Life in a Bind – BPD and me

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


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Writing procrastination

Sigh. I am procrastinating. I feel a great need to write about a number of major aspects of my therapy over the last few months, and in particular the mass of swirling thoughts and ideas that have been gathering, drawing together, pulling apart, coalescing, over the last couple of weeks of the Easter therapy break. But there is so much I want to say, I have no idea where to start, or how to make it all hang together. I have written far less over the last few months, for a number of reasons, but in large part because I have been trying to work with my therapist to keep more of the material of therapy within the sessions themselves, and therefore to deepen and increase the spontaneity and vitality of our face to face time. In that sense, I have seen the decrease in writing as going hand in hand with the cessation of email contact between sessions.

For me, writing serves a number of purposes, and I need to be conscious of those purposes which may no longer be appropriate, or which may even be counter-productive. Writing is one of my escapes from the world, and it is my attempt to process things alone, internally, and without reference to, or support from, anyone else. This was incredibly helpful for me in the past; but where there is a temptation to let it function as a substitute for talking things through with my therapist and allowing her to support me in figuring things out, I am trying to do something different instead. I have been trying to make brief notes and then to tell my story verbally, within relationship, rather than in writing, in front of my screen.

Writing can be helpful in gaining perspective and in reducing the intensity of emotion, because it enables us to externalise a situation and set of feelings. I often have the sensation that I am ‘writing something out’, in the sense of ‘getting it out of my system’. And often once I have poured something onto the page, I feel more detached from it – it feels much less a part of me. But it is precisely for all those reasons that writing can also be unhelpful for my work in therapy sessions. Once I’ve written about something, I feel like I have already told my story. Which in one sense, is true – but I have told it in a way that completely misses out any interactivity and response from another person, and any experience of what it feels like not just to tell my story to another, but to have it open-heartedly heard and received.

I find it very difficult to feel motivated to ‘re-tell’ a story I have already written, and when I do, it invariably feels flat, and as though I am reciting a series of events, rather than being engaged – both emotionally and intellectually – with what I am describing. There is no immediacy of feeling; I’m not re-experiencing emotions in the way I often am when I am writing. I remember an occasion a few months ago, when I tried to talk about an experience in session, which I had already written about in a blog post. I remember how grateful I was to my therapist for persevering in asking numerous questions (unlike her usual style!) to try and keep me talking and keep me on topic. It must have felt rather like dragging blood out of a stone, but it ended up being a really positive and helpful experience, and much more beneficial than the writing process had been.

But – creativity is hugely important in healing and wellbeing, and when your main creative outlet is writing, you cannot simply stop. And so I think I have been pulling back from it too much, or rather not pushing myself enough, to keep it as a regular part of my life. Perhaps I am feeling this so strongly now, because I am in a therapy break without my usual three sessions a week and, as often happens during a break, my brain is trying to process and consolidate a huge amount of information and experience. And without my therapist to talk to, the outcome of that processing and consolidation has to manifest outside myself, in some other way. If I cannot experience the ordering of that internal experience via a relational conversation, I have to create something on the page that gives it form.

But I’ll have to do it another time. Right now – I’m not quite sure where to begin…..!


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Fear and fantasy

In a couple of previous posts, I have talked about my ‘yoga imaginings’ – images and scenes, a little like waking dreams, that come into my mind when I’m in Yin yoga class. Last night’s class focused on the ‘kidney meridian’, and I was a little apprehensive because I don’t think I’ve yet managed to get through a kidney meridian practice, without crying. My yoga theory is almost non-existent, but for those who possess even less than I do, a meridian in yoga and in Chinese medicine, is considered to be a pathway in the body through which vital energy is said to flow. The various pathways are associated with key organs, and the key organs are associated with various senses and emotions. After a couple of occasions of tears streaming down my face during ‘kidney meridian’ yoga classes, I did a little reading online and discovered that the ‘negative’ emotion most associated with the kidneys, is fear. I certainly have a huge amount of that.

In a ‘standard scene’ from these imaginings, I’m standing on a beach, often with my therapist. The beach is an image of my inner safe space – my yoga teacher said that she imagines herself in a cave, but that feels far too claustrophobic for me. Last night, I was standing on the beach with my therapist, and God was with us. Probably because he’s the only other person I’m letting near me and into my head at the moment, and that’s after many years of keeping Him at arms’ length. He was at least a foot taller than me, thin, and he wore a black suit, which seems a rather odd image to associate with Him – particularly when standing on a beach.

I looked behind me and saw a long line of people, standing in pairs – a little like the animals waiting to go into the Ark. I had the impression that they were people who loved me – or were waiting to love me. And I just crumpled into a heap, held up by God on one side, and my therapist on the other. I was appalled, and scared; I felt overwhelmed.

Getting to know aspects of my subconscious over the last few months in therapy, has been painful, disappointing, shocking, surprising, and demoralising. I know there are parts of me that don’t want to change; I know that on some level, I don’t want to like myself, or see any good in myself, or believe that I matter. But I think last night was the first time I understood how much fear I hold, at the thought of being loved by people. I have always known that I wanted to be loved by one person – and I always believed that that would be enough. Over the last year or so, I have attributed that to my mother’s emphasis on exclusivity – that all other love than hers was inferior, replaceable, and fleeting. In the past, I have felt contemptuous of those who I thought loved me ‘too much’  –  whether that was the little boy at school who complemented me on my outfits, or one of my relatives, who used to shower me with gifts and money when I was growing up. But this sense of fear and overwhelm at the thought of being loved not just by one, but by many (or even a few), was a new realisation. Though I haven’t really had the chance to process it yet, I think that part of what underlies the fear is a question – what do they want from me? – and the belief that they will somehow carve me up and take me for themselves, and that there will be nothing of me left.

The bell for the end of the yoga pose rang, and that image ended, but the next scene took place on the same beach. I saw two characters which had been absent from my imaginings for a long time, though they were some of the first to make an appearance when I started yoga. They were ballerinas, dressed in white tutus – a little Afro-Caribbean girl of around five or so, and a blond woman in her twenties. They were both aspects not of a person, or of me, but of what I thought of as spirit, or something external and more powerful than me and my internal parts. I never called this set of characters ‘God’ (though they were trinity – the third being a dark haired teenage ballerina), but they exuded wisdom and commanded a sense of awe and respect from every other character in my imaginings. When they danced, everyone else fell silent, and simply watched.

This time, however, I realised despairingly that the ballerinas were not actually present. Their image was static, and flickered, like the picture on an old TV screen. It was as if, having been absent for so long, they were now simply a memory; a faded, flat, insubstantial presence. I hated it. I wanted them to become real, to walk out of the screen on which it now appeared, their images were projected. I willed it, with all my strength, but the picture still flickered, still stayed flat. With mounting frustration, I grabbed a knife and ripped the fabric projection screen, from top to bottom.

In the quiet of the front row of the yoga class I gasped, audibly, and tears welled up as I reached out my hand, eyes still closed, for a tissue. I think that for a split second I had imagined that the ballerinas would walk out, bodily, from behind the curtain screen. Instead, I looked out through the tear, and onto an enormous and consuming storm. I’m not sure how to describe it:  hurricane, tornado, wind, lighting, thunder, chaos, devastation – all on a massive scale. No structures were visible, only the sheer tumult, confusion, force, and destruction of the elements. I know how ridiculous this all sounds – while you picture us sitting there on our yoga mats with quiet music and in (almost) perfect stillness – and yet I cannot describe how shocking, horrifying, and real it felt, in the moment, gazing through that curtain in my head.

Re-reading what I’ve described, it seems that the words I have put to my experience are these: I tried to look through my projections to get to something real, and what I glimpsed was terrifying, destructive, and chaotic. I encountered, amongst other things, a visual, visceral, representation of my last few months of struggle in therapy. I have been lost, emotionally, and grappling, intellectually – trying to find approaches, solutions, answers. Everything sounds persuasive, but nothing seems capable of breaking through, to my feeling core. Well, if what I saw is what’s waiting to be broken through to, quite frankly, I’m not surprised.

That image only came once. The yoga pose ended, and during the next one, I saw myself sewing up part of the tear in the curtain screen. My therapist was sealing up other parts of it, only – don’t laugh – she didn’t need to use needle and thread, as the torn edges stuck together simply at the touch of her hand. There was a sense of closing up something painful, for another time. For a time when I might be more equipped to deal with it. My mending left visible scars, reminding me of my self-harm. My mending took great effort, and the outcome was ugly. My therapist’s mending was effortless, and after it, everything looked just like it did before. I thought of the power of her metaphorical touch, which I have wonderfully benefited from, and about the potential power of her physical touch, which I will never experience. Now there’s a storm that brewed and then simmered, and doesn’t need stirring.

Perhaps God on the beach would tell me that I gazed on an image of eternal destruction; if not of the ‘after-life’ sort, then either on the current state of the destructive and self-hating parts of me, or on the damage that they are capable of inflicting. Which may as well be eternal – from my perspective – if they lay waste to the rest of my life. In the religious imagery of my sub-conscious, it requires a death to rend that curtain into two that divides us from relationship, and there is a darkness to be walked through before restoration is possible. For the last few months my whole being has felt like either a battlefield or a desert – and I have no idea who it will be, ultimately, who ends up biting the dust.


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Post-session poem

I arrived at therapy this morning all prepared to plunge straight into where we left off at the last session. But my therapist’s daughter’s car was parked outside – and so something rather different happened.

I’m used to there being other people in the house when I have my sessions – my therapist’s husband, her daughter. But on Friday mornings they’re both usually at work, and I love how it feels knowing the house is empty, and it’s just the two of us. There’s this feeling of ‘having her to myself’, of feeling somehow that we are both more free to be who we are. There’s the sense that when I leave the house we can linger at the front door a little longer than a split second, that we can exchange casual words without being ‘overheard’. For a split second, leaving, I feel less like a patient, and more like – I guess, a daughter.

There was an immediate sense of having that taken away today. Utterly unexpectedly, all those feelings I know so well, of exclusion and of loss, came flooding into the session, taking over. It was about this morning – and I was aware that the experience was bringing in aspects of my childhood, when I ‘shared’ my mother with various others in the house. But it was also about the weekends, and about holidays and therapy breaks, and about the end of therapy and after – it was about all the times, now and in the future, when others will be there, and I won’t.

In a way, I’m glad that she got to see. Since returning to therapy after Christmas, I’ve felt secure enough to share a number of feelings I was too afraid to share before. That experience has been wonderfully connecting, up-building, and sustaining, and I love where we have got to in our relationship. And so the experience today felt like being able to share a level of grief and pain with her, that so far I have only been able to experience at home, alone. It was more contained, a bit quieter, a bit less messy, shorter-lasting, than it is at home. But it was physically and emotionally painful, and strong, and present. Most of all, it was shared. And for that, I am thankful.

I’m at a coffee shop, trying to ‘recover’ before I have to go into work. I know that by the time I’ve ‘written it out’ I will be calmer, and ready to face others and be a ‘different me’. I wrote this poem in a couple of minutes, in the middle of trying to write my ‘therapy journal’, so that I don’t forget everything that’s happened in therapy this week. It’s rough around the edges, and in the middle, and it’s missing words here and there. A bit like how I feel.

 


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This work is hard

Not for the first time, a quote from the TV series ‘Dexter’, really hit home. Earlier today I’d been talking in therapy about my marriage, and the fact that I have no idea how to proceed. I’m not after an ideal – but now that I understand what relationship is, I want to love and be loved in a way that honors that, and the person I am becoming. I don’t believe the grass is always greener – but perhaps sometimes, it is.

I ran from a parental home into a married home, taking the damage of my childhood with me. Not seeing that, then; but being unable to see through it, now. Nowhere feels safe, apart from the refuge of my therapeutic relationship that feels more like home than anywhere else. I know that there I am accepted, and there I can be who I am. It’s the only place where I can think clearly; where my sense of self does not feel under threat.

Outside that relationship, I’m not sure which way to run. But I think my therapist would say that ultimately, whether the marriage survives or not, there is no need to run. If I can internalise that place where I feel accepted unconditionally and where I can be who I am, then my sense of self is not really under threat. It can bear with the past, stand in the present, and be open to the future.

But right now I’m just too scared and confused. This work is hard.

 


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The funniest moment of my week

I’m so glad that art psychotherapist Emma Cameron posted a link on Facebook to this hilarious song about attachment to one’s therapist. Of course, as with some of the best comedy, it’s funny partly because it’s so uncomfortably spot-on!

I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be playing it to my therapist at my next session – will you? 😉


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This therapy break is not what I’d hoped for or expected

*TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDAL FEELINGS*

Part I

In my head I have the image of a young girl stamping her feet, refusing to accept the unacceptable, yet clearly irrefutable. The young girl is me, and the fact is that my therapist is not my mother. An ‘act of God’, an accident of birth, whatever you want to call it – the truth. I imagine the young girl taking those stamping feet with her to the first therapy session after the Christmas break – but I know that courage often forsakes her at the door. She is more likely to leave silence in her wake, a younger version inarticulate and unable to stay present. Or perhaps she will hand over to sarcasm and a calculated detachment – apparent cooperation over a thinly veiled resistance. The truth is unacceptable to all of them – they feel little or no control over the pain it causes.

***

I should have known better – even as I was saying the words in my last session before the therapy break, I felt that it must surely be foolish to have such confidence, to make such bold assertions. “I don’t doubt my ability to stay connected”, I said. I have always thought that you are more vulnerable when you believe yourself immune, so why would I say such a thing? I suppose I did not think I was immune, so much as stronger, more ‘mature’ (in therapy terms). But still, it was a ridiculous thing to say. Particularly as I admitted to being fearful of the depression and difficult feelings that the Christmas break in particular, brings up for me. If I’d stopped to think I would have remembered that feelings of connection do not sit well alongside deep depression, and that ‘survival’ often means disconnection. But you never quite remember the nature of the darkness, until you’re trying to stay afloat in it again.

***

There are some strange coincidences when it comes to the way in which mine and my therapist’s lives and histories, touch upon each other. Coincidences of place, or time, or music, or words. At the start of the break I attended an event which will be a part of our family’s life for some time, knowing that at one point in the past, it may well have been part of her family’s life too. Going to and from the event, I walked past and through places that had and still have significance for her family, that are part of their day to day lives. I wondered whether I would have been able to enjoy thinking of her and feeling connected by these places and events, if I were only thinking of her. As it is, the completely familiar but painfully recurrent wound of that unacceptable, irrefutable truth, was too present to allow the joy and connection to flourish or be felt.

***

I changed the wallpaper on my phone to a picture of swans near my therapist’s house. Swans have been significant for us since a time, a year or so ago, when I left session feeling incredibly distressed, and felt drawn to drive to some nearby train tracks which had been part of my suicidal ideation in the past. However, I happened to catch sight of the swans, and went over to take a photo. There were ten to twenty of them, and I stayed watching for a while, listening to the inchoate sounds they were making, which seemed to echo how I was feeling inside. I felt calm companionship, and after twenty minutes or so, I drove straight home.

There were three beautiful white swans in the photo I put on my phone. I felt a little restless and uncomfortable because metaphor and imagery is important to me, and I wasn’t sure who the three swans represented. I should have preferred it if there were two, as the interpretation then, would be obvious – and comforting – enough. Could they represent the ‘Oedipal triangle’ of myself, my therapy-mother and a one-time therapy-father figure? The possibility that they might represent my therapist and her two daughters was not one I wanted to think about, so I pushed it to one side, trying to focus instead on the beauty and clarity of the image, even if there was no simple meaning that could be attached to it.

It was a few days later, when, quite literally weak with exhaustion and pain from that ‘recurrent wound’, that I noticed another irrefutable truth, hiding (but only to my mind that refused to see it) in plain sight. The brown and white object on the water, to the left of the three beautiful white swans was not, as I had originally thought, a piece of rubbish floating on the water. It was a fourth swan, younger and so an ‘ugly duckling’ still, with its head and neck immersed in the river. The picture, all of a sudden, made perfect sense; the interpretation was clear. I knew my place in it, and that of my therapist and her daughters. The only mystery was why the picture took so long to reveal itself to me; but then, my ability to leave unobserved the readily observable, is one that I am all too familiar with.

***

Suffering may seem too strong a word for such a thing, but I came to think of it as that. Daily, unremitting, suffering that I would have done anything to be able to cut out of me. Depression usually leaves my ability to sleep, intact – but not in this case. I couldn’t sleep because of the tears and because my mind was desperate to find an answer. I tried to examine the problem from every angle, proposing hypotheses and trying to imagine how I would feel in different situations. If my therapist had no children, would I feel this way? If she still had daughters, but had said we could keep in touch after the end of therapy, would I feel this way? Which was the most significant factor, eventual loss of the physical relationship, or the fact that I am not her daughter? But the two are inter-related and I was too distressed; and my hypothetical scenarios testing my hypotheses got me nowhere near discovering how to deal with the unacceptable and irrefutable truth.

The wound and the questions were all-consuming – so much so that I didn’t know whether that meant that this was the one big issue I needed to deal with in therapy next, or that this was the one big stumbling block that would consume and stand in the way of my therapy and any future work. The thought that it might be the latter, was frightening. I had no idea how to get past this impasse; the wound had been recurring for years. But one thing I was convinced of was that the answer did not lie in my therapist’s usual encouragement to focus on what I do have, rather than on what I don’t. I know what I have, and I’m very, very grateful for it. But this wound won’t be healed by gratitude, and it won’t be covered over. It needs to be felt, and worked through, and dealt with – though I’m quite sure that at the moment, neither of us knows how.

Part II

Suffering took me to a place in which I felt unafraid of death. All my life it has scared me – occasionally I’ve felt sheer existential terror in trying to imagine my own complete non-existence in a future stretching out for millions of years beyond me. We all imagine our death from our own vantage point – even when thinking of our own non-existence, the terror of the concept lies hidden from view because our consciousness is still in the picture – it is creating the picture. Skirting the edges (which is all we can do, given that we are conscious) of the true concept of a universe in which we are completely and utterly absent in every way – is one of the most terrifying things I have felt. And yet I felt – really felt – that I had made peace with the idea. That death would be a welcome release, despite the losses it would bring. I felt that the idea of non-existence did not scare me anymore – it was natural, it will come to us all.

***

It had been a long time since I had had internal conversations with the various ‘parts of myself’, but as I lay in bed unable to sleep and wanting to die, the image of a child part of me, tugging on my sleeve, came into my mind. For the first time, she called me ‘mama’. I am aware that part of the process of therapy will involve learning to be my own ‘good enough mother’ to my internal parts, with my internal therapy mother there to guide me. Until now, I’ve had the sense that my various internal parts see me more as an older sister tasked with ‘mothering’ her siblings, and doing a rather ineffectual job, whereas they think of my internalised therapy-mother as their parent. And so to have my inner child call me ‘mama’, was a shock and a surprise.

“Are we going to die?” she asked. “I don’t know”, I said, “do you want to?” . She paused, and then said “I think, if we are all together, then it is okay”. I looked over to a teenage part of me and she shook her head in assent, through her tears. Only the part of me I think of as ‘the flirty one’ (generally the ‘character’ where I locate myself as a ‘sexual being’) seemed to be unsure, and to feel anger and resistance. Perhaps that is unsurprising, given that she is the part of me most connected to my physical body.

It was both a comforting and a dangerous image. I felt as though my inner parts were ‘giving me permission’ to die – that my internal pictures and conversations were leading to integration and resolution, and that that resolution was in harmony with the loss of my fear of death. I felt as though I was on a definite path; and though I was aware this felt comforting, at the same time, on a deeper level, the feeling was frightening.

***

The next morning asI was driving along, I found myself planning, in my mind, the order of service for my funeral. For many years, I’d wanted to include the song ‘I hope you dance’ by Lee Ann Womack. Around a year ago I came across Caccini’s Ave Maria (the version for violin and orchestra) and I added that to the ‘playlist’, and more recently I decided on a choral piece as well. I wanted the service to be a progression, to form a creative whole that hung together and told a story. But how, I thought, can one progress from country music, to orchestral, to modern choral, in a way that was beautiful and coherent? It would take quite some creativity to pull that off – I hoped I was up to the task.

Though it occurs to me now that playing ‘I hope you dance’ would be the height of irony, or perhaps hypocrisy, under the circumstances, containing as it does, the line ‘When you get the choice to sit it out or dance – I hope you dance’.

***

By that afternoon, the suffering and the reconciliation to death had been replaced by anger, resentment, and envy. It felt as though the one internal part who had ‘broken ranks’, had decided to step in and protect. I felt both extremely vehement in my resentment, and simultaneously distant, constantly observing and interpreting my thoughts and reactions.

I noted the increase in my self-hatred and what felt like hatred for others; the increase in self-destructive impulses; the temptation to less appropriate behaviours; the flirtatious or sexual edge to some of my online interactions. Although these felt like familiar ‘coping mechanisms’ from my past, I hadn’t previously associated this part of me with a protector who wanted to live, and who may have guarded against suicidality.  And I had never previously put envy alongside sexuality (I am clearly lacking in my knowledge of the history and theory of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis!).

Pictures and words from an imagined first session back, started to play over in my mind, constantly revisiting and building the anger and the envy. I imagined my first words to my therapist being “well that was an effing disaster”; I imagined her expression changing, defensiveness kicking in. I imagined my angry tirade. I imagined it over and over until I actually better understood some of the reasons why this feels like the worst therapy break in two years.

Part III

Over the summer, my therapist and I agreed to stop emailing between sessions. This was followed shortly after by a major rupture, which it took me a long time to process, and one of the consequences was that adjusting to the cessation of email was much harder than it might otherwise have been. In order to adjust, I needed to feel absolutely secure in my attachment; but the rupture meant that I felt in constant need of reassurance that our relationship was still intact. Reassurance which I could no longer, of course, obtain by email. It was a vicious circle that was hard to break out of.

***

In line with the cessation of email between sessions, this is my first therapy break with no contact with my therapist. A couple of weeks before the break, I happened to raise the subject of the end of therapy, and all of a sudden my pre-conceptions and fantasies about ‘post-therapy possibilities’ were shattered. Over the course of a very painful four or five sessions, it became clear that the ‘half-way house’ I had imagined, between actively being in therapy, and having a friendship, did not in fact exist.

I had imagined a world of semi-regular email exchanges, of the kind we had had during therapy breaks in the past. Specifically, of the kind we had had during last year’s Christmas break during which I had managed to stay feeling connected and secure throughout, and we had exchanged a couple of lovely messages. I had imagined exchanges where I gave her updates on what was happening in my life, and she responded with encouragement, and occasionally with one or two details of her own life (such as a poem, book, or piece of music she thought I might find interesting or enjoyable). I knew that this would not be initiated by her, and I knew that she would still maintain a therapeutic ‘distance’ – but nevertheless I had imagined a genuine exchange, that would be enjoyable for both of us.

***

It became clear that those fantasies were just that – fantasies. And so it seemed I had to face (though I still haven’t had the courage to truly face it) the unacceptable – that there would be no mutually enjoyable and genuine exchange, and that I might never hear from my therapist again, once therapy is over.

This is my first break without email contact – having just found out there will be no email contact after the end of therapy. It is a break laden with associations and reminders of family – the family I am part of, and the family I long to be part of – just at the time when I have come face to face with the starkest, most chasm-like distinction between being a biological daughter and being a therapy daughter. At some point, the latter relationship continues to exist only internally, with few or no new physical reminders.

Is it any wonder then, with all of that in mind, that I was consumed by envy of her and her family, and by anger (at her and at myself) for not realising just what a mammoth (and likely unrealistic) task I would be embarking on?

***

So much, then, for my bold claim over my ability to stay connected during this break. I should have known better – though I still would not have thought I would ‘regress’ to this extent. Having said that, I know my therapist hasn’t abandoned me, and I know that she thinks of me and cares about me. It is not a perceived lack of those things, that fuels my anger and resentment. It is the not-yet-dealt-with, not-yet-processed, unacceptable and irrefutable truths that a no-contact break compounds by being its own stark illustration and reminder of those truths. I am not her daughter; I will never be her daughter. Of course I know the difference between a biological daughter and a therapy daughter – but it breaks my heart, now more than ever.

***

I watched a film that turned a key, unlocked emotions, raised questions. Questions and emotions that made it feel as though I could choose love over envy and anger; that I could continue to self-actualise and bring my future to pass, by choosing to live through painful moments and accept them as un-sullying adjuncts to joyful moments. It felt a little like a religious experience, but then the next morning things felt flat. At least the envy and the anger are diluted now – there is more adult there, than there was before. But the strength of the connection I want to feel, I know I can feel, and that is there, eludes me.

***

I want my therapist to wrap me in her arms when I see her – metaphorically, as I know she cannot, physically. And I need to talk about the suffering and try and figure out what it means, where it comes from, how to deal with it. I have to deal with it – it is still the dominant issue. I either feel it and am crushed by it, or I defend against it with emotions that block relationship and connection. Instead, I have to be able to tolerate it, and not just that – I have to be able to have positive experiences that are not utterly marred by it. Ideally, the irrefutable and unacceptable will eventually become acceptable, and cause me less pain. I need that – for my well-being and for some peace, as well as for the sake of my therapy. But in the meantime, I think I need that young girl to turn up to her first session after the break still stamping her feet, metaphorically, if not literally, and give expression to everything that’s bothering her. I think she has to say some things that are hard to hear – harder for her, than for her therapist. And she has to believe that they will both survive the experience intact.

I hope I can do it. “I don’t doubt my ability to stay connected” is true, in this sense – I know that I don’t have to spend the first session back ‘testing the water’, rebuilding connection, checking things are still okay. I am confident they are. So perhaps I just have to use that as my anchor, and as the base from which to jump into new territory in my therapy. My therapist has often encouraged me to bring my ‘trickier parts’ into session – perhaps it’s time to try…..


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The clothes you wear to therapy

I enjoyed revisiting this subject for my latest article for the therapy website welldoing.org , which can be found here!

https://welldoing.org/article/what-you-wear-therapy-communication-disguise-defence

I have continued to pay attention (both prospectively and retrospectively) to what I wear in therapy, and I still firmly believe in the revealing nature (excuse the pun!) of ‘ordinary’ details such as this, and the therapeutic benefit of discussing them. These days what I wear tends to be more consciously focused on communicating closeness (through choice of colours I associate with therapy, for example), or on self comforting (for example, by wearing an item of clothing that also acts as a transition object or a ‘stand in’ for therapy and my therapist). It is therefore much more about working with and for my therapy, than a defence against the process; and that is a reflection of where I am in my therapeutic journey, and how my relationship with my therapist has evolved over time. But it wasn’t always this way, as I’ve described in the article, and the way things have changed for me and the clothes I wear to therapy, tells a story in itself…..I hope you enjoy reading!