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.







34 thoughts on “Better than nothing.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I read your blog but don’t usually comment but with all that’s been happening I felt I needed to, I am so sorry your T seems to be blurring the boundaries again, I understand what she is doing is coming from a place of care but she really needs to sort her own stuff out. As for the wanting her to be a mother figure and not being able to accept that she is just a therapist well I think this is the work, this is exactly what you need to grieve and it’s unfair. You should have had an attuned parent who could meet your needs but sadly you didn’t and those needs are awakened now by therapy but they don’t belong in the here and now they are needs from long ago and they can’t possibly be met now. They do however need to be grieved for and Sienna needs to be the rock that you can do this with and it will be messy your parts will want to thrash around, to scream to smash the world up and S needs to be able to hold all that. From my perspective it seems she wants to be able to put things right, she wants to rescue you and while good intentioned she cannot be that mother or parent figure and by shifting boundaries this just causes confusion to your child parts, she almost dangles the carrot then pulls it away.
    I think she does care and wants to help but unless she can hold her own boundaries then you may need to find someone who can, as I can feel your pain in all this and you don’t deserve this. I hope you don’t find this too critical it’s coming form a place of concern, ive been exactly where you are now and it’s pretty bad but hold on you will get through this x

    • Sirena says:

      Hi, I really appreciate you writing to me. It’s always nice to connect with those who are reading.
      You’re absolutely right, grieving for what I never got and don’t have now in a mother is exactly the work. And it’s something unfortunately that I am going to revisit over and over, probably for years. I wish I could do it quicker. And while the cognitive knowing is there, it’s much harder for me to accept in my body and emotions. Because the very nature of my relationship with her is so parent-like. That is what is simulatenously hurtful and healing. Somehow, feeling into the experience of good parenting and also bumping against the limitations of it, somehow lets me get in touch with the pain and grief of the reality, which is that I missed out on safe nad healthy parenting. I don’t think I could face that grief without Sienna doing the level of parenting that she does. Because the pain makes me want to end my life at times, yet knowing I have an imperfect andbetter than nothing alternative in Sienna, a kind of mothering that goes someway to being enough, is what makes me strong enough to tolerate grieving the original loss. Does that make sense?
      I think she can hold her boundaries, I think it’s hard for her, that’s for sure, but ultimately she does hold them and keeps things as safe as possible. It is inevitable that she’ll make mistakes or hurt me, because she’s human and fallible. This that’s going on with her this time is pure transference playing out and there’s no way to avoid that, not all the time anyway.

  2. CD says:

    Yes! 100%. That push and pull is a constant struggle. I have adopted using the phrase “adult toddler” all of the time. When I look at my own toddler who will tell me, “Mommy I need you” when I’m sitting right there. And all the reassurance I need to give him that he is with me and I with him. I feel like it is that genuine reassurance that we need and want from our T’s. It’s hard, because they can’t always be there like we want (just like I can’t always be there for my son). I think toddlers have the advantage of being more innocent and not have the years of mistrust that we do. a thought to chew on for sure…

    • Sirena says:

      Yep it’s very toddler like isn’t it. Sometimes just needing them for needing sake. Just needing to feel their presence.

  3. alicewithptsd says:

    I think this is what so many of us want…a therapist who we have access to the way a child would to a mom. What CD says above, about the adult toddler is so true. I often feel like whatever developmental stage my daughter is going through, I’m going through the same stage with Bea…..
    I wish I had some words to fix this for you. I know you are hurting and I’m sorry. Please know I’m supporting you, and sitting with you. Hugs to any parts that would like a hug. 💟

  4. Lauren says:

    I think you’re finally at a point where the only option left is to let yourself grieve for the position you’re in, not having that mother and that noone else will truly fill that void no matter how hard they try. You could have a full on adoptive mother and that still won’t fill the painful gap your true mother leaves.

    What you’re describing, doesn’t exist. A mother can’t be a therapist and a therapist can’t be a mother, they literally conflict with each other. Not because of you, not because you’re too much, they just cannot coexist by nature. I’d say Sienna has tried to be both, I think she’s tried quite hard to meet as much of both as she can because she cares, and that is why you’re now both in this position, because it’s impossible. Those boundaries aren’t to protect her from you, they’re to protect the work if anything, almost like the work is a person in its own right.

    You may even need to grieve that Sienna can’t be your mother, because she seems like she would be a wonderful one because of how good of a therapist she is I suppose (because like you say, she could be quite different as a mother). I think the younger parts may still have been hoping for that somehow, even though your adult self knows that’s not possible, and adult you doesn’t even want that. I really think the young parts need to grieve properly, maybe they’re in the denial phase, because the weight of acceptance is really heavy, almost unbearable, but they won’t heal and come together with you if they’re on a different page.

    I wish I had comforting words. I can only tell you I hate to see you go through this and my heart is heavy for you as I write. Though saying that, this is an almost impossible step, almost unbearable, but not completely. You’re still going, you’ve not terminated, youve not switched off. Amongst all the pain this causes that is something to be proud of. It hurts because you are pushing through the place that has always been unbearable, but you’re bearing it now. Through gritted teeth, sure! But you’re bearing it. This is the work. Keep going my lovely, keep going.


    • Lauren says:

      *Tisk* I usually check comments first to make sure I don’t repeat anything but I’ve had this comment open all day doing it in pieces around the boys. Now that I’ve commented it’s refreshed and shown the anon comment further up, who I clearly agree with! #facepalm

    • Sirena says:

      You’re so right. I am at a place where everytime I revisit this pain, and this child wish of having Sienna be more than just my therapist, I am touching the real grief, the real pain. I am coming face to face with the original wound. And the pain is immense.
      And in all the thinking I’ve done over this, I imagine what it would be like if she or someone like her could adopt me and I always come back to this feeling that no matter how good it felt, it would never be right, it would never be close enough, because we don’t share DNA, I’d always not really be hers. And that would hurt too. So adoption isn’t the anser even if it was possible.
      Sienna has tried to meet both. She’s taken that role and that caring up to the line as far as possible without crossing it. And now we’ve reached that line and there’s no more room to maneouvre, there’s no more line to push. And that’s where the pain is. Maybe we needed to get there though. Because without it, I cant reach the real grieving I need to do. If it’s always comforting and everything I need, then I can stay there and deny the grieving I clearly need to do.
      What I want doesn’t exist, you’re right, and like I said, the mother and therapist are like oil and water, they can’t mix.
      The younger parts are in denial, and avoid the grieving with fantasy. I can feel that to be true. I can feel them hide from reality, I can feel the push back when anyone on here tells me that Sienna can’t be my mother or can only be my therapist and that I need to grieve and accept what is.. I can feel them literally shrinking from it and the threat that brings to them.
      I am going through it and I am bearing it and that’s a massive step. My first response was to leave, not gonna lie. But I’m hanging in there. And I can see and feel the amount of unbearable pain and undeniable strength I am holding through this and I am proud of myself.

      • Lauren says:

        I think you’ve already dipped your toe in the acceptance pool, more than just look at it from afar and thinking ‘fuck that thanks very much!’. And I’m damn well proud of you too. This is a life changing step x

      • Individual Medley says:

        Sorry to intrude but can I echo Lauren – wow I am SO impressed with how you are dealing with this, bearing the unbearable and hanging in there! You are an inspiration to me and no doubt many others who read your blog. Xxx

  5. Anonymous says:

    But isn’t it that we don’t actually want them as mothers, but we want to be loved, cherished and valued as if they are? That we are finally worth that.

  6. LB says:

    I just think you have to get over this idea that Sienna sees you as “just work”. I can assure you that her feelings for and about you are much more complex than that. The hardest part of this phase of therapy is allowing yourself to be loved by her while concurrently grieving the attachment you missed out on with your own mother. Sienna’s love will likely always feel imperfect, but it is real. It is.

    Dare I say that she probably feels the same way about you that we all do (and even more since she gets you face to face). I would venture to guess that she feels privileged to know you and honored by your freaking incredible courage.

    Let her love you, Sirena.

    • Sirena says:

      Thank you LB. What lovely things to say. Sometimes I know I’m more than “just work” but when I feel rejected by her or she puts in space between us it feels like I’ve been reduced to “just work” or to an annoyance in her life.
      It’s really hard in those moments to feel anything else to be true.
      But letting myself be loved? Wow. That IS really hard indeed.

  7. Blooming Lily says:

    You have just put exactly into words everything that I felt after T’s recent email. It couldn’t have been any more on point. I am so, so, so sorry Sirena. Not having a good enough mother is the worst pain there is, and having someone who could be good enough, yet refuses to because of “professionality” – it feels exactly like being rejected by your mother again, like you said, but for me at least it feels even worse, because this time it’s someone who knows everything about you. She knows all of your parts and your wounds… and then to distance herself from that versus moving toward it to comfort it like a mother would… it just feels cruel. Absolutely cruel. I know that nothing I can say will make it better because I do recognize this pain (while obviously it’s not the same exact situation), but you’re in my heart. You deserve a good enough mother, Sirena. Not just a good enough one – a wonderful one. And it breaks my heart that you didn’t get it when you were little. I’m sending my love.

    • Blooming Lily says:

      And to add on, that’s not to say that Sienna doesn’t love you. I agree with the comment above me. Transference and countertransference is a bitch because it gets so complicated. But I believe the love is still there and very real.

    • Sirena says:

      Yep, it’s like they see your pain and your need and your vulnerability and they are choosing to side-step it. It’s like they dangle the dream in front of you when it suits them to be all warm and fuzzy with you, but the minute you grab for it, it’s taken far away from your clutching grabby little hands and out come the boundaries.

      • Blooming Lily says:

        I know it is impossible to believe Sirena, but that’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that this is happening. The way that Sienna is handling this is really poor. You’ve been doing a good job bringing your feelings into session, and she’s just not attuning. That’s not your fault, even though it feels like it for the little ones (and even though it is completely shitty beyond measure in general). What you said about the PTSD veteran REALLY resonated with me. I don’t think taking away texting was a smart or appropriate or okay move on her part, and I hope that she’ll reconsider.
        I’m glad that she’s willing to take things to supervision, even though it’s not solving anything now and won’t take away the pain it’s already caused.
        Then of course there’s that – that even if she were to retract everything and be completely attuned and caring…. the damage is still done. And knowing that it is, and facing having to navigate it and feel it and re-feel it every day – it’s terrible. Feeling like she isn’t worrying one bit about any of this right now, yet for you, it’s all you can think about because it’s so important (and rightly so) – the disconnect there is very very painful.

  8. dangerousvoyager says:

    Just want to offer some quiet support. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to say much that is constructive while you’re going through this really difficult time with Sienna. It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m finding that reading your posts sometimes stirs up some uncomfortable things for me and I don’t want to add my own shit to what you’re already dealing with. I am very impressed by how strong you are in pulling yourself through this and sticking with Sienna though.

  9. manyofus1980 says:

    oh god sirena this made me bawl. its what i want too. can I send this to my therapist minus your therapists name and your name, it describes the kind of relationship I’d like perfectly. xo

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