Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.


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Tell me we’re okay – BPD and conflict

‘Wanted to check that we are still okay….’

‘From my side we are…..it is all part of the work….’

This was the start of a brief email exchange with my therapist following our session last week. The hour was a bit of post-mortem of the previous session, and I felt as though I was continually criticizing her, and so I left feeling predictably anxious about what effect that might have had on our relationship. Leading up to last week’s session I had felt angry, withdrawn and resentful, but as usual, I found it almost impossible to take the intensity of those emotions into session. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t express them, they seemed to melt away in her presence. Nevertheless, I still felt hurt and separated as I explained how angry I had felt over the last few days, and how I had wanted to shut her out and not talk to her at all.

We talked about the session that had resulted in those feelings, and about why they might have come about. I had finally worked up the courage to delve deeply into a difficult topic, but she had stayed on the surface while all the while a part of me was crying out to be heard.* A case of lack of attunement or lack of communication? Whichever it was, the key question, it seems to me, is what does it mean, to the client, when that happens?

I think it’s fair to say that I see ‘conflict’ where perhaps others may see disagreement or misunderstanding. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that for me, disagreement is conflict. It’s conflict when I feel anger; conflict when I feel like I’m criticizing; conflict when I have a different opinion to someone I care about or whose opinion I value. And to me, conflict is always a negative thing, as are the emotions that accompany it. There are three keys ways in which my views of conflict are unhelpful and which therapy is enabling me to address.

Conflict is about me. When it comes to work, I know that there is such a thing as a difference of opinion, and that chances are it’s not personal. However, when it comes to those I care deeply about, this concept doesn’t even enter my head. It is always personal. My husband gets frustrated because he finds it almost impossible to have an adult argument with me. I withdraw immediately into silence, because it feels like an attack. When he disagrees with something I believe in strongly, or is completely uninterested in something I am passionate about, it feels as though he is rejecting me, however much he emphasizes that he is not. If I am caught up in a conflict, it is because there is something wrong with me. It’s about something I have done or not done; it’s about a way in which I fall short, or a way in which I haven’t pleased someone. Conflict means that I have made a mistake – and I find it very hard to live with making those. Alternatively, and more rarely, it means that someone else has made one – and being hurt by another’s ‘falling short’ is a risk I’d rather avoid.

Conflict is a disaster. It’s not just uncomfortable, it’s a threat. It’s never just minor – the fact that it happened at all is indicative of something wrong – not just in me, or in the other person, but in the relationship itself. I can never understand how quickly my husband seems to recover after an argument. While I wallow in self-hatred and despair over our marriage, he will appear to be fine within a few minutes or hours, and certainly by the next day. For him, the argument was not about him as a person, and the fact that it happened did not signify a catastrophe in our relationship (there are plenty of other signs of that, but that is for another post!).

Conflict is terminal. It is something to be survived – or not. My first response to conflict is often to want to turn and run and to never have to face a similar situation again. The shame of making a mistake or ‘behaving badly’, or the pain of being hurt, both drive me in the direction of wanting to turn my back on the relationship in question. One strike and you’re out, or I am – the result is the same. For example, my relationship with my mother-in-law changed a few years into my marriage, the moment we had our first argument. For a few years I had felt ‘adopted’; like a princess who could do no wrong. But that ‘minor’ argument felt like a betrayal – she showed that she could be displeased with me, that she could be critical of something I had done. It hurt, and since then I have been emotionally distant – and I will never let her in again.

But even when I want to repair conflict, I find it very difficult to know how. Talking about it, as I did with my therapist, feels as though I am criticizing and attacking the other person. That is how it would feel to me, and it’s hard to grasp that they may feel differently. Will they hate feeling criticized and consequently hate me? How will our relationship survive, and how much damage will I have done? This brings out my strong need both to reassure, and to be reassured that everything is okay. Hence the email exchange with my therapist – both damage assessment and damage limitation.

‘Blaming the parents’ feel like a therapy cliché, but with this particular issue, I think the origins of my feelings and reactions are clear. Expressing anger was a negative thing in my family, particularly if I was the one expressing it (which happened increasingly rarely, as a result). Even feeling anger, if it was towards a family member (my parents in particular), was quite clearly never justified. Whatever had transpired, the view put to me was that my parents acted only ever out of love. Not only was there no justification for anger or conflict, it was quite clear that it made my mother upset, and ‘how could I do that to her’? Our disagreements therefore felt as though I was attacking her (or at least I thought that she perceived it that way) and that therefore what I was doing was wrong. Conflict, disagreement, anger – they seemed to have no place within a happy, harmonious, family. They seemed unnatural – interlopers to be feared and discouraged, rather than opportunities to express oneself and to ‘clear the air’.

It is not surprising therefore, that conflict with my parents was never really resolved – and the same holds true now. Days and days can go by with no telephone contact after an argument, and by the time we next speak it’s all been swept under the carpet and completely ignored. When I lived at home and it was less easy to avoid communicating, it always felt as though it was a case of my mother being able to reach a point where she could either dismiss my view or try and control my behaviour. That might be by telling me I would see things from her point of view when I got older; or by saying that although I might hold a particular belief, she wanted me to promise not to act in accordance with it.

It’s not surprising that arguments with my husband feel like a disaster; or that I am very anxious about upsetting my therapist if I talk about having ‘negative’ feelings towards her. But for me, one of the most rewarding, helpful and emotional aspects of therapy, has been the repeated cycle of ‘rupture and repair’ – of conflict of one type or another, which is worked on and resolved. It is helping me to modify my views about what conflict is and what it means – or doesn’t mean. At the moment, I can only really take those lessons on board and apply them, if at all, in the context of my relationship with my therapist, though I am taking very small steps in the direction of testing things out with my husband. It feels as though the risk of confronting and resolving conflict is still too great to take unless I feel a huge amount of safety, trust, security and acceptance in the relationship. But I hope that that will eventually change, though that time feels almost impossibly far away at the moment.

Part of the reason I chose my current therapist was a gut instinct that she was robust enough, and I could be open enough, for us to resolve difficulties together. That instinct was borne out the first time we tried to resolve such a difficulty, by her wonderful response – her openness to criticism, her lack of defensiveness, and her apology for a comment that had upset me. Over much of our therapy I have spent long hours worrying over instances of apparent lack of understanding or attunement between us, but now I feel that being able to discuss and resolve difficult situations together is much more valuable than always striving to be on completely the same wavelength. Not just valuable, but more realistic as a template for relationships outside of therapy.

Rupture and repair – working through conflict – is also ultimately beneficial in creating a closer bond, counter-intuitive though that may seem. I have written before, about the desperate desire to be known by and to better know, one’s therapist. In working through conflict, you come to know something about the other person, which you might never otherwise have seen. Whereas a perfect understanding, a perfect mirror, shows you only your own reflection.

 

[* Dr Stein recently published a post called ‘The Unsung Value of Denial and Distraction: Where Therapists Can Go Wrong‘. It illustrates just how difficult it is for both therapists and clients to tread the line between going too quickly and too slowly in therapy, and neither one’s judgement on the matter, can be relied on absolutely. They will both get it wrong, some of the time, but talking about the feelings this engenders, can be very illuminating.] 


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Recovery

Recovery diagram SANE

I absolutely love this picture, which was shared through Facebook today via the mental health charity SANE. I wish I could credit the picture, but although it pops up in a miriad places on the internet when you google it, I cannot find an attribution anywhere!

I’m not sure my expectations of recovery ever had such a steep and rosy gradient, but my own reality of recovery is definitely as messy as that illustrated here. In fact I would go as far as to say that in terms of how it feels (even if that does not reflect what is actually happening) it is more like this:

recovery life in a bind

The scary cliff-edge at the end represents the fact that it is pretty much impossible for me at the moment to visualise a future in which recovery has actually happened. Alternatively, think of this picture as the random walk of therapy, with the cliff-edge representing the terrifying prospect of ‘termination’.

Or imagine recovery as a battle – that’s easy to do. For many people with mental health difficulties, every day feels like a fight: a fight against your thoughts; a fight against your feelings; a fight against your impulses; a fight against other people and their perceptions; a fight against your own self, or a version of yourself that wants to keep you trapped in misery, fear and self-loathing. Sometimes recovery can feel as though your enemy is shooting arrows as straight as the ones on the left of the top picture, that pierce straight through, leaving you bleeding out. Whereas it feels as though you are shooting arrows as twisty as the ones on the right – even if they hit their target they penetrate a little way and then get stuck, or simply dislodge and fall to the ground.

If you’re a soldier at war with mental illness, you might like this track called ‘Recovery’, by James Arthur. The video contains an interesting visual for another feeling that I sometimes associate with recovery – the sense that I am stuck on a particular track, going round and round in circles, not able to break out of the infinite loop of my experience, but desperately wanting to. This song reminds me that however helpless I may feel, and however trapped in that loop I may feel, recovery is possible and it is within my hands and my direction – even if that direction resembles a tangled trail of spaghetti.


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Memory Monday – “What’s in a name?”

**TRIGGER WARNING – SELF-HARM**

To tie in with Mental Health Awareness Week last week, my workplace ran a course covering topics such as stigma, depression, anxiety and self-harm. It was an excellent initiative, and I was keen to attend, though I anticipated it being a difficult and perhaps triggering experience. I went with a number of colleagues, and it was interesting to hear people’s views of mental illness, and their descriptions of their own encounters with it through friends or family.

Although I felt a little strange sitting there and contributing to the discussion in the full knowledge that no one else had any knowledge at all of the fact that I shared many of the difficulties being described, I thought I had ‘got off lightly’ in terms of my response. The discussions of suicide and self-harm hadn’t felt particularly triggering, and I didn’t feel hugely anxious about whether I was ‘giving the game away’ through my contributions.

However, as I discovered the next day, I was suffering from a severe case of ‘delayed reaction’. The whole of the next day at work I had immense feelings of frustration and unease that are best described by referring to my ‘What’s in a name?’ post from September, which can be found here:

https://lifeinabind.com/2014/09/20/whats-in-a-name/

I was a complete mass of agitation – as though there was a writhing, screaming whirlwind trying to tear its way out of me. But the writhing and the screaming were covered by a thick and suffocating layer of dense fog, so that they weren’t directly accessible but could still be sensed in a way that was driving me mad with confusion. I could not stop thinking about self-harm – hurting myself was the strongest impulse I could feel all day. I had a therapy session straight after work and I took a penknife into session with me, in full view of my therapist – it’s the only time I’ve done that and I had no intention of using it, but somehow I had to have it with me, if only to illustrate how present and urgent the desire was.

I’ve tried to figure out what lead to those feelings, and the best explanation I can come up with is that they were the result of a severe case of a kind of cognitive dissonance. A dissonance related not so much to opposing thoughts, but to opposing world-views and identities.

For most of my life I have hidden away my feelings and put my ‘very best foot forward’ as far as external appearances were concerned. It was not that I was intentionally lying or pretending to be someone I wasn’t – it was simply that externally I was one person, and internally I was someone quite different. It wasn’t even a particular effort to do so – it was, and is,  just the way things are. My parents expected me to be a certain way; some emotions were not acceptable (for example, anger); and my mother found it hard enough to cope with her own emotions, let alone my own. I was successful at school and at work and it was easy to appear always happy and confident in those environments, and in quite a large part, it wasn’t just about appearances. Those were environments in which I received praise, in which I felt I could achieve something and do something right, and in which I could immerse myself to the exclusion of much else that was going on. But I would never have dreamed of allowing ‘weakness’ (that is, emotion, as I saw it) to infect that part of my life. Giving any sign that I was ‘not okay’ was simply not okay.

This is still how I feel, very strongly, about work. I try to fight it, as I know in my heart that it is a false view – that it IS okay not to be okay. But fighting it feels utterly at odds with everything I’ve ever known. The thought that anyone at work might find out about my mental health difficulties is frightening, and I have no idea how I would even behave or function in an environment in which I was ‘no longer hiding’. Given those feelings and views, the experience of sitting in a room and discussing mental health issues with work colleagues, was like the coming together and overlapping of two worlds/selves which had until now been kept completely separate and compartmentalised. And the impact of that shook me up more than I could have imagined. I didn’t know how to deal with bringing those two areas into contact with each other – the feeling of hiding in plain sight and of part of me being buried and not being heard, was profoundly unsettling. But even worse, was simply the effort of trying to hold those two opposing selves side by side rather than keeping them miles apart. They were fighting with each other – perhaps the intense urge to hurt myself was an expression of the hidden part of me, trying to get out. I don’t know. All I know is that it felt like this, and that that feeling is one I really don’t want to have to experience very often. Maybe that means trying to find a way for those two selves to co-exist or to draw closer to each other and to occupy some common ground. I don’t think it can mean keeping them even further apart – that way lies only further madness.

Interestingly, I think this is a dilemma that I will need to solve in other areas of my life as well. Last week I had dinner for the first time with a woman from church who is a psychiatrist, and who I recently confided in with regard to my BPD. She confessed that she wasn’t sure how to approach a friendship with me while avoiding the pitfalls of trying to be my therapist or asking too many questions; I confessed that I wasn’t sure how to approach a friendship where my mental health difficulties were known right from the very start, as opposed to being revealed after many years of having known each other. We agreed that we would just take it as it comes, and be honest with each other. It is so freeing not to have to hide  – not to have that feeling of dissonance. Maybe at some point, I can find a way of allowing myself to be a little more ‘real’ at work. I know I have a long way to go, but ultimately, I think my recovery depends on it.

 


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A day in the life – Day 2

Back in December I posted a link to my first post on the ‘A Day in the Life’ site. ‘A Day in the Life’ is a project spanning a whole year, looking at the everyday experiences of individuals in England with mental health difficulties. Anyone experiencing such difficulties can sign up to the project, which involves writing a short piece describing your experiences on four different days over the course of that year. The first day was 7 November 2014. The second was 10 February 2015, and I wanted once again to share my entry with you, which can be found here.

The third day was 10 May 2015, and I have just written and submitted the entry for that day – due to the volume of entries received, it can take up to three months for each one to be reviewed and then published on the site, but I will link to it from here once it becomes live.

If you are interested in joining the project, please do visit the ‘A Day in the Life‘ site to find out more. This is a fantastic project, and it’s all down to the number and variety of individuals writing honestly about their lives, hopes, joys and struggles. If you would like to be involved but haven’t taken part so far, please don’t let that stand in your way – if you sign up via the website, you will be alerted regarding the date of the next (and final) day to write about.

Many thanks for reading!

 


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A good day

Usually when I post links to particular songs it’s because they have some connection to an issue or situation I have been thinking about – they may speak into it in a particular way, or may act as a metaphor for it. Often it’s something to do with therapy. On this occasion, however, I don’t think that’s the case, although I challenge you (and my therapist) to come up with a subconscious way in which it does! Although there may not be a particular connection I’m aware of, there is a reason – aside from, of course, who doesn’t like a bit of Taylor Swift now and again?

The ‘reason’ is that I had a good day spent outside with the kids, and at various points during the day we were all listening and singing along to this song, including the smallest member of the family (who had requested it in the first place). I think that being outside helps all of us stay a little calmer and a little happier. We all work better together, and enjoy each other’s company (on the whole!). There’s a greater sense of space and peace, and it’s even possible for me to stay in the moment for some of the time, which I normally find very difficult.

And then in the evening, perhaps aided by half a glass of wine (it doesn’t take much), I discovered the benefit of cooking my husband potatoes. Actually, it was the benefit of having listened to the fact that yesterday he’d mentioned that it would be nice to have potatoes with dinner, and I took notice and made them for him, which he appreciated. From which followed a semi-light-hearted but very important discussion about various aspects of my mental health difficulties and the difficulties in our marriage. I normally find it very difficult to talk to him about these things, because I feel so vulnerable and anxious about not being heard and understood.

Tonight our discussion ranged over a number of topics. We talked about my withdrawal and silences following our arguments which he interprets as me being angry, but which I explained are due to the rapid spiral of depression and suicidal thinking I go into. I don’t have time to feel angry – I’m too busy believing that I shouldn’t be alive any more.

We talked about how I think it will work better for us if he explains why he would like something done in terms of how it affects him and what it means to him; rather than in a way that makes me feel as though I am being told what to do or being treated like a child. He pointed out that he’s tried that approach and it often hasn’t worked. I tried to explain that sometimes other triggers get in the way and complicate the situation, and my response may be due to that other trigger, rather than the original request. And I said that despite the not-even-90% or not-even-50% success rate of what I was suggesting, it’s worth him persevering because I will try harder to remember that this way is ultimately better for me (and for him), and so that I don’t inadvertently invite the ‘more negative’ approach. As he said – oh what an elegant example – at the moment it’s often a case of trying to train the puppy not to wee on the sofa by shouting at him when he goes for a wee on the sofa and shouting at him when he goes for a wee outside. I almost got offended until I realised the puppy was him. Neither of us would shout at a puppy – but often what we do to each other, verbally, is far far worse. But the point was well made – if I am trying to encourage him to behave in a particular way, there has to be evidence – at least some of the time – that it works, and is better than the alternatives.

I also pointed out that I’d been trying over the last few weeks to ensure I have at least one evening a week to spend with him, but that it hadn’t always worked because so often we get into an argument triggered by a ‘minor’ incident at the start of the evening, and then I’m unable to get past that because I’m already in my downwards spiral. Apparently he hadn’t noticed I’d been trying to make time for us – and of course I hadn’t said.

Taylor Swift would be proud – not exactly a love story, but a small success story, at least for today. Why did it happen, what made it easier? The wine, the time outside, the calmer moments with the children? Or perhaps my last therapy session when I came away feeling valued and secure? Oh go on then, say it – I know I mentioned a few weeks ago that love songs remind me of my therapist, though it’s normally the dark and twisty ones, and not the ones with white dresses and prancing around in fields. Is that greater security responsible not just for the change in song but for my greater willingness to take a risk and be more open? Who knows – one can make anything about therapy, if one tries hard enough, and after all this time, I don’t even have to try very hard any more 😉

 

 

 


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BPD, sexual orientation and relationship choice

A little while ago I found this paper published in 2008 in the Journal of Personality Disorders, and have been meaning to share it ever since:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203737/

For me, it was both a fascinating read, but also affirmation of a part of my ‘world-view’ that I think I’d assumed, probably naively and incorrectly, reflected the way ‘most other people’ thought as well.

I think of myself as a heterosexual female and am fortunate, therefore, that I have never had to deal with any kind of prejudice on account of my sexual orientation. And yet it has always seemed self-evident to me that romantic love, including its physical aspects, is all about a person, rather than their gender. Though I have never been in a same-sex relationship, I have had a small number of same-sex experiences and I would say that around half of my ‘obsessions’ with people, have been obsessions with women (though two of those, granted, have been therapists). I can honestly say that this aspect of myself has never really felt confusing, perhaps because it seemed so obvious to me that these feelings should be based around a person’s character and not the precise form of their body. I know that I am very fortunate in this, as a large number of people struggle greatly with trying to understand their sexuality. On the face of it, given that I know my family would not have been accepting of my views, I might have expected to feel some internal conflict over this, and I find its absence rather odd. Maybe it’s just very easy to feel ‘comfortable’ while I still think of myself a heterosexual female, and have never had to face the family opposition that would have come from any attempt at a same-sex relationship; maybe it’s just an indication of a massive lack of insight and self-awareness on this issue. Whatever the reason, this attitude enabled me to find the paper intriguing and rather comforting (in showing that I am in ‘good company’) rather than unsettling; though I do realise that for some readers, this may not be the case.

In summary, the paper shows that in this particular study, conducted over ten years, patients with BPD were significantly more likely than those with other personality disorders, to report homosexual or bisexual orientation, and intimate same-sex relationships. But the most interesting part of the paper for me, was the finding that those with BPD were also significantly more likely to change the gender of their intimate partners, but not their sexual orientation. To quote from a couple of different places within the paper: “for borderline patients, the choice of an intimate partner may be more partner-specific than gender-specific” and “.…this suggests that for borderline patients, changes in sexual orientation and gender of intimate partners are not a unitary process. For subjects with BPD, choice of gender of intimate partners appears to be more fluid than for comparison subjects. This is consistent with the notion that patients with BPD may choose intimate partners more on the basis of individual factors aside from gender.

How do other people, I wonder, feel about the factors that drive choice of partner? I thought I’d end with the following response from the singer Sia (diagnosed with Bipolar II) when she was asked about her sexuality, with which I have a great deal of sympathy, and which, according to the paper, may also reflect the views of a substantial minority of individuals with BPD: “I don’t care what gender you are, it’s about people“.

 


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My therapy family

mother carrying child FINAl

For my ‘therapy-mother’ – thank you for knowing when I need you to ‘carry’ me

Siblings who I want to be; half-siblings who I hate; a father that I don’t know and never want to meet; and a mother who I sometimes have inappropriate feelings for. No, not my actual family– just my complicated ‘therapy family’.

Many months ago, my therapist and I were talking about names and designations. I think she prefers ‘patient’ to ‘client’ – as she said, ‘client’ has certain connotations, though perhaps the connotations in her own mind were not quite as insalubrious as the ones in mine! Patient, on the other hand, is what one needs to be during the therapy process and is an appropriate (and for me challenging) description of the person sitting in the ‘exposing’ chair.

I am constantly amazed and grateful at my therapist’s calm acceptance of topics that cause me great embarrassment and some shame, whether that’s talk of sex, talk of googling her, or, in this case, talk of how much I wish she could be my mother, and how difficult I sometimes find it to think of her in that way. However, she seemed to think it perfectly acceptable to be regarded as a ‘therapy-mother’ and for me to think of myself as a ‘therapy-daughter’ – and in my mind, at least, that nomenclature has stuck, and has been incredibly ‘safe’ and helpful.

I had a friend at school whose brothers seemed to really have it in for her – they used to drown her homework in the sink and occasionally threatened her with knives. It seems as though they had about as much time and liking for each other as I imagine I might have if I ever came across the multitude(?)/handful(?) of other clients who I grudgingly think of as my half-siblings in this bizarre familial mix. I know that my therapist would claim not to have favourites: but it’s hard enough to maintain that position with one’s own children, and I find it quite difficult to believe that even she (amazing though she is) can achieve that with a disparate group of non-blood ‘relations’, some of whom she surely has more in common with than others. It’s hard not to believe there is a ‘pecking order’ of sorts – I made a comment the other day about how I feared and dreaded the day she might eventually become a grandmother, because it would mean I moved one more rung down the ladder of her affections.

As for my ‘siblings’ in this scenario, her own children: although I’m jealous of the time they get to spend with her, the hugs and the ‘I love you’s that they receive from her -my fantasy is not usually of jealousy (strangely), but of friendship. How would we get on if we met? How much would we have in common? What ‘standards’ does my therapist expect of her children, and do I meet them? Is that the precisely the kind of question that is part of the reason why I’m in therapy in the first place? Yes, probably.

And then there’s that elusive ‘father’ figure….Occasionally I hear him downstairs (or rather the impact he has on his surroundings) when I am in therapy on a weekday evening. Can he hear me and my therapist laughing sometimes, and what does he think? Does he hear what I say as I go down the stairs and say goodbye at the door? Does he wonder about me? I try not to wonder too much about him – there are too many mixed feelings where he’s concerned. I can’t hate him because she loves him; and because he takes care of her (though of course, she can take care of herself – I know that she’s reading, I must be careful what I say…!). But at the same time, he feels like a threat in the way that her children do not. He is the one who has constant access to her; who shares everything with her. Her life, her history, her thoughts, her feelings, her bed – there’s that ‘inappropriate’ pre-oedipal twist that I mentioned.

What a strange, strange world is this therapy-universe that some of us live in. Oh, and I seem to have acquired a trans-atlantic therapy step-father as well – or maybe more of a therapy-uncle. One of those ‘uncles’ who isn’t actually related but for whom one has affection and one thinks of as part of the family. I’ve never met him either, though we’ve chatted online. I’ve acquired him in my mind, rather than in reality – that is, he hasn’t in fact consented to be thought of in this way, but he seems to be almost as level-headed, accepting and pragmatic as my own therapist, and so I’m hoping he will find it all rather amusing and take it as the compliment it’s meant to be. I’m guessing he is recognising himself as he reads – I’m not sure whether I’m enjoying that thought or finding it terrifying. My therapist and I had a lovely discussion about it the other day – I felt guilty and thought she might find this new member of the family an imposition or a threat. Far from it – she thinks that I’ve brought him into our therapy and she jokingly referred to the situation as an ‘oedipal triangle’. She laughed out loud when I admitted that I couldn’t help wondering how the two of them would get on if they met. I think she likes his writing and has a consonance with where he’s coming from, therapeutically speaking, so that’s a good start. If you think this is starting to sound very bizarre, I would completely agree with you…

The words we use to talk about things can shape how we think about them – how do you see yourself in your own therapy relationship? Client, patient, child? Does it change depending on the stage of therapy you’re in at the time? Do certain designations cause more inner conflict than others, and how do you think of the other relationships in your therapist’s life?

As for my own ‘therapy-family’, I think this quote by J R R Tolkien, from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is rather apt: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”