair. To say, ‘of course you’ll always be loved because you are so very loveable just the way you are.’

Anna, eyes wet with empathy, attempted to hold my gaze for longer than I could bear while boldly stating, ‘Well, I think you can never have too many hugs and the best hugs are ones we don’t give reasons for or feel the need to explain, we just know we need a hug, we ask for one and we get it. How wonderful is that!?’ I slowly let go of the breath I’ve been holding and a small voice from within whispers, ‘I wish she was my mummy.’

It aches so much in my chest as I recall her open, joyful proclamation. As if it doesn’t carry the heaviest weight. I told her I feel like it’s too late. ‘I wish we could go back, like the ghost of Christmas past, and you could work with the little girl I was back then. It’s too late now.’ Anna asked too late for what and I thought for a long time before quietly saying, ‘I’m too broken. It’s too late to fix these parts of me, they’re set in stone now where before they were molten. I wish you could work with that child.’ She nodded and acknowledged how broken I feel and how helpless it all seems and said, ‘I am working with her, right now, we’re listening to her. She feels broken but she’s not, she’s just in a lot of pain. But she’s slowly learning how to get her needs met in here. It will always hurt a bit, especially when you’re unexpectedly triggered, but you will be able to tolerate it more and more as we work this out.’

I talked about the terrifying fights they’d have. The times they split up and got back together. Then the time he left and never came back. The glass door smashed and both of them gone. The fear and aloneness. Me clearing up and looking after everyone.

I shared memories of times when my mum and dad would hug and kiss or even just when they’d talk to each other without me. I’d especially hate it if they were talking to each other in a room I wasn’t in. And the times when I’d lie in bed and hear them talking, laughing or having sex. ‘It made me want to claw my skin off I fucking couldn’t stand it. I’d put my radio on to drown out the noise. I was so jealous and I’m so ashamed of that. I don’t know why I’d be jealous of them. I was put between them so many times in their explosive arguments with each of them talked to me endlessly about their problems so you’d think I’d be happy if they were getting on but I hated it so much!’ Anna asked if I had an idea about where my anger and hatred of them being affectionate came from and I went back and forth with ideas of me wanting them to hurt like they made me hurt or me feeling used because one minute I’d be their emotional dumping ground and the next they’d dump me for each other again. She wondered aloud that perhaps them being intimate and affectionate with each other was very painful for me because they could do it with each other but not with me. It felt like a tidal wave grew over the back of my head and drowned me in that instant. I managed a small nod and looked at the plant in the corner. ‘And that’s where the shame pours in Lucy,’ she said. ‘They can be loving with each other, they can be loving with Daniel, so something must be wrong with me. I want something I don’t deserve. I’m unlovable. I’m the problem.’

As the session came to an end I asked her (tentatively as I always fear the ‘no’), ‘please can I have a hug.’ And just as she always does, she moved forwards and embraced me. And I feel my heart calm, I feel my blood settle, I feel my skin and all that’s beneath it relax. I felt a small part of me crying deep inside. When we step back from the hug I can see on my periphery that she’s looking at my face as she always does after a hug but I look at the floor and thank her as I always do. As if what I’ve just done is shameful and undeserving. Frightened I’ll see the disgust on her face. We walk out her room and I force myself to look at her face before I leave, to say goodbye and look in the eyes. All of me wants to stay, it hurts so much to leave.

As I sit here and type this, I am so overwhelmed with the desire to be near her again. I want to drive to her office and crawl into her lap like a small child. I want her to hold me as I cry uncontrollably like I’ve never done with another human being. I want her to stroke my hair and tell me she loves me. I can hardly stand the want in me. It feels like a betrayal that my heart keeps beating. Surely this pain should have killed me.

A Year Ago Today

I was tidying up my desktop and I found an unnamed word document which turned out to be a journal entry from exactly a year ago. June 2018. It has highlighted two things. One is that I am not where I was a year ago and two is my relationship with Anna has grown. A year ago I was very confused by these newly emerging feelings I was experiencing. I was trying to supress them, frightened by what would happen if they came out. I still struggle with being emotionally vulnerable in front of people but I am getting more comfortable with it. And I’m crying on my own most days now which has never happened before. Last year I really struggled to trust Anna. Now I feel more secure in our attachment… I was going through a particularly hard time when I wrote this. It was Anna’s holiday break and I was feeling very alone without knowing how to reach out to anyone. I am so grateful of that small leap of progress – I now know and have experience of reaching out to people and allowing them to be there for me. I am also better at asking Anna for what I need, whether that’s a phone call or extra session or just extra reassurance.

Here is what I wrote last year…

I have 159 contacts in my mobile phone. One of them belongs to me so really it’s just 158. I just sat here reading down the list of people through blurry, tear filled eyes. 158 phone numbers that I will not call. I did call Daniel earlier but his phone is going straight to voicemail again. I’m sure he’s avoiding me.

I scrolled past mum. It’s been a month since I spoke to her and in another month it will be my birthday and she will not care. Last year for my birthday she sent me a card with a scrawled message in felt tip pen, ‘here’s a voucher, it’s hard to choose things for people’… I’m not people! I’m your daughter. You’re meant to know what I like! She’s apparently in Mallorca at the moment, which feels weird because Anna is also on holiday. For some reason that feels significant enough to mention. It amuses me that both mum and dad have enjoyed holidaying in Mallorca since the time we were there as a family almost twenty years ago. Nothing could persuade me to go back there after that experience. It was the worst holiday ever, and that’s saying something because all of our family holidays were completely shite.

I kept scrolling through the numbers. The doctor and dentist don’t count. Work doesn’t count.

Paul. I must have saved it from that one time he phoned me to ask if we could move my session for a client in crisis. I remember feeling pretty good about the fact that he thought I was stable enough to be able to cope with that. Not feeling quite so stable now. I’m tempted to phone him from a different phone just to hear his voice. I’m eleven digits away from potentially having an impact on him this very minute. Maybe he’d hear the phone and have to get up from where he is, walk across the room, lift his phone and speak into my ear. I miss his voice. I torment myself by looking at some emails he sent me years ago. It hurts my heart more than I can bear. I wonder if I ever cross his mind. I wonder if anyone ever thinks of me. I wonder what it would take to make them think of me.  

At lunchtime today Natalie told us that a mutual acquaintance took an overdose last night. Hearing those words and people’s reactions made me emotionally check out. This small, distant voice in the back of my head was saying, that was me twenty years ago. I wondered what they’d all say if it had been me she was talking about. I got up and walked out the room, out the school and sat in my car for the remaining fifteen minutes and deleted the internet history on my phone. Therapy blogs, psychology today, psych forums, google searches asking for ways I can hurt myself without it showing. Delete. Delete. Delete. Anna keeps gently encouraging me to stop all of that. It’s like an addiction.

My husband went upstairs to settle our son 50 minutes ago and I can hear him snoring over the monitor. I tried talking to him last night, lying in the dark. Told him I was feeling really shitty, that I didn’t need him to do anything but I just wanted to tell him. I rolled in for a hug but he’d fallen asleep.

I feel like I’ve been crying on the inside for days and every so often it seeps out of me and I have to take myself away to suck it all back in. But right now I’m sitting on my own and don’t need to hide it, yet still I stuff it all down and stem the flow of tears. I can’t even cry by myself. What the hell is wrong with me?

I scroll past dad’s number. A few friends. I pause at Jennifer and remember that she said to me just a couple of weeks ago that I could call her if I needed to. I imagine how the emotions I am feeling right now would instantly evaporate the minute I hear her voice.

I stare at Anna’s phone number knowing that even if she wasn’t on holiday I still couldn’t phone her. I am starting to doubt her again, doubt that she cares or that she can help me. I cycle round and round past these feelings of doubt. Why is this creeping in again, I felt like I was beginning to trust her more but is the trust really so fragile that 14 days of no contact can make me feel like I want to reject her before she rejects me? At the end of the last session I told her I might miss her. Those words fell out of my mouth before I even really knew I felt them and the kind smile she responded with stole my breathe. The normalising. The reassurance that she would hold me in mind, not forget me. That we will see each other on the 9th. That she thinks I’m stronger now than I was 6 months ago. Reminding me of the tools I have now that I can use to get me through. I find the stone I took down to mum’s on Anna’s advice and I sit and hold it which helps me feel a bit more grounded. I rub my thumb over the smooth side. I get my art stuff out but I put it all back again and decide just to write this instead. It’s so shit that I need therapy. It’s so shit that I don’t have these kind, caring people in my life without having to employ them to help me. It’s so shit that I can’t just call her or Paul when I really need them. It’s so shit that I don’t get that kind of support from my own mum. She’s not dead but it feels like she is.

In our second session, Anna stopped me at the door on the way out. She put her hand lightly on the top of my arm and looked me in the eyes and said, ‘you don’t have to do this on your own any more, Lucy.’ What a fucking joke. I am on my own with this, just like I always have been. It’s fucking bull shit to call it anything else. No one else can be there for me. Where are you now Anna? Fucking on holiday with your actual family. And I am here, comforted by my dysfunction. Yeah… you don’t have to do it on your own for ONE HOUR A WEEK! The rest you’ll have to deal with yourself!

I sneak into my daughter’s room and sit on the floor beside her bed. Watch her breathing. Gently move her hair from her sweaty forehead. Six years old. She’s still my baby. Some days I feel like there is a glass wall between us. That I can’t reach her. That she doesn’t love me or like me and that I’m not good enough for her. They’re both too precious and pure, I don’t deserve either of them. I imagine all the ways I may be fucking them up. All the things they may need to take to therapy in thirty years time. It’s so painful to imagine all the ways I might be irreversibly damaging them just because I am me. Like an invisible poison seeps out of my skin and is slowly corrupting them. Did my mother ever feel like this? Did she ever sit silently staring at my sleeping face?

Never in my whole life has my mum dedicated herself to me. Never. I don’t remember a single time where she was there just for me and didn’t make it about herself. All my life. She has never been able to allow me space to have it be about me. When I’m in therapy, that time is mine – it’s about me. And I can’t fully absorb it. Then my hour is over and it’s taken from me and I just don’t know what to do with the fucking pain. It’s not enough. One hour. How can this be called reparenting? I need so much more than this. Am I destined to have this aching need forever and simultaneously be repulsed by the need in me?

It’s actually quite reassuring sometimes to read these old notes over. If I felt this desperately alone now I would do one of a few things. I’d tell my husband, I’d message a friend, I’d text Anna asking to schedule a phone call or for an additional session… I’d be patient with myself and know that it will pass. Maybe I’d give myself space to cry. I need to remember that although I’m currently going through a huge emotional shift with a great deal of feelings coming up that I’ve not processed yet, this is progress. It’s messy and sore and feels overwhelming at times but this is the road untrodden. This is what I’ve signed up for… and it changes every day.

Flashbacks

TRIGGER WARNING – sexual violence and self harm. Look after yourself.

Today has been exhausting. Just this morning I thought about how good I’ve been feeling the past couple of days. I wondered if it’s because I’ve been allowing myself to feel. To grieve. The emotions haven’t stagnated in my system they have been allowed to ooze through me and evaporate from my soul into the atmosphere. This afternoon was a startling reminder that healing from trauma is not predictable.

In the interest of authenticity I want to say that this is unprocessed. I haven’t managed to talk about the following in therapy yet. The shame still has me gagged and bound.

One minute I’m a 35 year old woman sitting on the floor of my daughter’s bedroom folding her clothes and sorting through her toys, the next minute I’m a 15 year old girl, paralysed under the weight of a grown man 3 times that age. Gasping and drowning in the crawling shame of what I am allowing happen to me. It feels like I can’t fill my lungs. I don’t want to breathe. I can smell him. It’s nauseating. Then I am back in 2019, safe and all grown up. Fighting to catch my breath. I cry and wash my face. I open the window and listen to the rain. I look to see how much time I’ve lost then go back to tidying my daughter’s room. ‘I am safe now.. breathe… it’s just a memory… breathe… he can’t hurt you anymore… breathe…’ I put some music on that helps ground me in the present moment. Some time later I am sorting my daughter’s books. A shelf for fiction, a shelf for non fiction. A shelf for novel sets, a shelf for art journals. Carefully, thoughtfully placing each one beside the other. Then it happens again. I slip back into my teenage bedroom. Frantically stripping my bed and pushing the sheets into a black bin bag. Heart racing. Rushing into the bathroom. Locking the door. Vomiting in the toilet. Sitting in the empty bath as the freezing water pours in slowly getting warmer, slowly filling up, slowly covering my body. I scrub and scrub and scrub and it’s never enough so I try to cut the shame out of me. Then I’m back. Lying on the floor of my daughters bedroom. Sobbing and shaking.

I slowly get up and walk downstairs. Get a glass of water with ice. I hold the ice against my skin to wake my senses. I sit at my backdoor and remember. I remember him telling me I had beautiful eyes as he touched me under the table when my mother was sitting just two people away from me. I remember him putting my hand inside his trousers saying, ‘look what you do to me’. I remember escaping to the toilet. Then realising he’d followed me there. I remember watching it all happen from the corner of the room, watching him slowly getting everything he wanted from that girl who can’t possibly be me. I don’t remember how I got away. Did I try to push his hands away? I don’t remember leaving. Did I fight? Did I say no? It’s all just separate freeze frames in my mind. Maybe I wanted it. I did crave attention. I did want some form of love. I was fucking desperate for anyone to notice me. It didn’t take much to flatter me. There was nothing special about me. It could have been any starved of affection teenage girl. It could have been any drunk and distracted mother. It could have been any dirty opportunist. 

I used to fantasise about some parallel universe where my mother actually cared enough to look after me. In my mind I would imagine what it would feel like to know that she wanted to be with me and that she enjoyed my company. Somewhere on the other side of this shitty reality is a version of me that didn’t have to carry around this heavy weight for twenty fucking years. It didn’t end when it ended. It lived on inside me and grew arms and legs and threatened to strangle and destroy every tender and loving moment I ever had. It crept into my sleep. It tainted everything for so many years and still I thought it was my fault.

My skin craws. I’m frozen in the memory of the time I lost my mind at them. Screaming and shouting, swearing and throwing things. 16 years old. Wrecked my room. Smashed a mirror against the wall. Threw things at him, at her. The repeating, repeating, repeating images, feelings, sensations, reminders of what happened. The wondering if she knew. Did she know? The rage erupting out of every pore in a desperate fit of destruction. Of course I was the difficult one. I was the mental head case. I was the one with the problem.

Slowly I tune in to the birds in my garden. I listen carefully. I feel the seat beneath me. I remember I am a 35 year old woman. A parent. An adult. I watch the big, heavy rain drops hurtling down to earth. I smell the grass. I look at my hands, my legs. I touch my face – wet with rain and tears. It is today. I am here, now. I breathe. I go inside, dry off and finish tidying my daughter’s room. Exhausted.

The Therapy Relationship and the Rooms in My Mind

I’ve been missing Paul (my last therapist) the past few days. I started working with him over 6 years ago and we worked together for 3 years. We didn’t have a proper end to our work for a few reasons… one being that he isn’t particularly good at endings… another is that I had my second child and couldn’t afford therapy while on maternity leave. When I was ready to come back to him I discovered he’d stopped working in the city I saw him. So that was it… we had a final Skype session a couple of months into me working with Anna and I said goodbye then. Paul told me he would always be my therapist and the door was always open to me but I really needed to feel the closing. I needed to feel an end. For as long as the door was open, the grief couldn’t happen. I’m still not fully there even though it’s been three years since I last saw him. It comes up with Anna every so often… the grief I need to process.

I reverted back to an old favourite self-destructive cycle today of casually browsing through his daughter’s social media account and felt myself slip into a familiar pattern of comparisons and jealousy. I guess if I try to see things from a distance – my therapy relationship with him wasn’t always therapeutic. Sometimes it was painful and retraumatising. There’s something about me, my history, my attachment wounds that makes me desperately need very firm boundaries. I didn’t know that about myself 6 years ago and so when Paul presented me with a very relaxed model of therapy (sharing many details about his personal life with me) I dove head first into the delicious sea of self disclosures, swimming in the idea that it somehow made me special or unique because he told me these things… ignoring the pain it conjured up or worse, blaming and shaming myself for the pain. Now I have experienced a very different therapy model (Anna doesn’t share anything about her personal life, the only self disclosing she freely gifts me is her authentic emotional responses and even then I am very aware she is constantly considering whether it is beneficial to my therapy for her to disclose).

Today the pain of missing Paul got the better of me and I started reading over old therapy notes from our sessions. It makes my heart ache because there is a part of me that loves him still so much and desperately wants to go to him now. Reading it back is interesting, I would do things differently now if I started working with him today. I thought I would share some of the notes here. This one is from June 2013. Almost exactly 6 years ago. I’d been working with Paul for 4 months.

We were in a different room today; it was a brighter, smaller room with a view out onto the skyline of the city. I stood at the window for a couple of minutes looking down at all the roof tops and people below. The other room has a small roof window that you can only see sky out of so it was nice to get a sense of where we were in the world. Paul explained why he had to move, something to do with a new colleague but I was too busy dealing with feeling anxious about the change of room and worrying about which seat to sit in and what each seat decision would say about me that I missed his explanation. I overanalyse everything in my head…. wondering what he is thinking about me. It’s exhausting. Paul said that he received my emails and that the first one was quite long and he didn’t thoroughly read all of it. I cringed and apologised and he said –‘no, no don’t apologise it’s absolutely fine, I said you could email me and I know it is a great therapeutic tool for you – you can email me whenever you want and I don’t want you to feel bad. When I have the time I really enjoy reading your emails – you’re a good writer – in fact I’ve only had two other clients who were as good at writing as you and they are both writers themselves.’ I thanked him and was a bit taken aback, I said I was embarrassed about needing to write such long emails and he asked why. I said I hated being so needy and that I imagine he feels burdened and dreads seeing my name pop up in his inbox. He thought for a bit and said he didn’t feel burdened at all. That feeling burdened was a choice and that he doesn’t push himself harder than he is capable of. He said he is marking for the SQA at the moment so he has less time for emails but still checks his emails every other day. He said, ‘you are paying for this service Lucy, it’s your therapy to use as you need it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m paying for this hour a week not for you to spend your personal time looking at my emails,’ I joked about my brother teasing me about Paul telling his wife to cancel their weekend appointments because he received an email from Lucy King. He laughed and said, ‘You’re not quite that bad! I am glad my other 20 clients don’t email me though I have to say…’ I said, ‘What? Seriously? I’m the only one who emails you?’ and he said, ‘Well, yeah they email to arrange appointments and maybe run a couple of things by me but no they don’t email like you do…’ I couldn’t believe it – I was mortified but he said it was fine and that it obviously was cathartic for me to get it all out. He suggested that when I have a particularly important email I could print it off and highlight the important bits and bring it to session. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the ego but a part of me loves that I’m the only one who emails him like I do. That he sits and reads my words. That I will be forever known in his mind as the client who sent very long emails… not sure even what I mean by that… that I want to be remembered? That I want to be special? That I want to stand out in some way…? Maybe if I’m unique, interesting, special in some way then he wont want to stop working with me…?

So Paul then asked, ‘How’s things?’ and I paused for a while and looked out the window… ‘not great to be honest…’ He looked curious and I started to explain, ‘I have had a great week, really lovely catch up with friends, great weekend in the garden and a bbq with friends… lovely week… then I met up with dad yesterday and that put me back to square one! I don’t know how he still manages to do this. I thought that after bringing him to a therapy session things would change. Dad had suggested we meet up for lunch and stupidly I looked forward to it, I thought it would be nice. I arrive and all goes fine but he seems distant (I look up and Paul is nodding with a pensive look on his face, absorbed in my story), I just presumed it was because he just came from work. We make small talk and it’s a bit awkward. We talk about the weekend and talk about my daughter, we eat, he then asks about therapy. (I look up again and say, ‘you know it really annoys me that he still askes about therapy – why does he care? He doesn’t own it any more… he only paid for the first 3 sessions!’  Paul says, ‘it is none of his business and you don’t need to share any of it with him’). Dad then asked in so many words why therapy is taking so long, he says he thought it would just be ten or fifteen sessions. I told him I have a lot more to work through than I thought.’ I then went on to detail the rest of my lunch with dad, I explained that I told dad that it upsets me how mum still has the power to affect me just by being her. Dad told me there has to come a point where I get all I need from myself and stop looking to others to change how I feel. He didn’t understand so I changed the subject to asking him about work which in turn made him ask about my work.

‘I talked about how I’m not enjoying teaching at the moment. That the thought of teaching until I am nearly 70 feels like a life sentence. It is stressful and makes me more anxious, I have been looking into ways that I can do a little more learning and change career or something. But dad just said that everyone thinks their job is stressful and that very few people enjoy what they do and in fact it took him over twenty years before he enjoyed his job and that I should write a list of all the things I like about my job because I’d probably find that I wouldn’t get a better one.’ Paul then said, ‘it’s interesting that he didn’t say anything affirming there…’ I said, ‘I think he was only ever proud of me because I got a degree and became a teacher, I don’t think he would know how to feel about me if I changed career.’

I told Paul that I had explained to dad that I knew the pros and cons of my job, that it was pretty depressing to stay in a job because you get long holidays – that the plus side of your job is the times you aren’t in work. That I asked dad if he could imagine when he was 29 being told he would never earn any more money than what he earned at that point. Then he suggested going for promotion. I said the thing I love about teaching is the kids and being a head teacher I would spend no time with the kids.

I said to Paul, ‘I mean, it’s like he knows nothing about me… then dad said, ‘this was the problem with your mother, she was never happy, no matter what job she had or where we lived, nothing made her happy she always wanted something different…’ I just didn’t know what to say!’ Paul looked all kind of contemplative and screwed his face up a bit, ‘That makes me so angry!’ He said, ‘Doesn’t he realise that all his daughter needs is a hug and to be told she can do whatever she puts her mind to… you’re nothing like your mother Lucy, I could have told you in your first session that you are nothing like her, I think his comparison there is because of this issue he has where he unconsciously has merged you with your mum – he can’t see you are a separate person.’ I said, ‘well he should know me – he should know! It’s like he is trying to hurt me…’ Paul said, ‘I don’t think he has the capacity to see how other people are feeling, Lucy. If you were my daughter I would NEVER say anything like that to you… it is very easy to affirm you and validate you because it is true, you deserved better…’ I could have melted into the energy of the room… ‘if you were my daughter…’ that sentence makes my heart hurt. I looked away to stop myself from connecting fully to his compassionate eyes and losing it completely. I composed myself and finished the rest of my story about lunch with dad. ‘I told dad that I thought that if someone he respected like his wife told him she was thinking of a career change he would listen and take it seriously, he would ask what she didn’t like about the job and tell her she should follow what she enjoys but I felt that he was telling me I couldn’t get anything better than what I’ve got and I am just like my mother. Dad then said, ‘I didn’t say that… I said none of that. I wasn’t comparing you to your mother.’ I asked, ‘what was the purpose of bringing her up then?’ and he said, ‘what’s the point in me answering that?’ I said, ‘so I can understand you better,’ and he replied ‘we’re just digging ourselves deeper into this hole we’re in so we should stop talking about it.’  It makes me feel crazy, these kinds of conversations. I’m not allowed to have a response that contradicts his opinions… he literally wont let the interaction continue. So there was about 5 minutes of silence then I started getting my daughers coat on. I said, ‘with all due respect I am not going to waste 25 years of my life hating my job in the faint hope that by the time I am in my mid-fifties I might enjoy it. I am the main bread winner and want to not only enjoy and further my career opportunities but also widen the possibility that my family could have more money coming in, I do not make decisions lightly.’ Paul looked very serious and said, ‘you are nothing like your mother Lucy. You have been teaching all your adult life and have been with your husband for 12 years – you are a considered and stable person who commits to things.’ I nodded and just felt such deep sadness for the fact that this man I have only met for an hour or so a week for a few months knows me better than my own father. I told Paul that dad had said that I should count my blessings. I have a great husband and daughter. That it made me angry when people say I’ve to be grateful for the small mercy of other people enriching my life rather than being proud for the things I have worked damn hard at achieving, maintaining and improving.

I told Paul that I cried my eyes out all the way home. That I felt like such a fool. That at this present moment I want nothing to do with both mum and dad. They bring nothing positive to my life, just heartache and disappointment.

Paul said he resented dads comment about Paul encouraging me to take on more and more sessions. He said, ‘not only is he suggesting that I am unprofessional enough to lead you on like that but he is also implying you are stupid enough to be manipulated by me… I’m feeling angry and resentful about that,’ I said I was sorry that dad made him feel like that but it was good to hear because I was angry too. I said, ‘after we had the session with dad I asked him what he thought of you and dad said, ‘he’s a lot older than I thought’… I hadn’t told you about that because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings but I now realise your feelings wouldn’t be hurt because you don’t care about dad.’ Paul nodded and said, ‘he was just putting down your experience, belittling it… when the three of us were working together, I got the feeling that he was very intimidated by me and how in tune we are, that we have a connection, he probably felt threatened.’ I agreed and said, ‘I then asked dad what he thought of you as a person and dad said, ‘well he obviously cares a great deal about you!’ and I felt a mix of emotions, I felt happy because of course I want you to care about me but I felt sad because I want dad to care about me too, want him to care about me more…’ Paul said, ‘I just wonder though if your dad just doesn’t have the capacity to care about anyone other than himself, if all he is thinking is ‘how am I?’ then he won’t even consider anyone else.’ I said that made me sad and that’s what makes me wish I’d never started therapy because this feeling is so painful, knowing what it feels like to get it from Paul and knowing I will never feel that from my own dad. I said, ‘It’s just… well… it’s a shame, you know?’ and Paul said, ‘it’s a crying shame, that’s what unconditional positive regard is all about. You deserve nothing less.’ I said, ‘can you honestly say that with all the clients you’ve ever had you have always managed to have completely unconditional positive regard for them?’ and he thought for a bit and said that he was certainly aware of his judgements and prejudices so he doesn’t let it affect how he is with clients. He said, ‘I’ve been working in mental health for so long now it does come a lot easier than it used to. I remember one client when I first started doing this, I asked her at the end of what I thought was a great session if she thought it went well and she said, ‘no, I thought you were really judgemental…’ and she walked out and never came back. I learned a lot from that.’ I asked Paul if he agreed with her and he again thought for a bit like he always does, really considers his answers, then said, ‘no I didn’t agree with her but it taught me that your perceptions of things often differ from the clients.’ I said, ‘it was obviously her issue then,’ and he said, ‘yeah but o#I could have handled it differently…’ He said he has been trained to be aware of his reactions and why he feels certain ways.

I said that I was sick of constantly letting my dad hurt me, that I thought I was over all this and Paul said, ‘I thought you were too, I thought you had moved on from your dad and we were going to start talking about your mum,’ I replied, ‘well I guess this was a test about just how over it all I was. I failed big time because I still do care.’ Paul said, ‘do you think that you wish you’d never come to therapy because you think nothing has changed? You are still the same but many people believe they must change or get fixed in therapy but that’s not the case we are actually all fine we just need to learn to live with what we have,’ I said, ‘no, I feel like I’ve changed a lot. I am getting much better at expressing how I feel, better at accepting how I feel for example I am currently feeling that anxious pain that I get in my chest (he later explained again that was fight or flight) and instead of hating myself for feeling like that and believing there is something wrong with me, I now just think I have this feeling, that it’s probably quite understandable that I feel like that because of what we are talking about and I just carry on with what I’m doing.’ Paul said, ‘that’s interesting, good, that’s good…’ I explained that after dad’s lunch I felt really awful and would normally have swallowed the feeling down and just got on with my day not really knowing how I felt but yesterday after dad I just let myself feel sad. I cried and cried until I was done crying.

I said, ‘I just don’t know why I keep going back – why don’t I just refuse to have a relationship with them? I feel like such a fool.’ Paul said, ‘All humans live with hope – that’s what makes us human, but we are actually very self-destructive as a species and I don’t mean physically I mean we worry and think and can be very negative about ourselves and if our situation is more than our system can tolerate then we turn to physical ways of self-destruction like drinking or other ways… like you experienced,’ He talked about the need for balance and quiet in our minds, the effort we must put into trying to balance our thoughts. He said, ‘At work as a teacher you must see the children who are constantly ill because their bodies are trying to cope with this high level of hormones and chemicals that they’re producing to attempt to manage their anxiety?’ I said that I was always ill as a child, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I had a really bad attendance rate.

We talked a bit about how perceptions of things change over time. I said, ‘I think the biggest thing that has changed is that I used to have this stupid hope that things would get better or would have this expectation of what I thought mum and dad could be – that if only I could adapt myself enough and change who I am to fit in with what they would need and like then they would change. The difference now is that I can see that they can’t be what I want and it makes me really sad – like a grief.’ Paul said it was interesting I chose those words – that I used to be in denial and now I was grieving a relationship that never existed but that I’d always thought was possible. He explained about his own mum, that he doesn’t always get closeness from talking to people but sometimes just spending time with them, sometimes in silence, can feel intimate. That Paul and his mum speak a different language but he still feels close to her – he would just never talk about something emotional with her. He said he had always wished his relationship with his dad had been something more and that he had always had that feeling about his grandfather as well, that he wished their relationship could have been more than it was, but he didn’t think his grandfather understood what him – he said it was a sad time. I felt like Paul really connected with me and what I was going through. I love that he shares parts of himself with me.

I said I was sick of feeling like this irritating yappy dog that’s constantly leaping about and seeking love and attention, ‘love me love me love me…’ it’s humiliating… and all they’ve ever done is turn away from me. Paul said, ‘I’m really interested in your analogy about feeling like a wee yappy dog because it clearly illustrates how you feel and I think it’s about time you made the decision that you are no longer going to put your all into those relationships. You need to see that your parents are just two people, that they will not meet your very low and reasonable expectations. You have very validating relationships with Dave (husband), your friends and your Daniel (brother)… you’ve talked about him quite a bit and he sounds like a really positive influence in your life.’ I said, ‘yeah I’m so fortunate to have him in my life – if I had to go through all the crap with mum and dad just to get him in my life then I guess it was worth it.’ Paul smiled and said, ‘well that’s a really great way to look at it isn’t it, I mean if you didn’t have the parents you had you wouldn’t be you, I mean I know there are parts of yourself that you don’t like but there are plenty of things I’m sure you do like and you just wouldn’t be you, Daniel wouldn’t be Daniel, if you hadn’t had your mum and your dad… that’s a really interesting way to look at your experience isn’t it?’ I agreed and said that I can’t think of many things I like at the moment but that yes – I wouldn’t be me and Daniel wouldn’t be Daniel without our parents.

Somehow we got to talking about some of the techniques he’s taught me like the mindfulness meditation. I said that I was finding the meditation really helpful, that I feel like I’ve had a sleep after just 10 or 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation. He said it’s like a brain nap – that he loves it, loves clearing his mind. He said, ‘one day a few weeks ago I did the initial mindfulness meditation with five clients – in one day – I was so relaxed!’ I laughed and so did he, he said, ‘it was a bit of a cop-out, can’t do that every day!’ I said, ‘the initial time we did it I don’t think I was capable of doing it right though, it was a bit odd,’ Paul said, ‘yeah I’ve had a few clients who won’t do it with me in the room, one client told me, ‘there’s no way I’m doing that with you, it’s weird!’ He explained it is pretty intimate and you have to be very trusting to close your eyes and experience that with someone. I said, ‘well when we did it I did peek at you a few times!’ and he laughed again, I said, ‘I think that was the main benefit of the exercise actually – it wasn’t about the meditation it was about learning that I could trust you.’

I had been watching the clock all session as I usually do but by this point we were past the hour and Paul was still nestled in his seat looking pretty comfortable so I figured I could let him be in charge of the time keeping. (Interestingly when we did get to the end of the session after an hour and a half he started to wind the conversation up by asking the usual, ‘how did you find today then?’ and I stood up as I normally do and we then continued talking with me standing and him sitting for a further ten minutes. That often happens – I think I end things by standing up first so I feel in control and not rejected – I’m sure he is probably very aware of whatever reason it is that I do it). Paul said that he was going on holiday the first week of July (same as us) and that they were visiting the Scottish Isles (also a coincidence as we are going to Orkney). I said, ‘That’s a bit different from the Caribbean then…’ and he said, ‘well yeah it’s my brother in law who owns a hotel and restaurant out there, it is great and we get everything for free but the flights are extortionate and we just don’t have the money at the moment to fly 3 kids out there. I also feel a bit indebted to him and although they’re family I would rather not owe them anything. Plus I don’t think they like how opinionated I can be – they didn’t speak to me for two days on one trip because I said something they didn’t like,’ That made me laugh a lot. I have such a hunger to be part of his life. I want to know it all. I want to be in it with him. Oh my god I don’t know why I feel like this but it feels so good and so awful all at once.

We made some more small talk. He said I must be looking forward to my long holiday, talked a bit about how being a therapist is a really rewarding job. We talked a bit about the value of siblings and how he loves to hear his wee gang of kids rallying together. He mentioned a couple of books – one by John Cleese about surviving families and another about compassion. I showed him the book I am reading about the power of validation. He talked a bit about mental health and I said that everyone in Britain seems depressed. Paul said, ‘when I lived in Sweden I saw people with serious mental health issues in the street every day because they don’t over medicate out there like they do here… all sorts of people are just accepted and welcome in society. We numb everyone down over here…’ He continued, ‘I’ve always attracted people with mental health problems, I remember being in a bar at a music festival in the 70’s when a guy walked through the whole bar pushing his way through the crowd towards me. I take a sip of my pint and then the guy gets to me and says, ‘I’m a schizophrenic’ haha – it’s like he searched the whole place for me. That has happened a lot in my life.’ I said, ‘So you just thought I might as well be getting paid for this!’ and he laughed and said, ‘Yeah that’s exactly it.’

We got organised to leave and Paul started to walk me down the stairs to the main entrance. He saw me to my car and said he’d enjoyed talking to me today. I said I did too and that I looked forward to the sessions. I said I’d try to limit the emails this week and he smiled and said he looked forward to his bit of extra light reading. I drove away and felt better than I did when I arrived but also something else sitting in the pit of my stomach and in my chest… a sadness… maybe that I want so much more than I can ever really have from him. A feeling of dread at what I’ve started by walking into his office four months ago. Maybe healing is meant to hurt this much.

So… that was fairly long! If you made it through to the end then I applaud you… thank you!

I have a lot more psychological insight now than I did back then. I understand myself on a deeper level. I know about attachment pain, ego states, transference, counter transference, boundaries, projection, holding, containment… all of the behind the scenes things that make us tick, that make therapy what it is. I definitely have more to learn but I also want to acknowledge how much has changed in me. I’ve been feeling confused about the work I did with Paul – was it too ‘shallow’, why did we avoid so many topics, why did we talk so much about him, how do I feel about the lack of time boundaries and his self disclosures. I’ve talked a lot to Daniel about my experiences with Paul and the work I’m currently doing with Anna. He said these words to me… ‘People don’t come into our lives by chance Lucy. You were meant to work with Paul and you were meant to work with Anna. Perhaps Paul came along at a time when you needed to be shown you are loveable. That you are worthy of the extra time and bending of the boundaries, that you are not and were never too much, that something extraordinary about you made Paul want to work with you in an extraordinary way… and now you are stronger and now there is a part of you who believes you’re worthy, you can let Anna teach you about tolerating the deep emotional pain you’ve pushed away all your life.’ Perhaps he’s right. I know I couldn’t have done the work I’m doing now back then. The doors to those rooms in my mind and my soul were locked and I didn’t have the keys. Now with Anna I’m slowly sorting through the very complicated entry system within myself and braving what’s inside every room. One door at a time.

The Pain of Self Discovery

Tonight’s session was bloody hard.

Understatement.

Felt like I was holding my heart on the outside of my body.

As she held space for me.

The very soul of me was crying out.

All I could manage was a solitary tear,

Escaping down my cheek.

Choking in my throat.

Filling up my empty chest cavity.

So much pain, feels like more than any one person could contain.

Feelings held captive for decades.

I do hope I have the strength to see this through. I couldn’t live in this space for long.

Seek connection

I have a friend, Jen. I met Jen when I was 12 and we were friends until we left school at 17 when we went our separate ways. As kids, my perception of Jen was that she was a high achiever, super happy (all the time), loving family, parents happily married, she was innocent, had lots of lovely innocent high achieving friends. I liked her but knowing her hurt so much. So I picked on her, teased her. I was very unkind at times. I was happy to see the back of her when school finished. When I was in my late twenties I got back in touch with her. I wanted to apologise for how I’d treated her. Turns out she’d become a therapist. And she didn’t remember school like I did. She said she found me very funny. That a couple of our other friends make her very unhappy but she always liked spending time with me. She thought I was cool, interesting and had good taste in music and apparently a depth to me that she wished she had. I told her that depth is called trauma and we laughed… sometimes it’s all you can do! So since leaving school she had a breakdown and then spent a lot of time working on herself personally and then went into the job of helping others. She was pleased I’d got in touch with her. We’ve been good friends ever since, talked at length about life at school, our childhoods, adulthood… therapy.

So, I haven’t seen her in four months. The past 5 times we’ve arranged a catch up, Jen has cancelled. All different reasons. Two of the times she told me she was burnt out and very tearful and just couldn’t see anyone. I know she has a tendency to avoid. To withdraw and move away. I know she’s been depressed.

We arranged a catch up for today and this morning Jen cancelled an hour before she was due to be here. I had a feeling that she would cancel. I was gutted. I felt totally rejected. In her text she said she’d woken up feeling awful after a hard session with her therapist the previous day and was too tearful and fragile to see anyone today. Normally I ignore how I feel and just reply with something that I think will release her from any guilt she might feel. I end up saying that I hope she feels better soon and to get in touch whenever she wants. Because I know she identifies with an avoidant attachment style and I’m disorganised/preoccupied. I don’t want to hassle her, push her away with my neediness. But the truth is it hurts so much when she cancels. I can’t help but think it’s about me. She doesn’t want to be my friend anymore but is too ‘nice’ to tell me. I’ve had a couple of friends ghost me so it’s totally plausible she would want to leave. It triggers me in the same way I get triggered when Anna, my therapist cancels. Painful.

Today I did something I’ve never done before in this situation. I told her the truth. I sent her a message back saying, ‘Jen, please don’t withdraw from me. I accept you no matter what. Maybe push yourself into the discomfort of letting me be with you today. I can come to you, even just for an hour. You don’t have to be any particular way with me. I’m personally finding it really hard to deal with all the cancelled catch ups. Xx’

She replied straight away saying that I was right and she’d come to me.

She was at mine for 4 hours. We had an amazingly honest, authentic time together talking about everything that’s going on with us both. I told her how much it hurts when she pulls away from me. That I need connection. I need regular contact with my friends. I need to see that people want to be around me. That I’m not too much for them. She said that she’s been cancelling everyone, including her therapist until the session yesterday. She was so glad I had sent that text and so glad she came to see me. We talked about how hard it is to just sit inside ourselves. To ‘be’ in relationships. To figure out life. We have different attachment styles but there are overlaps. We both overthink. We both worry too much about what other people think. We both think we’re not good enough.

Today we were vulnerable with each other and we were each accepted by the other. I started to cry when talking about an early memory of one of the many times my mother rejected me. I’d not shared that memory before and I’ve not cried in front of a friend before. We both did something outside our comfort zone today.

We were honest and authentic. It was scary. Unfamiliar. But it was so worth it. I feel closer to her. She has seen that even in her most difficult times, she can still offer something to people and she can be accepted. The 4 hours was peppered with the usual laughs and jokes that only we ‘get’. In between the more serious conversations.

When the desire to run and hide washes over you… get curious… experiment with changing that behaviour (within a safe relationship) and move closer.

Seek connection.

We are broken in relationships and we heal in relationships.