I had my session on Tuesday this week. And… I did NOT tape my session! ARGH I hate when I do that.
As a result I have very limited memory of the session – good old dissociation/switching.
I have looked back at messages I sent my friend from after my session so I have a vague memory of what happened.
The night before, Sofia (age 18) had been out and about and had been in a really good but silly mood. So, I was telling Sienna about it and what had made Sofia laugh so much, and I switched into Sofia there. I/she was animated, and dramatic and sarcastic, sassy and cynical but in a funny way.
Sienna asked to see what I’d brought with me, and I got my dream book out. I’d had a horrendous dream at the weekend and so as Sienna read, I snuggled down on the sofa under my covers. I got quiet…. And Sofia disappeared and god knows who came in.
Sienna spoke to me about the dream and the meaning of it, about the child parts who weren’t seen back then.
I listened, nodded, but had switched into a child part. I was exhausted having not slept well that day/night. I lay my head on the arm of the sofa.
I think Sienna commented about me looking like I just needed a story read to me as I lay there. I nodded in agreement.
I don’t know why, I don’t remember. But Sienna came over to cuddle me. I scooted over to her and under her arm and lay there. I think I was crying but I’m not sure why? Sienna tucked a tissue under my face, sort of between my face and her body.
I said “ Sorry, did I get tears on you?” and raised my head slightly.
Sienna said “ No, no, don’t worry, I don’t mind tears on me, I just don’t want your snot on me!!!” She laughed.
I feigned surprise and mild indignation “ Why? What’s wrong with my snot?”
I didn’t have any snot anyway, what she talking about? I settled back into her arms.
We just lay there. Contented silence. It felt warm and restful. I closed my eyes.
Not asleep, but sleepy. Safe.
I heard Sienna’s heartbeat slow and felt her head become heavy as it leaned on mine. She was sort of dozing too I think. I love those moments. Quiet, peaceful, calm, mutually trusting…. Loving.
I love that she feels comfortable enough to cuddle and doze with me. I hope she gets something lovely from it too. I hope it fill her up the way it does me. I wish I knew if it did.
We basically lay like that until the end of session and I left easily. I was still in quite a childlike place though and didn’t really switch out of it that night. I went to bed shortly after I got home.
I was in my favourite jammies, snuggled under two duvets which gave enough weight to make me feel super safe, and my Cleo cat cuddly toy. I was still in child mode clearly! I drifted off to sleep in a happy cloud of oxytocin, feeling loved and safe and with the words of my therapist in my ear “ You are safe now. It’s 2018 and you are loved and you are safe.”
I got THE best sleep I’ve had for some time.
For the past couple of weeks, I think, I have felt such a sense of connectedness to Sienna. And this week, is no different. I have floated on a dreamy cloud of attachment-y loveliness all week. There’s this feeling of deep and soft affection for Sienna. I love her. She loves me. I can feel it all.
This is new- to be able to hold all that positive stuff inside of me. I don’t recall ever being able to hold onto the connection for this long. Ever.
In 7 years of therapy (not concurrently, and with different therapists. ) I have never been able to hold onto the good feelings, the “warm fuzzy” stuff. I would drain from me in minutes at first and I would soon find myself starving for more and doubting and pulling apart the warm connecting moments as “fake” or “a lie probably”.
I had no place within me that could hold love and care. It just drained out of me, like sand through a sieve.
Eventually, I could hold onto it a bit longer, but love and care often triggered a whole bunch of other hypervigilant symptoms including anger and fear and that would soon overtake the warmth and care I’d been given.
It felt so unfair. I desperately wanted to hold onto the gifts of love that my therapists would bestow me with and I just couldn’t, it slipped out my hands so quickly…. Within minutes of leaving them usually.
It’s so sad that I couldn’t hold onto love. That I had no place to put it and so it melted away, like a snowflake in the palm of my hand.
So, anyway, these past 2 weeks have felt amazing in many ways. To finally be able to hold onto the love. To reap the benefits of love and care and belonging. I keep getting an “ oxytocin dump” in my brain every few hours. Like I am hooked up to an intravenous drip of the stuff.
And every-time I get a wave of it, I just feel all the love and connectedness all over again. It makes me feel safe and happy and real. I feel real. Not a ghost anymore.
To explain about Oxytocin, it’s most often referred to in childbirth and breastfeeding. It’s the social bonding hormone.
“More recently, oxytocin has been suggested to be an important player in social behaviour.
In the brain, oxytocin acts as a chemical messenger and has been shown to be important in human behaviours including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, anxiety and mother–infant bonding. As a result, oxytocin has been called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’.
Many research projects are undertaken, looking at the role of oxytocin in addiction, brain injury, anorexia and stress, among other topics.”
It has taken 7 years of therapy (3.5 with Sienna), 7 years of the constant drip drip drip of connection, unconditional positive regard and care to finally be able to hold Sienna in mind. To know that I am held in mind and I can finally hold onto the love, there’s a home for it now.
I have no idea if it will stay. Will I always be able to hold onto it? Does it depend on which alter is out? I don’t know yet, time will tell.
An affect of this being able to hold the love and trust and care within is that it was triggered Keira (aged 5) to be out more.
Last week she actually showed up in therapy in the last 30 mins. She snuggled in with Sienna and she babbled about childish stuff; the snow, glitter, story books, cuddly toys, imagining if flowers had coloured lights that came on at night….you know… the usual. LOL
Usually I talk for Keira. I rarely let the child parts out quite so fully. I feel a lot of shame about having child parts cos let’s be real – it’s just weird, to watch a grown-ass adult descend into a 5 year old.
And so, I let them talk but generally try to keep my voice and words somewhat adult. It’s been a huge stumbling block in my therapy, because Sienna wants the children to come out and play properly and I won’t/can’t allow it.
It’s not that I don’t want to allow it. But the shame of it and the sheer habit of keeping those parts secret makes it almost impossible.
So, it was quite a big thing that I let Sienna see Keira. It’s a good thing, it’s progress. Yet afterwards the teen parts just cringed and felt angry.
I had a teen part (don’t know who) who kept popping up last week feeling suicidal, wanting to die, feel SO bloody ashamed of being part of a system of alters. She didn’t want to be part of anything. She wanted to be one person, not some weirdo who acts like a baby.
She was hard to resist. Her need to self-harm was strong. If she wasn’t allowed to die, then at least she wanted to hurt herself a lot. But I wouldn’t allow it. I hate self-harm marks. But it was hard to contain this teens need to destroy herself.
The teens overwhelm and shame has subsided now. Thank goodness.
But Keira, well, She’s been about a lot this week.
She’s an attach part. She hold trauma but doesn’t really speak much about it, but her drawings speak volumes of what she’s been through.
She ADORES Sienna, she wants to be with Sienna all the time. She just wants hugs all the time and needs a lot of reassurance from Sienna. Though, even Keira has progressed slightly and is a lot more secure with Sienna. Though it is still easy for Keira to become anxious, scared and in need.
The effect of being able to hold love and trust within us, has meant Keira has wanted more of it. She’s become quite…. I use the word “ floppy”, because she sort of becomes like an overtired infant who just wants to cuddle into mummy. She seems sort of sleepy and fractious and a bit moany. She feels the love too and just wants more of it.
This week Keira has felt all the love we are able to hold within us now. And she loves it. But she’s also been a very sad little girl because she thinks Sienna doesn’t like her and it hurts her heart and makes her cry, because she loves Sienna and she can’t stay away from her. And the other alters have to go to therapy and therefore so does she and she doesn’t know what to do about that.
For a long time I’ve been aware that Keira triggers Sienna.
Sienna has always encouraged Keira to come to sessions and play. She has always spoken affectionately of Keira and spoken to Keira directly if there’s a sense she might be around (but not fully out)
Keira hears Sienna’s encouragement and warmth and finally figures it might be okay to come out and speak and then sends Sienna needy texts. Sometimes that’s okay but if we catch Sienna on a day where she’s super busy and focused on other things and/or stressed, then Keira gets a blunt, frustrated tone that Keira interprets as anger and hate and then she feels confused because Sienna said she was allowed to talk.
Then the teens take over and blast Sienna for being a moody bitch and a shit therapist to boot. And there we have a meltdown, a rupture that takes a long time to sort through. It’s awful.
After our last big rupture, which I can’t even remember what it was about, Sienna and I finally had a frank conversation about what was going on.
Sienna finally saw what I’ve known and she’s denied for a long time – she is triggered by Keira’s level of need.
It is Keira’s level of need that overwhelms Sienna and irritates/triggers her at times if it isn’t contained in the therapy room.
I am not fully clear on what the triggered feelings and thoughts are that Sienna gets, and I’m not sure it would be helpful to hear her negative transference.
But I know that Sienna has been working on it a lot in her supervison, though I don’t know the details. But basically the trigger response is to do with Sienna’s relationship with her mother as little girl and something Keira does or is, feeds into that for Sienna.
As a child, Sienna was/had to be very independent and so I think neediness irritates her or something. I’m not sure the full details. But I get it. Adult me really gets it, because I get trigger responses to other people’s needs if they feel manipulative or poor me or victim based. I can’t stand it!
I can understand that the emotional manipulation or victim stance some people use isn’t intentional, or conscious usually. It doesn’t come from a bad place and I don’t hate them as people, but I hate the behaviour and I get very triggered by it because that’s what my mum is like.
So, I get it. This is Sienna’s history, her “stuff”, and it’s not personal. And also I understand that the triggered response only happens outside of session when Sienna is immersed in her own life and not got her “therapist hat” on.
She’s explained that she doesn’t feel the negative transference in sessions because she’s fully “there” focused on me in my time.
Adult me gets it totally and is okay with it. But Keira… she’s 5 and does NOT get it.
She sees it very black and white. She thinks Sienna doesn’t like her and pretends in the sessions to like her cos that’s her job. She doesn’t understand how Sienna can get so angry at her when all she wants is Sienna’s reassurance or love.
She sees it as “ I know you don’t like me but I like you.”
It’s so sad.
Keira is so full of love for Sienna. It explodes out of her little full-up heart. And she feels so forlorn when she thinks about Sienna not liking her back.
When Keira is fronting, I literally can’t get my head around the whole “ she doesn’t feel triggered in sessions cos it’s contained.” And also the “ Sienna loves me even if she feels triggered, or frustrated with me”.
It’s so strange, to simultaneously have 2 parts fronting an adult who gets the shades of grey and the nuances of relationships and the child who sees it as either love or hate.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now.
Last week, in session, Keira was around but adult me was at the front. I guess Keira was co-piloting!
Adult me did the talking but it was Keira asking…. “ Do you like Keira?”
Sienna nodded. “ Yes. I like her very much.”
Keira said “ But she makes you angry.”
Sienna said “ Well, I don’t often know it’s her who’s texting me and if I’m elsewhere- busy, then I get frustrated sometimes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love her. And I’ve explained before about the trigger aspect and it’s something I’ve been working a lot on in supervision.”
We had a whole conversation about it and then Keira came out fully and went and sat with Sienna, quite happily.
But Sienna’s comment about working on it a lot in supervision stuck with me. And I’ve been brooding on it a lot lately.
Like, is it so huge? Her negative transference toward me that she’s had to do a lot of work in supervision about it?
I feel that familiar paranoia sense when you know people have been talking about you and it probably isn’t flattering. Part of me really want to know exactly how Sienna feels when she’s triggered around me, yet I imagine if it was very bad, that it would destroy my trust in her and probably break my heart a bit. So, it’s probably better not to know the details.
What Sienna feels when triggered, isn’t representative of how she feels 99% of the time towards me. So what good is there in hearing her triggered thoughts? But yeah, it does hurt to imagine her feeling deep anger or dislike for me.
So Keira has been hanging onto that part of the conversation and worrying about it and not understanding it all.
She finally wrote a letter to Sienna on Friday before our check-in and Sienna and I had a really important conversation because Keira switched in and asked the big questions that we’ve always wanted to ask but always been terrified of the answers.
Keira is one brave little girl!!
I will write more about that soon.