*This session write up is HUGE!!!! Get a coffee and settle down for the long-haul. It’s split into 2 parts. And I don’t normally do trigger warnings but these ones contains heavy attachment discussion which is hard reading. So be warned if you’re feeling a bit fragile.*
It’s been an intense and curious week for me. It’s taken me a while to process how I feel.
Monday’s session has propelled Sienna and I down a new route of sorts and is with all new things, the first steps are tentative and anxiety provoking for me.
When I arrived to my Monday session, I’d had a rubbish weekend of ill physical health.
“ You look tired.” Sienna said.
“ I am tired.” I replied quietly.
I can’t remember what I was feeling that day, but I was in a quiet, sort of insular mood. I felt mildly sad but for no reason that I was aware of.
Sienna asked what I was thinking. And I looked at her perplexed and said “ I don’t know, my head is blank.”
Sienna quipped “ That would be a change because it’s usually got lots of chatter going on!”
I smiled and nodded. I felt detached and lacking energy.
Sienna smiled said “ I like Keira’s drawing that she sent me of us drawing together.”
I frowned, briefly unsure of what she was talking about but then remembering.
I said “ She liked it. (drawing)”
The young alters have been showing up a lot lately. It’s not necessarily obvious to either me or Sienna. And they’re not often present enough to make themselves known. But they’ve been in the vicinity, and they’ve been hearing it all and their needs have been so present to me that I’ve often felt pretty vulnerable in sessions. Yet there’s also a strong protective adult or young adult who is absolutely front and centre who feels such distrust and anger towards Sienna that she can’t and won’t stand down and let a young one with their innocent and simple needs and thoughts come through. It’s been exhausting.
Sienna said “ We can do it anytime, the two of us.”
I smiled. I liked that. I do want to do more of that… more of letting the child parts move around freely.
I knew I wasn’t talking much. I was much quieter than usual, much less animated. My energy was low. Inside, I experienced a cycle of Sad- Angry – Detached. Over and over. Every single time I felt sad feelings rise, I immediately felt a very physical pushing away of the sad and an instant flash of anger to replace it. Everytime it happened, I could literally see it in my head like a scene – a teenager pushing against the sad feelings, and supressing them like a wall she had to push back. It might have been Lauren who is 14.
She is cynical about Sienna about her care, and about therapy in general. She hates therapy and doesn’t think much of Sienna either. She has been around before and she refuses to engage with Sienna at all. Lauren is really angry at me for exposing us all to the dangers of trusting someone whom we are just a job for. She “ knows for a fact this is going to turn to shit. And it’s fucking dumb to rely on this person.”
Sienna asked “ Is Keira here tonight?”
I had to check inside myself. Feel for who might be imminently present. No, Keira wasn’t there. Someone else. Lauren…
“ Erm….. no. I don’t think so.”
Sienna persisted “ Who is about tonight?”
I laughed. Busted. Sienna was onto me, her, us…. She knew it wasn’t the usual ME who came to therapy. She could tell someone else was there.
I shrugged “ I don’t know. People…”
Lauren wasn’t prepared to declare her presence.
Sienna didn’t push it.
She asked “ What would you like to do tonight?”
I shrugged. God, I had so little energy. So little thoughts.
I handed it back to Sienna “ I don’t know. What would you like to do?”
Sienna smiled slightly, not taking the bate. “ This isn’t my session.”
She said “ I suppose I’m curious to know about how we can make sure you get to say the things you need to say. I know you said a couple of weeks ago that since the rupture you’ve been finding it difficult to say the things you need to. Do you remember talking about that?”
I shook my head. It wasn’t Lauren who’d said it. I was a young one. And so it was very hard to remember what was said, yet as Sienna spoke it was familiar to me and I knew what must have been said because I/Lauren know and recognise those thoughts and feelings.
Sienna asked if there was any sense of that tonight? Of feeling like there were things I wanted to say but couldn’t? And if there was maybe we could try getting it down on paper tonight.
It felt like a sort of attempt to push me into bringing stuff to sessions, a mild extremely subtle rebuff of the child parts starting to talk to her again by sending pictures they’ve drawn through text.
I have no idea if that’s where she was going with that. It’s just that that’s how it vaguely sounded to me and immediately my defences went up.
I didn’t want to draw anything I had to say. Not in front of her.
I didn’t speak. Just shrugged and looked away. I sat listening to all my parts jostle for room. I experienced all their feeling simultaneously and I tried to filter them, find what was being said and what was needed and also trying to work out what was expected of me by Sienna or what was best to say or not say.
After a few minutes of silence, Sienna said softly “ Where have you gone?”
I stirred. Looked at her. Shrugged.
“ What are you thinking? Is there something there that’s being held back?”
I pondered. How do I explain what’s happening for me? It’s hard to explain to someone what co-conscious living is like…. How all the parts can talk but not in words… in feelings and although it feels like words to me, and I understand the conversations going on… somehow it doesn’t translate into verbal language.
Like, you know when you have this really elaborate dream and you wake up and you try to tell someone about it and it all makes perfect sense and seem chronological until you try to use words to describe what happened and suddenly, your words fail you and the dream doesn’t even make sense and even though you remember the dream perfectly and in your head it makes sense, as soon as you try to put it into words, it gets lost and becomes a jumble? Well that’s what I experience with the alters all moving around inside.
Sienna asks me “ Is there something up there that’s being held back?”
I think to myself… “ fuck where do I even start with that?”
Sienna asks me if it was hard to come tonight. I tell her “ A bit.”
Sienna asks “ Is it hard sometimes to come because there’s not much to say or because it’s still hard to come?”
I think to myself what a stupid question that is. Of course I have things to say. How can she not know that.
I feel strangely rejected by her question. I feel misunderstood and I start shrinking further away.
After a few minutes Sienna says “ What are you thinking?”
I say “ I’m just listening” and point to my head to indicate that there’s chatter.
Sienna asks “ What do you hear?”
I search inside.
“ Just conversations in my head.” I laugh briefly, embarrassed because it sounds so weird.
She asked if I wanted to share them. I told her it was hard to articulate what was being said.
Sienna was curious as to why they don’t/won’t share what they’re thinking and saying. She asked if it was that it was things they’ve never shared or was it that when they spoke, they didn’t get received in the right way?
Both, I thought to myself.
I forced myself to push through the resistance I was feeling. I pushed against the dissociation that was luring me into a “ not responding place.” It was hard because it’s so tempting, it feel warm and my body feels frozen in place.
I say “ I think the teens are really angry and the young ones are upset or sad or something. So I can just sort of hear………. And feel all of that going on.”
Sienna asks “ What are the teens angry about.”
I hear them respond inside “ At you, at fucking YOU! You hurt us. You can’t be trusted. We hate you. No body fucking cares about us. And you lie and pretend you do, fuck off with that shit.”
I say “ Life.”
That seemed like a better answer.
Sienna thinks for a moment.
“ There is a lot to be angry about in life – in the world in general and also how people treat us in relationship. And I suppose if their stuck in that place, then they don’t realise that your life has moved on and there isn’t that integration.
- And you can be historically angry about stuff. About the past.”
I don’t say a word. I feel irritated. She knows what this is about. This isn’t about being angry at all the world’s wrongs. It isn’t altruistic anger about world injustices. This is white hot anger at Sienna and all her fuck ups.
I just let her talk cos I can’t be bothered correcting her.
She continues “ But I suppose there’s that element of knowing that it’s all in the past now. But they don’t really feel that, do they?”
I listen. Annoyed. I shrug in answer.
Sienna says “ I wonder what it is they want. Do they want something changed? Do they want acknowledgment from someone? Are they just angry people or is there specifics to the anger? Cos that’s hard to live with.”
I listen to the inner teens respond angrily and bitterly. “ What do u think we want? What do u think needs to change huh? YES we want acknowledgment from you that you’ve fucked up hugely. That you have caused huge damage to us. And no, we are NOT “angry people” we are just sick of being shit on!!!!”
But I say nothing. I can’t even be bothered to voice what they’re saying.
Sienna asks “ Is it Sofia or Mia?”
I don’t know. It might be but it seems a whole lot more bitter than what any of those two are. I really hate that I don’t always know who It is talking.
Mia is 13, stroppy and dramatic and sarcastic but not super bitter I don’t think. And Sofia has calmed down a lot lately. She is the one who has protective anger and comes up when threatened.
But I really think these are new parts. New-ish. I think it’s Lauren and some others.
Sienna asks “ What makes a difference for them? Do they sit there angry on the inside all the time.”
I say “ I dunno.”
Sienna asks me “ And what would help for you, Sirena, tonight.”
Hearing my name caught my attention.
I say slightly annoyed “ I don’t know.”
Silence opens up. I can hear the ticking of the clocks, reminding me that time is running out and this session is shit.
I desperately want to save the session but I have this block. I sit listening to the angry parts and the more reasonable adult part who is willing me to push through, to speak, to communicate.
Sienna asked if I’ve done anything in my journal. I nod and she asked to see it.
I know she’s going to see that hard art works, the letters written by young parts who wrote “ Dear Sienna we are broken, goodbye.”
I watch her out the corner of my for her reactions. She doesn’t look happy. Not angry, but serious and maybe concerned or sad. Not sure.
She says to me “ So, how can we reconnect with these little ones?
I shrug and she goes back to the other pages.
She seem my illustration of Girl, 10. She looks at me and says “ Did you self-harm?” I nod.
“ This week?”
“ Last night” I say.
She asked if I was okay. “ You haven’t done that for a long time or have you? I say no.
“ Was there a trigger?” I shake my head, no.
Sienna asks if I know who it is that self-harms. I half shrug, half nod.
“ It’s not Keira is it? No, it’s not Keira.”
“ Are you okay? I nod.
Sienna goes back to my journal “ And who is it that wrote that note to me – Dear Sienna, we are broken now, goodbye. ?”
I say “ Keira maybe?” I don’t actually know. I just know it was someone very young.
Sienna says “ I don’t think it is Keira. I don’t think so, it doesn’t look like Keira. And Keira came here last week and had a good time (drawing).”
She finished looking through the page and said “ They have to come to session though, those little ones.”
I didn’t answer. They do come… all the time, I thought to myself.
Sienna asked about why I self-harm. She asked what purpose it served for me. I say something that I can’t pick up. But I feel defensive. Angry in fact.
Why am I angry with her? I wrote it in my journal that I’d done it so obviously she’s going to ask questions! But nevertheless I feel anger and defensiveness.
Sienna says “ Because, I don’t want you to self-harm, you know that. I care, you’re too important…”
I think to myself “ UGH DON’T START with the you’re important shit. It isn’t true. Stop lying.” I felt manipulated.
Sienna carries on speaking unaware of the rage within me.
“ I understand when it gets too much and overwhelming it’s soothing or takes some of that feeling away. But I don’t want to feel…. Or have to resort to that.”
I sit still. I say nothing.
Sienna asks “ What was going through your head? What were the feelings that were so intense.”
I say sullenly (teenagery) “ They weren’t intense (lie) , I just wanted to.”
I felt petulant. I was blocking Sienna and I knew it. It was deliberate. I felt an anger rise up. That she doesn’t get to dump me and make me cope on my own through the week and then tell me she cares or that she doesn’t want me doing it and act like the caring therapist. She doesn’t get to tell me about how I choose to cope in her cold fucking absence.
Sienna said “ IS it the teenagers?” I nod.
Sienna says “ I remember you telling me that they think it’s a good thing because it allows you to…. Umm… act out if you like, and that acting out only harms you and not anyone else. But they forget that it harms everybody inside you and it’s not good for Sirena and it’s not good for the people around you.”
I think to myself “ I don’t care.” But I kind of know better than to use that attitude with Sienna so I don’t say it out loud. LOL
Sienna asks “Were they angry or just fed up?
I say quietly “ don’t know.”
Sienna said “ Sorry they felt so bad, whatever was going on for them.”
After a long silence and me looking blankly at the wall ahead. And feeling overcome with emotions that I couldn’t voice. Sienna said “ Do these little ones need a hug? Would that help?”
Part of me said “ Finally! She offers. She hasn’t offered in such a long time and yes they absolutely DO want a huge.”
BUT alas, my teenage pride wouldn’t admit to it or allow it. So I shrugged.
Sienna says “ It almost feels…. It’s hard to get a sense, but it almost feels as if…. They want the attachment – the broken attachment from years ago which is understandable, because that’s where the pain is. But they also have to learn how to live with a much less – cos no one can ever give them that original attachment – it’s almost like the bereavement, the loss of never getting that back, but learning how to move through that and getting through the other-side of it. It will always leave a loss, bereavements always do. With a loss of a significant attachment.”
I felt confused as to why she was talking about this. I didn’t want to. I don’t want to hear about how I’ve lost something forever and ever thanks very much.
I wish Sienna had stopped talking but no, she continued to deliver her pearls of wisdom.
“ But they can have another sort of relationship, a different attachment.”
Tears build. Anger builds, hurt builds. I think to myself “ Shut up Sienna. Shut up. I don’t want to hear this.”
I didn’t even really understand what she was saying to me.
Sienna continues “ They’re not lost and they’re not forgotten…
“ They’re not lost to me or forgotten. I know they feel like that. But they are not forgotten.”
A small teary voice from me says “ They’re dying.”
Sienna repeats “ They’re dying?
They have meet the whole process half way. They can choose to do something different.”
I don’t understand what she means.
Sienna muses “ I wonder which part of the anger of the teens keeps them stuck.”
I interrupt “ WHY are the teens always getting the blame all the time?”
Sienna said “ They don’t always get the blame.”
“ They do” I say huffily.
Sienna replies “ It’s not about blame, it’s about a state of being that’s not just about the teens it’s about anybody when they’re angry, it leaves you stuck. And actually they could go on, despite all that’s been, despite all these people that were in you life that didn’t understand you or who hurt you, you can live your life.
There’s still a lot of anger that’s not resolved.”
I was crying a lot by now. I didn’t like what she was saying. I always hate when she talks that way. As if, we are making a choice to not move forward. As if it’s as simple as changing my thinking.
I still have a lot to work through and process, so how can I live my life unaffected if I haven’t gotten to that level of work yet?
And also, part of making the choice to move forward in my life and not be affected by my past depends on me being able to let go of the hope that I’ll somehow get what I missed out on in childhood. And to approach that level and depth of utter despair and feeling of annihilation is going to take years of bite-sized acknowledgments.
Sienna today talked about it being a grief. But she literally has no idea the sheer magnitude of that grief. It’s different from any other loss, or bereavement.
Accepting that you lost your chance at experiencing and having parents who loved you unconditionally is utterly harrowing. It’s not just the emptiness and the space a human leaves behind when they die – which is bad enough to feel. But developmental trauma – accepting that you lost your chance to be a fully whole human being, and no one ever rescued you from that, no one ever wanted to be your mum. No one loved you unconditionally and without exception or ever will again, no one ever wanted you enough to complete your neurological pathways properly or teach your nervous system what safety is or what real genuine love feels like or to teach you that you are truly seen and worthy of connection and warmth and time spent or to give you enough mirroring and empathy, no one ever wanted to or ever will finish cultivating me and sew up those gaping holes in my soul and in my neurological development….. it’s utterly crushing. Getting near that fact is…… apocalyptic.
Developmental trauma, attachment trauma, it’s not about grief, it’s literally an un-finishing of self. It’s the fact that you are an un-finished human and those holes in our development are left gaping wide open and we feel those spaces inside of us as colossal eternities of absence, of great yawning deaths, over and over again. We feel literal gaping life-crushing emptiness, blackness and physical pain.
Our brain literally didn’t wire properly because we didn’t get adequate nurturance. Our brains aren’t the same as someone who got to finish their development with good enough mothering. And we were forced as babies to build new neural pathways to bridge the chasms of pain that those holes left behind. The ones we built were to protect us from the life-threatening torturous agony of missing pieces of mothering that an infant and child must have to form into whole humans. We walk through life literally half-finished. Just because you can’t see the gaping black holed wounds, doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that we can’t feel it.
So to suggest we need to move on and accept NEVER getting those holes filled up, is to suggest we walk about for the rest of our lives with heavy painful, terrifyingly awful emptiness and death-like nothingness.
It’s like a death-sentence to hear a therapist suggest accepting that level of trauma and damage. It is to suggest that a client spends the rest of their life in agony. Real agony. It’s a loss of hope to accept that no one will ever be the mother you needed. That no one will ever care enough about you or for you to help you mend those holes that ripple through your entire being. That you are simply not worth the admittedly tremendous effort and hard work it would take to mend wounds that could potentially kill you if you find you can no longer hold that level of pain and emptiness anymore.
You know, if as a baby, your bones didn’t get what they needed to grow, or in the womb your heart didn’t form properly or your spine twisted or any other process you need to live without pain failed…. Then you wouldn’t be expected to live a life of pure agony and have no corrective surgery if it was available. It’s the same for attachment trauma. It’s an injury, it affects your brain, your neural pathways, therefore your thinking, feelings and behaviour. And there is a cure of sorts. And that is finally getting some of that attachment work done. The chasms can be filled in. You just need a very special human being to do it with you.
Anyway… I’ve completely digressed. Back to my session….
UGH…. What came next was awful.