When Your Trauma Makes You Deny Your Trauma

Dealing with trauma, whether formally or informally, is layered with challenge upon challenge. One of the biggest challenges I have been facing in the early days of trauma therapy is captured in this relatable quote I recently came across online:

“The first rule of the trauma club: we dismiss our traumas because someone else has it worse.”

Without fail, a large bulk of my recent trauma therapy sessions have become wrapped up in the above. We then end up spending so long challenging my self-judgments, the minimising, the comparing and the dismissing, that a lot of the deeper work gets sidelined. In fact, my therapist and I have realised that by me getting caught up in these cognitive distortions about the validity of what I have or have not been through, it is just another way of my brain deflecting from feelings and pain.

Every time my thoughts go down the avenue of “it wasn’t that bad”, “it doesn’t really count”, “so-and-so had it worse”, “it isn’t real trauma”, I end up moving further away from the true impact of what I’ve been through. As long as I’m stuck in a cycle of invalidating what’s happened to me, I can’t fully experience the pain that is associated with it.

I think, for a lot of us, a vital part of trauma work has to be around tackling this obstacle. Whether that’s by blocking the cognitive distortions when they come up, or challenging the self-judgments and invalidation directly, there is something important about noticing what function the thoughts serve in order to move forward in spite of them. 

I am supposed to try and remind myself when I notice the invalidating thoughts come up that “this is where my brain goes” to try and create a little distance. Thoughts are not facts, as they say in DBT. Pausing and saying to myself, “Wait, this is one of my brain’s clever ways of deflecting from what’s really going on” allows me to make a choice about whether I continue to go with that trail or not. I can either choose to perpetuate the self-berating, self-judging and self-invalidating. Or, I can try something else. I can encourage myself to notice the actual feelings that are there, the ones I try so hard to avoid, and let myself fully experience them. I can try and penetrate the smokescreen.

My brain has learnt 101 ways to disconnect from my experiences, because it’s so much easier to avoid them. But when avoidance seeps into every aspect of my life – including in trauma therapy where the whole point is to work towards reassociating and processing all the cut-off past experiences that I have avoided for so many years – it clearly isn’t serving me any more. 

So the challenge these days is to really notice where my brain is going, watching my thoughts from a distance and deciding what train I’m going to go with. The “my trauma isn’t really trauma” train might be an easier ride, but it isn’t going to get me very far. The alternative train, on the other hand, whilst terrifying and jerky and unfamiliar, might actually get me places.

I guess it all goes back to what an old therapist onces told me. As painful as it might be, in order to heal, we have to feel.

Scars, Stigma and Sadness

Today was sad. I had a beautician appointment with a new clinician. I hate those sorts of appointments, they bring up their own triggers and vulnerabilities every time. But this beautician in particular made things even trickier to manage.

I have scars over various areas of my body, and they were exposed. She made a handful of inappropriate (and highly unprofessional) comments. I will give a few examples of the things she said:

“Why do you do this to yourself? You are so beautiful and young”

“Aren’t you upset with yourself? Look at what you’ve done”

“You should really consider getting them covered with tattoos, then people won’t ask questions”

“But what will your boyfriends/ future husband think!?”  [This assumption is honestly the worst, I can’t stand such heteronormativity – UGH!]

“If you do it again, I’ll tell your Mum and she can sort you out”

“Oh babe, you’re crazy”

She kept on making comments, and we kept on going around in circles. I envisioned having a conversation with my therapist and her coaching me through the interaction. But even though I knew the interpersonal skills I needed to use, I was far from being able to implement them.

I left the appointment feeling a ton of mixed messy feelings. Her comments and attitude made me feel even more uncomfortable (quite literally) in my own skin than I already was. Everything she said highlighted and reiterated to me all the fears and self-judgments I have about myself. There I was, being told in so many words, just how unacceptable I am. It hurt.

The worst thing is, the woman was trying to be nice. She genuinely thought that she was being considerate and helping me with her oh so fucking fabulous words of wisdom. She had no idea about the impact of what she was saying. She had no idea how unaware and insensitive she was being. And I remained stuck, frozen, unable to stand up for myself. As always.

Nevertheless, ironically, all those feelings turned in on myself. Self-disgust. Self-hatred. “YOU ARE SO WEAK – why didn’t you DO something?”. Self-blame. Familiar feelings of inaction and paralysis. A spiral of shame. A desire to hide, to hurt myself, to destroy the unacceptable.

I am trying to remind myself that this is just the opinion of one woman. One woman who doesn’t know the first thing about mental illness, who lives in a world very different to my own, who is irrelevant to my life except for one hour every 6 weeks.

But I guess the truth in all of this is that I am sad. I am sad because my scars are a result of the things I have been through. It doesn’t matter what schtick I get for them, they do not exist for no reason. I am also sad because as much as they are a part of me, and as much as they interfere with my life, the only reason they do interfere is because of people like her. Inherently, I don’t hate my scars. I don’t see them as bad. They are mine and they are a part of my experience as a human being. I have come to accept them as a part of me – just one of many parts. But when others fail to see beyond that – when they judge my past, my present and my future on the physical marks etched onto my skin and fail to see beyond that – it is hard to not slip into judging myself in much the same way.

I Need Time Off From Saving the World So I Can Save Myself 

Scrolling through my contacts tonight I struggled to find a single friend I feel comfortable reaching out to right now. This last week has been overwhelming in terms of friends around me relying on me for constant support. I have been so dedicated to and available for my friends that I have been sacrificing my own time, energy and wellbeing, because I care about them so much. I am terrified that if I am not available, something bad will happen to them and it will all be my fault. 

The thing is, I have no problem supporting my friends when it is balanced, reciprocal, appropriate, and when we have other things to talk about besides the absolutely critical. However, when every conversation feels like a matter of life or death, when every message is about the other person, when it starts impacting my life because I am constantly put in a position of playing saviour, it starts to become very problematic. 

This is where I am at the moment, and it’s a lonely place to be. I feel incredibly isolated, being in contact with so many people yet no one really knowing how I am because they are so caught up in their own chaos. I understand that they are struggling, I do. But I struggle too. 

I wish I didn’t find it so hard reaching out, but the thing is, none of my friends are as available for me as I am for them. None of them can provide me with the ‘saviour’ I crave. It’s easier to deal with things alone; at least that way I can’t be disappointed. 

I am a lonely person. I try to support others as far as I can, because it’s one way of connecting with people and developing relationships. But sometimes it feels like my friends only contact or connect with me when I have something I can give them. I can’t help feeling like I only have a purpose when they need me. Which leads me to feel that I’m not really worth much at all, except for what others can use me for.

I extend myself to my friends more than anyone else I know. I’m not sharing that because I’m full of myself or wanting to show off, but because it highlights the extent to which I try and make the world a better place for others in every possible way, all the fucking time. It is a huge problem for me and I will be the first one to admit it. I know I’m like this for a multitude of reasons relating to my past, but I think I’m starting to realise more than ever that it is not working for me any more. When you give and give and give but get little back in return, it starts to take its toll. It’s been taking its toll for a while now. That’s where I am tonight. 

Someone said to me earlier today that “there is something you can learn from everyone“. Off the back of this comment I have decided to take a lesson from some of my friends. I need to make a commitment to myself, and to anyone reading this, to start interacting with my friends in the same way they interact with me. I need to learn to be less available, more unreliable, and more self-interested. I have to stop putting myself in a position where I will drop everything for everyone, all the time, even when it doesn’t suit me. I have genuinely done that my whole life and it’s about time I started putting myself first – at least occasionally. I’m tired of being there for everyone else when they are rarely there for me in return. 

Like I’ve titled this post, it’s pretty self explanatory really; it’s about time that I took some time off from saving the world, so that I can start to save myself.

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.

Finding My Inner Culinary Artist

Cooking has been something I have struggled to do for multiple reasons. It involves multi-tasking, keeping track of the time, spending money on oneself, associating with food, effort, sharing a (possibly failed) creation and can be time consuming – all things I can struggle with in some way. It is a form of self-care and self-care is not something that comes easily to me, especially when feeling underserving, self-hating or just plain lacking motivation.

But recently, I have been purposefully cooking meals for my family or friends as a way to get creative with DBT skills. I have surprised myself by how tasty and successful each of the meals have been, and the feedback from others has been really motivating, especially because I’ve always been mocked for my inability to cook anything beyond pasta in the past! It has been a way of creating structure for myself, of being productive when going out the house might feel too much, of influencing other more positive emotions during times I am feeling flat, or low, or sad. 

They say that the feeling doesn’t come first – that the actions do – and I see how that holds true here. Feeling proud of myself is a rare victory, but over the last two weeks my culinary creations have made that a reality a number of times. Every time I’ve cooked, I’ve felt more positive at the end of the process than I did at the start. Something I used to find anxiety-provoking and stressful, I’m starting to find relaxing, rewarding and enjoyable.

And the cooking process involves so many DBT skills, especially when you add booming music to the atmosphere like I have been doing (we recently invested in a new and very exciting sound system), that my DBT diary card has many more ticks than usual!

It involves self-soothing through pretty much all senses, such as smell, sight, taste and touch (and the sound of the accompanying music). It involves being fully present and mindful of the cooking process – no phone, Internet or other distracting gadgets. It involves accumulating positives and building mastery as in ABC. It involves the ACCEPTS skills – activities that are positively distracting, contributing (by sharing meals with loved ones, which is a treat for them too) and sensations (as described above). It involves the E in PLEASE skills, by nourishing oneself by eating healthy and balanced food. 

I’ve now successfully made dishes ranging from cauliflower cheese, mushroom pepper and zaatar rissoto, to ratatouille, morrocon spiced fish and tzatziki, and veggie shepherd’s pie. 

So for anyone who needs a helpful distraction, mastery-building, sensory and creative skill, I suggest turning on some music, pouring yourself a glass of wine (if it’s effective!), and getting out a new recipe to try your hands at! 😊

No More Hugs

My therapist told me she’d been thinking about me a lot this week and that she had come to a realisation after our last 2 sessions (1 & 2). She told me it had become clear to her that when she hugs me it actually gets in the way of our therapeutic work. As I sat there in tears, feeling about 4 years old, she proceeded to explain why. 

She said that every time she hugs me she is placating my need to be soothed, reassured and comforted by a mother figure. But that every time she does that, it blocks the reality of my situation that I try so hard to avoid. That reality is the strength and pain of my need as it manifests in the first place. That reality is the reality than needs to be faced.

Essentially what she was saying is that every time she hugs me, it is like she is putting a plaster over the core issue, making it better temporarily but actually hindering me in the long run. What she is referring to is the way I feel when I do not have access to the comfort I crave from her so deeply. It is those intense feelings of loneliness, neediness, sadness and pain, and the experience of not having that distress soothed as a young child, that are the core issues. Those feelings and experiences are ones that need to be sat with, processed and worked with. In her view, every time she hugs me, she is inadvertently getting me further from doing just that.

She thinks that if we stop hugging, it will expose me to all the painful feelings of emptiness and yearning that we need me to experience as a part of my process. I can then bring those experiences to therapy and that is what we can work with. Ultimately this might help me understand where these feelings stem from, develop more self-compassion and better equip me to heal certain parts of myself from the inside out. My stability won’t have to be so dependent on the way she interacts with me. And in time, she hopes, as I heal, my desperate need for her hugs and holding will lose their ‘life or death’ power. 

I understand what she is saying completely. I appreciate her acknowledging and apologising for how hard this must be for me. But, I am devastated nonetheless. I don’t know how to make peace with this change and the possibility that she may never hug me again. 

Pregnancy, Babies and Breastfeeding Fantasies

This posts feels like a risk to publish but….

It is 3:20am and I cannot sleep because I am obsessing about pregnancy and babies. This has been going on for a couple of days now and I am unsure what it is about. My thoughts have been taken over by fantasies about being pregnant, giving birth, being a new mother, breastfeeding, and variations on the theme. 

This obsession has infiltrated into my dreams as well. I have been having nightmares about being a new mother desperate but unable to connect with my infant in some way. Last night I woke up 5 times from the same dream in which I was unable to get my dream baby to suckle despite my best efforts. Every time I fell back to sleep I failed her yet again. We just could not attune in the way I was desperate to.

There are a million reasons why it is not an option right now for me to have a baby and it is not something I am considering even slightly. But for some reason I am experiencing a fair amount of pain in relation to these fantasies. I have been watching related videos, reading forums and thinking about newborn babies non-stop. I feel empty and like something mighty is missing inside of me. The desire to have a baby I can hold and feed and soothe, someone who is mine and who is my entire world, is overwhelming.

This new feeling inside of me is screaming and it’s scary. I have always known I want to be a mother (way in the future!), but I have never been so consumed by these urges as I am right now. The thought of carrying a living being inside of me, or being able to breastfeed a newborn baby, fills me with a craving I cannot describe. 

I am remembering when I was a child and I used to pretend to breastfeed my teddies; soothe them and tell them it was all going to be okay. It’s almost as though I am entering that fantasy world again.

The desire to have that sort of connection is taking me over entirely. Perhaps it is something about yearning for that level of intimacy and unconditional love with another being. Or maybe there’s genuinely just something wrong with my hormones! I’ve never quite felt like this before and it’s confusingly shameful and scary. 

And it’s not just emotional and mental but a real visceral experience as well, especially the dreams. I’m scared to go to sleep. I wonder what it all means.

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? 

A Profound Dream about Me and My Therapist

My therapist was at my Mum’s house in the morning, helping Mum clear some toys in my sister’s room. I heard them talking and tried to overhear, but they realised I was awake. My therapist challenged my “morning ritual” but I wasn’t comfortable confronting it yet. So I snuck out of my room when she wasn’t looking and into the bathroom to quickly shower. 

I was rushing as I wanted to see why she was at our house and not miss any time with her! I was really anxious and worried that she would leave before I saw her properly. Damn my morning ritual! But I had to shower first. However, the shower (the one in the bath) got stuck after I had finished, and water was going everywhere. For some reason she was right outside the bathroom, so I called to her to help me fix it. 

She came in before I was ready as she misheard me saying “don’t come in!” for “come in!”, so I quickly grabbed a towel and held it over me. She was sort of trying to look at me even though I told her to look away, but for some reason I didn’t mind that much. I managed to wrap the towel around me and she started to fix the shower. She was then naked in the bath trying to fix it and turn it off, so that her clothes didn’t get wet. We were both quite chilled though, for some reason; it wasn’t too weird – there was just this feeling of safe motherly-daughterly trust in the air. 

Next thing I know, I am at a table with her and some other professionals and they are staging some sort of intervention. My therapist informs me that she has set up a mentoring service and that she is offering to take me on. How the service works is you pay £400 a week for the standard version (or £8,000 a month for the unlimited version) for her services. 

One of the male clinicians explained that it doesn’t work for a lot of people, but that they had been reviewing my case and that for people with my difficulties it might help get my life back on track. Because of “your social anxiety, depression and trauma, it could really help you”. They told me they were worried about me and this was a measure they took for extreme patients who needed such a level of support. I found that validating to hear.

I was informed of what it would entail: my therapist would stay at my Mum’s house with me, basically live with us, be there most of the time to help me with my life, come with me to social events, out and about, helping expose me to the things I find challenging and supporting me with them. She would be doing something called “adult exposure therapy” with me. 

She told me having the mentoring didn’t mean that I wouldn’t have therapy with her; it was just a supplementary tool to enable me to get my life back once and for all, as the team were feeling a bit lost and thought this could be a last shot for me. She said it would also include creative ways of expressing myself, that we would come up with together. 

She asked if my dad would be willing for me to do it, or if insurance would cover it, and I told her it would be fine. I was so excited at the prospect, even though I had to play it cool. For some reason though, I was also extremely shocked and dissociated, and tried to tell her this. I was getting quite dizzy and struggling to hold myself together as I was pretty overwhelmed by the whole situation. But she was gentle and supportive and I was really hopeful that we could make this “mentoring” service work, especially after how special it felt for me to have her at Mum’s house earlier that day.

I was then in a large old-fashioned hall, with some other girls, maybe also patients of a sort. I started dancing and singing, acting and improvising, in front of everyone. Each scene I played was a different chapter of pain from within my life. For example, a self harm scene, a sexual trauma scene, an anorexia scene, a “what neediness feels like” scene. 

It was all extremely moving and emotional, like expressive movement/ dance therapy, or contemporary dance. I didn’t have any inhibitions, even though one of my biggest fears in life is dancing. I was also singing in it despite not being able to sing! And even though it was entirely improvised, it was a pretty professional and incredible performance. At the end, everyone was so impressed with how wonderfully beautiful and expressive I had been. They couldn’t believe I had made it all up on the spot, nor how profoundly my pain had shone through. 

I found myself in a large hotel of sorts, and had been told that my therapist was the “Dean” and that her office was the Dean’s office. Well that sounded important… I was impressed. Anyway, I had to be somewhere in half an hour but I needed her company. So I headed to reception and asked for her. They mistook me for her, so I corrected them: “no, I’m looking for her”, and so they dialled her for me. 

Once I was in her office, I asked her if this was the new business she had set up, and she said that yes, indeed it was. I asked her how many other clients she had taken on, and she said it was just one other girl, and me. She said over half of the week she would be spending and living with me at Mum’s house, and just a couple of days with the other girl. She expressed a lot of love and care for me, and I was touched by how motivated and willing she was to work with me in such a dedicated and extreme way.

I told her I had to get somewhere although I can’t remember where, and we put it into google maps. It said the walk was 23 minutes to a station, under a tunnel/ walkway connected to a busy road from the hotel. She said she would come with me as she was now my mentor, which I wasn’t expecting, but was elated about. 

We started walking together and I felt really happy knowing that I would have her in my life so much from that moment. I kept giving her cuddles and she had to basically do whatever I wanted. We walked together linking arms, me beaming, my BPD in full swing. I asked her what would happen if the mentoring went wrong. She said it was definitely a risk to let me have such a free reign and potentially cross every boundary with her, but that if it worked well, it could also change my life. I told her I would make it work; that we would make it work together.

Do Not Forget this Pain: A Note to Self

Even though it’s hard to remember exactly what it feels like when you’re not in it, you know how bad it gets and how suffocating that amount of pain feels. The number of times you’ve been in that contorted mess of a state on the floor, wailing because the pain is so intense, so out of control, repeating to yourself through the tears “Make it go away, make it stop, I’ll do anything”.

But when anything doesn’t mean killing yourself, how far are you willing to go to “make it stop” in another way? A way that is by no means easy or painless, but a way that is a way nonetheless. If you give this your all, who knows, maybe it will make life feel more bearable and you won’t feel the need to die any more. If you kill yourself, you’ll never know. Remember how painful it gets and the utter desperation and willingness to do whatever it takes that comes with that.

It’s okay to be scared of the pain. But no matter how painful the next part of this process, it can’t be worse than the pain you’ve already felt so many times before.

EMDR Rant

I had EMDR yesterday and to cut a long story short, I struggled with it. I didn’t struggle in a painful way, as in I didn’t struggle with the content or emotions; I struggled with the process and my judgments about it.

In fact, I struggled to access any memories or emotions. Instead, my brain didn’t form any helpful associations. I felt nothing. I struggled with the lack of a struggle; the lack of the pain I was expecting to arise from the process. At points I found myself willing my brain to recall things – almost trying to forcefully draw memories to the surface – so that at least there would be something there. Anything. But this made me worried that I would interrupt the process by forcing things too much. So, that ended me up focusing too strongly on the starting memory, which meant I got stuck on it. As a result I had barely anything to say each time my therapist asked me what had “come up” after each round of bilateral stimulation. It was a lose lose situation.

Nothing was coming up. I couldn’t access any memories, images or emotions. Even when we chose a painful memory to start with, I couldn’t feel anything in that moment. I know I felt intensely at the time but none of those emotions came up when recalling it. I was trying to “make myself” feel what I “should be” feeling but I was totally cut off from it. To make it worse, the memory kept fading away and I couldn’t picture faces or play it like a video reel in my mind, which is what I was supposed to be doing. The more clarity I tried to visualise the scene in, the more patchy it became.

A very small number of changes happened but they all made me more frustrated. At one point, the image turned into a cartoon and the main character resembled a monster from a childhood book I used to read. At another point, I had an image of a rocket launching on a TV screen. Great. Lastly, I visualised a black screen with white words going across it saying one of the core beliefs my therapist told me to focus on. But no image, no memories, just bloody writing on a bloody screen.

Apparently these were just more clever ways that my brain has learnt to dissociate from my experiences. I told her she was reading too much into it. She pulled this funny face that she does.

I was getting frustrated with myself and convinced I was “doing EMDR wrong”. My therapist said that no one fails at EMDR, and there is no such thing as doing it wrong. But I wasn’t reassured. All I could think was “My childhood clearly isn’t traumatic enough for this to work. My brain isn’t processing because there is nothing to process. I am a fraud.”

My therapist said all the right things but the judgments came thick and fast and I was digging myself into a rut. I know that if I had memories to back up the things she is claiming and all the theory I know so well, it would make it a lot easier for me to accept the nature of my childhood “trauma”. But there is nothing. In fact, I have barely any memories with the person who hurt me the most before the age of 10 or so. I can think of 2.

My therapist says the memories are so few because I learnt to cut off at a young age. But cut off from what? I remember themes and phrases and what certain people were like generally but I don’t have the specific memories to match them. And so I convince myself that it must be because nothing happened; my childhood was fine; we are digging around in the dark for something that isn’t there.

After the session, I felt so self-hating and irritable that I wanted to hurt myself. (I didn’t). I had a ton of self-directed anger and self-disgust, for being such a failure, attention-seeker, fraud and all the other terrible things I am. Beating myself up because my life “should have been worse”. The voice in my head telling me “it’s your fault you’re like this”.

I spoke to my therapist on the phone later on because I was struggling with the above big time. Again, she said all the right things, but for every point she had, my brain had a counter-argument. We decided that in order to try and move forwards with this, I’m going to have to put my own judgments about myself to one side, and try internalise her perception of me as my own. Even if I don’t believe her (which I don’t), even if I don’t believe it (which I don’t), faking it to make it by talking to myself in the way she talks to me.

I hope EMDR is better next week. She said it’s common to feel this way at the start and that it can take a while to get used to. I’m obviously not convinced. But I hope she can prove me wrong.

Christmas, Cookies and aCcumalting Positives

I spent a good number of hours creating this baby in an attempt to build mastery and accumulate positives during what has been a challenging week. I am proud of the result, and am therefore showcasing it here. BE JEALOUS. Happy holidays, friends.


 

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.

How Do I Manage Anxiety?

I haven’t been posting very much recently because I have an endless amount of deadlines and applications to get done. My anxiety has been through the roof and whether it is correlated with the stress of the above or not, I do not know. The way my anxiety manifests is almost 100% physical, so a lot of the time it is impossible to work out what is actually going on. Basically, it is not a cognitive tangible thing; it is a chronic state of physiological hyper-vigilance permanently trapped in the cells of my body.

People ask me how I cope with anxiety and I do not lie. I can tell you I do not “cope” with my anxiety – it totally consumes me! Imagine coming down with a virus and feeling so nauseous you can barely eat, so delicate you can barely get out of bed, and so dizzy you have to keep your eyes closed in order to stop the sea-sickness. I guess right now that is what my anxiety is doing to me.

My way of dealing with my anxiety unmedicated does not, unfortunately, involve getting rid of it. As much as I wish it could fuck off 24/7, willing anxiety away amounts to absolutely nothing. It is the same as saying “Hey I have a virus and it’s making me throw up my intestines twelve times a minute, but maybe if I wish it wasn’t this way, it won’t have to be any longer!” Nope… it doesn’t work like that. Not for me anywho.

The one thing I can do – and do do – however, is the one thing that enables me to continue having at least some semblance of a life to actually live. Very simply (although paradoxically the hardest thing in the world), despite the anxiety, I keep doing life.  

What I mean by this is that no matter how overwhelming the symptoms, no matter how sick nor tense nor shaky I feel, I do not let it dictate my actions 100% of the time. Despite the anxiety, I get up and do exactly what I would do if I didn’t have the disorder. I go to uni, I see people (sometimes!), I get public transport, I make phonecalls to companies, I keep appointments, I force myself to eat, I make conversations, I attend courses. I pretend to be fully functional in order to maximise my functionality. Even when I feel like I am dying internally, I act “as if”. I plough on. I work on my long term goals. I refuse to let the anxiety destroy my present and future aspirations.

To try and understand how much effort this takes, it would probably be helpful to think back to the virus analogy. Continuing turning up to life when afflicted with this level of physical anxiety is akin to being wrecked with a hellish virus but having to act like it just does not exist. Shaking and sweating? Doesn’t matter! Throwing up, diarrhoea, or both at the same time? Oh well! Too nauseous to stand straight? Do it anyway! Heart rate so high you fear for your life? Keep on keeping on regardless!

That. Is. How. I. Roll. 

If I gave in and stopped rolling, I would come to a standstill. I would not just be tormented by the crippling reality of anxious symptoms, I would also lose all the things in my life that make it in any way worth living. Gosh, it would be so much easier to drug myself up and avoid life in order to dampen the anxiety by even a smidgen, but if I did that I would have little reason to keep doing life at all. When even the ‘safety behaviours’ fail to reduce the anxiety by a worthwhile amount, the options become pretty limited anyway. 

I can either: a) experience crippling anxiety and venture out into the world, get stuff done, help people, build mastery and keep fighting despite how fucking tough it is, or b) experience crippling anxiety and hide away from the world, feel like poop, get nothing done, let all my hopes shrivel into nothing, but remain pretty much just as anxious anyway. Neither option is ideal, but the former is what keeps me plodding – and makes my existence worthwhile.

Ask me how I manage with anxiety? The truth is I don’t manage it well at all. I suppose I just refuse to let it totally manage me.

Back To Where It All Began

I wanted to write a profound and meaningful post, but the truth is that I have no words for what I want to say.

I spent the past week in the US, visiting friends I met when I was in hospital there almost 2 years ago. I hadn’t seen any of them since, but many of us stay in touch. When I found out a few months ago about a friend from the hospital who sadly took her own life, I decided that I needed to go back to that group of friends to reconnect, and seek and share comfort and love.

I spent the first half of the trip in New York. I have never been before and it was more vast and awe-inspiring than I ever could have imagined. I played tourist; I went to see a show on Broadway, ate my first garlic knots, viewed the city from the Empire State observation deck, went on a Big Bus tour, and spent a lot of time with 3 different friends in and around the city.

I spent the second half of the trip in Boston. I stayed with a friend, and saw a few others, and did a bunch of touristy things. The highlight of my trip was going back to visit the hospital where I started my BPD recovery journey, almost 2 years ago. I was nervous because my expectations were so high, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. But it could not have gone any better. It was an overwhelmingly special and positive experience.

I was reunited with almost my entire treatment team. I spent a number of invaluable hours catching up and hugging my old therapist, psychiatrist, support workers and other members of staff. Members of staff who don’t even work there any longer came to see me and went out of their way to make my visit the most joyful it could have been. For that – for these people – I could not be more thankful.

I returned the next day because they wanted to spend more time with me. I felt so touched and honoured and grateful beyond words. I felt important. I felt loved. I felt worthy.

I lapped up their attention and affection, I let myself be vulnerable, I updated them on my life, they updated me on theirs. They told me I was a ray of sunshine during such a distressing time (Donald Trump related, I shall say no more) and I was able to internalise how happy they were to see me. They told me that seeing me doing what I am doing is what motivates them to keep doing what they’re doing. They told me that I make their jobs feel worthwhile. I was beaming for the entire time we spent together. My face hurt for hours after from smiling so hard.

I have felt so many emotions this past week. I have cried a thousand happy and sad tears. I have been nostalgic, joyful, scared, proud, anxious, connected, concerned, envious, grateful. I have been every dialectic there is, every paradoxical combination of emotions. I have had urges which I understand are my brain’s way of dealing with some of what I have been exposed to, and what that brings up in me. I have also felt the deepest love and longing for some of the people who have had the most profound impact on my life.

This trip was such a huge deal for me. I wish I could stay in that bubble for ever. But it is time to return home. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so achingly happy and so painfully sad at exactly the same time.

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.

Chronic Pain, Trying, Dissociating and Failing

I’m getting really upset because I’m trying so hard to help myself but my mental health difficulties keep getting in the way. I struggle with chronic pain and have recently had scans and tests which have highlighted a number of problems. Today I went to my first specialist physiotherapy appointment. I’m determined to reduce my pain without getting addicted to Tramadol again. 

However my anxiety was high and I felt dissociated throughout, so even though I tried my absolute hardest, I can barely remember what the physiotherapist asked me to do. I asked her to write everything she said down for me as I anticipated this happening. But now I am looking at this piece of paper as though her instructions are in another language – and I really have no clue what I’m supposed to be doing at all. 

I feel as though this isn’t going to work without someone (my mum) coming with me to my appointments. I need her for her brain because I can never recall what I’m supposed to be doing alone. 

Also, the fact that I am so out of touch with my body in the ways the physiotherapist wants me to be means that I cannot physically remember the postures or positions either. My body just shrinks back to its default. (E.g. How am I supposed to breathe normally if I don’t even know what “normal breathing” entails? I naturally hold my breathe, and I don’t even realise I’m doing it.)

I hate having to ask my Mum to come to all these appointments with me as I am 22 and it’s humiliating. But otherwise it’s like I lose my brain and am unable to retain any information and the entire session gets wasted. I don’t want to waste any time nor resources by getting the exercises wrong and messing up. I’m making such a fool of myself looking in this fucking mirror trying to get these exercises right without the faintest idea of what I am trying to achieve. 

I feel like crying because I’m trying so fucking hard with so many things but anxiety and dissociation keep getting in the way of me doing simple things to help myself (whether physically or mentally) get better. I feel utterly incapable of navigating life independently because there are just so many small things I am unable to do on my own. 

So here I am desperately googling images of “physiotherapy exercises against wall” to try and jog my memory, whilst I’m sat in a contorted mess of physical pain with tears of emotional pain streaming down my face.

Trying to fix my faulty brain and body by relying on my faulty brain and body is the most fucking upsetting and ironic thing right now.