Four sessions to go until A. goes on maternity leave. At the most. These last few weeks since our Christmukah break I’ve been living with the worry of suddenly having a message that A. has gone into premature labour and thus leaving me to fend for myself without even getting to have the Final Session. Very stressful, indeed.
I am feeling on edge, wondering how in the world I will be able to get through these coming months without therapy. Feels like there is no way I’ll be able to cope. I am scared that I’ll go into another of those never-ending periods of flashbacks, because if that happens, I don’t think it will end well.. I am, of course, trying my very best to hold it together, to look ahead, to not assume my worst case scenario will come true. But it’s hard. Especially as over the last few weeks I have been having more flashbacks and nightmares than the norm. The other day I once again found myself looking likeHarry Potter. Also, on one occasion, I tripped up and used a white hot screw head to creatively burn myself with. And this is before A.’s leave has even started.. Not great.
The last few weeks have been very intense, therapywise, almost as if my psyche has kicked into overdrive in anticipation of A.’s leave. The sense of running out of time is immense. In some ways I guess you could say that this therapy break has pushed me to delve into things I may otherwise have found a way to not get into. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
My GP, who is the best GP in the world [possibly the universe], has been really good, and has taken my freak-outs very seriously, sorting out various referrals etc etc etc, trying to make sure that I have as much stability as possible during what promises to be a bumpy ride. And I really appreciate that.
People keep asking me what my therapist has put in place for me during her absence, and it’s hard to explain to someone who has never been in therapy that, actually, she’s not put anything in place, that there is no one covering for her. What I’m doing with A. is long-term psychoanalytic therapy, meaning that immediate symptom relief isn’t necessarily the goal, and that, also, it would make little sense for me to be referred to someone else while she is off, as that would in essence mean starting again, attaching to another person, only to have to break that up when A. is back. As a case study that could be quite an interesting little experiment, but in reality, it would involve unnecessary complication, and even if that was an option, I doubt it I would be up for it. It took me a really long time to let A. in; we’re talking years rather than months, and although people sometimes find it shocking that I’ve been seeing A. for nearly three years, to me, it feels like we’re only now getting below the surface. Like I said to A. in a recent session; while I may be a fast learner intellectually, emotionally I am exceedingly slow. And trust, well, that’s a big’un. There has been a lot of testing both A. and of the strength of our therapeutic relationship to get to the place we are now, where I am slowly, slowly allowing myself to let my guard down a little.
Which, of course, makes this break all the harder..
Below are two videos; one which has nothing at all to do with what I’ve just written about.. and one from which I nicked the title for this post. Both are well worth checking out!
Things ain’t going so great. You might have guessed. Just feels like no matter how hard I try I can’t find a way to keep my head above water long enough to find that final something to pull myself out of the water entirely and onto dry land.
I’m trying to be brave. [That is, by the way, very different to putting a brave face on it.] I’m trying to be brave in therapy. To do things that scares me, do things that make me feel. But it’s hard.
The other day, in therapy, I finally shared a drawing I made back in August, back when I was staying at Drayton Park. It’s a crayon cartoon picture drawn in a childlike style illustrating my relationship to my father growing up and the frustration I experienced [although at the time I was far too busy doing that thing of putting a brave face on it to recognise it as that], about feeling second priority to most anything, but particularly his work. With a slight twist of the caleidoscope it is easy to see how this is also an illustration of my own fears about how my relationship to A. might change once the baby is born, once she is back after her maternity leave. [The drawing was also, not incidentally, drawn in the days after A. told me she was pregnant].
Of course I’ve talked about this, about how worried I am about the long break in therapy and the changes that [I both feel and fear] will follow, but for all the carefully weighed words and cautiously constructed sentences and feeling statements I’ve put out there, in the therapeutic space we share, a picture can say more than a thousand words.. so, sharing my drawing – although I’ve desperately wanted to do it for months – felt very risky indeed, felt frightening beyond words, in fact.
Naturally, there are those bog standard feelings I have blogged about before; the jealousy because I’m not pregnant, the wish to be A.’s number one favourite client – no person – in the world etc etc etc, but beyond that is that extra layer, brought on by – at least in part – my own experience of feeling second to my father’s work. Of having his clients come up to me, saying [and this happened with surprising frequency] “You are so lucky to have HIM as your father!”, because they were his client and assumed his work self corresponded exactly with his family life self, finding myself smiling back at them all the while thinking You don’t know him, you think you do, but you don’t. And, of course, simultaneously wondering if maybe it is really I who don’t know him, because, after all, they probably spent more one on one time with him than I have throughout my entire life.
So, A. becoming a mother – as opposed to being a transferential/counter-transferential parent through her working relationship with me – brings out all manner of conflicting emotions.
In every single therapy I’ve ever been it’s always been a major issue, this acute awareness of the balancing act between work life and home life for the therapist, but with A. it’s been more intense than ever before, especially as she works from home and I feel über-aware of every single time I hear her husband walk through the door during my Tuesday evening session. Of being the one stopping him from being able to call out Honey, I’m home!
On the one hand I – like, I imagine, every person who has ever been deeply engaged in therapy – want to be special, want to be the only really important client, the centre of my therapist’s universe, yet, at the same time I absolutely and genuinely hate being the one to push A.’s family life to the side, to potentially make them feel second priority.. Yes, I realise that not everyone manages this balancing act as poorly as I sometimes felt my father did, and of course I know that not everyone will feel pushed out the way I did, and sure I know that it is actually A. [and hopefully her husband] who has made the choice to run her practice from her front room – but, as we all know, there can be a huge discrepancy between intellectual knowledge and emotional understanding, and A.’s pregnancy has definitely brought this to the forefront.
I genuinely have no idea how I will be able to cope with this internal struggle once A. is back to work, once the baby is really here. Considering how hard it’s been all along to deal with these feelings, I really don’t know if I can do it..
They say that the greatest joy in life is having children. The flip-side of that is, of course, that the biggest sorrow is not having them. And I suppose this is a large part of what I find myself dealing with right now. I am not saying that the meaning of life is to have children, but it has always felt like that is the meaning of my life; it has always been what I have wanted more than anything for myself. Yes, I would love the husband, the lovely house, the great job, the riches to be able to choose leading a humble life-style, but all of those things have always been secondary to the deep desire to have children. Nothing compares to that.
So, finding myself here, at thirty-five, having none of the above things, it’s a pretty painful place to be, and none causes me more pain than the lack of children..
I trained in childcare, it was a natural choice, I have a lot of experience in caring for children from well before I ever made that choice; my mother was a childminder, so growing up I was always surrounded by children – there was always someone to look after. Then came my sisters, who – at least I’d like to think – I’ve had a fair part in helping shape. Their father died when they were very young, back when I was 11, and I have spent a lot of time looking after them. Next came my nephews, the two oldest ones – the first when I was 12, the second about when I was 15, both of whom I would regularly be taking care of.
They are all grown up now, my sisters have finished their studies, and are now working in their chosen fields. I’m still as close to them as ever and see them as often as I can, even though this is not nearly as often as I would like. I sometimes forget that they are adults now, one of them already a mother herself; it’s kind of hard to not think of them as ‘little’ when you so vividly remember them at one or four or toothless six.. Every once in a while I slip [especially in therapy, I’ve noticed], and I will call them The Kids, rather than My Sisters. I guess it tells you something of how I feel about them..
But, in reality, I have no children of my own. Every single day my biological clock ticks louder and louder, sometimes it feels completely deafening, and even if I try – even for a minute – to get away from it, I can’t. It’s always there, ticking away in the background.
I was recently diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS], something which I had suspected for some time. This is not great news when it comes to the possibility of having children. It is also not the end of the world. PCOS is fairly common, and many women with PCOS will be able to conceive and carry to term healthy and hopefully happy babies. But it is also one of the most common explanations for infertility, since it often means either irregular ovulation or even completely missed ovulation. One of two critical parts in the conception of a child [the other, of course, being a healthy sperm reaching the egg]. No ovulation means no children. That’s the basic science.
Ever since I was officially diagnosed I have been more than ever aware of how badly I want to have children of my own, and by cruel chance there just happen to be women around me falling pregnant left, right and diagonally. [Cruel for me, happy for them, I should say.] Aside from A. being pregnant, there are a number of other women in my life who are also expecting. And that is one of the hardest things to deal with, because you have to deal with mixed emotions to an extreme degree. On the one hand I am genuinely happy for them, I really am – I don’t wish to take anything away from their happiness, but is also always tainted by jealousy, by wishing it could be me, and by the increasing realisation that it may never be me.
I have always said that if I am told, categorically, that I cannot have children, that will be the end of me. That is how I have always felt about it, or at least for as long as I can remember. There are other things in my life which are at times excruciatingly painful to live with; the flashbacks, the nightmares, the memories of what happened to me as a child, which have more than once pushed me to try to end my life. I work really hard to not get back to that place, and the thought of one day having children has always been my motivation for holding on to the hope that things can change, things can be different.
If that hope were to be taken away, I know I could not go on. Sadly, that’s not just in a manner of speaking, it’s a fact.
I’m not naïve, or at least I’d like to think that I’m not. I realise that having children does not change what has happened before, and I would never ever choose to have children based on the hope of that happening; it would be a terrible and impossible burden to place on the child’s shoulders. But I do believe, and you can ask almost anyone who has ever had a child to confirm this, having a child changes you, changes the way you view things, shifts the focus from yourself at the centre of your life to them. Not perhaps every single second of every singe minute, but as a life perspective.
It has always been my view, and I stand by it still, that people should only have children if they want to be parents. Not because The Time Was Right, or because All Of My Friends Are Having Children or because That’s What You Do, Isn’t It? or because Oops!. You have children because you want to be a parent to them. To responsibly raise the next generation, to experience love in a different way and to pass that love on to your children. And then your children’s children. And if you’re really lucky, your children’s children’s children. You get the idea.
As you can imagine this is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about throughout my life, and the thought that there is an ever growing likelihood with each passing month that I will never get to experience or share that love, it’s really getting to me, in a big way.
So, things are rough right now. Very very rough. To the point where I wonder if I can get through this, or if I even want to. If, maybe, I’m getting to the end of the line here? I just don’t know. I’m trying to hold on, but it feels like my grip is slipping, and I’m not sure I’ve got what it takes to not let go.
Not the happiest of notes to end a post on, but – hey – this is an honesty-focused blog, and there is a warning that things on this blog may not always be nice..
First post of the new year. Can’t believe it’s taken me this long!
So what has the new year been like this far? Well, ups and downs. And lots of them. On the one hand there are some really good things happening in my life, although as per usual I am finding it hard to entirely trust it that it will last. On the other hand there is a lot of unrest, especially surrounding A.’s impending maternity leave, which is really stressing me out in a big way.
Over our two week Chrismukah break I did struggle, although I struggled more in week one than in week two. I think had there not been an impending longer break round the corner, this break would not have been quite so bad; most of my freak-outs over this period were connected with the knowledge that I have this massive break ahead of me.
A. is now back, and therapy has resumed for the time being. Of course there is no knowing exactly how much longer I will be seeing her before she goes on leave, adding another prickly little layer to an already exceptionally difficult situation. As much as I appreciate being able to go to therapy, I do feel ultra-aware that each session I have is another step closer to the time when I won’t be having them, and I really don’t know how I am going to cope for such a long time. Also, A. looking like she is about to pop at any given moment makes it entirely impossible to do what I usually do prior to an upcoming break; going into solid denial in true ostrich style and pretend it’s not going to happen..
For better or for worse, A. and her ever growing bump completely takes that option away. It also makes me have to think about how badly I want children and leaves me unable to shield myself from the fear that that may never happen.. At least as long as A. is still working, I can talk about all of this [to whatever extent I feel able to].. Once she goes off, I’ll still have all those feelings, but I’ll have lost my safe place to talk about it. On top of the stuff I always deal with during a break, I’ll be left with all the feelings A.’s (and other women’s) pregnancies have brought out. I genuinely hate this non-pregnant state I’m in with a passion, and having all these emotional triggers around can be really really painful. Sometimes I feel convinced that there must be a correlation between how badly you want a child and the number of people around you becoming pregnant. Like a cruel joke on the less fertile ones among us.. I know that’s not really the case, but it sure feels like it sometimes. So, I’m under no illusions that this break is going to be anything other than excruciatingly challenging.
On to something a little more positive..
I wrote in a previous post about the need to find something to help contain my emotions during this break, and the worry at not knowing what that might be. And then one morning it just hit me – and please don’t ask how it could possibly have taken so long to come up with something so utterly obvious.. Of course, the thing that could best help me get through the break is – ta-dah! –WRITING! Partly here on the blog, which I have come to realise is the closest thing I get to therapy outside of actual therapy; it’s a space where I can express whatever I want without having to censor myself for the sake of other people. Blogging also has that key therapeutic quality of allowing me to feel heard, through the comments you post and the emails you send. So, please, do keep ’em coming; they really mean a lot to me. Your comments and emails are what makes blogging different to journaling. I suppose you could say that journaling is communicating your emotions for inward reflection, in a completely private way, whereas blogging is communicating outwardly, to tell the outside world what’s going on. And your comments help me feel heard and also give me a variety of perspectives on whatever I happen to be going through.
So, journaling and blogging are two ways to keep me going. But, of course, they are both things that I am already doing, and – as regular readers will be aware – this is not necessarily enough for me to not dip in that rather extreme way I sometimes do. The other way I’ve come up with is to push myself to get back into doing some proper writing. In the past few years I’ve been suffering from a writer’s block of gargantuan proportion, having not really done any real writing at all. Yes, the odd poetry reading, a few bits and pieces here and there, but nothing I would call real writing, only faffing. Fair enough, it’s at times been very useful faffing, but it’s simply not been as emotionally and spiritually consuming as the kind of thing I experience when I’m really writing.
Thus, my brief for myself in the coming several months, is to push myself to take my writing more seriously and to really work hard at it. Not just to do a bit here and there as the wind happens to blow, but to really dedicate some serious time to doing it.
I’ve already started on something, which – naturally – could turn out to be nothing, but at the moment it feels pretty good. I’m not going to go into detail in terms of what exactly I’m writing about, but it feels like it could potentially turn out to be something reasonably readworthy.
I’m sticking to the age-old rule of Write About What You Know, but without making it autobiographic. Of course, there is bound to be a lot of me in what I write, that’s the nature of writing,; the author’s voice will always be there somewhere in the background, spread out in between the written words, but it’s not my story I’m writing, it’s fiction. Or, as I like to call it; semi-fictive storytelling.
And that is what makes writing so exciting for me. That, while what I’m writing is based on what I know, I also have the complete freedom of inventing this whole parallel universe, where anything could happen. And even though the things I write about tend to be fairly ordinary; about how everyday people form relationships and how they relate to one another and so on, it is still all coming out of my own imagination. I always think of writing as the introvert’s opportunity to be a great actor, because, in order to write about people and relationships, you need to put yourself in their place, you need to get into their head and look at the world through their eyes, so that when you’re writing, what ends up on the page isn’t fifteen versions of yourself, but something that feels authentic and congruent for each one of the characters.
Now, of course I am aware that writing also is a form of escapism, a way to get away from my own reality. I know this. You know this. But, surely, a bit of escapism is a far healthier option to getting those scalpels out, in a bid to get away from what I really can’t get away from?
PS. I’m receiving a ridiculous amount of spam comments on some of my posts, and so I’ve password protected them. If you would like to have the password, feel free to drop me an email. I have no idea if the password thing will help with the spam, if it doesn’t I’ll take the protection off, but for the time being it will stay there.
So much of this year has been spent thinking about children, about having children of my own, about my therapist having a child, about myself as a child. It seems only appropriate that my final post – my final drawing – of this year be one of Little S.
To help me not forget that that small and innocent child still lives inside of Adult Me, and hurting Adult Me, also means hurting that very precious little child. So that I can remember to be kind to myself.
Some of you will know that I recently moved. I did a straight room swap with someone, and when this someone else moved, she – let’s call her K. – left behind a great big goldfish bowl with accompanying goldfish. Now, I told her straight off that I didn’t want it; I could never keep fish like that, in an un-oxygenated bowl with no black-out sides and nothing inside the bowl for the poor fish to hide behind. She told me she was going to get a smaller tank to fit in her room and come back for her fish. Being the friendly [if somewhat horrified] person that I am, I told her fine, just put it in the hallway for now, but make sure to come get it as soon as possible. No worries, K. replied and went on her way.
A week passed. Nothing. I started googling to find out what the heck to feed my un-invited flat mate [finely chopped spinach and orange, apparently] as I couldn’t just let it starve. I texted K. Nothing. I put a tea mug in the tank so the fish would have somewhere to hide from the world. Another week went by. Another text. Met by even more silence. And then, yesterday morning, a text from K. saying “Sorry about the late reply, I was busy with exams until Friday and now I’ve gone abroad. Won’t be back until January”. What the flying BEEEP..!?
Needless to say, I wasn’t much pleased with this development, so I texted her back saying that I understand she’s been busy, but really, sending a text takes seconds – anyone can fit that in no matter how busy – and wouldn’t it have been a good idea to check that someone was actually going to be in the flat over Chrismukah & New Year to look after her fish? Apologised in case I sounded harsh, but honestly I wasn’t very impressed.
Now, I’m not someone who habitually sends out even remotely angry sounding texts, so having sent off the text I sat down to reflect, realising that this was probably about something bigger than just the poor goldfish. I mean, I’m not actually going away, and feeding a fish isn’t exactly hard labour. So what was it about all of this that was really upsetting me?
Seems pretty obvious from a distance, right? What was really bugging me was – of course – the fact that she could so easily leave this living being behind without a thought, without making sure someone was going to be there to make sure that it was OK.
Fast forward to later in the day, still thinking about the fish, feeling genuinely upset by it being abandoned like that, I realised that I was very much identifying with this poor fish, and that my anger with K. was probably more accurately a misplaced expression of anger with A. leaving me behind, with no one to look after me.
So that’s what yesterday’s session – the final one before a two week Chrismukah break – was spent on. Trying to explore the feelings I have, not only around this break, but also about A.’s maternity leave – which I feel, ought really be re-named eternity leave. How I feel, much like this little fish, left to my own device in this not-great-but-won’t-kill-me place, where all I can do is to swim round and round in circles.
I feel that being in therapy gives me a sense of direction, like – although progress is often excruciatingly slow – I’m going somewhere, I’m moving. But with this massive break coming up, well, I’m not sure what to do with it, what to do in that huge expanse of time. Do I retreat into the tea cup of my mind? Do I try to move forward on my own, risking getting myself into territory I’m not at all ready to cope with outside of the safety of the therapeutic setting? Or do I just stand still? I genuinely don’t know, and that makes me feel lost and frightened.
A. gave me the breakdown of her plan for her maternity leave on Tuesday. She’s planning to keep working until the fourth week of February [but, naturally, there is no guarantee that that will happen] and then she’ll be off until some time in July when she will go back on a part time basis, meaning I will have only one session a week, in contrast to the three I’m currently having. And, of course that makes perfect sense, from her point of view, to start over slowly. But for me, I’m not really so sure. Going from thrice weekly therapy to weekly sessions, it’s one heck of a drop, even if it is temporary.
I’ve been in weekly therapy before [albeit not with A.], and it is incredibly different to having more sessions in a week. My experience of weekly therapy is that, although it is helpful – and certainly better than nothing – it’s very.. hm.. choppy. Because so much can happen in the week between sessions, there is both a sense of wanting to cram as much as possible into that one session, and also there is very little flow between sessions. What you started talking about last week can easily be pushed to the side, in favour of new exciting events and thoughts, and deeper exploration often suffer as a consequence. And if you are, as I am, prone towards avoiding digging too deep, this can be used as a way to get away with not looking below the surface of things. So, that worries me.
Towards the end of last session I was really finding it difficult to speak, feeling very emotional and tearful. I just felt utterly overwhelmed by this feeling of being left completely on my own, and feeling that I really haven’t got the tools to stay above water. Like I said to A.: Forget about that nice sturdy IKEA bag I was hoping to find, right now I’d settle for the flimsiest of Morrisons carrier bags to help somehow contain my emotions. I feel really worried that, lacking a time and place to express what’s going on inside of me, those horrendous flashbacks will start coming back again, in the way they did earlier this year. I just don’t feel I’d be able to cope with that. Not without resorting to self-harm again.
A. pointed out that despite things being difficult, I was still managing to look after that goldfish and taking steps to make things as comfortable as I can for it, given the situation, to which I had to admit that I had, in all honesty, thought that I really ought to put that poor fish out of its misery, as I can’t bear watching it live out its life in this depressing little tank. I realised then that this could easily be interpreted as my expressing thoughts of wanting to end my own life, because it just feels too miserable and closed in, and so I felt I had to reassure A. that this wasn’t my plan, that I simply wouldn’t have been able to kill the fish, or myself. I’m not entirely sure if this is true, but metaphoric suicide didn’t feel like a very good note to end the session on, and after all, the woman is pregnant, so I felt I needed to smooth things over.
Don’t worry, I’m not saying I’m suicidal, only that it’s kind of hard to know with me. Even for me.
At points in this final session I felt very strongly that I needed A. to reassure me, to play the good, nurturing therapy mother, and tell me that things would be OK, but, for whatever reason A. didn’t seem to pick up on that, and said very little when I felt I needed it most. [Yes, I do recognise that this is the child in me being angry at not getting instant gratification]. But then, at the very end of session, as we said our goodbyes, she gave me this very warm smile [which, for all I know she may have been giving me all through session, but since I rarely look at A. during session I wouldn’t know] which made me feel so much better, and I wished her a good break. And I meant it.
All the very best and more,
PS. Once again, thanks to all of you who have voted for my blog in the TWIM Awards. The polling station is still open, so if you haven’t but would like to register your vote there’s still a little bit of time left. Just click here. :) Voting closes at mid-day on December 31st.
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.
All the very best and more,
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.
Ever since I began seeing A. about two and a half years ago the fact that she is very obviously of child bearing age and would thus in all likelihood at some point want to have children has been brewing at the back of my mind. It’s one of those worries that has been there from the get go, and on more than one occasion I have actually talked myself into believing A. was pregnant when she wasn’t. Rather unsurprisingly, this has usually been at times when I myself have been particularly worried about the possibility that I may never get to experience motherhood.
The one thing I’ve always said is that when it does happens, well, I won’t deal well with it. I will hate it.
Now that it has happened, it feels very different to how I imagined it would. I can’t really say whether I’m dealing with it in a good or a bad way, I’m simply dealing with it on a day-to-day, session-to-session basis. Some days it all feels very OK, and on other days not at all. Sometimes the way I feel about A.’s pregnancy will even shift within a single session! And whether my feelings are positive or negative is definitely more random than cyclic.
As I mentioned in my previous post, prior to A. actually telling me she’s pregnant, I had already somehow worked it out, but decided to push it aside. Even though I on almost all levels knew this wasn’t the case, I tried very hard to convince myself that it was just another one of those false alarms, that it was all in my head, all to do with me, nothing to do with reality. I was working very hard at pushing myself into denial, until A. burst the bubble.
The way she broke it to me was something along the lines of “There’s something I need to talk to you about. I think you may already know..” at the very beginning of a session. She then told me she wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to work, in terms of her having time off, but that she thought she’d have three months off. My instant reaction to that was “That’s not very long” failing to explain that by that I meant that it wasn’t very long for thebaby. For me, any break longer than a week is an absolute eternity, and fills me with out-of this-world anxiety.
Child-related themes have always been fairly frequent in my therapy, as having children has been my number one dream since I was a kid myself, so it’s hard to say if A. being pregnant has pushed those issues more to the forefront or not – it’s never particularly far off my mind – but I can say one thing for sure: having someone sitting across from you looking very pregnant will inevitably be a bit in your face; it’s not exactly something which can be readily ignored. [Although I have read case studies of clients apparently doing just that right up until the baby was born].
There are so many different aspects to all of this. There’s the outrageously jealous she’s having what I want most of all aspect, there’s the classic but I want to be your baby aspect, the I don’t want to share you with anyone sibling-rivalry perspective and – of course – the I really don’t want to think about it but you’ve been having sex borderline Oedipal side to it. There is also feelings of wow I’m so unbelievably happy for you and the somewhat odd I feel really sad that I won’t get to know this child I see growing before me.
There are moments when I really wish A. wasn’t pregnant, and other times I’m genuinely panicking at the thought of anything going wrong with the pregnancy.
I guess in a way you could say that A.’s being pregnant is one of those boundary blurrings that can’t really be avoided, and as I have said to A. more than once, I have a feeling that the next few months will be a bit of a roller coaster in terms of how I’ll respond to it all. Some days I feel completely freaked out by the huge unknowable factor which comes naturally with something like this: there is no way of knowing exactly from when A. will need to be off, there is no way of knowing when she’ll be back [in my mind I am mentally preparing for a much longer break than three months], there is also no knowing where I’ll be at when the break does happen, and there is no knowing where I’ll be at the end of it. What if things just plummet? What do I do? And, oddly just as frightening; what if I deal really well with the break, cope in a way I hadn’t expected? What would that say about the work we have been doing? About our relationship?
Scary stuff, all of it, let me tell you.
So.. watch this space and brace yourself for more than one serious freak-out.
I had an email from someone who has clearly been following my blog for some time the other day. He [or she – could be a she] asked “What happened to your real blog? The one about your life? I mean it’s interesting to read about Reform Judaism and all that, but I kind of miss the real updates. Like, what happened after you left Drayton Park? How have you been doing? What’s happening with your therapy?”
Now, firstly, I would like to point out that to me the posts about Judaism, and my conversion in particular, are every bit as real as any of my other updates. Being Jewish is part of who I am, and a big part, at that. But, I do take the emailer’s point: it has been a while since I’ve written about what’s going on with me. And it’s not by chance. I’ve simply needed some time to reflect without sharing, rather than reflecting while sharing, if that makes sense.
About two months have passed since I left the Drayton Park Women’s Crisis Centre. And it’s taken me all this time to slowly, slowly get back to myself. In fact I’m still not there yet. I still have days that are very very difficult, have days when I just don’t make it out of bed at all. But I also have days when things seem a little bit better.
The flashbacks still come, but usually it’s a case of having maybe one flashback every few days, and as horrible as it is to have them, it doesn’t compare with the torrential flashbacks I was suffering from a few months back. They still disrupt my life, still make me feel like absolute crap, because being thrust back into an abuse situation without warning is just never going to be a pleasant experience, but on some level they are manageable in the sense that there is enough space between them to be able to look at them and think about why they are happening.
Mostly, they tend to be about things I remember happening, and I think the key in these flashbacks lie within the feelings they evoke, not necessarily the content. I try to allow those feelings to surface, and to – hard as it can be – accept that there is a lot of fear and shame. My conscious memory of the abuse, particularly the abuse my brother subjected me to, doesn’t really conjure up images of myself as a very small, powerless and frightened little girl, but through the flashbacks I can tell that I must have been, even if I at the time was too cut off from my own emotions to recognise this. So I guess what I am doing now is to acknowledge this side of me, this truth which I have kept under wraps for a long long time. To allow Little S space to truly exist.
Therapy is going well, feels helpful. It’s my space to just think out loud. That said, the other session I talked about how when I really get going, when I feel I’m on to something, I often drift off – almost as if I forget that I’m supposed to share my thought process along the way. I just grow silent and still and think inside my head, and I’m sure this must be frustrating for A. at times, but I guess it’s just the way I work. Also, the fact that I am aware of it, that I’ve been able to talk to A. about this tendency to just go quiet, means that I can work on it. And it’s given me the opportunity to talk about why I think I do this, what it is I find so frightening about sharing thoughts that aren’t fully formed, what it is I might be trying to protect or prevent from happening, through leaving A. [and others] out.
While I was at Drayton Park, A. told me something I already knew, but had not wanted to think about; she’s pregnant. I knew this even before going home this summer, but because A. hadn’t said anything about it, I essentially buried it, chose not to think about it. But now that it’s out in the open, well, naturally, it has an immediate effect on my therapy, both in the here and now; the themes that come up in my sessions, and the more practical side to it: that there will be a major break in my therapy in a not too distant future.
There is no getting away from it: there are absolutely days when it is really really hard to come to session and see A. sitting there looking oh-so-very-pregnant, when all I’ve ever wanted for myself is to have a child, feeling very aware that time is slipping away from me and my worst fear; that I may never get to be a mother, forms an icy shell around my heart. There are moments when I feel insanely jealous of her, her baby, her life. But there are also times when I feel genuinely through-and-through happy for her, excited about this amazing little miracle growing inside of her, and noticing subtle changes in the way she responds to the things I talk about – a soft gentleness in her tone, especially when I talk about that frightened little child I was back then.
So, there is progress in my therapy and in my life in general. Tiny tiny steps forward, towards a better understanding of myself, of who I am, of how I relate to others, and how others relate to me. And I feel I’m on the right track. Feel I’m getting somewhere.
But it’s not easy.
And it isn’t over.
There is much to be done.
Be kind to yourselves,
A tiny musical gem; Janet Devlin singing Adele’s Someone Like You