Boxes, Bin Liners & A Pregnant Therapist – An Entry About Preparing For A Major Therapy Break

Last week was a big week, therapywise.

Started a bit shakey on Tuesday, feeling very anxious, and stepping into a mode of not wanting to engage, not wanting to connect and deliberately steering clear of potentially explosive material. There was a definite wish to keep it simple, to not touch on anything that could be even remotely emotionally triggering.

Then, on Wednesday, my second session of the week, the second I sat down I was overcome by this very intense need to retreat into myself, to shut everyone and everything out, to protect myself from making myself vulnerable. To, in essence, stop all processes and just deep-freeze everything. A. responded to this information by stating that that’s quite alarming, and I went on to spend the rest of the session trying to explain this reaction, to dress in words what this fear looks like. Did a bit of waltzing around, but eventually, in my own unique roundabout way, I arrived at the fairly obvious conclusion that a lot of this wish to cut and run comes from the worry about what will happen once A. goes on maternity leave.

I used the analogy of unpacking my moving boxes to try to illustrate what the worry is; how, as long as all my things are still in the boxes there is a certain order to things. I know exactly what’s in each of the boxes, and although the contents may not be immediately accessible, I can get to them, with a little work. On the other hand, were I to empty all the boxes, even if I arranged the contents neatly on my bookshelves and in my wardrobe, well – the contents wouldn’t change, but in an emergency situation, it’d be that much harder to grab everything and run for cover. That, yes, in day-to-day life it’s easier to have things within reach and in the line of vision, but, having spent so much of my life in survival mode, it’s really hard to trust that a fight or flight inducing situation isn’t forever lurking just around the nearest corner. I keep hearing the voice of Little S desperately urging me to not lower my guard, to make sure that I have a clear escape route at all times. And although Adult Me is trying hard to keep hold of Little S’s hand, to steady her and to show her that things are different now, it’s hard. It’s a fine balance to allow Little S’s voice to be heard, to exist, without giving into it – because, after all, she speaks from years of experience and from a place of almost unimaginable pain, and her voice is in no way trying to halter progress, but simply wanting to make sure that I don’t get hurt again. It’s a kind of poorly calibrated and somewhat mis-directed self-protective impulse.

Now, Adult Me knows that in order to move forward I have to somehow find the courage to keep at it, to keep sharing, to keep expressing, keep unpacking those boxes – even now when things feel so very fragile – knowing that, should things come crashing down around me, I can always grab a couple of bin liners and chuck my stuff into them to make possible my escape. It won’t be as neat, precise or efficient as if all of my things were still boxed up, but it would still work as a temporary measure. The only problem is that, as I explained to A., unlike with my actual, material possessions, when it comes to my emotional property, I don’t feel that I have that bin liner to hand; the fear is that I lack that quick-fix temporary container to make things manageable. I can have things out, look at my emotions, experience them, especially in the safe environment that therapy offers, or I can keep them in the box for now, until I feel ready to un-box, but, once they’re out – it’s not very easy to re-package. That, although I do have some practical outside tools, should things get really bad in A.’s absence; Drayton Park, the crisis team, shul, Samaritans, my friends and family, I just don’t trust it that I have the inner means to keep myself safe without shutting down. And that leaves me feeling very frightened and vulnerable.

With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that Little S pipes up, reacting strongly to thinly veiled abandonment issues popping up in the face of A.’s impending leave, pushing for me to keep on the well-beaten path of trusting no-one but me, to rely on myself and myself alone, to let no-one in and let nothing out.

History shows that I often find myself struggling to keep things together during therapy breaks, that flashbacks and nightmares tend to increase at a maddening rate when I haven’t got that safe space to unload my emotions in, that the risk of self-harming behaviour sky-rockets, and so, with a break of this proportion on the horizon, well, it’s bound to drive my fears to boiling point. In some ways it would be more worrying if they didn’t.

A. reassured me that she has no interest in making this break any harder than it needs to be, and although it felt really good to hear her say that and I genuinely appreciate her wanting me to know this, it’s still incredibly daunting to know that I have such a big break ahead of me. And finding that courage, well, it’s something only I can do.

This week’s final session – Friday – was spent doing some further exploration into the constant internal struggle between Little S and Adult Me. We looked at how Adult Me very much wants to do everything in her power to ensure that I don’t start going back on the progress I’ve made thus far in my therapy, while – at the same time – Little S is deeply invested in that tried and tested path, pulling in the opposite direction, wanting to go for what is known and what feels safe.

The conclusion is, of course, that what we need to focus on in the next few months, is to find not only a bin liner, but preferably a nice sturdy IKEA bag, to ensure I have what I need get me through once A. does go on her leave. To find that something which will allow me to resist listening too much to Little S – without completely ignoring or silencing her – and to not give in to the temptation of going down that comfortably familiar path of keeping myself safe through shutting down.

So, I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me. But – hopefully – I’ll find that I have what it takes.

To carry on.
Being me.

All the very best and more,

xx

IN OTHER NEWS

I was utterly surprised to find out, earlier in the week, that my blog has been nominated in two categories of the TWIM Awards this year. The TWIM Awards is an annual award given to blogs focusing on mental health issues. My blog is nominated in the categories “Best PTSD/Extreme Emotional Stress Disorder Blog”, and “Best Therapy Blog”. Feel honoured to have been nominated (especially considering how incredible some of the other nominees are) and would like to send out an absolutely massive thank you to those of you who have voted for me. I’m chuffed beyond words! Truly.

If you would like to support me, or any other blog, you can do so by casting your vote here.

Winners will be announced on January 1st, 2012.

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11 responses

  1. What an intelligently written post! Clearly being in therapy has helped you look at things in a really good way. And you express yourself so well. I really like your moving box metaphor. (and the binliner/Ikea bag). It makes perfect sense to feel the way you are Knowing your therapist is going on maternity leave must be incredibly stressful. I can’t imagine how I would react to something like that. I only see my therapist once a week but I still find breaks really hard and a break like that would feel really scary. Anyway keep the blog going because it’s really interesting to read. I was googling for something completely different when i found your blog but your blog really caught my interest. //////M

  2. Totally impressed with how you’re handling this. I’ve been through it twice, with 2 different therapist, and I NEVER talked about it at all. Not before their leave, or after, and I still regret it to this day. I think I would have learned so much about myself.

    So glad you’re willing to put yourself out there, it will be worth it!

  3. Thank you Maryann, that’s such a nice thing to say. I’m just about to go for my Tuesday evening session, and I’m not feeling very brave today. So easy to slip back into familiar patterns of self-protection.. But, I do try to challenge myself to go in a different direction. Only way to break a pattern is to do something different, right?

    Be kind to yourself,

    xx

  4. Hello

    I’m new to your blog. Onlu came across it the other day but I’m really gald I did. I was googling to find out people’s experiences of having a pregnant therapist but there is hardly any info out there at all. I’m really glad you decided to write about it because I think a lot of people can relate to this. My therapist fell pregnant while I was seeing her and i REALLY didn’t cope with it well at all. It felt like a huge betrayal and I ended up terminating because it brought out such strong feelings in me and I just wasnt ready to deal with it back then. but looking back I agree with what Maryanne wrote in a previous comment I really wish i’d taken the opportunity to talk about it even if it was painful. Instead I just ran. Couldn’t cope with being abandoned (thats whet it felt like) and trust had been broken. Anyway you seem to have a much better approach to it. I know it’s really hard to have a break in therapy but I do hope you stick with it because otherwise you might regret it later.

    Oh and Happy Hannukkah (is that how you spell it?)

    John

  5. Hi there, John

    Thank you for commenting. I’m glad you like my blog.
    Yes, having a pregnant therapist about to go on maternity leave is a challenge, to say the least. I don’t think that, for me, terminating therapy was ever an option, but I completely understaind finding it unbearable to cope with the idea of such a long break. I definitely struggle with that, too. I agree, I think that were I to terminate I would come to regret it, but as I said, that’s not really on the horison. I will just have to find a way to get through this, and hopefully also find the courage to talk about my feelings regarding A.’s pregnancy in session.

    Have a lovely day,

    xx

    PS. Hannukkah, Hanukah, Chanukah, Chanukkah – there are about a million ways to spell it, no real right or wrong. I tend to go with Chanukah, myself. It’s חנוכה in Hebrew (read right to left, and the first letter is like the ‘ch’-sound in “Loch”

  6. Pingback: Pregnancies, Therapy Breaks & A Possible Bin Liner « What It Takes To Be Me

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