Today I landed slap-bang directly in a pit of painful emotions – loss, nostalgia, sadness, jealousy, longing, just to name a few. I took an accidental step back in time and was put in touch with my inner child once again. I walked back into an old treatment centre of mine where I spent a lot of time as a patient, and which I became (and remain) incredibly attached to – and it triggered my core struggles around attachment and related neuroses once again.
One of the main reasons I am so attached to this place is because of the relationships I formed with the members of staff who work there. Whilst I was there, I was lucky enough to have two of the most unconditionally supportive, emotionally intelligent, wise and wonderful therapists in the world (let’s call them H and S).
I started working with H from the onset and our therapy only terminated when she had to go on maternity leave about a year later. This process and her ‘abandoning’ me, to have a ‘real’ daughter of her own, was excruciatingly painful. After she left, I worked with S for a further year and a half or so. Although at first she became my rebound, with time I grew to love her just as intensely as I had done H. Sadly, this included the attachment-related struggles which manifested in much the same way.
My experiences with both of these women were ones of such depth and importance to me, and I will hold my love and gratitude for them close to my heart until the day I die. I cherished and depended on these two therapists in a way that was so huge and so painful. It is literally impossible to put across the extent of my internal experiences regarding them in words. It is equally perplexing to try and understand how I can feel so close, held by and emotionally ‘fixed’ (within a moment) by certain people, and yet simultaneously this person can remain representative of so much of the pain I have ever known.
Every Wednesday morning, there is an ED aftercare psychotherapy group at this treatment centre, which is open to any resident, client or allumni member indefinitely and unconditionally. I can’t go every week because the sheer intensity of what I feel when I go back is like being hit by a high-speed train of emotion. However it remains of real value to me that I keep up at least some form of connection with this place and the people there, and so the effective choice for me is to go back once a month or so.
Knowing that H herself is the co-facilitator of the group I attend, and that S always arrives to see clients just as that group ends, I do have to prepare myself for the double-whammy (H and S) of attachment-related thoughts, feelings and sensations I am likely to experience. Ironically, today actually ended up being an unexpected triple-whammy: as I approached the building I recognised a face in the front window of a woman who worked at one of my other old rehabs, where I had a rather traumatic and painful stay, who has now transferred to this one. She was actually very kind and pleasantly surprised to see me, but because of my history at the other rehab, I remained hyper-vigilant, suspicious and uptight.
My anxiety truly sky rocketed, and I remained vulnerable and alert from there-on. The group was as impressively run (by H) and emotive as it always is, but as usual, I was too nervous and ashamed to take the time to talk. All I could think about whilst in that room with H was how much I still miss her. All I could feel was an aching gaping yearning desire to have her back in my life again. All I could sense was an all-consuming emptiness and a gnawing unrest deep within my core. I felt so young, needy, desperate and deficient.
After the group ended, I went into the staff office to say goodbye to H and the others. At that moment, S came through the front door, and I practically jumped into her arms. She was in a bit of a rush and there were lots of people in the room, so she didn’t stay for very long, and my stomach dropped because I craved to spend more time and conversation with her. I scurried out as I felt myself getting overwhelmed. I walked into the lounge where my friend L was waiting for me, and I started crying as soon as she asked if I was alright. It didn’t last long, it was a short and composed outburst, and the bulk of the pain remained within me – I didn’t want to cause a scene. L was comforting and validating (she understands the depth of my attachment-related struggles as she has been there throughout my process with both H and S) and she asked me what I needed.
I realised that what I really needed was a hug from H. So I got myself together and went right back into the office where she was still sitting. I came straight out and told her how much I miss her, and asked if I could have a hug. She told me she was proud of me for stating my needs, said how lovely it was to see me, and gladly obliged with the hug. I was filled with warm butterflies and loving vibes… and then we had to leave to get lunch.
This is the problem: the care-givers I attach to are not purely the cure to my suffering, they are also the trigger (and momentary cause) for it.
(If you are interested, here is another related blog post from a differing perspective. I wrote it the first time I went back to said treatment centre upon my return from residential in Boston.)