As I have done over the last couple of therapy breaks, I used daily tweets as a way of ‘journaling’ and coping over the Easter break. I find it helpful as a way of ‘counting down the days’ and of recording both difficult moments and times of gratitude. I have also found it valuable to be able to look back on my experience during previous breaks. Creating a scrapbook of my tweets has been therapeutic in itself, as well as providing me with a treasure trove of memories. I put together the tweets from my Easter break using Storify, and you can see them here!
Last week I posted a link to my ‘Twitter story’ from Day 1 to Day 16 of my Christmas therapy break, and this week I’m posting the tweets from Day 17 to Day 26:
My Christmas therapy break finally ended yesterday, with a ‘return session’ of the kind I haven’t experienced before. Usually I spend some time after a break trying actively to feel reconnected to my therapist, hoping that she will somehow ‘reach out’ to help me do that. She often tells me that we are still connected, even if I can’t feel it, but particularly straight after a break that can be hard to take on board and accept.
This time, although though I spent a little while at the start of the session showing her various items and mementos of the therapy break that had been important in helping me to look after myself, I did so because I really wanted to share those things with her, rather than because I was seeking a connection I felt was missing. I went in feeling connected; and though on many levels I just wanted to ‘rest’ and have her ‘look after me’ after the ‘effort’ of being apart, the more ‘adult’ part of me stayed uppermost and I was able to talk freely and openly, rather than feeling stuck or resentful.
There were some very difficult and painful times during the Christmas break – intensely lonely times, times when I thought about death and about dying. I held those things back until I saw my therapist yesterday, and that was okay. The strong sense of connection persisted throughout the painful times and the holding back, and when I heard from her over email in response to the things I did tell her about, her responses felt somehow more ‘relational’ and less ‘practical’ than they had done in the past. They felt as though they were less about addressing immediate difficulties I might have, and more about reminding me I was kept in mind, and that our connection persisted. Perhaps her responses felt different because my emails too, were different. As with any relationship, we impact upon each other.
As tends to happen with me at any sign of progress, I started to worry about whether my therapist would think I was now sufficiently ‘recovered’ and therapy would be foreshortened. She reassured me there was still work to be done! Very early on in my therapy I asked her how you know when the process of therapy is coming to an end, and she said ‘when you no longer notice the breaks‘. Thinking of it in those terms, I can see that I still have a way to go – and in truth, I cannot even conceive of not noticing the breaks, it does not seem possible. I got through this break much more positively than on any previous occasion, but I noticed it very much. I missed my therapist hugely, and she was always in my thoughts. More importantly, I didn’t doubt that I was in hers, and that knowledge sustained me.
Last week I posted the link to the ‘twitter story’ containing the daily tweets from the first half of my summer therapy break; I talked about why I started to tweet about the break, and how it had helped.
The (long!) summer therapy break is now over, and this is the link to the twitter story from the second half of that break:
In my most recent ‘Memory Monday’ post, I mentioned the fact that the final third of the therapy break was much more difficult than the first two-thirds. I think there are a number of reasons for that. The first is sheer duration – I managed to stay feeling connected to my therapist for almost the entirety of the initial four weeks, with hardly any internal conflict or negative thoughts about her. This was very different to how things had been in the past, and it was a long time to be able to maintain both a peaceful ‘internal world’ and this close alliance (even at a distance), with my therapist. I think the reasons for that ability are all encapsulated in the series of posts I wrote in July and August, on my ‘new experience of mother‘. Having succeeded to ‘hold on’ to my therapist and also to the sense of harmony between my ‘inner parts‘ for four weeks, there simply came a point where it was just ‘a bit too much’. It was too much of a strain, and the cracks started to show. And once they had appeared, it became difficult to contain their spread and to limit their effect.
A second factor that had an impact was that my therapist went abroad for the final third of the therapy break, to visit friends. Somehow I found that much harder to deal with; both because of the greater physical distance between us and the sense of ‘being left behind’, but also because the sense of exclusion I feel when I cannot be a part of her life, is heightened in some ways when it comes to friendships. As described in my post on ‘Being excluded from your therapist’s life‘, I think this is because were I anyone other than a therapy client, a friendship with her is something that would be an option (whereas I am not and could never be, a family member), and the ‘cruelty’ of that option being outside the boundary of what is permissible, is something I feel particularly keenly. Keenly enough, that it started to chip away at my sense of connection with my therapist, and to allow feelings of resentment (about a whole range of issues, including the break and the impossibility of friendship) to creep in.
Finally, a major trigger towards the very end of the break resulted in a big ‘regression’ to how I used to feel in almost all previous therapy breaks. I temporarily, but fairly comprehensively, lost the ability to retain a sense of being kept in mind, of being cared for, and of being connected to my therapist. In ‘A new experience of mother – Part 5‘, I spoke about the interplay between the relationship between the different parts of me, and the relationship between me and my therapist. Those two relationships affect each other, and the complete breakdown in my own sense of who I was (and accompanying feelings of dissociation/depersonalisation), also led to a sense that my therapist was ‘a stranger’, that I didn’t know who she was, and that I was cut off from her. When the heightened agitation of this state did eventually die down, the ‘self’ that was left in the driving seat was an angry, rebellious and destructive persona, rather than the new growing, nurturing persona, who had steered me through the first four weeks of the break.
As indicated at the end of the twitter story, my return to therapy was (predictably) tough – and a story for another day! But I’ve had two sessions since resuming, and the good news is that they were very different to each other and last night I felt more peaceful inside than I have done for many days. A great deal changed in the twenty four hours from the end of session one to the end of session two, and that in itself is indicative of progress, and of how things have developed in the last few months. As my therapist said in that second session, we are in a different place to where we were a few months ago; and when I look back, I can see that everything that’s happened over the last six and a bit weeks, is testament to that.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported me in a whole range of different ways during the therapy break – it was important to me, and comforting to know that you were following my journey 🙂
Just over a week ago, Alison Crosthwait (from ‘The Good Therapists‘) and I, had a fantastic twitter chat on the subject of ‘Therapy breaks’. For more information on Alison, and on why we chose that subject, please see this post, which I wrote prior to the chat.
Using the wonders of Storify (and a few minutes spent trying to figure out how it worked), I put together a ‘transcript’ of our chat, which you can find here:
Please accept my apologies if any sections are hard to follow or if questions appear to come out of the blue! Due to the natural pauses while one of us was replying to a question, we sometimes found ourselves with more than one question on the go at once, and so reconstructing a particular thread was not always easy! However, I have done my best to keep portions of the same conversation together, as far as possible, and this is why the tweet ‘time stamps’ don’t always follow strict chronological order.
We were hoping to use the subject of therapy breaks to explore a number of areas, including change and attachment. We covered how both clients and therapists can feel during a break, and the different strategies they may employ to manage the break, including transitional objects, email contact, or, occasionally, back-up therapists (a concept I had not come across before!).
I think Alison will forgive me for speaking on her behalf to say that we both enjoyed it enormously and hope that you will enjoy reading through our conversation. We are keen to try this again sometime, and it would be good to hear your thoughts on subjects you would like us to explore (and that YOU would like to explore – please join us!) next time. Speaking personally, though we spoke about ‘attachment’ during therapy breaks, I felt that we didn’t really get a chance to talk in depth about the subject of change, and that is something Alison has written about, and that I would love to discuss with her. It is also something which is particularly pertinent for me at the moment, as my therapy went through significant (positive) changes just before, during, and after the Easter therapy break.
But all suggestions are welcome, and we both love creative ideas, so do feel free to put forward anything therapy-related that you have an interest in! I’m already getting excited at the thought of creating a list 🙂