[The text below was written a few days ago, straight after one of my therapy sessions. I waited to publish it, because I wanted to share its content with my therapist first. Particularly since we started curtailing email outside of session, I really want to try and keep our work spontaneous and ‘within the room’, otherwise it almost feels as though the very difficult process of changing our previous email pattern, will be undermined. I will continue blogging about my therapy, and writing is still a valuable way for me to process material – but it will more often, these days, be ‘after the fact’, rather than when I am in the very middle of a situation.]
Having spent weeks finding it really difficult to write, I now feel absolutely compelled to do it. Why? Because I’ve been driving home after my therapy session feeling incredibly grateful, and for some reason, for a moment, I’m allowing myself to be one of those people I sometimes find very irritating on Facebook, who go on about their gratitude while many of the rest of us are feeling anything but. So I sincerely apologise for inflicting that on anyone. But on the other hand, part of the problem with Facebook is only seeing the positive parts of the picture that others are happy to present to the world, whereas my gratitude today is part of a bigger, messier, darker, and un-straightforward picture, which I have tried to present as honestly as I can.
I have written so often about the feeling of having a bottomless ‘pit of need’ inside me, and how painful that is to encounter within myself. As I was driving this evening I was conscious of the contrast and of the excitement and pleasure of feeling as though I was a container overflowing, rather than a pit needing filling.
I’ve just had two therapy sessions on consecutive days, after a short therapy break, and both times my feelings upon entering my therapist’s house were different to other ‘returns’. This is the shortest break we’ve had (a week) so perhaps that helped – it was long enough to trigger break-related feelings and also to function as a period of consolidation, but short enough that I still had a sense of connection to the material we had been covering before the break. There was therefore less uncertainty about what it would be like to resume; but even so, I don’t remember feeling quite so excited before, about ‘coming back’. I have always longed to resume sessions, and couldn’t wait, as well as getting frustrated and anxious about the return – but unafraid excitement was something a little new.
I felt like running up the stairs to the therapy room, and just entering it had a real sense of safety, comfort, and of coming home. I literally cried with relief (and other emotions) at a couple of points during yesterday’s first session back, and even today couldn’t quite get over how good it felt to be back. And not just back – but back in a really engaged and open and undefended way. It’s how I really wanted to be, in session, before the break happened, but I couldn’t really manage it at that point.
I’ve been wondering why – where this sense of excitement and ability to be open, came from. It’s not as though the break was easy or my feelings positive the whole way through. As I mentioned in my previous post, though the break started well, my mood changed completely part-way through, and rather than feeling confident and secure in the therapeutic connection, I felt fearful and very self-critical.
I did try and think myself out of that state – and was helped both my own realisation that the change in mood and my perceptions of my therapist came from within myself and were not triggered by anything she had said or done; and also by a brief email exchange that we had. She was open and supportive, and posed a couple of interesting questions for me to think about. And I did…..
My therapist has sometimes expressed surprise that I have not shown more curiosity about my dreams or about my subconscious. One of the things that was different about this break and the return, was that I was more curious about what had been going on during the break, and I was more invested in trying to understand it. I returned to therapy excited to talk about what had happened and my attempts at unpicking it; but also excited about trying to understand it with my therapist, and not just on my own. The first session back was emotional and difficult in parts, but also thought-provoking; and with the luxury of some time to myself after the session, I felt as though I took a number of important steps forward in getting to grips with the material we’d covered.
I couldn’t wait to tell her, and had an even greater sense of excitement and anticipation when I arrived at session today, knowing that I would share these steps and that we could talk about them further.
If I try and think about why there has been this change in my curiosity and excitement about the material of therapy, I suspect I may not be able to identify a single factor, and that a range of elements contributed. However, it’s also possible that among the range of factors there may be a single very important one; and that I might have to acknowledge that maybe this is part of what my therapist meant when she said that the reason for reducing email contact outside of sessions was to ‘free me up’ so that we could interact in a more ‘lively way’ in person. It’s a little irritating when she’s right…..!
But it also makes me feel very very grateful for her, and for everything she’s done and is doing for and with me. I’m enjoying this feeling of overflowing, because I know that while the fact of overflowing may continue, the feeling will come and go, despite wanting to hold onto it. When I look at the wider picture, there is a great deal that continues to be very painful. Outside of therapy, my husband and I are finally in couples counselling, but probably at least a year too late – we have essentially withdrawn and become used to ignoring each other and only talking when the need arises. In therapy, despite the connection, trust, and gratitude I feel, I’m still a little too afraid and insecure to read an article I saw on Twitter about what happens when therapists dislike a client, and I feel renewed pain at the question of touch in therapy, when I read about others’ current struggles with the very same issue. And I’m still jealous of my therapist’s daughters, and the place they occupy in her life. In no way have these things been suddenly ‘fixed’ and nor do I expect them to be – resolved, at some point, perhaps, but who’s to say in what way, and when?
But the feeling of overflowing is there together with those other things, and they can co-exist, and I think that that is different, too. It reminds me of some passages in a beautiful book that my therapist recommended to me a while ago, which had a big impact on me. “This is not to say that joy is a compensation for loss, but that each of them, joy and loss, exists in its own right and must be recognised for what it is. Sorrow is very real……life on earth is difficult and grave, and marvellous…..so joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.”*
I think that pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now – and I wanted very much, to share that with you.
*from ‘Lila’ by Marilynne Robinson
August 12, 2017 at 9:57 pm
That’s great quote!
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August 13, 2017 at 8:19 pm
It is, isn’t it! It comes from a longer section of a couple of pages, all of which I highlighted in my kindle! It took me a little while to get into it (partly because I kept finding only 5 minutes here and there to read, and I find that frustrating), but also because it’s the only book I’ve ever read, without any chapters. There are paragraph breaks, but nothing else to break up the text! But I’m so hugely glad I persevered as it was wonderfully worth it – an understated, moving, wise book about two people helping each other to heal after almost a lifetime of damage. It’s the last one in a trilogy, and I’m reading the first installment at the moment, but they can be read separately, and I can’t imagine the other two being more powerful than the third….
August 12, 2017 at 10:03 pm
Thank you, your blog gives me so much hope, and I love this: “having a bottomless ‘pit of need’ inside me, and how painful that is to encounter within myself…. I was conscious of the contrast and of the excitement and pleasure of feeling as though I was a container overflowing, rather than a pit needing filling.”
Do you think there comes a point where the bottomless pit finally gets a plug? And positive feelings can stay? Or does the volume of the anguish somehow get turned down to give the good stuff some airplay?
I have a no-outside-contact rule with my T (self imposed), except when there is a serious rupture and I have no other way to get the words out. It’s painful and lonely, but feels safer. Long story, previous therapist. Not pretty.
I’m learning, both for myself, and reading in places like this, that there are so many other deep and complex reasons (besides making me feel protected against the T, independence and relying on my own resources) that it’s a good thing. I was really interested in what you wrote a while back about communicating, rather than information exchanging, and having real conversations with real T, rather than entire interactions in your head. I tend to do this too much (evoke fantasy T), and it has made me realise just how little I am actually in relationships a lot of the time, outside of my head. It leads to a lot of confusion and disappointment when I have expectations of T based on what he does and who he is in my head. I miss the things he gives me as the actual him – and spend so much time and energy feeling the absence and loss of the things that I feel he SHOULD do/be based on who I have convinced myself he is.
Reading what you said earlier about the role of email in actually creating distance, rather than closeness, made me think about a lot of things I had never thought were interrelated. They are very top of mind for me right now. Thanks again.
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August 13, 2017 at 8:28 pm
Thank you so much for your comment, which really made me smile, both because I was glad to be able to help, but also because your penultimate paragraph made so much sense and I could relate to it. I don’t know about the bottomless pit, yet, or about being able to stay ‘full’. I think I am more able to retain the good stuff than I used to be, but I’m definitely more prone to ’emptying faster’ at some times more than others! But perhaps not to the extent that I used to be, and there’s always something left in the bottom 🙂
I’m not sure the pit gets plugged – perhaps it morphs into something else. In that sense, perhaps it is like grief. Or rather, perhaps when all the things that the pit represents and that have led to its existence, have been grieved, perhaps then the pit itself will have changed shape and character. Until then, I sort of see it something whose presence is there and my awareness of it comes and goes, but the difference is that I try and see it as a stand alone thing that has been triggered, which comes from the past, rather than attaching it to the present, which is what I always used to do (i.e. assumed it related directly to a particular person, who I wanted to fill it). I hope your present train of thought is productive, and many thanks again for reading and for commenting 🙂
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August 14, 2017 at 2:50 am
You mention grief, which is such a big theme for me right now, and I notice for so many others like me/is. Is that what BPD is? A grief disorder?
I like the idea of getting some distance from the pit & not feeling quite so consumed by it and becoming it. That’s a great way to look it it.
Some days, I fall all the way in and it’s almost impossible to see or feel anything else.
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August 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm
Marilyn Robinson is right. Good for you in continuing to progress. On a somewhat less serious, but true, note, I know a therapist whose last name is “Wright.” He is always Wright, no matter what!
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August 13, 2017 at 8:14 pm
I wonder how many times his clients brought up that particular joke 😉
August 14, 2017 at 10:32 am
This was lovely to read. 🙂
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