the realization or fulfilment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.
What does the end of therapy look like? What will I look like? Feel like?
It is hard at the moment to imagine living a life without therapy in it. Without T in it. I live in a constant state of self-reflection and I am constantly reading and learning new things therapy related. I guess in a weird way, therapy gives me a sense of purpose. A lot of my energy goes into thinking about my therapeutic journey.
I have already learnt so much on my journey. It has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It has been the most scary, painful but life-changing thing I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t go back and change a single thing. In fact, I’ve turned into one of those annoying preacher types who wants to try to encourage everyone to give it a go – I want to share the joy it can bring in finally being seen and heard. It is hard to put into words the gratitude I have for this journey of mine (see preaching again!).
On this journey you don’t really see how far you have come until you stop and look back. My blog yesterday made me realise how far I have come in terms of my own emotional awareness – the discovery of my feelings and emotions and the ways I try to drown them out or cover them up. Learning to recognise them and not be scared of them. Learning to “Tolerate” them as T would say. But what else? I have been validated and for me I think that is one of the most healing things of all.
I started therapy feeling like life just happened to me. I just seemed to be in this world as a spectator, watching life happen to everyone else. Life was tough. It was hard and unsatisfying. I felt kind of deadened. I always had a very clear sense that I was broken or faulty somehow and lots of things seemed to back that feeling up. My mum didn’t seem to love me, my dad was absent from my life, friends would come and go, boyfriends would betray me – relationships were hard work. There was always a lot of drama and a lot of tears. That feeling of not understanding was painful.
I understood that I was very insecure. I didn’t understand why – it was just another one of my faults, I thought. I wanted so badly to be confident, to be secure and laid back. I wanted so much to be loved and understood. I kept ruining relationships and every time another one ended, I felt more and more shame.
I finally took myself to see T in early 2013. I remember very clearly sitting in her office and telling her about my family. I spoke non-stop (nothing new there) for the majority of the hour and told her in very minimal detail about all the big life events – house moves, step parents, abuse to me, domestic abuse to my mum. I didn’t have any emotion to the story I told, but I didn’t recognise that then. I remember coming away and thinking “corr, that was a lot of stuff to have happened actually” but that was it and I got on with my day. I couldn’t really believe that I was in therapy. Therapy was for people who were really mentally unwell wasn’t it? (judgmental, I know).
Fast-forward about 5 months and I quit therapy because I got a new boyfriend and I decided that I didn’t need therapy anymore. I told myself that it was just my ex-boyfriend that had made me insecure and the new one promised he wouldn’t make me feel like that. So I quit and I am ashamed to say, that I didn’t do it very nicely. I sent a few texts to tell her I wasn’t coming back and then I hid. I ignored her phone calls and messages trying to encourage me to stay, or to at least see her once more. I didn’t want to go and I think partly that was because I knew I needed to be there and was running away and partly because I was embarrassed at how immature I was in leaving this way. That was that.
About another 5 or 6 months later, a friend was killed in a case of mistaken identity. It affected me a lot and I was crying for weeks so I emailed to see if T would see me again. I was worried what she would think of me but I went anyway. Weirdly we didn’t seem to talk that much about my friend. She didn’t seem as warm as I remembered. I thought she was probably annoyed with me. I told her that I didn’t need to start therapy again, I just wanted a couple of sessions to talk about my friend, but she didn’t seem to be happy with that. She told me that therapy was a commitment and I was either invested in this process for the long-haul, or I wasn’t. I said that I wasn’t sure and she told me to think about it. We scheduled a session for the day after Boxing Day and she told me to let her know if I wanted to keep that appointment or not. On Christmas Day or thereabouts, I decided I didn’t need it and so text her to say thank you but that I was okay. That was that (again!).
In May 2015 I started (another) new relationship with my current partner and things were looking up. He seemed to be more genuine and more committed than previous boyfriends had. He was slightly older and had children and I felt much safer in this relationship which was lovely. However it wasn’t drama-free (obviously) because he came with an angry ex-wife and children and that never makes for smooth running. Add to that, the fact that I had broken it off with the last boyfriend for this guy (I know, not a classy move and not one that I am proud of). With all this drama came yet more insecurity that he would leave me to go back to his ex-wife, jealousy of their shared past, jealousy and feeling left out when he saw his children at weekends (before I met them a year later),being kept a secret… it was hard. One day we went for lunch and I was feeling particularly upset because he had told me that he missed his children. I had taken that to mean that he missed his previous life (not just his children) and he sat me down and told me that he loved me, that he wasn’t going anywhere BUT.. (always a but!) BUT that he couldn’t handle this constant insecurity and doubt that I had. I decided right then and there that I really did need to go to therapy and stick it out. I emailed her the next day and made an appointment to see her. From then, to now, I haven’t ran away again and it has now been 2.5 years of consistent work.
When I went back to her she gave me a pretty stern talking to about how this wasn’t something she could keep doing with me coming and going and that I really needed to knuckle down and do this. I knew she was right. I felt like I had been told off by a teacher and felt embarrassed, but I knew I couldn’t keep running. I wanted to feel better once and for all. I think I knew it was my last chance with her.
Only a few sessions in she asked me if I knew what narcissism was. I said no. She told me that she thought my mother was extremely narcissistic and that she could even have NPD. She told me to go home and read about it. That was another life-changing moments that I will never forget. I went home and typed into Google about narcissism and saw pages and pages of articles written about my mum (or so it seemed). It was rather shocking. Following this revelation I was ecstatic. I know that sounds weird, but I felt a huge weight lift off of me. It really was her. It wasn’t me! I wasn’t inherently broken and faulty after all!!
The joy didn’t last long however and I was soon crying constantly for the best part of a week. I then began to experience panic attacks. One during the middle of the night when I genuinely thought I was having a heart attack. One the following day on the train home from work and another a week or so after that at home. I had never had a panic attack before so it was a very scary thing to happen. T didn’t seem particularly worried or surprised. I suddenly had so many feelings, thoughts, emotions and I didn’t know what to do with them. That was the start of a very long (on-going journey) into learning all about narcissism and from there, gradually, very gradually, I have been able to start to talk about things my mother did or said to me growing up with the intellectual understanding that it really wasn’t my fault. Again the feelings took a very long time to integrate to these stories.
During my time in therapy to date, I have written many letters. I have written a letter to my own inner child. I have written to my father (3 or 4 versions of that have been typed over a few years, and one has now been given to him !). Many letters to my mother – none of which have been sent, or ever will be sent to her. They are extremely painful to write, but are very healing. Writing really gets me in touch with the feelings.The words seem to just fly out like they’ve been sitting there waiting to escape.
I have my father back in my life now after many years apart. We don’t see each other very often, but there is contact and we see each other every month or so, which is a huge change.
I have gone LC (low contact) with my mother. I’ve emotionally distanced myself from her in a huge way and have managed to loosen myself from her tight, deadly grip which has brought with it it’s own challenges. She now feels as though I have betrayed her and I am still struggling with carrying a lot of guilt which doesn’t really belong to me – I am working on that. I am still scared of putting my own healthy boundaries in as though I will be severely punished. I need to really believe that I am safe now.
I have yet to deal with my sexual abuse in any real way… it has been brought up a few times over the years in therapy but T seems to think that I use him/it as a bit of a scapegoat for my unclaimed anger towards my mother. We have spoken about how my mother should have protected me more and how and why I didn’t tell her at the time. I went into therapy thinking this was the main cause of my “issues” but it feels as though T disagrees. I do too, now.
I’ve spoken about the domestic abuse I’ve witnessed towards my mother and how that has impacted on me, on my feelings about anger and authority and men.
I have learnt about narcissism, attachment patterns, golden child/scapegoats, object constancy, C-PTSD, “triggers” and regression, the conscious and unconscious mind, repression, denial, projection, relationship triangles, repetition compulsion. The therapeutic relationship and transference.. about dissociation. About vulnerability and dependency and much more.
Most importantly, I have finally been able to experience a secure attachment (well, nearly) to my T. I accept now that I need her to be okay. I miss her when she is gone. I hang on to her every word. I can allow myself to be pre-occupied with her at times. I use her to steady myself, to mirror me. I need her attunement. I internalize her words to carry with me when she is not there. I am learning how to keep that connection alive when she is not – slowly but surely. I am being re-parented by her at nearly 30 years old because it wasn’t done properly when I was a child. I am understanding the losses, grieving them so they lose their hold over me.
I can see the improvement in me even if others can’t. Although close friends and my boyfriend have told me various ways they have seen improvements. I am safe in the knowledge that it helps me, that it is continuing to help me every day.
Right now, I never want it to end. But one day it will and that will only happen when I am 100% ready. I am curious as to how life will feel when I am “self-actualized” and whole. I am so excited that one day I might get a chance to be who I could have been if I hadn’t been through all the sh*t I went through. I won’t have to live just getting by each day. I won’t have to live feeling broken or faulty or ashamed. My past will not define me.
What better payback is there to your abusers than to not just survive, but to thrive on your own ? I am going to become the person they tried to keep me from becoming. The person they very nearly managed to kill off inside of me. I will become my truest, realist, strongest and happiest self. My best self!
Won’t that day be bloody beautiful?
Links related to self-actulization