Adult attachment trauma 

Attachment trauma is a swirling cauldron of horseshit. Fact.

It’s the most agonising, pervasive, destructive, evil, form of torture there is.

It literally breaks your soul. And it leaves you with such deep painful wounds that a world full of cement couldn’t fix.

I’m angry this was done to me and I am terrified that it will never be fixed. Because the colossal amount of trust it will take will outstrip, out-fight, any therapists commitment or will.

The wounds are so deep that it requires so much energy and thinking power and dedication over and over and over again that it’s no wonder therapists give up.

I need to find safety and trust. I need to find guarantee’ s, cast iron promises that if  I let myself love and trust and practice becoming securely attached, if I open myself to those things, that she won’t leave me. That she won’t reject me. 

And she could promise until the cows come home and I still wouldn’t trust her. Because attachment trauma is a bitch.

Does this ever get better? 

To the Bravest of the Brave.

I sat down in session, ready for whatever was to come.

Sienna asked how I was and then got up and moved over to her desk. She said

“ I’ve got something for you. . And there’s one for Sofia too, for her to read when she’s struggling.”

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She handed me two turquoise envelopes. I smiled. “ Do I open them now?”

Sienna nodded.

The first one was mine, a card with lovely words and best of all, inside it said

“ To the Bravest of the Brave x “

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I teared up. The sentiment was perfect. She did this – for me! And after I’d put us both through hell this weekend. I’d literally “shaken her to her core” her words to me on Sunday…. Yet she’d still felt like she wanted to go find and but two perfect cards to help me feel that things were okay.

I expected punishment. And instead I got connection. And the words she’d chosen… brave? She tell me I’m brave a lot and I never feel very brave… today I felt sheepish, not brave. But to be told I was brave, the bravest of the brave… that really meant something today, and I believed her. And I felt a sense of worth or a sense of achievement or a sense of belonging or something… an emotion I can’t quite put word to.

I wasn’t punished today. I was given care instead. I was treated with compassion and as if I was deserving of connection and care. Even though I’d really freaked out and leaned in hard on her over the weekend.

I was the 7 year old who’d just wrecked the classroom, but was still accepted and allowed a hug, still deserving of comfort.

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Sofia’s envelope was a little wallet card with a teddy bear holding a heart.

I thanked Sienna and said I didn’t feel like deserved them after my performance at the weekend.

Sienna asked what I wanted to do for the session. “ Do you want to draw? We could draw lovely cheerful flowers or something?”

I shrugged.

“ Or do you just want a hug for the whole hour?” She laughed

I nodded.

So she came over and let me cuddle into her for a long time. Not an hour. But a while. We just stared out the window at the beautiful weather, appreciating the woodland and watching a squirrel play.

We chatted about my experience over the weekend, nothing too heavy though. I cried. Not heavily, just a constant stream of tears. Sorry for what had happened. Sorry to Sienna and sorry for myself.

It felt nice to be so comfortable cuddled in to her. It felt like it was okay for me to be there. That I could belong there. It felt a bit like coming home.

I needed that.

 

 

 

 

Sienna responded to my email early this morning. I’d only had to wait about an hour but it was agonising.

I was scared she wouldn’t respond to me. It felt like there was good chance she might not. And part of me felt like my email might just pour fuel on an already out of control fire. Not because of the content but because I am pushing a therapist who seems to be at her limit.

But I had to try, I had to find a way to be able to make things enough of an okay to be able to turn up to my session on Monday. I had to find some sense of safety.

And felt a small degree of confidence that Sienna would respond, we’ve been through enough now to feel secure that she wouldn’t let me down, that she understood me enough to know what I needed. But it was still a huge risk because I sense how confused and depleted she is and plus yesterday wasn’t my finest moment.

But she replied. Thank God. Can you hear my sigh of relief?

 

Dear Sirena, Sofia and Keira,

We will find our way back from this. We will be ok. You are safe, so please, feel my virtual hug. It’s not in my thoughts for this to be so damaged that we can’t find a way forward.

I’m glad you’re feeling a bit calmer today and we don’t need to talk about anything until you are ready.

We are both committed to your therapy and the bravery it takes means we both reach difficult places at times.

I think you know I don’t give up and I’m glad you don’t want to either.

 

Perfect reply.

Just perfect Sienna. And with that reply, suddenly the storm clouds lifted and there was my lovely therapist.

Her reply came in just as I’d text (yes…text lol) to ask her if the phone check-in still stands or no?

She replied immediately to say if I wanted it, it was there.

We had a short but lovely check-in, I was upset of course and she said yesterday had shaken her to the core. But she said I was right that none of us had realised that I’d been in a full blown flashback these few days, and of course words and reasoning only made things worse!

We didn’t get into anything as I told her that I am just not capable of it right now. I literally have no capacity to listen and comprehend what is being said. I asked if the next two session we can just be together? She said that was a really good idea and I could bring in my teddy and we’d just do soothing things.

And that sounds perfect to me. I feel like a 7 year old who just wrecked the classroom in rage and broke everything I could and now I want to crawl over to a trusted adult and hide in their lap and cry.

I feel so beaten up.

This won’t be the end of this rupture, but it is an interlude. A pausing to reconnect, to find safety and stability and to know that no matter what, she will still be there.

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Trying to fix this.

I sent an email this morning to Sienna. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to have done or whether I should just have left it. Sometimes I don’t know if giving her space is better.

And it feels risky to have been so vulnerable. If she rejects this email and either ignores it or says that she’s not engaging with me today, then it’s going to be bad. I am putting my faith in her today. I don’t even know if she’s capable of being there for me today.

 

 

Dear Sienna,

I have woken up calmer this morning and with a clearer head. I still feel the pain in the pit of my stomach. And I think I could still be quite easily triggered so I am trying to avoid that whilst still desperately wanting to fix this mess we are in.

I don’t have any answers to this. It feels like a no-win situation for me.

I think the main problem is that both our needs are incompatible because you need space and predictability and I need proximity and access to you in quite an uncontained way, because I never predict when I will need you, so open access feels safest to me.

Someone has to lose out of this and it’s going to be me.

I realise now what you were saying on the phone yesterday about having more of a discussion about it and seeing how we can find a safe compromise. I realise it wasn’t about taking texts away totally but trying to find something that meets both our needs.

But what I was hearing at the time was totally different. I instantly became triggered and stopped hearing you. And this trigger is such a deep wound within me that I lose touch with what’s really being said to me.

Yesterday for the entire day, I lost touch with reality. I was plunged into another reality and the rage and the terror and confusion and the feelings that I was being abandoned were so real and so huge that I couldn’t even think straight.

There was no part of me which knew everything would be okay. There was no sensible adult part who could take over for me.

Something about taking texts away is so terrifying that I lose touch with the real world. It is so powerful and overwhelming that I have no capacity to listen or to reason. I don’t know why, because texting isn’t that important to me. Especially if we can agree that I can ask for a quick check in if I have the nightmares.

This week has hit every single serious trigger I have; Taking something away from me, creating distance from me, attachment, feeling abandoned and boundaries.

I don’t have the answer to why this is. I don’t know why those things can literally make me lose touch with reality. But they do.

And the mistake perhaps we’ve both made is trying to work through the trigger, talk about it, process it, find a solution, all while I am still in a triggered state. And it all adds to the fear and the power of it all and nudges me further and further into a non-reality state.

I am unable to process or be reasonable when I am terrified and fighting for me life. I am unable to hear you. It doesn’t matter that you’re not actually abandoning me, if I am in the middle of a flashback to real abandonment, if I am re-experiencing the original abandonment, then I am not really here, I am back there. And everything you say is filtered through my 10 year old brain.

I don’t think any of us has realised that I’ve been smack-bang in the middle of a flashback since Thursday, maybe even slightly before that. And we’ve tried to work in the present when I haven’t been available in the present.

I still don’t know how much damage has been done this weekend. I still can’t get a sense of how bad things are. What is real?

I am writing this because I have a strong sense that even though I am literally terrified of this mess, I do want to help sort it. I really feel like I can’t leave therapy even though the fear makes me want to so much. I want to leave first rather than experience anymore abandonment, any more changes, anymore bad things. I literally can’t face the space that open up inside me when I hear that something is being taken away from me.

But I also don’t know how to find my way back.

Something really deep is being triggered inside of me. And it’s not over yet. Even though I am more in touch with reality this morning, I know I am on the edge of it. So, I am not ready to have any discussions with you about solutions or changing things or boundaries, or any of that.

But I have a strong feeling deep in my soul that I just want to reconnect with you. I want to feel your presence and be calmed by it. I want to know that we are going to be okay, no matter what happens.

I am asking that we stop trying to process or talk so much and that we don’t try to find a solution until once you are back from your training. Hopefully I will be more present and more able to process by then.

I really badly need somatic things. I need to hear your voice, I need reassurance, I need a hug. I need my whole system to be calmed down and contained. I really need to reconnect with you in a meaningful way.

Those things will help bring me out this flashback. Those things will bring me into the safety of the presence. Words aren’t good right now. I need to feel literal containment.

I am begging you to please not try to talk about what’s happened this week or try to find solutions. It will send me back into this flashback.

I am not avoiding, I know we need to sort it, I know we need solutions. But I am not capable of it right now.

Please help me with this. I need to feel you are still with me. I need to feel that something catastrophic hasn’t happened. I need to hear your voice say “ I am still here. We will work this out. You are safe.”

That’s all I need. Safe things. Not words. I need to feel safe.

It feels like a very big risk to send this to you, because I know you don’t want to talk to me. And I know how easily I am triggered just now. But I am trying to trust the relationship and that is really hard right now. But I am relying on all the things you’ve told me in the past about you not leaving.

Please don’t make any-more distance, I’m already so far away. I understand it feel like nothing you say helps and in fact makes it worse. But that’s because we haven’t recognised that I am in a flashback and no able to hear anything safe in your words.

Everything was making it worse because we were trying to treat it with words and thinking and I really can’t handle that right now. I need you, just you. An admission that yeah things feel rubbish but we can fix it, but for now let’s just be together and let things be for now.

I just need to feel “home” right now. I need my secure base. I am trying to find my way back to you.

Sirena, Sofia and Keira.

 

 

 

 

 

This rupture isn’t over.

In our phone-Check in it sounded like she was still thinking texting should be revoked and we had a lot more discussing to do.

WTF? 

This led to me have a bit of a meltdown and telling her I wasn’t coming back. She didn’t say much so I ended the call.

I then sent her a text asking WTF she’s playing at, that this is going to put me in hospital. 

I’ve been in crisis all day. And she refused to engage, even when I said I felt suicidal and couldn’t cope . She told to go to A&E and that she wasn’t available.  

I took a valium and slept all day but I’ve woke up feel just as horrific. 

I think this therapy relationship is over. I’ve done it again. 

I feel so alone. I want to die I don’t want to live with this pain I’m feeling. The loss is too much for me.

Why does everyone leave me. 

Emotional Whiplash

I woke up at 5:30am this morning. I had a scheduled check-in with Sienna at 8:30am. As I sat, I found myself feeling the whole weight of Thursday’s session. I thought over and over about what happened, it was one of the most difficult sessions I’ve ever had I think, because I was dis-engaging with Sienna through sheer anger and bloody-mindedness and she pushed hard to get me to talk and she wouldn’t leave me alone.

It was a really powerful and impactful session. I still can’t bring myself to listen to it again or write it up for the blog.

I cried so many times this morning. The sense of loss weighed on my heart. I honestly had nothing to say in this check-in and I thought twice about bothering with it, because nothing I could say would change her mind so what’s the point?

At my check-in, Sienna asked how I was and I said through tears “ Heart-broken.”

Sienna empathised.

And then in a startling 180 U-turn, she said that she wasn’t going to take texts away, that she’d been wrong to do that and she was so sorry.

I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t speak.

She said she saw how important they are to me and why and she felt it was right that I was able to text her, especially after the CSA dreams.

Sienna explained that during and after Thursday’s session she suddenly realised that all the intensity that she had been feeling lately wasn’t hers. She had felt it and felt a huge need for a break and for distance from those feelings of confusion and distress and attributed it to the texting and not getting a break.. or something like that. And at some point later on Thursday she started to realise through some of the things I told her in session that it was MY distress she’d been picking up on, she was sensing the sheer level of trauma I hold, and not realising it was mine, and thought it was a sign that she needed a break.

She said she couldn’t imagine how horrific it must have been for me to hold all that trauma in for all these years.

Sienna said “ So much of that confusion and intensity has cleared in me this morning, that I’m in such a better place to support you because now I know what we’re dealing with. And I just want to reassure that I’m not going to take the texting away at the moment, I see you really need that. It might need to be reviewed at a later date but for now they need to stay.”

  • I note the “at the moment” which tells me that I can’t guarantee that it won’t be taken away again during some other rupture, and that doesn’t sit well with me, so I need to think about whether I’m able to just relinquish texting. I am not having it hang over me like some threat.

She sounded so energised and relieved to have finally understood what had been going on for her and also to have shed this building intensity and exhaustion she’d been feeling lately.

She said she was so sorry that I’d to hold what I’ve had to hold for all these years and it was unbearable to that of me being on my own with it.

I was like “ WTF is she talking about? Hold what?”

She continued, “ I can hear and feel how hard it is for you this morning, and I just don’t even know where to start, to begin to… except just to say, I’m with you. If I’m not there physically – I’m with you. I’ve been with you all night.” She laughed, slightly. Obviously, this has been preying on her mind all night and really impacted her.

I knew the session was horrendous but I’ve never heard her speak with so much feeling and empathy and depth of emotion.

I felt like this was way over what she’d normally give me empathy for. She’s never shown such deep compassion and feeling over taking away texts or me being that upset in session, even when it’s been partly her fault before. So I was like “ what’s going on here?”

I cried.

She asked where I was with it all.

I said to her “ I don’t understand. I just don’t understand….” I couldn’t arrange my words. I was trying to say that I didn’t understand this sudden U-turn.

All I could get out was “ It’s just too much loss.”

And she said “ I know. It’s too much loss. It’s SO much loss.”

I finally told her that I didn’t understand why so much has changed from yesterday.

Sienna said “ Because… I didn’t understand the intensity of the feelings…”

I interrupted tearfully “ What were the feelings? That you wanted to leave?”

Sienna said “ No. No, no… it was never that. Not leave, but have space. Leaving was never on the cards, not ever. There was a feeling of needing space but I’m probably picking up on the intensity of what you’re living with on a daily basis. You’ve had to live with your history. And it’s an appreciation for me of how intense that gets and you can’t get the space from it). The only way you can get space is to dissociate and switch.”

She said that even if I don’t understand the transference stuff, as a therapist it is all making perfect sense to her. To be honest I really don’t understand.

I felt relieved that she finally felt some of what I feel all the time and that it made sense to her now why taking away her supportive texts was so devastating and traumatising.

She sighed and said “ Ohh… I’m just giving you a virtual hug. You’ve carried a lot for a long long time.

I said “ But I’ve carried all that forever, why are you just feeling it now? Why are you knowing it now? We’ve been working together for two years.”

Sienna said she didn’t know why she was feeling it only now. She spoke of perhaps feeling a sort of parental impatience and confusion as to why I’m feeling so intense about the breaks, why am I kicking off over it when we’ve done lots of preparation around breaks and yet the feelings for me were building and building and building. But she said now she really understood it.

She said she understood now why it was so scary to me and when I said in session that the space was too long and if texts being taken away, a week being too long without contact or a break being too long, she understood the fear and scare because of the trauma was massive.

Sienna asked me to explain it from my perspective.

I told her I felt like I was drowning in space, there was just too much space and that she’d chosen to move away from me and leave me drowning.

I told her that I couldn’t imagine waking up and having nobody to tell the dreams to anymore.

We talked about the nature of the CSA dreams and the body memories and their impact on me. And then she started talking about feeling relief for me and for her and that I’d taken a huge step last night.

I was lost.

I said “ What’s a huge step? I don’t know what you mean?”

She said that I’d been able to disclose and that we actually know that something did happen.

She was talking about disclosing last night about a dream I’d had about a family member. I’d used it angrily and sarcastically after she suggested I fine other supportive people in my life and I’d said “ Oh yeah, will I phone my mum and say Hi Mum, I just had a nightmare about  XXX fucking me, can you come over?”

I’ve never been so explicit about what happens in my nightmares and I never name names. But I was fucking upset and angry with Sienna that I just spat it out in no uncertain terms to show her the full horror of what I’m living with.

Sienna had came over to hug me and asked “ Is that what happened?” And I told her through tears, no, it didn’t happen, it was just a dream.”

I don’t know if she didn’t hear me because she’s taken it as a full disclosure of a memory!!

My heart sank. Is that what all this extra sympathy is about? Child abuse? I thought she’s finally realised how traumatic her taking away texts had been. I feel like I’d cheated her or tricked her into feeling sorry for me and now she’d be angry.

I exclaimed “ It DIDN’T happen! I don’t know what you mean? Are you talking about what I said about XXX last night?” I felt shocked.

Sienna said “ Yes.”

I felt sick. I said “ I didn’t say… I mean, I DID have that dream but I didn’t… that’s not…. I don’t have memories of that.”

Sienna said “ Right, okay, and we can deal with that but the dream is very real isn’t it?”

I said animatedly “ Yeah! The dreams are horrific, and detailed and they are that graphic, and sometimes it’s one family member, sometimes it’s another and sometimes no one I know is in the dream and it’s like watching a movie.”

Sienna said that’s your brain trying to put a face to the perpetrator I suppose. She told be that the brain will constantly try to get answers, to make sense of what happened and it might be cycling through familiar faces.

I said to her “ I’m sorry, I don’t want you to feel cheated. I didn’t mean when I said that at the time that that’s what happened, I just meant that those were the things I was dreaming and I couldn’t share them with other people.”

Sienna reassured me it was fine. She seemed okay but I feel like she might think I lied or manipulated her into feeling sorry for me. And I swear, I did make it clear I was talking about a nightmare and when she asked me if that’s what happened for real, I said “ No, it didn’t happen.” But I guess it got lost in the drama of the session.

But I feel like a fraud. Like I got hugged and cared for and I got texts back all because she thought I was disclosing abuse and all the time I thought I was getting all of that because she cared that I was SO bereft over the loss of text and the distancing that she’d been doing.

Yuck, Yuck, Yuck.

Our phone call ended not long after that.

I felt emotionally spent. Even though there was relief that texts were reinstated, I still wasn’t over the Thursday session and the trauma of it all.

I can have check-ins over the weekend. And I was supposed to send her an email of somethings I’ve written but I didn’t do it. Part of me feels like the things I want to say, I want to say in session because I’m not sure how she’ll react and I need to see her face and in person reaction.

But I have been thinking and I think I am going to ask for a boundary of my own, and that’s that she doesn’t change anything we are doing whilst in the middle of a rupture.

It isn’t good to just take things away if she’s basing her decision on some unresolved and unconscious transference. I want her to get to the bottom of her feelings and make sure that the rupture is resolved before any solid decisions are made. Because this isn’t fair, to have caused me all this pain for something that was temporary transference.

I will write up Thursday’s session when I feel robust enough to listen back to it.

 

 

 

 

Better than nothing.

I need something else.

And what I need doesn’t exist anymore. Not for me.

I don’t need a therapist. I need a mum. A proper one, and attuned one.

I need a mum that responds like Sienna but doesn’t have the limitations Sienna has in her capacity as “Therapist.”

And I think that’s where the pain and confusion is. Because I need both. I need a therapist and I need a mum. And I can’t have a mum (the kind of mum I need.) So I try to get what I can from Sienna, I try to take the mothering that Sienna can give and make it enough.

And even though I need a mum, I don’t want her 24/7 anymore than I want Sienna 24/7, because I am all grown up and I don’t live at home anymore and I have a husband and an adult life to lead.

But I still want to know my mum is there in the background and will soothe me and love me and let me return to the safety of her arms sometimes, when life gets too much. I want a mum who doesn’t talk about boundaries or how my texts invade her down-time  and who is only accessible at prescribed times. I don’t want 24/7 access or 24/7 attention but I do want to know that if I need it, she’ll be there as soon as she can.

I want a mum whom I am entitled to. I am entitled to her time, I am entitled to invade her downtime in times of need, I am entitled to access to her anytime I want it, I am entitled to access her and her love, that I take space in her life and it’s my god-given right to be there, I have a place within her, because I am her daughter and she is the mother and she wants and needs that as much as I do.

Is this the confusion? That I want and need that and in absence of a real mother, I am trying to get that from Sienna whilst still recognising her role as therapist?

I want access. I want it when I need it. Both from Sienna and from my imaginary good enough mother. But the imaginary mother isn’t real, so I can’t access her. And I have never had healthy access to my real mother and so that leaves Sienna, my therapist. Who is trying to be my therapist and I am trying to make her be my stand in mother. My “better than nothing” option.

And every time she tries to be just my therapist with all the limitations that has, I hurt as if my own mother had just rejected me.

I always deny that I think Sienna as my mother or that I want that. I always say I am perfectly aware of the limitations and boundaries Sienna has and that I am aware of her place in my life. Because I really feel all that to be true.

I do feel clear that she’s my therapist. I don’t want her to be my mum because I have no idea what she’s like as a person or a mother. She might not be as attuned as a mother as she is as a therapist, I don’t know. She might be as annoying as most people find their mothers. She might engage in weird mother/daughter dynamics that most people feel with their mothers, she might not be very available or accessible in her real-life relationships. And I don’t need that, I don’t want that. I need her as my therapist, I need her to be this super-attuned, warm, committed therapist whose attention is fully on me and who is there solely for my needs. Because I really need a break from having to be there for everyone else’s needs.

But a tiny voice says that she does want her to be my mum. And when she denies me that, the rejection and the feeling of worthlessness and the pain of her choosing not to be that for me or her finding the idea so abhorrent, just like my real mum did, that she has to create distance and boundaries, is unbearable.

I know she’s my therapist and I want her to stay as that, but the traditional boundaries of a therapist don’t work for me. I need her to be my stand in mum. The “better than nothing option.” And that means that even though she isn’t my mum and even though she is bound by certain ethical considerations and rules….and so can’t do everything a real mother could do, she gets as close as possible to that mother role.

And maybe that’s where the conflict is. Maybe she’s not prepared to do that. Maybe she shouldn’t. But it’s what I need. I need more than a therapist. I need it like I need air.

I guess I want a mother who responds like a therapist AND a therapist who responds like a mother or is that one of the same thing?

I want my therapist to be my mother-figure but also keep the benefits of the therapist part in that her whole attention is always on me. And that I am protected by the good parts of the therapy boundaries.

Maybe that means I want the mother an infant is supposed to have. That un-ending attention and constant attunement and enmeshment, that hazy safe warm place where all there is, is baby and mother and there’s not split, they are connected, they are blissfully enmeshed.

But that also sounds super intense. Too intense. Because that’s just not realistic as an adult. And as an adult I neither need not want that… but I think I have baby parts who do want it.

I can’t seem to figure out what it is I really want from Sienna. It doesn’t feel enough to have her just as my therapist. It isn’t enough, it just isn’t….. but that doesn’t mean I want her to stop being my therapist and start being my mum either.

It’s like, I want her to be my mum and I want her to be my therapist. OR maybe it’s that I want her to be my therapist but I want her to do mum things, I want the same entitlement and access to Sienna as children have to their mothers.

And she wants to be just my therapist.

And like oil and water, the two don’t mix.

Yes, I think that might be it. I want Sienna to be my therapist but I also want to inhabit the same place in her life as her child would, with all the same entitlement and access that her child would have. With the same love and belonging and care and attention and bond.

Anything less feels torturous.

I can accept the limitations on the therapeutic relationship in terms of we only meet in the same place, there will never be shopping trips, movie nights, longs walks and cozy chats by the fire. She will never be in my life in the way others are. And I will never be in her life either. It imperfect, it’s not what I’d like yet it’s what I’ve got and it has to be good enough.

But I can’t accept the space that just being my therapist brings. The emotional space that opens up when I bump into the emotional boundaries she has up to protect herself from me. The rejection of me as anything other than a client. The box she puts me in when I’m not right in front of her. I am reduced to just being a client, someone she can only deal with at pre-agreed times and meanwhile I am at home just dying for the presence of my “better than nothing mother”. I am at home loving her, feeling attached to her, bonding to her and giving her very special status in my life.

And I am filed as “ work” in her life.

How painful is that? How humiliatingly degrading it is.