Attachment Pain is Back

Things have been up and down over the last few weeks, but one thing is for sure. Over the past few days, attachment pain related to my therapist has sprung back in an overwhelming way and I find myself stuck in that place of rejection and hopelessness once again.

I thought that maybe I was starting to get somewhere with this attachment stuff. But unfortunately my attachment pain hasn’t really got much better. I think it possibly comes and goes in waves more than it used to, and the periods of it taking over my life are probably less frequent than they were; my therapist and I certainly have less numerous and catastrophic ruptures. However, I’m currently in a period of high attachment pain and I cannot say that the distress of it is any less than it has been before.

Sometimes when I’m not in as much pain I forget just how unbearable it feels. But now that I am IN it, it feels like this pain is all that has ever existed and all that ever will.

I love DBT. It has saved my life in many ways. But regardless, when it comes to these attachment difficulties, DBT skills never seem to be enough. I hate it when they tell me that this pain will eventually extinguish because I see no evidence of that. Instead it just seems to peak and peak and peak….. then keeps me stranded, alone, in the most excruciating emotional pain anyone could experience.

Sometimes DBT can feel a bit “surface” and like a mostly “top down” approach. But my belief is that I need to target this attachment stuff from the “bottom up”. My belief is that without the right sort of trauma work I won’t ever be able to fully heal from my attachment difficulties because they are a result of relational/ complex trauma that is pretty much ingrained within my cells. I am in a more trauma focused therapy at the moment although we still use DBT as an underlying framework. I am advised and encouraged to practice the skills as an addition to the trauma work, and my T constantly reiterates the importance of skills such as self-soothing and self-validating whilst we are doing this work.

However it still feels impossible and almost counter intuitive to soothe myself when the only one I want that from right now is my therapist. I am the last person I want any care from (I despise myself, I disgust myself, I want to punish myself, so why would care from myself feel nurturing or even possible!?). I understand that this is where I need to be (and is where the healthy part of me wants to be!) but how to get there is another story.

My therapist tells me the actions have to come first (“act as if”) and the feelings will follow eventually (albeit from the outside in). Like I said, I have little evidence of that as yet, but maybe as I continue with the trauma therapy things will start to shift from the inside out.

The Battle of Insatiable Neediness Vs. the Shame of Having That Need

My therapist and I managed to patch things up in my last session, after a pretty serious rupture a couple of days before. Towards the end of the session, I sought some final reassurance from her. I needed to make doubly sure before I left that things were going to work out okay in our relationship and in continuing my treatment.

“So you’re not leaving me then?” I asked, eyes wide and doe-eyed, voice high-pitched and timid like a child, “and things are going to go back to normal between us?”
“Lovey, what have I told you?”
“I know, but…” I pleaded, “…I need you to say it again.”
She breathed out, loud and slowly. Lovingly. “So long as our work together is effective, I am not planning on going anywhere.” She smiled, a gentle smile.

She had that look on her face. The look of compassion and love and curiosity and sadness. The look that says “I am here. I care about you. I see your pain.”

I could breathe a little more freely again.

Usually after these ruptures I need a hug. On one hand I think it’s to confirm that things are okay between us. I need the reassurance. On the only hand, it’s for the comfort. When I’m in that pit of sadness, a hug from my therapist feels like a little spark of hope and light within the dark. When she hugs me it breathes life into me. It makes me feel whole for a moment. She is also the only person I feel safe hugging me like that; the only person I really have to hug me at all. It means the world to feel safe and held for five seconds every week.

An inner tug of war was bubbling inside of me.
“I need a cuddle. It hurts so bad. I can’t leave without a hug. It’s only all better if she gives you a hug. Tell her you need a hug. Quick, you can’t leave without a hug!”
And the other half of me, screaming the opposite. “Don’t do it, don’t you dare. You don’t deserve a hug. What if she says no? It’s not worth the risk. Stop being such a fucking child! She doesn’t want to hug you, anyway. LEAVE”

The urge was too strong to resist. The power of the need to be held was greater than the power of the shame that was holding me back from asking. Two impossibly infinite forces. And yet, only one possible outcome.

I took the plunge. “Please can I have a cuddle?”
I think I said it in my Little’s voice again. And I could not for the life of me look her in the eye.
She touched my arm, affectionately. “What would the function of that be right now, lovey?”
“I just… I just need a hug”.
“You know I’m happy to give you hugs. But I think you are seeking reassurance. And I think we need to come back to this next session. What is the function of getting a hug from me, right now, do you think?”

My cheeks were flushing and I could feel the shame erupting from within me. The shame. The cataclysmic shame. And so I started getting angry, although I doubt she knew it. It was my usual HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME FEEL SHAME response, typical of this dynamic.

“What’s going on for you right now?” she asked, “what feelings are you noticing.”
“I just NEED you to HUG ME.” I was getting antsy, and my Little was silently raging.
“What feeling are you noticing, lovey?”
“I’m just so fucking embarrassed”, I said, trying to hold back the tears. I cry when I’m angry. I cry when I feel ashamed.

And oh, the SHAME. The shame for asking. The shame for needing. The shame for admitting that need. The shame the shame the shame. The shame for being. There are no words to describe that shame. I wished the ground could swallow me up and make me disappear off the face of the Earth.

She stroked me arm; a gesture of compromise, I suppose. I shrugged her off of me.
“Don’t”, I hissed, “I don’t feel in control when it’s like that.”
It wasn’t fair that she could touch me on HER terms, yet wouldn’t hug me on MINE. I felt more uncomfortable and confused that way than if she hadn’t touched me at all.
“Okay honey. I won’t touch you. We’ll talk about this next week. This is all giving us information; this is valuable stuff. Look after yourself, and I’ll see you in a few days.”

I couldn’t look at her. I left in a sulk. I love her so much. But I hated her in that moment too. I had exposed myself, raw and vulnerable, in asking for that hug. Just a hug. And I even begged. Just for a fucking hug. And she still declined.

My Little doesn’t know the difference between whether a hug is for reassurance or comfort or what, and neither does it care. But my Little knows that feeling of rejection well. That feeling doesn’t need discerning. It is the one feeling I have tried to avoid all my life. That hurt. That shame. That sting.

So I left, defeated and helpless, regressed and broken once again. And as I left, I collapsed onto the stairs in tears trying desperately not to let the progress we had made in that session unravel before me in an instant. And whilst I could rationalise what was happening within me, and whilst I knew on one hand why my therapist did what she did, I couldn’t stop the punitive voices that pelted my brain like a rifle opening fire. All that anger, that rejection, every morsel of negative affect of the last 3 minutes was redirected straight onto myself.
“Well what did you expect? You got what you deserved. You shouldn’t have bloody asked and I told you not to but you didn’t listen. You are weak, so needy, so fucking greedy it disgusts me. You are an embarrassment. You are flawed. And you are entirely unworthy of love.”

Another Rupture with My Therapist

I went in and she immediately asked for my Diary Card, which is what she does only when she is annoyed with me, instead of asking outright how I am. I gave it to her; she looked over it, and asked how I wanted to spend the session. I told her I wanted to apologise for breaking my commitment to her on Friday (a behaviour that I had promised I would stop doing) and texting on Saturday about it (even though I had good intentions in simply recommitting to her as I was struggling to not continue giving in). 

I over-apologised and took the blame and full responsibility for the situation. I showed that I felt regretful and understanding and grateful to her. I didn’t let any of my anger or hurt or confusion spill out about the situation that led up to this, which is too long and complex to go into now. I put my own hurt aside because I was desperate to resolve the conflict and knew that getting emotional about it would only perpetuate the rupture. 

But it didn’t work. She told me that, quite frankly, she was annoyed with me. She said that I continuously push her boundaries and that something within our dynamic isn’t helpful. And that there is a clear pattern of me setting up interactions in which I end up being or feeling “punished” by her as a consequence – as though that’s a position I subconsciously recreate for myself. 

I tried to explain to her that it isn’t personal – it isn’t about HER specifically – and that my attachment issues follow me with every single therapist I see. “I warned you about this”, I reminded her. It is how I am in relation to all therapists I have, no matter what they do or don’t do, no matter what their approach or ways of interacting with me are. She said that she believes she has not been boundaried enough with me and that she keeps giving in to this complex dynamic between us in a way that isn’t helpful to either of us; that I suck her in and she keeps extending herself; but that ultimately it sets her up to fail and only adds to the pain that I already experience and recreates past relational difficulties.

Out of nowhere, she told me that one solution available to us is that I see another therapist. I froze in absolute shock. After building up my trust with her over two years and starting to finally believe that maybe she could be the first therapist to not leave me, give up on me and hand me on to someone else, here she was announcing the prospect of me seeing someone other than her. 

How could she claim that this was one of her solutions? Me transferring to another therapist would be the total opposite of a solution. It would be her admitting that there is no solution – I am beyond help – and passing me over to yet another clinician to try and have a go at dealing with such an impossible and hopeless case. Me.

I erupted. I broke. I totally lost it. The tears, the anger, the hurt. I could not speak for the shock. 

And then, the shame. The shame because how dare I be shocked that my therapist is considering leaving me. Of course she is considering leaving me; that’s what everyone does. Everyone leaves me. I am flawed. I am irreparable. I am supposed to be left. Why would anyone ever not leave me? How dare I let myself think for even one moment that maybe someone was here to stay.

As time went on and I continued to express my feelings in response to her “solution”, she said she wanted to clarify – that I was catastophising. It felt like she was trying to cover her tracks, to be honest, but I just don’t know anymore. She said that no, she wasn’t giving up on me, and that transferring therapists was just one possible solution to me being ineffective and these issues between us. I reminded her that yes I was ineffective this week; but look at where I’ve come from, look at how I have managed myself and our relationship in recent months. I asked her to focus on that instead of the one week I fucked up, especially as I was recognising and taking full responsibility for my actions and doing everything in my power to get back on track.

She couldn’t understand that the fact she even so much as THOUGHT about me seeing another therapist could be what was causing me such distress, regardless of whether that might happen or not. Even if that is only one of 100 solutions, if she could think of that as being a possible answer, then she has totally betrayed me. Just the knowledge that she had considered me seeing a different therapist to her in itself was enough to bring my whole world crashing down.

The session was a mess. I couldn’t look at her. I could not stop my tears. My head felt like it was about to explode.

About half way through, she started to really bother me. She started yawning and shuffling and shifting, and even went to the toilet during our session for the first time ever. She also got up and stood by the heater, started stretching her legs, moved the table and her chair into different positions – all things she has never done before. I was feeling really uncomfortable with all of the above and trying to understand why she was acting so differently to usual. I was completely honest with her, brutally honest. It was clear I was pissed. I needed her to know it. I told her how uncomfortable I felt with all the above and how angry and confused it left me. I told her that how she was interacting with me was making me question reality and what was going on for her and between us, making me hypervigilant and scared, making me feel unsafe. 

She started describing her symptoms to me, expressed a pain in her legs, a sleepiness, a disconnection, and agreed that she was in fact restless and discombobulated like I had noticed. She told me that there was no personal reason why she should be feeling that way, and that usually when she has this experience within a session (for no tangible reason related to herself) it’s because her client is dissociating. Making it all about me.

I told her I was no more dissociated than usual. I mean fuck I was dissociated, but I’m always dissociated – and she’s never been like that with me. She yawned again, in fact it happened 4-5 times overall. By the last one, I flipped out and forcefully requested for her to PLEASE STOP YAWNING. I reiterated how distressed I was feeling off the back of how she was interacting with me, told her I felt like she was annoyed, bored, waiting for the session to end, wanting to get rid of me, unable to focus on me and not understanding my distress. I explained how her behaviour was making me feel the need to assess her with more scrutiny and attend to the situation taking the focus off of myself; that it was making me want to look after or fix her, which I didn’t feel was appropriate.

When I told her these things she told me that I was judging and mind-reading, and that I needed to pull back and watch where my brain was taking me. She said I was trying to find any evidence I could to fit my emotions. WHAT. I was actually trying to use evidence from observable behaviours and reality (i.e her yawning and restlessness for example) in order to try and develop an informed understanding of what the fuck was going on between us. 

She said I needed to check the facts of the situation, but that was exactly what I was doing, and the facts were that she WAS behaving very weirdly with me. She again told me that “weird” was a judgment. And when I said “you know what I mean”, she responded that “actually no, I can’t mind read, can I?”. I felt like she was pressing my buttons on purpose, being so obstructive, passive aggressive and insensitive. It felt traumatising.

When I accused her of acting bored or angry with me, she started arguing that how she felt in terms of the sleepiness and restlessness was no reflection of how she was consciously feeling in relation to me (i.e. She wasn’t angry or bored) – bringing it back to the “this is what happens when my client dissociates” excuse. Once again, I felt like I was being blamed for her odd behaviour, and being punished for feeling distressed about it. 

Her justification also pissed me off more, because as humans we exist in relation to other people, and if we notice something different in one person in a dyadic relationship, it’s probably telling of something that is going on within that relationship. It’s not just about one person – it’s not just about “the client dissociating”. The therapist brings their own shit too. Her shit was definitely coming out in the session. Plus, I have often been more dissociated than today and yet she has never acted how she did earlier during any of those instances. 

As I started getting more angry and expressing everything I was experiencing to her, she told me that this wasn’t about me and her but that it was about me and my past relationships – specifically, my mum. I had been talking about how I feel like everything I was saying was wrong, despite my best efforts to just do right, be a good person and not cause others to suffer, all I do is end up fucking everything up for others – and in turn for myself. Instead of seeing how this actually was true within the current situation with her, she kept bringing it back to my past, asking if this was a familiar feeling to me and where it came from. 

I told her that yes it is a familiar feeling but that I don’t have many memories of my childhood and so I’m not sure where it first came from, I find it hard to access specific examples, but I am open to exploring this when we have resolved the situation between us. She told me that my inability to access my past is just another way of me dissociating and that it acts to create a smoke screen to what the actual issues are. I expressed to her I was willing to address the core issues but asked how the fuck I am supposed to do so if a) I don’t know what I’m looking for and b) I don’t have a clear idea of my childhood. I find it hard to remember how I was or how I felt and that’s not on purpose. 

She said we would have to work on ways to access that stuff together. So I asked how I could access it, and I was surprised when she told me that she didn’t know. I got even more angry. “How can you tell me that what I experience is a smoke screen to what is really there, but when I ask you as my therapist how to access what is beyond the smoke screen you get mad at me for having, you tell me you don’t even know!?” Once again, I felt I was in a lose-lose situation. 

At the end of the 90 minutes she told me that she wanted me to decide how we are going to use my Thursday session. She said that if we do EMDR, it has to come from me, as she’s not going to be another person who forces me into doing something. I get it. But I don’t feel SAFE doing trauma work with her right now, because we are in the middle of this huge rupture. I told her this, explaining that I would need to feel very comfortable with her, and like this situation is resolved, before delving into EMDR again. 

She started telling me not to use the judgment “safe” and asking me if my emotion of fear was justified? “You know where the door is, you’re not trapped in here, are you?”, instead of acknowledging why maybe EMDR right now would be fucking scary. Especially considering we are in the middle of the worst rupture we’ve ever had together and it is incredibly distressing and inducing emotions beyond explanation in me. Who gives a fuck if fear is DBT-defined “justified” in terms of my “life being in danger”; the important thing is that how I was feeling today was fucking VALID. Even I could validate myself for once in my life.

I felt completely unseen. She seemed totally unable to validate how or why I was in such a distressed state, and couldn’t see my feelings as justified, sticking rigidly to those DBT definitions. I thought, “After you trying to assure me for almost 2 years that you feel a certain way about me and are never going to give up on or leave me, for me to then hear that you have considered the possibility of me transferring to another therapist, HOW AM I NOT SUPPOSED TO NOT HAVE EMOTIONS (and valid judgments) IN RESPONSE TO THAT?!!?”

I walked out of the session without eye contact or a thank you, because I hate her guts right now and am beyond hurt that I cannot even describe this pain. All I want to do is hurt myself. But I’m not, because some part of me still wants to fix our relationship and the likelihood of that happening if I am “ineffective” is slim to none. The fact that I am not giving in to urges, merely because of how doing so would worsen the situation in terms of our relationship, is making me hate myself even more. Because why am I so invested in saving (what feels like on my own) a relationship with someone who has hurt me so unbelievably much. 

Why do I love and hate her in the way that I do? Even though she has hurt me in a way I never thought she would, and betrayed all the trust that has taken me so long to build with her, why do I still feel like she’s the most significant person in my world? 

Dissociating and Regressing to a Childlike State

Something terrifying happened in therapy this week. We had been talking about difficult childhood memories, although I was dazed enough that I wasn’t finding it particularly painful. When that came to a natural end, we moved on to talk about something irrelevant. Very soon however, a wave of fatigue and heaviness started to come over me. I tried to push it away as I usually do with these things, but it was much thicker and weightier than usual and I was slowly losing control.

I didn’t tell my therapist I was dissociating because I thought I could control it. However, after a certain amount of time had gone by and it was still getting stronger, it became pretty self-evident. By the time she noticed the extent of the hold it had on me, I was too far gone to bring myself back. She tried to get me to make eye contact and move a little, but I was too taken over by this point.

My legs had started shaking and were now bouncing up and down uncontrollably, as though I was having a seizure. However, the rest of my body was paralysed. My eyes were closed and I couldn’t open them, I was unable to move my head from the position it was in, and as desperately as I was trying to shout “HELP ME”, I could not speak any words. In some ways it resembled a panic attack, but based on my previous panic attacks, this was very different. It was a severe dissociative episode in which I had lost total control over my body.

I can’t remember what order this all happenened in but there was more to it than just the dissociation. As well as dissociating, I seemed to have regressed into a childlike state at some point around that time in the session. I felt I had no control over this and that I was not me, it was not a choice thing and my consciousness was very different to usual. This baby version of me was far less restrained in her mannerisms. Apparently it became very obvious that I was not quite myself any longer. Usually I am very controlled; but in those moments I expressed myself as a baby would with no restraint or my usual infinite shame. Rationality and higher brain functions didn’t exist, I was back to an infant-like mode of being.

My therapist was talking to me in a soothing voice to match my baby state, and when all of my other senses had muted, her voice was the one thing keeping me tied to reality. When the shaking got so bad, she came over to try and help ground me by talking me through what I needed to do slowly and grounding me with her touch (with permission) on my shaking knees and feet. I was slowly able to move parts of my body although my legs were still shaking of their own accord. When my voice returned I started begging between gasps of breath for her to make the shaking stop as it was highly distressing. Eventually we managed to get me to the bathroom to use cold water for ice diving which calmed my system down massively and triggered me back into reality enough to attempt conversation as an adult again.

The highest intensity part of the whole episode probably lasted 20 minutes but the residual disconnect and fear lingered on and on and on. My therapist walked me out because I was in such a daze and stayed with me until her next client. I don’t think she had ever seen me like that. As I was walking, it was as though I was on the moon. Everything was in slow motion and I couldn’t bear to look at people because they looked so alien to me.

It took me about four times longer than usual to get to the station because I was so out of it, freaked out and lost in my own little world. My memory of the whole thing is fragmented and I don’t know what came first – the dissociation or regression or if they were one and the same. But it was fucking terrifying and confusing and I can’t find much at all online in the way of answers.

I reckon the regression was serving as a coping mechanism. Without me even realising my system had become overwhelmed with this childhood stuff and its way of dealing with that was to cut off and almost compartmentalise different parts of myself.

I also think that this regression episode was functioning as an inadvertent non-verbal method of communication. It was showing both myself and my therapist where I was at emotionally, and what I subsequently needed. The sadness was so big but because I wasn’t able to recognise it from my adult self, the baby version of me could express it instead in an expressive and unrestrained way. This included talking in a baby voice, asking incessantly for cuddles, curling up into a fetal position on the chair, and getting my therapist to swaddle me in a blanket I could hide under.

I was so ashamed after I started to come out of the state, but my therapist told me that I had nothing to apologise for, and that what happened was giving us information – information that we could use. I think she is right in that the episode provided a lens into some of the unresolved issues from my past, so that we can use what happened to inform how we move forward and help me heal from that together.

I Build Homes Within People

I had therapy today. No EMDR, no DBT; we just talked for a double session. It was exactly what I needed. 

At one stage in the session we discussed my perception of “home”. I explained to her that home isn’t a physical place for me, but that I build homes for myself within people. The only times I’ve felt truly “at home” have been when in the holding of an authority figure who I am attached to. For example, when she hugs me, I feel like I have arrived home. It’s why I was so upset when she told me that she wasn’t going to hug me any more.

Towards the end of the session, my therapist said that she had been thinking about me and my experiences of our relationship. She told me that she recognises how challenging it can be for me when we have interpersonal conflicts, but that conversely she also knows that when things are going more calmly between us I find it extremely rewarding and motivating. She said she wonders if we could find ways to help us use our relationship in a way that is more sustainably healing, instead of letting it become a regular obstacle to the work we do together when interpersonal difficulties arise.

She asked me if I had any suggestions of ideas that could be helpful for us to put in place, in line with this. I joked that we could go to a fun fair together, because we both love fun fairs, just to test the waters. I asked her what she was thinking though, realistically. She suggested that I could meet her for lunch or coffee during her breaks every so often on days I don’t have therapy, for example. I felt so touched and happy that she was offering me such a reward, as I really wasn’t expecting it. 

For a while I started getting paranoid, confused and scared because I didn’t understand why she was being so nice to me or what was going on. I didn’t understand why it was impacting me so much either, because surely I should only be feeling positive emotions in response to her offer? I told her about my confusion and anxiety and we processed it a little. I’m so scared of losing something so hopeful that I feel paralysed to move from the spot I’m in right now, just in case anything goes wrong. It’s also more familiar and natural for me to be in a place of fear or uncertainty with authority figures as that is what I’m used to.

I asked her why she was bringing this up to try and get some clarity. She told me that she wanted to reinforce how effective I was being in session. She said she had never experienced me as being as open and ‘congruent’ as I was today, ever before. I joked that it must have been my pain meds making me high and disinhibited. She told me that actually my vulnerability was making her want to get closer to me. She said she noticed her own urges to scoop me up and hold me and make everything better. I told her “you can if you’d like”. She smiled at me with compassion. I wish.

Then she told me that she just wanted to make it clear to me that her care and love for me are unconditional and that they don’t cease to exist outside of the therapy room. She used the word love. I almost melted. 

She asked me what I wanted to do; if I had any ideas for motivators or positive reinforcers. I had many ideas. I thought, “I want to come over to your house in my pyjamas and watch documentaries about nature, whilst you cuddle me and stroke my hair and tell me how much you love me”. I wasn’t brave enough to verbalise that fantasy but coffee or lunch sounds like a start so I will settle for that for now. 

I am so grateful and in love with her (in a non romantic way) that it aches my insides. I want to spend all my time with her. I feel like a baby or toddler with severe separation anxiety…

At the end I asked her shyly if I could have a hug. She hasn’t given me a hug since the hugging ban was put in place after our last interpersonal conflict. Despite this, she gave me the hugest and most comforting hug. It wasn’t a cold hard hug, it was a proper emotional cuddly hug – I felt the affection and care and was able to internalise the moment for real. She wished me a safe journey for trip next week and said “take care lovey”

The feeling we had talked about above was back. I felt that rare feeling of such safety and holding. I felt like I had arrived home.

Catch Me When I Fall

So many emotions. 

I thought I was fine, after everything with my sister (see this post here). But I have crumbled today slightly. Not that anyone knows it.

I got home from my extra session of therapy and sobbed quietly for a couple of hours. I wasn’t even necessarily aware that I was crying; the tears just kept streaming of their own accord. I felt dissociated but pained at the same time. It’s hard to explain. My body was doing the crying – communicating the sadness to me – but my brain had cut off for a while. 

I keep flipping from numb to full of emotions. From managing to falling apart. From dutifully caring for everyone around me to feeling like the neediest tiniest loneliest most vulnerable baby in the world.

And then there is the additional dilemma I find myself in: that throughout all of the trauma of the last few days, the only thing that makes it any better is the comfort of my therapist. Obviously I cannot carry her in my pocket 24/7. So even though she is being the most wonderful support to me, I miss her every second that I am not directly with or talking to her. 

I just want her to scoop me up and rock me like a baby. I feel so vulnerable and young, like the only thing that could soothe my sadness even just for a moment is her embrace. I need her to hold me so tightly, so that she can stop me from falling. 

And the fact I cannot have that… well that hurts more than anything.

Therapy is Tearing Me Apart

Recently I have noticed that every time I leave therapy I feel so much worse than I did when I arrived. I know all that cliché shit about how “it has to get worse before it gets better” and “no pain no gain” and all that. But recent weeks have felt different and I think she is feeling it too. It is as though the therapeutic relationship and current issues between the two of us are overpowering all the other work I need to do – so that literally the only thing we are talking about is “us” and the numerous ruptures in our relationship. 

I’m so tired of my issues with attachment getting in the way of, well, working through my issues with attachment. It is such a paradox. I go to therapy to try heal from my difficulties, but instead, because of the nature of my struggles and how attached I am to my therapist, I end up in more pain than I was in in the first place.

A couple of days after issues arise in therapy I may start feeling slightly more stable and at peace. I go to therapy for my subsequent session, and bam, I become dysregulated and emotionally, physically and mentally unsettled all over again. It feels like yet another lose-lose situation in my life. I am working really hard but these issues are just permeating through everything, making the healing process so much bloody harder than it otherwise would be.

I wish I had no attachment whatsoever to my therapist, it would be so much easier. Then I could just go to therapy, work on what needs to be worked on, and leave with a sense of closure. (I know it’s not that simple but ya know.) Instead, the therapeutic relationship just leads me to become even more dishevelled than I already am. 

My attachment issues are definitely my core struggle but it is just so ironic how this is also the core obstacle stopping me from effectively dealing with the core struggle! I cannot get over how messy the healing process from this is proving. It is just so disheartening how consistently “attachment stuff” continues to get in the way of my therapy, no matter how hard I work in all other aspects of my process.

It gets better for a while but then it inevitably gets worse again. The whole thing is so slow, and I worry I am not making much progress, if any (with regards to this). I feel so stuck. It has been so many years of the same struggle. Maybe I would be better off being out of therapy?

Therapy Update: 17th May

Today, something came up, and I wanted to be there for my therapist, instead of having her be there for me. I felt guilty because of the circumstances and was struggling to talk about myself in the usual way. I just wanted to look after her feelings, not for her to look after mine! Interestingly, she seemed to know pretty much exactly what was going on for me before I had even elaborated, (once she had dragged it out of me)!

It got me thinking about how unusual it is in life to be in any sort of relationship that is, for the most part, totally unidirectional. Personally, I am used to giving and helping; to being there for everyone around me; to extending myself quite a lot to those in need – and often, to the detriment of myself. I am incredibly codependent, regularly attempting to soothe the pain of those around me far before even considering soothing my own.

But I can not do much of that with my therapist, and whenever I try to, she knows immediately and blocks me from engaging in my usual patterns. Today, it was not even a matter of codependency. I just genuinely wanted to protect and be there for her, due to various reasons, and because it is important to me to try and support people I care about and show them that I am there.

Anyway, as the session continued we starting talking about childhood matters, again. I panicked when she asked me to go into my body, but luckily averted a panic attack by doing some grounding exercises. These body sensations are terrifying me though, and are a huge block to me feeling able to do this deeper work together. We talked about that a little, and she really seemed to know what she was talking about with regards to body memories. She told me to read a book called “The Body Keeps the Score”, which everyone in my old treatment centre was obsessed with. I guess I should knuckle down and read it…

So, it is clear that we are moving on to bigger things, beyond Stage 1 DBT. I know this because she said that the health insurance people had emailed for an update, and that she had told my case manager that we have come to the end of the stabilisation phase of therapy and are now moving on to trauma-focused work.

After she said that, I hid behind my coat in an attempt to block out reality. It reminded me of how I used to cover my ears as a child and scream “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA” as loudly as I could, whenever I needed to block the rest of the world out. Suddenly it all felt very real and I was about 6 years old again. Come to think of it, I have been feeling about 6 years old for quite a long time now, actually.

A Special Therapy Session

Today in therapy I adopted a somewhat different mindset to usual. My usual level of dissociation (after 20 minutes of talking) was accompanied by a notable (and atypical, for me) lack of enthusiasm about being stuck in that room. Being attached to my therapist however, I still wanted to spend as much time with her as I could – I just didn’t feel up to doing it in the conventional therapeutic way.

So, I put on my best puppy-dog-eyed look, turned to her and said,
“I’m really not ‘feeling’ therapy today, wanna go outside and sun bathe instead?!”

She was humming and haa-ing and wondering out-loud, clearly wanting to take up my offer (she loves sun, and would get to have a smoke) but weighing up whether that would be effective or not.
“If I say yes to your request, missy”, she asked, “Would I be encouraging your avoidance?”
“Maybe!” I said, eyes still wide, “But it’s sunny out, we need to make the most of it, and we both REALLY need a cigarette!”

She rolled her eyes but secretly I’m sure she was pleased. So we gathered our stuff and ventured outside to a little green area by the practice, where we laid down on the grass in a patch of sun. We chatted and chilled for the rest of the session and it was rather cute. Awkwardly, she only had one paper left so we had to share the promised cigarette. At first, that felt super weird given our relationship, but then relievingly it was pretty normal, like how it would be with a friend.

We talked about therapeutic matters and emotions but also non-therapeutic ones. She analysed my motivation for suggesting we come outside, and I cracked some jokes about it which made her laugh although they were actually more true than not – and she probably knew it too. I told her I felt happy and that I wanted to stay there for a long time.

“What about this makes you feel happy?”, she asked.
“It just feels so normal”, I responded, “I’m not used to feeling safe around people in social situations.”
“I’m not sure about normal!” she joked, “I can’t say I’ve ever taken another client to lie down, sunbathe and smoke outside during therapy!”

I felt so special, peaceful and in the moment, it was such a lovely half hour. I got a bit sad also, so I guess I was ‘happy-sad’, because the truth is that I do not have someone in real life with whom I feel as safe and cared for as I do with her. I have people who love me and who I love, but I am not attached to them, nor do I crave their affection, in the way I do hers.

I feel like such a small child around my therapist, and today meant the world to me because the needs of that lost and lonely child were met by her. But the relationship that we have, as beautiful as it is, is also a sort of illusion. It is not something that can or will ever exist in ‘reality’, outside of the therapeutic context. And for that, I am very sad.

As we walked back in the direction of her office, almost getting run-over because we both suck as crossing roads, I joked,
“Imagine if I got run over whilst on this adventure with you…”
“Yikes”, she joked back, “Now how would I explain THAT one to your Mother?!”

Just An F-ing Dream

I was on the phone to my therapist for skills coaching. At the end of the phone call, as I was about to put the phone down, she gently said my name.

“Yes?”  I questioned, waiting for her reply.

“I love you sooo much”  She said, an emphasis on the ‘so’. I was utterly taken aback. 
“Did you just say that!?”  I asked, trying to keep my cool.

“Yes, I did. And I would like us to discuss it in our next session together. It is important that we process what hearing it brings up for you” 

A vision of her cooing over me in a motherly role popped into my head. My heart fluttered with one thousand butterflies. A smile broke across my face and refused to go down. 

She had finally told me that she loved me, and I could finally relax with relief and youthful glee and a feeling of being whole again.

And then of course, as tends to happen in these situations, I frikkin’ woke up didn’t I?

‘It was just a dream, The End’ and all that. 

Of course it was just a dream. Of course my therapist can never say she loves me. Of course she cannot love me, and never will, anyway.

Worry Thoughts, or Are They?

I am being bombarded with thoughts about my therapist and “what she really thinks” of me. I don’t know why it has suddenly become a Thing, as she has been incredibly supportive and gentle recently. But for some reason it is very much A Thing. And it is A Painful Thing indeed.

I love my therapist (totally non romantically) so much it hurts. She takes over my life. My life’s purpose becomes centred around her. I have lost my identity even further because I don’t exist or have worth outside of “us”. The meaning I attach to her isn’t even “real”; the relationship can never exist in the outside world where life is supposed to happen.

I am overly invested in our relationship; in pleasing her, in making her proud of me, in having regular contact, in asking after her, in creating opportunities for contact, in looking forward to our sessions more than anything else all week. I am seriously attachment disordered. 

And yet, it is unlikely that I mean even a fraction to her of what she means to me.

Some thoughts around this are –

  • I’m just another client/ case
  • She will never care about me or love me in the way I yearn for 
  • I’m just one of many
  • I am not special to her
  • It wouldn’t affect her if I quit therapy
  • It wouldn’t affect her if I killed myself
  • I’m not her favourite and never will be
  • There are so many of us
  • I’m the most burdensome
  • She would love to get rid of me
  • Our sessions impact me so deeply but she just goes home and on with her life whilst I’m doubled over in pain caused by the relationship 
  • Which doesn’t impact her in the slightest
  • Or she goes onto the next client and forgets about me 5 mins after I’ve left
  • Whilst I think about her 24/7
  • Missing her, shamefully 
  • Despite the fact she will never be missing me
  • Nothing I do is ever good enough anyway
  • She hates me
  • She’s disappointed with me
  • I’m only keeping myself safe for her
  • Everything I do is for her
  • It is so fucking tragic 

So I’m meant to label these Worry Thoughts and Mind Reading and All-or-Nothing thinking and call them distorted because they may not be true and I really cannot tell. But the thing is they may be true and some of them most probably are.  

And my head is pounding and telling me to die and I am just in so much pain. It is a catch 22 because I go to therapy to make my life better but it brings up its own pain centred entirely on the therapeutic relationship and it pulls me down so incredibly low. 

And the most depressing thing is that it is all over someone who only exists in the somewhat false reality of therapy. Surely this could be avoided? 

But then I would have to leave her. And I would rather have her and be dying of pain than not have her at all.
I feel so broken.

It is all so fucking tragic.

Jealousy and Envy in Therapy

My head is in a whirl. I am not okay.

My friend from DBT who struggles with certain behaviours has set up a sponsorship page, raising money for charity, to stop engaging in that behaviour for a certain number of days.

We have the same therapist and it was our therapists’s idea for my friend to set up the page. I struggle enough sharing a therapist with people I am friends with as it is, but then there is this on top… I just logged on to donate to my friend for her cause, when BAM. My heart almost jumped out through my throat.

There is a donation from our therapist – MY therapist – and it is not by any means a small amount. She has donated a substantial figure, and I cannot get my head around how that is okay, considering the relationship. Alongside it there is a comment saying how proud she is of my friend, and I am incredibly envious, jealous, angry and hurt.

I am not okay.

Ironically I told the girls I am friends with that I don’t get triggered just this morning in group. I didn’t mean to lie but I wanted to reassure them. The truth is I get triggered, by absolutely anything related to this struggle.

I am triggered beyond belief. All my attachment wounds and vulnerability in this area have been activated 100/100.

I am so fucking jealous and envious that I feel like I am going to burst. I am angry, and deeply ashamed at that. I am sad and scared. I am trying not to have a panic attack but I feel like I can barely breath. I am desperate for a sign from my therapist that she loves me, and that she doesn’t prefer my friend over me. I am hurting so much.

I feel like a baby. Not in a judgmental way even; I literally feel like I am a fragile desperate needy tiny vulnerable little baby. I don’t know how to regulate myself and this attachment pain without her.

I don’t know what to do.

How many times have I said that before? I am trying so hard to be effective. But there are no skills to lessen this sort of pain. This is where I call her bawling my eyes out and Emotion Mind takes over.

Therapy, Attachment, Trauma, Cognitive Distortions and Endless Tears

I struggle with the therapeutic relationship more than words can say. Today something happened at the end of my therapy session which triggered all my attachment-trauma related pain. I cannot even begin to explain it because it sounds so menial that words will not justify the impact it had on me. In short, it let to feelings of deep sadness, shame, and jealousy, and the perception that I was in some way being dismissed and rejected by her.

Despite having been in a relatively upbeat mood beforehand, I spiralled into a state of such high distress that I actually scared myself. I was so dysregulated that I was unable to be effective in accessing skills I otherwise would have. I knew I needed to ice dive but I also felt like I legitimately could not move. I was literally hyperventilating and weeping from the moment I got home until I collapsed into sleep after my system had totally exhausted itself, almost two hours later.

Throughout this time I had been calling and texting my therapist a commentary of what was going on for me, practically begging her for help. The texts came thick and fast; the desperation mounting almost to the point of threat, like how I ‘used to be’. I was convinced that she wasn’t answering me on purpose – that she was setting me up or testing me in some way – and my anger and urges off the back of this were off the charts for intensity. 

I don’t know how I didn’t give in. I was absolutely desperate for her to see just how much pain I was in – or how much pain she was ‘causing me’ to experience. (Although the fact that I was paralysed to the sofa may have had something to do with the lack of behavioural consequences.) I had wrapped myself up in blankets to weigh me down and hold me in an attempt to self-soothe, and there was no way I was leaving my cocoon in that state. 

Finally, hours later I received a very kind message from my therapist. She had been back to back in sessions and supervision which was why she hadn’t picked up my messages or calls or been able to get back to me earlier. The entire time I was convinced that she was ignoring me with thoughts of a scarily false reality taking over my brain, she had simply just been very busy. 

This failure to mentalise happens to me so often, and yet I never seem to learn. I don’t know what to do about my developmental trauma which is at the crux of it. When it lies dormant, it is as though it doesn’t even exist. But as soon as it is triggered, it becomes the end of the world for me and I go from 0 to 100 in an instant. 

I have been in so much pain today, and in ways, it has all been over nothing but an illusion. I have been bound by my past experiences and the hold that my past pain still has on me.

Having BPD hurts so much that words fail to even hint at the extent of the pain we experience. And having BPD but being in active recovery with near 100% symptomatic reduction hurts on a whole other level; because I cannot simply cut myself to release the pain I experience, I actually have to feel it all. 

I really need to heal from my past and do this trauma work, so that I am no longer stuck in this limbo state between symptomatic reduction and true recovery. 

Attaching to People Who Suck

I don’t know why I attach to people who don’t always provide me with what it is I actually need. I can still attach to people who are inconsistent or uncaring or who traumatise me further – relationally, I mean. These attachments can be toxic and yet I must have gotten something from them because otherwise I wouldn’t have felt the way I did towards them at all.

Maybe I attach to people because it is better to have someone than to have no one, even if they cannot give me what I need. Maybe the innocent ignorant child within me thinks that if I keep persisting and pushing for what it is I need, they will see how much I am hurting and take me under their wing. Or maybe they won’t, and the attachment and relationship is just an illusion. I don’t know what it is. But I loved them too, in my own way. Even if I hated their guts too. Maybe I need the pain?  

Yes, maybe I need the pain. If I didn’t have the pain, I wouldn’t know these feelings at all. I wouldn’t have anything to measure myself against or try to better understand who I am or how I got to be this way. I wouldn’t feel or be able to process any of it at all. I would be naïve. 

I need these attachments because they make me feel something. They make me feel alive and alone and connected and anguished and angry and pained and flung around and churned up inside and anxious and jealous and special and joyful and safe and conflicted and unsafe. They make me feel connected. They make me feel INTENSELY. They make me feel, full stop. 

Without them, I am even more of a floating lifeless hollow vessel. I need to attach to people and I need the intensity of the attachments because without that, what do I have? Who do I have, and how do I know it, in their absence? How else do I convince myself that the possibility of feeling whole again even exists? 

Back to Therapy

I saw my therapist in person for the first time today in 5 weeks or so due to various circumstances. I missed her a lot, and the last few weeks have been really unsettling for me in her absence.

Something felt different between us in our session today. Something about her felt softer. I can’t explain it any more than that, really. Our relationship felt less strained. She was particularly gentle.

She even expressed a desire to move onto DBT Stage 2 with me, in order to address my ‘attachment stuff’ (relational trauma), at some point within the very near future. I think it’s because I’ve been effective, despite how painful things have been recently. Because of this, we talked on a much deeper level than usual, which felt strange, and scary. (I’m used to the typical very behavioural approach she adopts with me, despite years of previous psychotherapy.)

She kept validating my pain, much more than she usually does. Any urges I had had to act my pain out through behaviours or messy interactions over recent weeks dissipated. I felt like she saw me and that was really all that I needed.

After I left the session I felt lighter than I have in quite a few weeks. My anxiety had shot down from a 4/5 to close to a 1/5. I was smiling, and I had a bounce in my walk. I even chose to listen to happy music, instead of my usual depressing tunes! It lead on to be my most manageable day mood-wise in a while.

I missed her so much. I am very happy she is back.

I Miss My Therapist

I haven’t written about it because it has felt too delicate a subject, but I haven’t actually seen my therapist in over a month in person, due to various reasons.

I miss her a lot. One moment I love her and desperately need her in so many ways. The next I am filled with anger and hatred as she seems to be the ‘source’ of my pain having done something to ‘wrong’ me yet again.

Our relationship is proving fragile and I don’t know if it’s going to last. Again. Our last session was highly emotional. She suggested the possibility of us terminating skills coaching as an option, because it always leads to interpersonal conflicts and further issues between us as I always perceive her to be rejecting of me – for example, her refusing to give me reassurance when I’m specifically asking for it in moments of excruciating loneliness, sadness or fear.

Initially I agreed with her about limiting our contact, out of simply wanting the ‘attachment pain’ to stop. But then I thought about it and sent her an email explaining why the solution wasn’t so simple.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m irreparable in terms of these attachment issues. It’s so ironic that a pretty specialised treatment such as DBT still may not be specialised enough for me to fully recover.

We’re going to be addressing this all tomorrow, and it’s not a pleasant conversation to be having – especially when our session will be over the phone. I just want her to come home so that I can jump on her and give her the biggest most desperate cuddle in the history of big desperate cuddles.

Her – A Stream of Consciousness

[I currently have a great relationship with my mother and so feel incredibly guilt-ridden experiencing my attachment difficulties as I do today. However, I have a lot of relational trauma stemming from how it ‘used to be’. I was asked to write a stream of consciousness about what I crave from mother figures, so this is what I did] – 

What do I get from female authority care-giver figures? 

I get love even if it isn’t really love. I get what feels like love. I get love in the form of time and attention and support and affection. I get love in the form of mothering. I like it when people express concern for me in a way I perceive as maternal. I liked it when my therapist expressed her disapproval towards me having only woken up at midday, because it felt motherly. If she hadn’t given a shit, she wouldn’t have bothered saying anything.

Mothers say “What time do you think this is Young Lady, get your arse out of bed this instant!” They say it because they care, and it means a lot when people show care towards me. It means everything, in fact.

Sometimes I think it is all that I live for. I feel like my whole existence up until this point has been in the pursuit of maternal love. I don’t want to feel deficient for ever. That is not a worthwhile existence, in my opinion.  

When I attach to people, it is me trying to get my baby needs met even if it’s irrational. Baby me doesn’t know that. She just knows she needs to be loved and cared for and cherished and soothed and comforted and mothered and that is all she is after. I am a baby stuck in an adult’s body; my only need in life to be mothered in a way a baby is. Baby me just wants to be loved. I just want to be loved. I just want to feel loved. It isn’t even a choice; it is instinctual.

I need to feel seen. I need attention. I am an attention whore. Attention, love, comfort, soothing are my drugs and I am addicted. I am a love addict and I am greedy for more and more and more and it is never enough.

I am needy and childlike and reliant and fragile. I need someone to look after me; that is all I know for sure. I need someone to love me so strongly that it hurts. I need someone to hold me so tight I can’t breathe. I need someone to stop me from falling. Because I keep falling. And falling and falling and falling.

I also need approval. I need someone to show me they understand me and validate the way I am feeling. I need someone to care enough to want to understand the darkest corners of my psyche and not to judge what they find. Without the approval of the figure I am unable to approve of or ultimately accept myself. I need someone else to make decisions for me and let me know if things are okay or not and what the right things to do is, so that I myself then know. I can’t trust my own judgement enough so I need her help and wisdom. I need her direction. I cannot trust my own. I am too lost and I need someone to guide me. I think she also provides me with a sense of purpose and belonging which I cannot receive anywhere else. She makes me feel like for one moment maybe I am okay for being me. 

I need to be able to try with all my might to push her away but for her to bounce back and not let me have enough power to push her over the edge; or break the bond, no matter what. I need to be able and encouraged to get angry and I need to be able to express this anger without her being scared away by me. I need to be allowed to express all emotions on the spectrum and for that to be acceptable. I need her not to give up on me like everyone else has. I need to not be too much for her, and even if and when I am, I need her to still be willing to be there for me through all the shit I put her through. I need to know it’s unconditional and that she can deal with me, regardless.  

I need her to provide me with safety and security. She will be there for me whenever I need her, and I will be able to trust that. She will treat me so gently as though my metaphorical (emotional) burns are visible on my body – raw and seeping – just like my self-inflicted scars. She will trace these scars one by one with her forefinger and her touch will imprint on me, healing me. She will hold me in her arms, stroke my hair and rub my back. I will rest my head in her lap whilst she wipes my tears and soothes my pain. I will smile at her and she will smile back and I will see love in her eyes and feel it in her touch. She will mirror my world and help me make sense of it. She will speak to me with loving words and compassion in her voice. She will take my hand and guide me through the good times and the bad, remaining by my side throughout. She will know me inside out and accept me in my entirety. 

We will be two people but we will also be one. She will make everything feel better. She will make me want to be alive again. 

Although I love her, I will not have to be responsible for her needs in the way she needs to be for mine. It will be unconditional and ongoing and even when I am the worst human being in the world she will still be there, willing to forgive because she loves me with everything she has. 

I will rely on her for all my creature comforts. I will go to her when I am distressed and she will make things better. My pain will be taken away even if just for a moment at a time; and these moments will add up like medicine accumulating in my bloodstream. 

She will soothe my internal ache and make me feel whole again. She will remove my deficiencies and I will stop yearning. She will cure me of the sickness that is my insanity. The emptiness will fade and I will become filled with warmth. I will go to her too when I am not distressed, and she will be there still. She will be there unconditionally and she will greet me with open arms and a loving smile, always. She will want me and me only and I will be hers and she will be mine. 

I build homes within people. She will become my home; my safe place; my secure base. I will have arrived home. 

Therapy And Jealousy

One of my friends from my DBT group told me something which I’ve gone totally Emotion Mind over. She told me that my therapist, who is also her therapist, told her to reach out by text twice a day to stay connected to her because she was being avoidant.

But my therapists (of course) did not say this to me and I am so angry, jealous and hurt over it!

All I have in my head is “SHE LOVES HER MORE THAN SHE LOVES ME” and I want to act on my emotions so bad.

But I can’t because it’s so weird and dramatic and ridiculous. And texting her to explain myself is not going to solve this either – if anything it’ll make it worse.

Rationalising isn’t working at all. Even though I know that I’m not avoidant in the same way as my friend is, Emotion Mind doesn’t care right now.


And around and around and around.

What do I dooooooo?

An Email to my Therapist

I sent this email to an old therapist a few years back. I feel pretty much exactly the same way with my therapist now minus the reference to eating disorder stuff. It all makes me so sad. I don’t know how to heal from it.

“I feel like I need to terminate our relationship because you can’t deal with me and I can’t deal with myself in relation to you and the guilt and shame I bring upon myself. I am too much for you and I am too much for myself to feel okay with being so dependent on you any more. I want to run away and start a new life where I can be normal and not bring pain or attachment to everyone around me. 

I am stuck between a rock and a hard place because I cannot find a balance – one extreme fills me with shame and guilt because I’m burdening and being selfish and needy, and the other with feelings of aloneness and yearning for connection because I’m effortfully withholding in an attempt to protect you, from me. 

This is the paradoxical conflict my life is based around – needing people desperately yet having such strong guilt and shame around it (my bulimia and bingeing), so instead trying to need no one and doing it alone – what I’ve heard being called “needless-wantless” (my anorexia). 

Everything is such a big deal in my head and I feel it all to the most extreme level of the emotion. Where someone else may just shrug their shoulders and move on, little things take everything out of me and it’s so exhausting. My emotions control me and are so much more powerful than I am. 

Specifically, please know that I feel powerless over the way I relate to you and that I do only want what is best for you and to not burden or hurt you any more.”

Only In My Dreams

I don’t remember much but the bits I do I will savour. It was just me and my therapist, and we were in a little swimming pool together – who knows where. All I remember is we were swimming; and her – slowly, safely – moving towards me to gather me into her arms.

The water is one of the safest places for me, and she could sense it. It was like being back in the womb, back with “mother”, but held even more tightly within that special space. She held me like I was a fragile baby and though I felt confused and awkward, it was exactly what I needed. For the first time in for ever I felt whole.

When I woke up, I cried. I cried because it wasn’t true. I cried because it never will be. I cried because I am lonely and I am sad and it has been this way for years. I cried because the comfort and soothing I crave is just an illusion of something that cannot ever exist in reality. I cried because it is too late. And then I stopped crying – because there is nothing I can do about it.