Umm… obviously I spoke too soon of the whole “I’m doing great ” post yesterday. Because last night/this morning I had two impactful CSA nightmares.
The first one woke me up and it contained a body memory. The reason I assume that’s what it is, is that after waking and for an hour or more after I could feel the pain of the act on my body. (Not really wanting to get too graphic.) It wasn’t awful pain but just pain of knowing something had happened there -A stretching or something.
I went back to sleep a while later and then woke up after a different and less upsetting nightmare about CSA. Sometimes I can dream these things and not really feel much about them when I wake up and other times I get very distressed.
Even though I was less upset about the 2nd dream than the first, the fact that I’d had two in a row made me feel anxious and fearful and like I missed Sienna. I really needed her today and she’s not here.
It took strength to not email her ” you need to come home now.”
I really wanted to. But I also want her to have her break and I also want to achieve getting through it by myself too.
But it’s made me realise, I have no one to tell about this stuff. There’s no one. And it makes me sad.
Sienna is literally the only person I have that I can talk this stuff through with and get comfort from. 😢
I’m doing okay. I just hate these dreams. Why do they happen?
It’s the early hours of Friday morning here and I felt like writing a new post.
As you know, it’s been a break from therapy starting from last Wednesday. I went a weekend break and spent time with friends and my husband. It was fantastic to just get a change of scenery, and believe me, the scenery was truly beautiful!
I noticed this time that I had much less anxiety going away than I did last year. I felt a bit anxious or overwhelmed the night before as I was packing and trying to get housework done but it was at an acceptable level. I also get a huge amount of guilt leaving my cats, even though they were being well cared for. I am not sure if the massive guilt I feel is a symptom of the anxiety? Because the guilt is almost big enough to make me not want to go away on holiday. And realistically, I know they’ll be okay and maybe they don’t even care too much, who knows? Yet the guilt cripples me and makes me cry sometimes.
But I knew for my own sanity that I needed to get away for a few days. I knew I needed that. And I know it’s healthy to take holidays and I wanted that for myself.
So yeah, the holiday was great.
I got back on Sunday evening and this week I’ve kept semi-busy with a few different things. My physical health and been really good lately – the best and longest period of health I’ve had for a year or two I would say. I still tire easier than people with normal health levels, but my recovery time is faster than usual which means I can do more. And my mood is elevated too, probably because I can do things and I don’t hurt so much, and I am sleeping a bit better too.
When I feel this good, I feel vindicated almost. I can see how very sick I really am most days, when I am able to compare how I am in this healthy period. I am not lazy and apathetic and permanently miserable when I have a bit of energy. It’s not who I am. When I feel good, I am constantly doing things, housework which is normally a huge task for me when ill is currently taking me 20-30 mins to do. I WANT to do things, I am interested in life and I am cheerful.
When you get months and years of feeling so awful, it’s easy to forget how bad it really is, you just get used to coping and doing the best you can – which is never good enough by your own standards and you feel like a constant failure at life. It goes on for so long that the pain and the extreme fatigue just becomes normal, and you start to think that you’re just very lazy and apathetic and avoiding life. That really you should be trying harder, yet trying harder involves energy you really don’t have and pushing through it would mean even more pain, even more fatigue and becoming even more ill. And bed just seems like a much more attractive option.
I feel a bit sorry for myself, as in, sorry I abuse myself so much and give myself such a hard time for being ill. Truly and life-altering-ly ill.
Psychologically, I’ve been pretty good too. This therapy break has been the best yet. I haven’t pined for Sienna. I’ve remained fairly connected to her, knowing she’s alive and just having a break and will be back. I’ve enjoyed this break. I mean, I’d probably never choose to have it. But I recognise the need for it and why it’s healthy. Although part of me always has recognised why the breaks are important so that isn’t new.
What is new is this contentedness and settled feeling. I suppose I can say I’ve been able to stay in my adult ego state. All of the parts have been extremely quiet this time. And I’m grateful for that because feeling their pain and sadness and longing is really hard and makes breaks interminable.
I don’t know how that works though… are the parts in there somewhere feeling those things and I just can’t feel it because they’ve gone away or do they not feel bad right now and that’s why they’re quiet? Are they feeling settled I wonder?
Over the past week, I’ve felt some tiny pangs of missing Sienna or the start of some young needs but it’s lasted only a few seconds and I’ve managed to stay in an adult place and remind the young part that it’s okay and Sienna will be back soon and now is the time for adult me to be around. I need to stay the adult so that we can get through this. It seemed to work. I didn’t get a sense that the young part heard me or anything but the adult part certainly seemed to and it was she/adult-me that clicked back in.
I’m rarely able to do that so I don’t know why it worked this time. I never know what works with the parts or who is listening to me, I have no control over any of that.
I feel quite surprised and delighted by how well I’ve felt this break. I feel like it’s a real step forward, real progress. And it’s also a huge relief to have (almost) gotten through it. There’s only 3 more sleeps until I see Sienna again.
Part of me feels a bit like I don’t want to go back because there’s only 4 weeks before she’s away again on a course for a week. And I don’t want to rock this comfortable boat. If I go back and start therapy work again, will it make things hard for me again? Will I get another week like this one where I feel contented or will it be a terrible time? Who knows, it depends what parts are running the show at the time.
I’m not even back yet and I’m already worrying about the next break!
I’ve been mulling a few things over in my head during the holidays, so I haven’t been totally therapy free.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that lately I’ve been withholding from Sienna. I’ve felt reticent to tell her things that are going on in my life in the present. I think I’ve touched on this in a previous post somewhere.
I am not entirely sure why I’ve started to withhold things from her. It’s not big things, really. But maybe if she asks what I’ve been up to, I’ll say not much rather than tell her that I went out somewhere. I didn’t tell her I had my most recent holiday planned before she went away. And I still feel like I don’t want to tell her about it. I am feeling this protectiveness over my life in the present.
It’s almost like I’ve separated my present, adult life away from her. That she doesn’t get to know that part of me. She get everything else, the past, the parts, the mistakes, the regrets, the tears, the tantrums… she gets to know everything about me and somehow, getting to know what I do in my adult present life is too much.
There’s a huffiness attached to this. I don’t know if it’s a bit of a game – a kind of hiding or an attempt at control or something.
But this thought comes every-time I think on this issue and this voice says the following things petulantly
“ Well, I don’t get to hear everything that’s going on in her life. She doesn’t tell me, so why should I tell her?”
“ Just like she hides parts of herself, I’m hiding parts of me. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.”
“ I don’t have to tell her anything if I don’t want to.”
“ Why should I be the one doing all the sharing? Why does she get to hear everything about me and yet she deliberately keeps a lot of herself hidden?”
“ I don’t want her to know all of me.”
I think I sense an anger behind those thoughts. I don’t know why they’ve suddenly appeared, I don’t know why I am thinking the things above. I don’t know what triggered it or even what I’m feeling angry about but I am aware of the anger and the thoughts above.
So I’m just observing them and letting them be there until I know why or until they resolve themselves.
I don’t think it’s all about anger though. It feels like there’s more than that going on. A sense of needing to keep some things for myself maybe? Or a split had occurred even…. Like I’ve split things to be “ Sirena’s life things” and “Sirena’s therapy life things.”
I sometimes get the brief and fleeting thought that therapy is “ work-time” that during sessions that’s for doing the hard stuff, the trauma stuff. That that’s the only stuff she’s entitled to. The personal stuff in the present isn’t needing attended to, therefore, it is not relevant or necessary in the therapy room- from my perspective, definitely not from Sienna’s.
I know that she wants to know all the good stuff in the present too, she needs it to get a more accurate picture of me as a person and me in general, how I am coping in life etc.
There’s a real barrier up around this stuff lately and I am intrigued to know more about it, to understand where it’s coming from because I am not entirely sure.
And yes I know – Talk to Sienna about (eye-roll). It would be a really fruitful conversation I’d imagine and I might talk to her about it if I feel like it. But right now it’s just something I want to keep to myself. ( Anyone seeing a pattern here? LOL )
I am on holiday. 😀
It’s pyissing with rain everyday- and I don’t care!
Being in the mountains does my soul such good!
Today my husband said ” I can’t wait to see you today. ”
I was puzzled cos he’s here with me and I said ” what do you mean?”
And he replied ” You truly light up when you’re amongst nature”.
Think that’s one of the nicest things and biggest compliments I’ve heard in a long time.
But it’s probably true. Even though it’s raining a lot and the skies are grey, the grass and trees are glowing green with vitality.
I’ve been so ready for this break.
Today is my final session before the break. And I feel okay. Like, really quite settled about it. It doesn’t actually feel like too long before she’s back. I will have had two sessions this week, I will miss a Monday session and of course a check-in next Friday but then the Monday after she’s back, that’s okay isn’t it?
I don’t know why the change has occured. From weeks and weeks of angst and tears and yes, tantrums about it, to feeling okay. I feel settled and ready for it.
I mean there’s a tiny bit of something akin to sadness or slight anxiety about how it will be, in the background. But I’m hoping I stay feeling settled.
On Monday, at the end of our session which was very laidback, we were getting ready to leave the office and Sienna spontaneously opened her arms and said ” gimmie a hug!”
And there was something about that request that inbeded a feeling of contentment within me. A feeling of being wanted and cared about and a feeling of belonging almost.
It’s hard to explain. I mean, Sienna usually initiates any touch and it’s usually when I’m very deeply dissocated or upset, and she will hold me and it feels amazing.
But this time, this hug felt…. I don’t know… very accepting and just the fact SHE wanted a hug from me. Maybe that’s it- so much of the relationship is about me, my needs, my wants… the focus is all me. And I know that’s how it’s meant to be and that it’s healthy that way, I know I’m not there to meet her needs. But the focus constantly being on me is pretty exhausting in actual fact.
And Sienna asking for a hug, it wasn’t about her needing it, I don’t think. It wasn’t a need so much as a want. She just felt affection for me or something and acted on it and it was lovely. It was familial and relaxed and happy and I don’t think I’d realised how much I was in need of that. I touched on it in some previous posts where lately I’ve wondered where she is in this “relationship”. It’s hard to see sometimes when the focus is entirely on me all the time, where I need to be the main driver of everything that happens between us. And I’ve felt like I’ve somewhat lost sight of her, where her personal input is. I mean she’s VERY there as my therapist but I’ve been missing her as the person… or something.
So that few seconds of familiarity and genuine warmth was so healing to me. It was her feeling something, her showing me something of herself.
When she holds me physically in session, that is wonderful and so healing and so needed, but it is done for therapeutic reasons, it has been a considered and boundaried action. It’s all for me.
But this hug was… normal. It was something for her, and somehow that benefited me in a way I hadn’t realised I needed.
In response to my last post, someone replied to me with this below. When I first read it I felt a bit of kick-back about what was said. But I didn’t know why I was feeling defensive. But that reaction told me that she had hit on something important and so I wanted to think about and address her points and her questions. And it was such a worthy exercise because I’ve learned so much from it. Unfortunately it turned into a bit of an essay and too long for the comments box. So to do it justice I’ve made a new blog post because it feels important and I really did learn some things about myself. So thank you to the person who challenged me and asked important questions 🙂
“One thought that occurred to me and maybe I’m wrong… it’s just a suggestion because I do this too… perhaps unconsciously the rift was created as a giant ‘fuck you’. Not in a manipulative ‘don’t go’ but in a ‘you’re leaving me so I’m leaving you’ way? I can see how Sienna hurt you with her poor choice of words and lack of attunement, I can see that.
However, it seems like you’re holding onto this and expecting something from her that maybe she can’t give and not because she’s a bad therapist or you’re a bad client but because she’s not you. I often want people to understand me and have that connection to them but it goes deeper. I want them to climb inside my head and understand without me telling them. But they can’t because they aren’t me.
Maybe this is a slight lesson in learning that sometimes you will be all connected and attuned and vulnerable and open and sienna will give you everything you need whenever you need it… but sometimes she won’t and that doesn’t devalue her or you or your relationship. You can still be connected without feeling that she’s literally opened your heart and mind and gone inside. You can still have a relationship with her even when everything seems screwy. Relationships are not black and white it’s not about you’re either feeling connected or not, ruptured or repaired. Sometimes they will be awesome, sometimes crap but most of the time in the middle.
I think there might have been an element of “fuck you, you’re leaving. So I’ll leave too.” Because I remember feeling a bit angry about the break. I also remember ending the session 5 minutes early because I thought to myself “ no way are you controlling this. You are not going to get to dismiss me today.” For her to chuck me out at the end of the session when it had been so bad and with no resolution would have felt unbearable. So I took control of leaving first.
However, regardless of the break, if Sienna had said those things to me any other time, I would have had the same reaction. I’m very sensitive to criticism (real or perceived) and her flippancy that day triggered me because it taps into they way my family treated my feelings. (only realising that right now!)
I don’t think I’m holding onto it so much as wanting a resolution and am working through that. Working through what’s her mistake and what’s my stuff. It takes a while to pick through it.
My expectations of Sienna are huge and sometimes unrealistic, that’s for sure. Maybe my mistake in this was assuming that she knew me so well that she’d understand why I’d been triggered in the session. I honestly can’t imagine how she couldn’t know because we spoke of so little and I immediately shut down after she uttered those words. There couldn’t have been anything else to be triggered about.
I don’t feel like in my posts that I’ve devalued her or the relationship? But you’re right that a learning point for me is to tolerate when relationships aren’t all sunshine and ice-cream. I do find if very scary when things with Sienna in particular (as my main attachment and support figure) become distanced and difficult. I do want to run away from that. And I also find a huge impulse to fix it immediately. I find it very hard to sit with the unknown or with things unfinished, so I become angsty and frustrated and need immediate relief from this unknown space relationships sometimes find themselves in.
And you’re right, she doesn’t have to “get it” all the time and she can still hold me and care about me and be with me in spirit even during a rupture. That is something I have to learn to remember and feel to be true. Again I think this comes from my history with a mother who splits people into good and bad when a relational rupture happens. (Something else I’ve just realised, so thank you!)
There is/was deep-seated frustration and disappointment that she can’t mind-read. Though it’s not so much that I think she should be psychic and just know. It’s more that these are issues we’ve hit against before, this is an occurring pattern and also she does know me so well and is so attuned to me so often that when she suddenly doesn’t get it, I feel shocked and disorientated. It’s quite jarring to hear just how different our experience of something was. And this time it’s occurred to me that maybe she doesn’t understand or “get” the things I say or do as much as I think she does. Yet whenever I feel that, it’s usually when a break is coming up, so either it’s that she’s tired and not so on the ball or she’s already mentally clocked off. Which is how it’s felt lately.
I also think her anxiety and possible guilt about leaving the younger parts who are so sad and scared of the break, causes her to sub-consciously move back from them, to sort of defend herself from the guilt she feels or maybe even anger that I am making her feel bad for needing a break, who knows?
You ask what it is I want and expect from Sienna deep down? And is it a realistic expectation?
Well this is multi-layered. The baby parts that didn’t get the mirroring from its mother has now imprinted on Sienna as “mother” or “care-giver” and that part seeks mirroring and absolute enmeshment. It seeks for the mother and itself to be one entity. And it’s hugely painful and traumatic at times to relive that separateness and sometimes that miss-attunement and I think that’s when the rage is triggered. Have you even seen a raging baby? How their little fists curl up and their whole body goes rigid as they cry those penetrating wails that you just couldn’t ignore even if you tried? And you wonder why they get so upset just because of a wet nappy or because they’re hungry, it’s not like you’ve ever let them go hungry or let them lie in a wet nappy. But to that child, those conditions are life and death, they haven’t learned yet that their needs will be met almost immediately. To learn it takes months of mirroring and attunement.
Well, I think that’s where my baby part is at. And no, it is definitely is not realistic. Luckily I have older parts and adult parts who realise that Sienna isn’t my mother and she can’t and shouldn’t attempt to meet all my needs, and that I need to do some of that for myself. But that doesn’t stop the baby wanting what it wants. And that is okay. Sienna understands that and I understand it and it’s just a process of development and of evolution. It will take time for all the parts to grow and eventually integrate into the adult that is me.
It’s okay for that to exist. It’s okay to want something even if it’s unrealistic. That’s the work, that’s my work, to accept the needs and wants that I have and also learn to tolerate not getting it and also eventually to grieve for the baby that didn’t get what she needed.
You said about writing everything down so that I can edit it and ensure what I’m saying is accurate, realistic and without intense emotion clouding the way. That’s a good idea and I see what you mean but also I feel strongly that my aim is not to present my feelings in an ordered, accurate or realistic way and neither is my aim to shy away from the intense emotion.
That is the end game for sure, that eventually I will feel things in the moment and respond appropriately. But that isn’t the aim for now. Right now the work for Sienna and I is to see what’s there, and for me to act out what I’m really feelings, to be honest and messy and obnoxious and wrong and tantrum-ing and generally all over the place. Because so much of that wasn’t allowed as a child growing up. And it all got stuck inside of me and festered into a mental illness.
I didn’t get to learn that I’ll be loved and accepted no matter what I do. That the relationship will still be there even if I’ve had a bad day. So it’s hugely healing and important in my evolution not to be the nice and reasonable and accurate and fair and quiet child that doesn’t offend anyone or challenge anyone.
And those times I am messy and rageful and obnoxious and my behaviour isn’t good, gives Sienna the opportunity to reparent me, to teach me there’s better ways to deliver my feelings that there’s better ways to be heard and get me needs met. It also gives her the opportunity to show me that having strong feelings doesn’t make me any less worth love or caring about and that ruptures don’t have to be terrifying or end in abandonment.
So as you can see, I’m not inclined to dress things up in a neat box and present them to my therapist that way. Because to do that would mean missing out on an important developmental phase.
Thank you again for your thoughts, they have challenged me and made me think and writing this reply to you has really clarified some things for me and also given me some new realisations about where my thoughts and feelings are stemming from. 🙂
*Apologies for a ridiculously long blog post.*
Sienna and I arrange to speak on Saturday morning. I wasn’t sure what I wanted from the call and I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to say. Sometimes there’s so many thoughts and feelings all tumbling around my head that it’s hard to organise them into cohesive sentences. It’s like experiencing them all simultaneously and it’s hard to hear anything from the cacophony of voices and feelings.
Sienna started to speak about the week I’ve had and that she presumed I was feeling the way I was because of the break. She checked in with me if that was correct or not?
It was my first inkling that she really didn’t understand what’s happened. I told her
“Some of the upset is to do with the upcoming break and some of it is …. Well what’s your understanding of what’s happened?” Before I told her why, I wanted to know exactly what she thought the issue was because I sensed that she’d totally missed it.
She talked about how this time had followed a pattern of other times when breaks were coming up and she thought this was a similar thing. She asked how I feel about what caused the upset.
I felt flabbergasted that she was so wide of the mark. That she genuinely seemed to have no idea that my shut-down on Monday was to do with what she said to me!
I said to her “ Well, all the upset came about because of what happened on Monday, not really to do with the break.”
Sienna sounded like she was taking that in “ oh, right, okay…”
I said stunned “ How can you not know that? It was terrible on Monday.”
Sienna actually sounds a tiny bit defensive but I could be wrong “ Well, I know it was terrible on Monday but I was presuming in was terrible on Monday because you were struggling… I can’t assume, I’ve got to ask you. I was trying to get you to engage in some artwork because I thought it was something you could have taken away to keep while I’m away (as a transitional object) You didn’t want to engage. What did you feel?”
I started to explain to her “ I felt totally shut down because for the first 12 minutes of the session you used the words “negative” “bleak” and “doom and gloom” and that that’s the things that I’ve been bringing to the sessions.”
I could hear her thinking.
She spoke “ Right…. Okay….I do remember when you say that that I started the session like that because I’d had an awareness about… or a reflection during the week about checking in with you about anything good that happens in your life or finding anything that’s okay rather than focussing on the negative all the time. And that was coming from my place I suppose, am I focussing too much on the negative stuff? And you were right when you said on Monday that that’s the stuff you would be bringing to therapy but it doesn’t have to be the only stuff.”
I still bristled at her calling my life, my issues, negative. I mean I know it’s not happy stuff a lot and I can’t even think of a better word for it, but calling it negative feels judgemental and depressing. Whereas I happen to feel that there’s a great amount of hope in the work we are doing. And while my life as it is could be a lot better, and I do struggle a lot… I still don’t like the word negative, because it’s my life and I’m protective of that. It feels demeaning to call my difficulties negative. I don’t know why I feel that way.
“ You are calling that stuff “negative” that’s my life I’m bringing, it’s not negative, it’s how it is.”
Sienna conceded “ Yeah okay, I really apologise for that, that was wrong terminology to use. I wasn’t trying to sound like that was a wrong thing to do. I was actually checking in with you because I’d been thinking about our work I was checking in with you because I felt that my process was maybe focussing too much on the hard stuff and not checking in with you if you’ve had periods of feeling well and feeling happy and feeling good. It wasn’t meant as a pointer but I can hear how it triggered you so I’m sorry.”
I hate when she apologises. This is a new realisation. There is something in me that feels like when she apologises, it’s the end of the conversation. It’s not her making me feel that way, not at all. But it almost feels like there’s an internal voice saying “ Well, this person has apologised so stop going on about it.” Yet I was only getting started, I had a lot to say, and I wasn’t ready to be closed down with an apology.
And another feeling that comes up when she apologises is that I don’t deserve this apology, I’ve made her apologise and somehow demean her and I instantly feel sorry for her and guilty for making her have to apologise. I think this is something to ponder… where does this reaction to an apology come from?
But in this conversation. it felt like when she was apologising, it felt… perfunctory rather than heart-felt. It felt like the same sorry you get from a call-centre customer service advisor when you complain about waiting times or something.. you know? I don’t know… I don’t think she was feeling it that way, I imagine she did feel sorry, yet why couldn’t I feel it to be genuine?
I felt irritated when she said sorry. As well as guilty and as if the apology should bring the issue to a close.
I told Sienna “ I just feel really hurt. Because the things I bring to you and tell you, nobody else on this entire planet knows about. And now it’s been judged as negative. And I do have positives in my life, I spend my whole life outside of here being positive, I always see the positive things, I find things in each day to be positive about and grateful for but I’m not coming to you to talk about the things that are working and the things that are happy.
But what is going on for me inside lately, isn’t sunshine and rainbows.”
Sienna responded “ I appreciated that and I’ve completely…. Well I feel I’ve completely messed up for you on Monday and I apologise. And I get that it’s up to you what you bring to therapy and if that’s the side that you bring then yeah you’re entitled to do that, you don’t need to tell me the other side of your life. I suppose I’m just curious about the positive things in your life because it helps me calibrate where a client is in terms of – is it always negative?”
I interjected “ but what if it is always negative? What does it matter?”
Sienna said “ Well, it matters because it might flag up depression or having a particular difficult time… But I’m hearing from you that you do balance that when you’re at home and you do focus on the positive and you do have good strategies in place. And that’s really reassuring for me. Maybe it’s a bit of my anxiety, about going away as well…. Because I care about my clients, you’re not just a number that appears at the door. I really care that while I’m away there’s enough…. I can’t do anything if clients are really distressed when I’m away… and part of checking in I suppose was me looking for those strategies you might have to help you while I’m away. So it wasn’t about inferring that…. It was very flippant of me to call it “doom and gloom” it wasn’t appropriate so I do apologise.”
There it is again… another apology. Something about this conversation felt off. It felt like there was no real connection between us. She felt distant somehow. There but not there. I felt like she was being this “professional” and not “ Sienna, my lovely warm therapist.”
And also, what’s with the “my clients….” “ I care about my clients….”? Clients, clients, Clients…. Blah blah blah!!! She was saying she cared about us but not that she cared about ME, I wasn’t Sirena but “my client”. It’s like I was being demoted. Like we don’t even have a personal and unique relationship.
It’s like she was using this professional language as a barrier.
I said to her “ You have to realise in context that when I come to you, I only have one or two hours a week to process things that are going on for me. So I don’t have time or motivation to be positive or be find good things to talk about. There are good things in my life that I’m doing…. But I don’t get to know about what’s happening in your life either, so I don’t feel like sharing that part of my life with you.”
I suddenly realised just how true that was. I have been withholding positive news from her lately. Partly because there’s been so much else been going on that needed attended to but also because I have started not wanting to let her in, to not sharing absolutely everything. I’ve kept happy things or just general life things to myself. And part of it has been because I know so little about her life, I don’t get to be part of her personal life, so I’m not going to let her be part of mine either.
There’s almost a tit for tat element to withholding from her. A sense of control that comes from not giving her everything of me. But as I make this realisation, I feel an anger rise up. I feel a belligerence and an impulse to obstruct just how much access she gets to me. And I think it comes from that hurt that I don’t know about her or her life or what she does when she’s not with me or WHO she is when she’s not being Sienna the therapist.
If she isn’t going to let me in, then I’m not going to let her in. Very mature, right?
I feel anger even now thinking about this. What is this protectiveness about?
To prove that my life isn’t fully negative, I reeled off some of the good things I’ve been doing lately that I’ve never mentioned to her.
Sienna said that she felt like it was important for her to know all the good things I do in my life because it helps her see me as a whole, to see how I’m doing overall. That she knows that that’s the “host” doing the coping with life day to day and it’s the parts who are coming to therapy.
And I see her point, it probably is good for her to see the whole picture so that she can gauge how things are for me. Yet, I don’t want to give her that whole picture. I just don’t.
And it surprises me, because there was a time when I first started this therapy journey that I ached to be known fully. I always wanted my therapists to know me inside out. I longed to be able to share all the silly little things about me, all the things, the quirks, that make me, me.
But right now, I don’t want Sienna to have all of me.
Sienna conceded that I don’t have to tell her all the things going on in my life, but that is would be useful to get an overall picture of how things are for me as a whole.
I told Sienna “ There’s this huge split in me, this is where the fragmentation is so apparent and I feel the cracks so much because they’re so obvious. You know that I can be having the worst day ever, I can be broken and vulnerable and crying my eyes out, but if someone comes into my space, then I can split that off immediately and become this functioning adult. I will look happy, I will be confident and laughing and capable and independent. Being a functioning adult has never been a problem for me. I am strong and capable. But I don’t need to do that in therapy too. I don’t want to come to my therapy and not tell the truth about how I’m really feeling, how the parts are really feeling, what’s really there.”
I was rather clumsily trying to explain how deep that split goes for me. That I hold both the positive and negative stuff simultaneously and even though things might look bad or that I’m having a hugely tough time, I still retain the ability most of the time to function like a normal adult when I have to. I can be both, splitting apart with heartache and in the same minute, be laughing with a friend or neighbour. I wanted to remind her that I do that everyday in life and when I come to therapy I want to take that mask of and be how I’m really feeling, I don’t want to have to show her positive things when I have parts that are noisily demanding attention.
I continued “ I thought the whole point of coming to therapy was not to do that, to not hide and put a positive slant on things but to be honest about what’s really there inside. And on Monday it felt like you were using judgement labels, the labels you were using were horrible and it just shut me down because I felt like; what am I here for then? I don’t want to sit and pretend things fine and good.”
Sienna said “ Okay, fair comment.”
I carried on speaking “ in that session I could kind of hold within me that you wouldn’t mean me harm, I knew that but it still immediately shut me down, it didn’t feel safe to talk about anything because it felt like you didn’t want to hear it. You were sitting talking about… it was almost like you were asking if I/we were wallowing in self-pity? Are we wallowing in the bad stuff? And it just blew me away because I really needed Monday to be good… to find some sort of connection because the weekend had been hard for me because I was anxious about the upcoming break. And that’s why I didn’t want to make the stars, I didn’t want a lighter session because that would have taken me away from what I needed and I didn’t get it anyway, it was terrible.!
I started feeling like I was going to cry.
I said to Sienna “ I constantly feel like I’m the one who has to reach out, constantly reaching out, constantly vulnerable, it’s always me that has to….”
Sienna said “ I get that you feel that, that that’s your process, that you think you are always having to make the effort for other people and no one makes the effort for you. But that’s just your perspective or that parts perspective ask anybody else and they’ll give another one. And I get that I needed to be beside you on Monday and I completely missed that and I wasn’t beside you in any shape or form. And I’m sorry that’s happened but I suppose that parallels life too, we therapists are not perfect, we’re not meant to be perfect and we get things wrong or throw things up, but the bit that’s really good for me here is that you can articulate this to me. It’s really important and I want to reassure you that I’m hearing that. I’m really hearing it.”
I felt like she was misunderstanding me, I wasn’t saying I am making all the effort and she’s making none.
I said “ I am not saying I make all the effort and you don’t make any. That’s not what I mean. I just mean that I’ve had a really terrible week and I would have thought you’d have known how much that session impacted me and yet it’s me that still needed to reach out.”
Sienna replied “ Well, we are not mind readers you know, and I knew you would be… after the session I appreciated that because the breaks coming up you are extremely sensitive and at that point I didn’t really know what I’d done. And in the previous weeks check in you had been very light and asking to make the stars and me assuming on the Monday that that would still be the case, that’s probably where this misattunement was. And in part of my process as I think of it now, I was thinking after the check-in that you were in a much better place about the break because you’d wanted to make the stars. But my mistake is making that assumption and coming into the session at that level ; thinking you wanted to make stars as a transitional object/art project as a way of finding acceptance for the break, instead of waiting to see where you’re at.”
To be honest, I was still in shock that Sienna until today didn’t know what she’d done wrong in the session. What the actual fuck? How could she not know? I closed down the minute she said it. And her thinking I’d found acceptance for the break and my texts suggesting we make stars we not light, they were amid a point where I was really terribly upset. Which she knew at the time.
It’s like she sometimes rewrites history to make the story fit her agenda. She can’t be, she isn’t that mis-attuned so I have to wonder if she does that when she feels anxious to make something better for me. Like, the break is happening regardless so it would be better if I accepted it and was okay with it because then she wouldn’t have to feel guilt or anxiety. So then she picks any small thing I say and converts it into this narrative that I’m doing okay. This is something I’ve noticed before and it seems to happen before breaks or when she’s really busy and not there for me as much.
Sienna spoke about how she feels about the breaks, very generally, and how she wants to be able to go on her break and know that she’s done her best to support her clients and she said that paradoxically what she’s done has been a “ a complete balls-up.” She said she was hearing that what she did wasn’t good and that she hadn’t been attentive, that she hadn’t met me at where I was at and she was glad that I could articulate that to her.
She said “ Because it’s the worst feeling in the world for your therapist to not meet you where you’re at on any given day.”
I said to her “ It is, but this is a pattern that occurs with us before a break, where you attempt to keep things lighter so that you’re not leaving anything open and then disappearing, it’s like you want to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s before you go away.”
Sienna said “ Yes and some of that is part of the process of therapy so I wouldn’t say that’s wrong to do.”
I felt irked. “ but it isn’t working. It’s causing ruptures every time. That isn’t working.”
Sienna thought on that and prevaricated “ Welll… hmmmm…. (as if she wasn’t really agreeing with what I was saying and that just annoyed me more. She isn’t the authority on what works and doesn’t work for me, not matter how many degrees she’s got.)
I interrupted her umming and said forcefully “ I’m telling you! You don’t have to think about it – I’m telling you, it isn’t working!!”
Sienna stayed silent.
I continued “ When you do that, you move away from me.”
Sienna said “ okay.”
I said “ and moving away from me is the worst thing (you can do).”
I spoke very clearly and with power to ensure she was really hearing me…
“ I will regulate myself. If I think “this is the last session, I don’t want to get into anything big or really heavy”- which I wouldn’t want to in the last session if you’re not going to be here for the aftermath. Then I won’t bring up new or heavy things.
I am not completely retarded I’m not going to make it harder on myself than it needs to be. But you pull back at least a couple of sessions before the breaks and refuse to allow me to bring what I need or go where I need to. It’s like you pull me in this other direction that I don’t want to go. It’s like you pull back and are like “ no we’re not going there. We are not going there, we are going to have a light session, I don’t want to talk about this because I’m going on holiday and it happens every-time.”
Sienna said “ hmm that’s good feedback. That’s really good to know. Really good.”
Ugh how come when she says that it sounds like “ thank you for your feedback, but fuck you.” ? How can therapists truly take criticism and then thank you for it?
Part of me feels now like I really laid into her in this call. How must that have been to be told how shitty a job you did? And have each shitty thing listed? And how can she not feel defensive? And how does she manage not to respond negatively?
I continued “ I am not looking for you to be sorry about Monday, I’m not looking for that… what you said, once I started to calm down during the week I could see that you hadn’t said it to be hurtful, I can accept that it was just a poor choice of words and nothing more than that. But it escalated for me the rest of the week because you know how bad that feels for me to have walked out of a session and not have communication and to be completely shut down to the point that I’m saying “ nope, I’m not doing this (therapy) anymore, that’s it I’m not coming back.” I tried my best to communicate to you throughout the session. I wasn’t being deliberately annoying, I tried to communicate the best I could. But I couldn’t do it.”
Sienna replied to say that that’s why she just let me sit in silence eventually. She felt that there was no point in badgering me to speak. She said that she’d tried asking me questions and I wasn’t responding and that’s why she let me be.
I said to her. “ you weren’t asking me questions though.”
Sienna said “ I was. And I wasn’t getting anywhere with you so I decided to let you be how you needed to be”
Umm calling bullshit on that one.
I said to her “ No, what you were doing was trying to cajole me out of my mood. You were talking about random things that didn’t matter. You knew I was triggered and instead of sating with that, you tried to bring me out my mood and talk about other things. And I was thinking to myself “ well I don’t care about those things right now and you’ve really hurt me and this isn’t a safe environment right now for me.”
Sienna said “ Well I obviously didn’t know you were triggered in that moment, because there’s been other nights you’ve sat and not been able to say anything and just shrugging your shoulders and I’ve been at a loss, when I try to meet your psychologically I can’t get anywhere with you and I have to just sit and wait on you, and I probably do too much of leading as it is – not that that’s a bad thing, it is what it is… but I am hearing you though that you’ve had a really bad experience. But I have to say I didn’t… I haven’t had a minute to think about anything in between because I’ve got a lot of clients I am trying to see before I do go away so although I knew it was a bad session…. I actually was left a bit confused. I knew that when you left you looked like you had been triggered, there’d been a big thing, but I also thought to myself that I need to leave you now because I don’t want to make matters worse. I need to let you come to me, and that’s what you did eventually. I wasn’t going to rock the boat, I wasn’t quite sure what had happened at that point. But you’ve been very articulate today so that’s great. But it’s also about letting you come when you’re ready so that I don’t make matters worse. And it might have been if I’d been in contact it would have made things worse. It maybe wouldn’t have mattered what I’d done, so it was important to let you come to me.”
There was so many things in what she just said that were inaccurate and annoying.
Firstly, she did know that I’d been triggered by something she’d said because she said that in Monday’s session, and I have that recording as proof. Secondly, I can’t remember the last time I sat stonewalling her and just shrugging my shoulders and even if she does have to lead at times it’s because I am very dissociated or she’s speaking to a part who won’t speak or doesn’t have answers. It’s not fair to judge that as some sort of behavioural issue or unhealthy communication or manipulation on my part. To judge me on that is like judging a person in a coma for not making polite conversation.
Thirdly – She does too much leading? WHAT? How??? I am going to ask her about this tomorrow. Genuinely confused and annoyed with this one.
Fourthly- I don’t care about all your other clients that you need to fit in before your break. I couldn’t give two fucks. It’s not my fault that you have so many clients or that you chose to go on holiday so soon after your last break and during an extremely busy time in the school calendar where you have lots of worried children leaving for secondary school or simply worried about the summer holidays.
Fifthly- Sometimes not rocking the boat is the worst thing you can do. And using the old saying that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t isn’t a good enough excuse to do nothing when I’ve expressly told you how that feels to me. And don’t use that for a legitimate excuse for why you weren’t in contact, when the real reason is that you’d never ever reach out first anyway and didn’t want to and it didn’t even occur to you.
Sixthly – It’s not my fault that you’ve not had a minute to yourself and I hate hearing that you don’t have time for me. I really hate it.
I said to her “ It just pisses me off that I have to come to you. I am exhausted, Sienna. I am absolutely exhausted with having to push through all the time. I appreciate it’s my therapy and therapy is my responsibility, I get that, I do. But I feel that I do work really hard and I do take responsibility and I do push though. And if there’s been a rupture or I’ve said I’m terminating, then I’ll wait until I’m calmed down and I will come back and say that I don’t want to terminate and I will do the repair work with you. But when something as big as this happens before a break it would be really nice to know that it even registered on your radar. I mean, I’ve been sitting here all week feeling absolutely in the gutter about all of it and not wanting to come back and feeling devastated about that and it just doesn’t even… register to you. And I’m the one… it’s still… I didn’t feel like I could reach out, it took my 5 days to be able to and 5 days to you is nothing, it goes in the blink of an eye but to me every minute of those 5 days were excruciating, it may as well have been 5 weeks of feeling like that because that’s how long it felt to me. And even though I don’t feel right now that I want to come back, I know that I don’t or won’t want to terminate at some point. But it was still me that had to reach out (and through the stuck-ness and the pain).”
Sienna conceded that maybe it’s a sign that she does need her break, that she’s missing so much of what’s been going on for me and that she missed me in the session. But she also said that if I say I’m terminating and am really angry then she’s not inclined to run after me, that it’s much better for her to let me calm down and wait for me to come back to her.
Once again this was a predictably over-simplistic typical “therapist” response. And it really pisses me off no end that she’s failing to see the nuances on this particular situation.
I said to her “ I am not asking you to run after me. I am not asking that you rescue me. I am not somebody who sits on her arse and waits to be rescued all the time and that’s not fair for you to assume that’s what I’m doing, that that’s what I want.”
Sienna said “ I’m not assuming….”
I interjected “ What I am saying is that sometimes I can’t reach out, I’m in too much difficulty and I could really do with some help.”
This isn’t some borderline “save me over and over again” tactic. This isn’t a behavioural issue where I am deliberately engineering rescue so that I don’t have to do the work or take responsibility for my storming off.
I didn’t terminate in the moment to communicate my annoyance in the hope that she came after me saying “ Please don’t leave, please don’t terminate. I really want you to come back.”
I think I can admit with some shame but a hefty dose of reality that I used to do that in the early years like, in my late teens and also very subtly with my first therapist about 5 years ago. I wanted rescue. I used the threat of abandonment in relationship to get my needs met and I know that when I did that there was a manipulative feeling quality to it, even if I couldn’t have explained that or known consciously what I was doing. But I do remember that “ gamey” feeling.
But this now, isn’t that. It has a different feeling to it, a different quality. Me terminating in session, was me feeling overwhelmed, unsafe, exhausted and beaten down. I was tired and sick of feeling so fearful of the breaks, having to endure the anxiety and ruptures before the breaks, then having to muddle through the break with incessant pining for Sienna, fears about if things will change when she gets back for some reason, and then when she finally does get back there’s some kick-back and anger that she left in the first place and anger at myself for letting someone have that much influence in my life.
Me terminating in this session was me saying “ I can’t do this anymore. I’m tired. I’m sad and I’m hurt. I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I give up.”
It was possibly and indirect “ fuck you” too.
And yes, when I left the session, I really hoped/wished Sienna would reach out. Even though I’d just terminated. Because I wanted not to feel so awful and I suppose I did want to fix it deep down. And I really wanted her to want to fix it too. But I was almost 100% sure she wouldn’t. I suppose it was that I wanted to terminate therapy, to get away from it, but I didn’t want to terminate my relationship with Sienna, not really. But unfortunately, if I want Sienna then I need to have the therapy.
But as the days wore on, her silence allowed for more space to open up between us and I felt angry and I felt like she was a stranger to me and I didn’t really know what to do with my anger or what it meant, but it felt like Sienna wasn’t the safe person I thought she was. And I felt grief too for the relationship not being fully what I needed it to be. I was grieving for the limitations of therapy, for Sienna’s limitations in terms of time to spend with me, I was grieving for all the things this relationship isn’t and cannot be.
I didn’t know how to fix it. I felt like Sienna would know why I’d been so angry, she would know her words had triggered me and she would know how much bad sessions really hurt me and that with all that knowledge she was still refusing to reach out and it felt unfair and cruel.
I didn’t want Sienna to reach out and beg me to come back or molly-coddle me or make things easy for me. I just wanted an acknowledgement that she saw that things had taken a nose-dive.
Sienna told me that she had been aware of how little time she had in her week and so didn’t want to get into texts or emails if she couldn’t answer them or attend to them. Which makes sense of course. Yet the child parts of me hate that she wouldn’t or couldn’t make time. (They are very ego-centric!)
Sienna also said that she felt it was part of my development to encourage me to reach out. That she knew it was hard for me sometimes to do it and that I was so used to retreating when I was upset and not letting people see that, and it was really good for me to reach out.
But I already do 100% of the reaching out. Sienna has never in my memory reached out to me first. And I’ve always accepted that because I recognise I need to learn to do that. But there are times when I just can’t, and if I don’t do it then I can’t get the peace I need and I spend days languishing in emotional pain and disconnection until I get enough adult ego state to finally make the call or email.
And how nice and relieving would it be just to get a message of encouragement from Sienna in those times?
Anyway this is hugely long so I’m going to wrap it up.
But basically there was a tiny bit of repair but it doesn’t feel resolved fully for me. I have a session tomorrow and a bonus session on Wednesday. Sienna had reserved me a session a few weeks ago apparently but I don’t remember this.
I hope we find some repair and a good place to end on before the break commences.