I realise I am quite behind with my sessions. So this one that follows is from two weeks ago. It’s long, so get a coffee 🙂
Session on Monday the 19th February
I started the session regaling Sienna with stories of my trip away with friends. We’d spent a night in a spa hotel.
She was delighted that I’d seemed to be able to participate in something without worrying too much and acting spontaneously.
And it’s true, the previous week I’d done well in many respects. But amongst it was all of Amelia’s drawings, she was so distressed. And I’d felt such an aching emptiness many times throughout the week. The old attachment emptiness, the lack of self, lack of mother, lack of love and of nurturing. And that is always really tough.
Last week had good moments for sure, but the splits between the trauma alters and the adult me who was just living life, going out with friends and immersing herself in her art were strong, evident and striking, to me at least. No one else knew. But I could feel it.
For example, on the previous Wednesday, Amelia drew those disturbed drawings, highly traumatic feelings and expressions of distress….. yet 15 minutes later there I was in the car with my friends chatting and laughing – being the adult I needed to be and not even thinking much at all about the distress or trauma stuff. I mean, I could feel that I was splitting, I could feel that I was sort of in survival mode and the slight fuzzy disorientated feeling was never far away. But far enough away not to be noticed by anyone.
Sienna asked if I’d felt any anxiety about staying away as she knows on previous trips my anxiety has been huge and I’ve struggled to leave my house.
I told her “ Even though I’ve done a lot of good things, I’ve been dissociated a lot – a lot, a lot, a lot!!!” I emphasised.
Sienna said “ Yes, I can see that. Because that trip was last Wednesday, yet on Friday we had the phone check in because you’d struggled with dreams…. Do you feel like you were dissociated when you were with me (on the phone)? I mean, I thought you were, it’s as if there was a little one there.”
I agreed, nodded my head. The phone call felt distant, a far away memory but I think I remembered at the time channelling a younger part.
Sienna continued “ Yeah, I thought so, there was very much a little one at the forefront. And that’s find, I’m glad she could ask for what she needed.”
I said to Sienna that it was the adult who’d asked for the call on the Thursday. I explained that I knew the young part wasn’t going to settle, so I was as well asking for help and even though adult me didn’t need or want a call, the child part did and the best way to settle a young part is to help them get their needs met.
As I traced my steps back to last week and what led to me asking for a call, I suddenly remembered that the previous Monday’s session had been weird. That I’d had a big dissociation towards the end of the session but when I “woke” out of it, it felt like the whole session just disappeared. I had felt like I’d only been there 15 minutes, not an hour! I don’t think that’s ever happened before.
And now, I told Sienna, “I can’t remember that session. It’s just a black hole.”
I recounted how heavily dissociated I’d been the previous week.
“ I find it really hard to get out the dreamy place after I’ve woken up, it takes a long while. I can’t stop sleeping, I feel heavily sedated. Time is weird, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know the day or the month. Sometimes I think it’s November still. Sometimes I think we are at the end of March (instead of end of February) and I get a fright because it feels like I’ve lost a lot of time. I feel disorientated a lot. And there are parts that were screaming in my head last Tuesday. I can’t remember what they were saying only that they were loud and distressed.
Yet, if I have adult things to do…. I’ve been getting them done. So it feels strange. To feel so very dissociated and disorientated yet also somehow keeping on top of my adult life things.”
I could feel just talking about this was pulling me into a confused slightly dissociated place. The foggy feeling was drifting in.
Sienna wondered whether this was a sign of my adult ego state strengthening; that I could do all the adult things even though things were feeling so dissociated. Perhaps the adult was better able to hold things now?
Listening to the session, I hear my voice start to turn a bit thick, kind of like when someone has had a drink and isn’t drunk exactly but starting to edge that way…. Not slurring but just not as precise in their speech.
“ I can’t remember much about our phonecall on the Friday, everything feels like…. Like someone’s just taken the memory off me and there’s just black where the memory used to be.”
Sienna said “ It was very much about….. well you came on the phone and said you’d had a bad dream that I’d closed my private practice, so I wondered with you if that dream was anxiety about me going on holiday? And I’m going so far, and maybe there’s a panic in the young ones.”
Sienna continued “ – but you couldn’t really answer that, you weren’t sure…. You just had that feeling of distress. And Amelia was about, you said. And she keeps drawing bad pictures, black and red pictures…”
I laughed slightly and nodded, yeah, she does.
I told Sienna that I’d been looking back to last year’s blog posts and had discovered a post called Amelia. And as it turned out, Amelia first turned up exactly a year ago this week. I told her of my amazement at this because up until last week, I hadn’t known who Amelia was. She had been written down last year on the list of alters we know about but when I saw her name on that list a few weeks ago, I had no idea who she was. Not even her name rang a bell.
Sienna said surprised in a soft tone “ Did she?”
Sienna said “ I think I remember us having conversations about….. I’m trying to remember…. I think her name came up and I recognised straight away her writing. That we’d seen it loads of times in other things and in some of the pictures you’d done in the books, she was there but we just didn’t know her name – or I didn’t. And I’m sure at some point whether it was last Spring having a conversation about because we’d been in relationship for the longest time.. – and also things were quite rocky, we wondered if it was her wondering how long I’d stay around because no one had stayed around that long. And that was 6 months of quite a lot of insecurity around that. And Amelia’s name was about at that time and her pictures were about.”
Sienna added “ And then in the Summer, it went downhill.”
I felt ill remembering it. I said “ I know.”
Sienna said “ But that’s fine, that’s part of the process. It wasn’t pleasant at the time but it was really important to go through. And I think Amelia comes out when there’s a lot of anxiety, particularly about attachment. So that’s why I was wondering if it’s my impending holiday that’s triggering this. Even if it’s unconscious. Because your adult’s saying yeah go on holiday, it’s fine…”
I laughed “ Is she?”
I laughed but I was irked that Sienna would assume to know what any of my parts are feeling about her THREE week trip. She hasn’t outwardly asked me how I’m feeling. I’ve been feeling anger about it and a resistance about even talking about it with her. Because honestly…. What’s the actual point?
Before breaks, I’ve always felt anxiety, dread, sadness but never anger. Not that I can remember. I’ve been avoiding thinking about this break much because it is what it is. It’s happening no matter what I feel about it so I may as well suck it up and deal.
And I’m not so angry about her going away for 3 weeks. That isn’t the anger. The anger seems to be accompanied with the huffy, churlish thought of “ My feelings on it don’t matter. Why bother talking about my anxiety or the young parts sadness and longing whilst you’re away, because it just irritates you. You don’t want to hear how I feel.” And I feel immense anger about that.
This thought and feeling isn’t entirely based in non-reality. Because last April/May, Sienna did admit to being frustrated and a bit annoyed/irritated that breaks were still such a sticking point with me, that they still caused so much disturbance. So, given that I know this…. Why on earth would I deliberately irritate her by sharing my feelings on it?
I think she mistakes my lack of conversation about it as me coping better and being more comfortable with her breaks…. Ummm wrong!
So yeah, my “ Is she?” comment about my adult being okay about the break was me reminding Sienna not to assume.
Sienna said “ Well, maybe she is, maybe on the surface it’s okay but the little ones inside aren’t.”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to talk about it.
Sienna continued “ I asked on Friday morning if Amelia would let you bring in some of the pictures and you were like um no.” She laughed slightly.
I said “ Well, I brought them with me.”
Sienna said surprised “ oh! Well maybe she is okay with it then.”
I said to Sienna “ I don’t think she speaks. I don’t know. Does she? I don’t know?” I couldn’t remember if Amelia has ever spoken directly to Sienna.
Sienna said “ No, well someone else was talking for her on Friday, for sure. She doesn’t talk. She talks through her pictures.”
I exclaimed in agreeance “ YES! That’s what I think. I wrote that on my blog.”
Sienna asked if I’d read the blog post about Amelia from last year. I told her “ Yes, I brought it in.” I got it out my bag and handed it to Sienna.
I said “ And I’ve brought in a picture she drew last year, you’ll remember this, she sent you the drawing in a text but she destroyed it.”
Sienna said “ Right, so she’s the one who does all the ripping.” Lots of artwork in my journal had been ripped out.
Sienna asked “ Is she the one who wrote what’s inside the envelope?”
Sienna was referring to an envelope in my journal from last year. It is sealed and written on the front is “ A secret never told.” It’s never been opened. I think Sienna is extremely curious about it because she’s asked about it many times over the year. To be honest I’m not entirely sure what’s in it.
I laughed and said to Sienna “ You’re dying to know what’s in that envelope, aren’t you?”
Sienna said “ No, not really. No. Not until you’re ready… there’s absolutely no rush.”
I said “ I don’t even know what’s in it!”
Sienna said “ No, it’s just that there’s a secret being held somewhere and there’s not point in forcing anyone. When they are ready, they will open it.”
I went back to the blog posts about Amelia. Sienna read the 3 pages.
We commented back and forth about Amelia and about the system in general. Trying to work it out, to get to know better what happens when she’s about.
As Sienna flicked through Amelia’s drawings, she talked about the recurring dreams I’d told her about right from the beginning of therapy with her, about the dead girl in the attic. About the different stages of decomposition.
Sienna said “ you talked about that right from the beginning and here it is showing in your drawings again. For me it’s always been a really powerful metaphor for fragmentation, that holds really powerful distressing and difficult material that won’t go away. And is hidden, not to be seen by anybody, not to be found. But obviously very dark and distressing for you. And you talked about your bedroom as a little girl just being there and sitting on your bed and you would cry on your own.
But you didn’t know what age, you didn’t know…. It was almost like a separate story from the other bits you’d tell me about. Just like, your normal family life.”
I felt strange. Floaty.
I said to her “ I don’t remember crying in my room.”
Sienna said “ And maybe it’s because those elements are so split off from a lot of your everyday experience.”
Sienna went back to the drawings. Amelia’s drawings.
She looked at Amelia’s frantic scribblings of her name, over and over. She said “ You know it’s like a little girl saying I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. But she doesn’t know people are trying to find her and we can’t reach her.”
I don’t know why I started slipping into another place. But something about talking about Amelia, talking about her drawings and about things I said that I can’t remember… combined with there being time to let my adult-self slip away as Sienna quietly read my blog and flicked through the images. But in the recording as Sienna asks me a question, I say “ I don’t know” and I sound like a tiny child.
Oh yeah, I’m gone. Sienna doesn’t notice yet. But I’m gone. Someone else is here.
Sienna says flicking through my journal “ I wonder what Amelia needs to help her. I do wonder? Poor Amelia. Very scared isn’t she? And alone.”
I say “ I don’t even sense fear, it just…. Distressed. I don’t understand why. I don’t know.”
Sienna said referring back to Friday’s call, “ And you asked when I go on holiday if you can take the blue pillow, do you remember that?”
I laughed and nodded. The blue/turquoise floor pillow stays in Sienna’s office but it’s become “MY pillow.” The thing I hold onto very often for comfort and protection. In our call Sienna asked if there was anything she could give me as a transitional object to help me while she’s away and I had asked if I could take the blue pillow home with me. Really, I’d love a cardigan or jumper belonging to her but I felt like too much of a creep to ask. So the pillow is something I also very much relate to her and that seemed less creepy to ask for.
Sienna smiled and said “ And of course you can.”
Sienna said “ Her images are so powerful. What I would say about Amelia is that because she has no words, no language, that she’s presenting herself through images. So, when she presents like that, try and take special attention and capture it. Even if it doesn’t make any sense, because that’s how she’s trying to communicate.”
I nodded. “ It’s weird, cos when it comes over me, I couldn’t even say Oh, this is Amelia I wouldn’t know, I just know that I have to draw and it’s like being in this dissociated place and it’s page after page after page, and it’s almost frantic….. but then once it sort of slows down a little bit and I see what’s been done on the pages, this Editor part comes in says, no that can’t stay, this looks really bad….
Sienna interjected “ And that’s what I was getting on the phone actually – because I was asking if you thought Amelia would let you bring the drawings to therapy and it was like a hard no, that she doesn’t want anyone to see them. It was a case of you didn’t know and you’d need to see how it felt on the day. There was some resistance to that. But now, when you see those images, what sense do you make of it? Or what feelings does it invoke in you?”
I paused to think.
“ Just a lot of confusion. I feel very confused about it and I don’t understand why… what that’s about. I don’t understand why she’s doing that. I don’t like it, I don’t…. I look at those drawings and I think that looks like quite traumatic stuff but I don’t know what that is, I don’t feel that, why am I doing that? Stop doing that! It’s just confusing and it’s hard to NOT destroy that (the drawings).”
Sienna said “ I mean, she’s drawn worse. If you look back at your first journal, she’s drawn worse.”
I was surprised to hear that. I couldn’t think what images were worse. How does Sienna remember that? I can’t remember Amelia drawing.
Sienna said “ The first one you drew, during our time here…”
I interjected “ In here?” shocked that I’d have drawn anything like that in front of anyone.
Sienna said “ Yes”
Me, incredulous “ I drew it IN HERE?”
Sienna said “ No, no, you brought it in and again they were very black but that was pre- knowing what her name was but you can tell it’s hers , looking backing. They were very dark, abusive, distressed pictures.”
I felt embarrassed. Scared. I said quietly “ I don’t know why.”
Sienna said “ Well that’s the whole point, there’s no words to it. It’s an experience, potentially. Split off which is what happens because you don’t feel the trauma, that’s why she’s split off. It’s another reason why potentially she’s…. that nobody is going to let her come in a hurry, because the other parts don’t want to have to feel it all. So the protection mechanism is still in place and that knowing about it is protection I think.
But on another level, I think it’s really important to say to Amelia, that I see her. And she’s not evil and she’s not bad. And I understand why she can’t come here. But know that this is safe and I feel her and she’s not alone.
And I don’t need to know what it’s all about in order just to care and feel empathy for her distress. She feels like a really lost little girl.”
Oh God. Sienna was talking directly to Amelia. And I knew Amelia was there, listening, I could feel it. I could feel her. It’s always hard when Sienna starts talking with the parts directly, they are not used to being seen.
I felt Amelia, breaking through and past the permeable membrane of adult me as Sienna spoke to her. The adult me receded and Amelia was at the front.
I felt Amelia’s sadness, her vulnerability and distress. I felt floaty and sleepy and tearful.
The room fell silent.
I can’t say what I was thinking or feeling cos I was no longer there and I don’t remember what was going through my mind.
Eventually, Sienna’s voice broke through the silence “ Is she there? Is she listening?”
I nodded, made an affirmative noise.
Sienna asks quietly, “ Does she want a hug?”
I shake my head immediately. Amelia does want a hug but she can’t ask, can’t accept. She feels too unworthy of it, too dirty.
Sienna said softly “ Does she want anything? Or does she just need to be here?”
I say quietly “ She says she’s dirty.”
I remember now, hearing Amelia crying and wanting to draw the word dirty.
Sienna said softly “ I know she feels that. But you’re not dirty. It’s someone else that’s made you feel like that. It’s a word that you use in order to understand the feelings that you’ve got. It’s not about being dirty. It’s about being hurt.”
I’m crying. I put my arms out limply and then I make a washing motion with my hands “ I just want to get clean, I just feel I want to get clean.”
Sienna says “ I know, I know.”
I curl up into myself. Bring my knees up to my chest in an effort to get small and to hide or comfort the level of vulnerability I was feeling.
I sob to myself. Head down.
Sienna said “ It sometimes feels that it’s someone else who’s contaminated you. That it’s stuck on you that you can’t get rid of it.”
Amelia rejects that immediately “ No, it’s me.”
Sienna pauses and then says “ It’s just a word to describe a feeling, and nobody is born dirty, nobody is born bad.”
Amelia doesn’t believe her. She knows she’s dirty, it’s on her, it’s in her. She wants to sit in a bath of bleach but she knows it won’t make much difference.
Sienna said “ You just feel that way because you can’t see beyond the feeling. But that’s not true.
You are as good and as….. I don’t even want to use the word clean, because there’s no such thing as being clean or dirty…. You’re just normal. It’s normal to have these feelings when you’ve internalised something that doesn’t belong to you. You’re just a little girl whose been really confused about feelings.”
I make a sound that makes it seem like I am quietly agreeing with Sienna but actually I was just acknowledging that I was listening. Inside there was a war. Amelia knew that Sienna couldn’t understand. That she wasn’t seeing that she really IS dirty, inside and out. That there’s no way to get rid of the dirt. She IS the dirt.
I cried silently.
Sienna said “ Amelia’s a little girl who should be allowed to play. And do normal things. But I can sense that in the front of her mind she had all these dark, dark images and pictures and she’s allowed to put those image onto paper as much as she likes. You do what you need to do. As long as it’s not dangerous to you, if that helps get the feelings out.
Is she worried about me going away?”
I shake my head and shrug at the same time.
Sienna says “ Is she okay?”
Sienna asks if Amelia knows why she’s surfaced again?
I say no.
Sienna says “ She’s maybe just full, and she just needs to get all this out. She holds all this by herself for months on end.
Do you know what emotion is behind your tears?”
I think and then say full of tears “ Dirty. I want to be clean.”
Sienna asks “ Did someone tell you that you were dirty?”
I reply in a burst of tears, a resistance to remembering, a resistance to…. Explaining, maybe “ I don’t know!!!!”
Sienna nods seeing the resistance. She lets me have it and doesn’t push me. “ You just feel it, hmm?”
I sob and nod. Bereft.
Sienna says “ and that’s really hard to bear, especially when everyone’s telling you you’re not that way, you’re not dirty.
Do you know that even if you were, everybody would still love you? And even if you were, it’s not your dirt.”
I whisper “ it is mine. It’s mine.”
Sienna said “ No. You know when you feel like that, it’s your sense of self that feels dirty. And you aren’t. And I’m not going to collude with that feeling.
Because there’s nothing you can do to change you can’t do anything to it, you’ve got to decide and get to that point inside yourself that “actually this feeling doesn’t belong to me. I have to give it away I have to reject it.”
I was shaking my head no. Amelia wasn’t ready to give up the dirty feeling because she knows in her heart that it’s her dirt. It is in her, it is on her, it sticks to her like tar. She is made of it. And she couldn’t understand why Sienna would insist otherwise. Can’t she see it????
Sienna continued “ – And let Amelia come out to play. So whoever is holding her back….. so that she’s encased in that belief, needs to come and talk and tell us why they think Amelia should stay hidden.”
And just like that, a new part moved in. Angry. Possibly male. A powerful disembodied voice inside my head telling Amelia to shut up, she’s not real. Anger towards Sienna for challenging Amelia to be anything different. Anger at Sienna for trying to reach Amelia. Rage directed at me. It felt like a demon.
All I can do is listen to it. Amelia listens to it.
I or it, answers Sienna’s question about why Amelia should stay hidden. It’s impossible to tell that another part moved in by my voice, it still sounds like me. “ Cos she’s not real.”
Sienna hesitates and then asks “ Who says she’s not real….. hm?”
Sienna says “ That’s a big judgemental statement for someone to make. It’s very convenient for the others or some of the others to say that she’s not real. She’s as real as everybody else inside.
And I wonder if the others are a bit scared that she holds information that they don’t want anyone else to know?
But maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she’s just a very distressed little girl. Because she’s been abandoned by all of you.”
I said nothing. I was still experiencing Amelia’s distress and this other parts rage at being challenged by Sienna and a tiny bit of adult who was watching this unfolded and utterly confused.
Sienna asked “ Who’s not letting her out?”
I said “ Me.” I sounded quiet and meek but inside the rageful demonic voice was verbally attacking Sienna over and over, trying to scare her into submission.
Sienna asked “ Who is me?”
The part recedes, not willing to say anymore. Amelia had receded too but less so.
I lift my head and begin to feel a bit more in the room.
Sienna detects the shift. “ Are you okay?” She smiles.
She says “ Don’t let Amelia think she’s any less important than anybody else. None of the rest have any right to be thinking or doing differently.”
I don’t say anything. I can feel Sienna’s protection over Amelia. Defending her from the parts who want to shut her down.
She asks “ Is it Amelia who likes the cushion?”
I laugh meekly “ I don’t know.”
I add “ She wants a doll.”
I could feel Amelia wanting to desperately hold onto a baby doll. “ I want a doll, I want a doll.” I saw an image of Amelia hugging tightly one a baby doll for comfort.
Sienna says “ Does she need want one to hug?”
Sienna says “ Maybe Sirena could go shopping and buy her one?
In the last 6 minutes of the session I ask “ Can I come and sit with you now?”
Sienna nods “ hmhm, we have a few minutes left.” And she pats the seat next to her. I scurry over. Into her arms.
Sometimes it feels like hug time is respite for both Sienna and I. A break from the intensity.
Sometimes it feels very much like after a toddler or young child has a major meltdown, has destroyed its surrounding and now all the power has gone out of them, there’s a quiet moment of repatriation and reassurance. Sienna often talks quietly to me, I listen, sometimes I talk a little bit, mostly I just cry and hang on to Sienna like my life depended on it, feeling utterly spent.
Those moments are so important. Those are the moments that make it okay to leave the room and pick up my adult self.
My session ended shortly after and I felt pummelled. War-weary.
As I listened to this recording of my session it strikes me how little I remembered of it. My memory seems to be a strange thing.
I don’t hold memories of that session. But when I listen to a recording, I suddenly remember it happening and what I was feeling – from all the parts. But if I was to pause the recording I literally could not tell you a single thing that happens or is said next. It’s like a big black hole.
What is that? Why does that happen? Clearly I have the memory in there somewhere since I can immediately remember details as I’m listening, but I don’t have access to the memories unless I hear the session, How does that happen?