Separation Anxiety: A Letter To T

Dear T,

Yesterday afternoon I found myself re-reading an old blog called “An Hour Is Never Enough“. I sent that blog to you back in June and we spent an entire session talking about it. Whilst reading it again,  I found myself crying and feeling the same (clearly that is why I went looking for it).

I wish that I could find the words to help you to understand how I am feeling but I can’t, it is really confusing. At first I wanted to write and say that I felt like I was just missing you, but something doesn’t quite feel right with that word. I can’t miss you because I had only been gone for a few hours.

I thought that perhaps it was because I just didn’t want to leave my session. I was enjoying my session and I felt very warm inside.

When I let myself cry at home, I got such a pang in my chest. I’ve written that before, it is a feeling I can never articulate very well but it always comes back when I am crying about loss somehow. When I nearly quit therapy when I lived in [    ], I remember vividly crying on the bathroom floor and having that same pain.  I keep thinking about losing my Thursday sessions and wondering how the hell I will cope without them if I was crying having seen you twice this week already.

I wrote a blog yesterday about how it must be because I hadn’t “had enough” yet which is another thing I’ve written about and told you about before, but since then I have come to realise that it is actually a bit more complicated than that. It’s almost as if the fact I felt so connected to you yesterday/recently is what is hurting me.  That is the only way I can explain it.

I wrote about the feelings I got when I was first dating [   ] and he would leave my flat to go home or to spend the weekend with the children. I would be in bits within seconds or minutes of him leaving. I would cry so much. I would yearn for him to be back and I hated it. I would be preoccupied with him and the only thing that helped in that time apart was that we had constant text messages and he would tell me that he missed me or that he loved me.  The pain feels very similar to that but obviously the attachment with you is different – the pain is the same though.  Does that make any sense at all?

A lady whose blog I follow wrote this (Life In A Bind):

“I wish I could email my therapist. Sometimes you just want to reach out to the person your heart feels safe with. Not even for a reply or an acknowledgment, but to be received and wrapped in thought.  You know that it will pass. That you will talk about it tomorrow. But right now she is the only person you feel intimately connected to. And you miss her, very much.  I wish that I could say: “I’m crying, and you make me feel safe ; I just wanted you to know”.

And that summed it up for me so well. I also know “it will pass” and that I can talk to you about it next week, but that doesn’t seem to help much. I acknowledge the huge amounts of shame that I am feeling about all of this. I try to tell myself its the child feelings and not the adult which makes me feel a little less pathetic (I can hear you saying “don’t do that to yourself” as I type that)!

I understand why I might be feeling sad and as though I am missing being there with you, I can understand that to a point.. but I can’t understand why getting what I’ve always wanted and needed can hurt so much at the same time. That doesn’t make sense and that feels so cruel and unfair.

If I have always wished I had someone (a mother) who was warm, attuned, who cared about me, who tried to “get me”, who I could talk to, laugh with etc.. then why, when I get those needs met do I leave feeling such heartache?

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Back to therapy tomorrow 

I’m back to therapy tomorrow night after 2 weeks and 3 days and I feel…. absolutely nada. In fact, I forgot until earlier today when I remembered and had absolutely no feelings about it at all. No relief and no anger or apprenhension…. nothing! 

I actually feel a little mean that I have so easily “forgotten” her and the good feelings I get when I’ve seen her. I have no doubt they will come flooding back tomorrow but it’s weird, like, where have they gone? It’s a bit unnerving that I can do easily do this. 

Tomorrow she will ask me how I’ve been and I will tell her I’ve been fine… she will laugh when I say fine and ask where my anger is.. if I am angry with her and when I say no, she won’t believe me. I will secretly get angry but I won’t say anything koz, well what’s the point? (Also that’s twisted isn’t it? I will then GET angry and she will think she’s right but she’s not). 

Then we will talk about my redundancy application, my new job and me dropping a session. My guilt around that and all that stuff. I should tell her that her reaction disappointed me, that actually everyone’s reaction has dissapointed me (apart from my fiancé and you guys)…. but I probably won’t and even if I do, she will probably explain and I’ll feel as though I’m being stupid.

The tone to this actually sounds a little aggressive doesn’t it? Which is odd koz I don’t feel it! Ha.. mental. 

Where does it go? 

As I was sat in the hairdressers this morning I reflected back on the events that unfolded since my session Thursday. I thought about the initial upset, then the anger, the missatunement, the confusion, more anger and then yesterday’s decision to tell T how I was feeling. 

LUCKILY for me, T responded quickly and said she heard I was angry with her (I bet she nearly fell off her chair!) and she asked me if I was able to come for another session that same day – only two hours later actually! 

Unfortunately I couldn’t go, as much as I would have loved to, because I was at work but I really love that she offered. 

I told her I couldn’t, but would have really loved to and she replied to say that as that wasn’t going to work she was “here” and thinking of me, that she understood the anger and confusion and acknowledged that her missatunement (is that an agreement?) had got me in touch with my anger and pain. 

She suggested that I kept writing and told me she would not retaliate and told me to “hang in there“. 

I felt instantly better. Like within moments and that hasn’t changed since. In fact today I feel happy and have been singing along to my tunes in the car. 

I dreamt of “her” last night. I say “her” like that because it was meant to be her but I’m not sure her face was right – I don’t actually recall a face but I knew it was T if that makes sense. [side question: does anyone struggle to call up an image of their T? I can’t picture her when I’m not in fromt of her at all. I would struggle to draw a picture of her or describe her to someone]

Anyway, the dream was that I was at her family home with her dream husband and daughter. Me and her daughter were playing together and I stayed over and had dinner the next day. We went outside to her garden which was absolutely beautiful and huge. It even had pink blossom trees and a stream! We sat and played games and it was heavenly. 

I remember in the dream that they had some suitcases out in a room on the floor and had started to pack for a skiing trip. I think I was sad about that but trying to push that out of my mind. 

My sister was with me too, she was very young in the dream and lost a tooth which I looked after for her. 

When we were leaving T gave me a melon, some yogurts and an open can of baked beans (how odd!!) I loved that she gave me those things and didn’t want to leave. I left and drove me and my little sister home. 

I woke up and shortly after I fell back to sleep, this time I dreamt of what I can only describe as a giant heart shape made of grass and hedges and I was pushing the centre of the heart desperately trying to get inside. 

To break through the heart. Symbolic much? 

Dreams aside, I’m just wondering, why I feel so much better just because T knows? I wonder psychologically speaking why that helps so much? How has it completely removed the anger? Why do I feel so adult and content today when I felt so desperate then? 

Not that I’m complaining of course, I just wonder why it’s made such a huge difference. 

Anger, Sadness, Confusion and Misattunement

I can’t cuddle Frank right now. Actually I can’t even look at him so I threw him off the side of the bed last night. My boyfriend said, “ooh is someone angry with T?” Yes. Yes I am. He asked why but I felt far too vulnerable to tell him. Poor innocent little Frank though.

I am feeling angry but I’m also feeling hurt and misunderstood and rejected although I’m not actually sure why I feel rejected! On top of that I feel some guilt because (and as a reader pointed out earlier) I have a suspicion in the back of my mind that my anger may be disproportionate and misdirected.

Here’s what happened from my perspective:

I left T yesterday and felt instantly uneasy. I felt a mixture of sadness and anger. I later managed to write and realised the feelings (which were quite young) were that I felt I hadn’t “had enough” of T yet before I had to leave her again and be without her for another 5 days.  I cried quite a lot and was really in touch with the sad feelings.

I then decided to reach out and email T to tell her this was how I was feeling. I felt vulnerable doing this because there was a risk that she may think I was being over the top and extreme – it is, after all, only a few days. But I did it anyway and I really hoped she was going to reply and say she understood that it felt it wasn’t enough, that I didn’t want to leave, that I would miss her and that I would soon be back…or in my fantasy that she would tell me to come back on Saturday or something and that she missed me too (obvs I know that wouldn’t happen but a girl can dream!)

BUT

But what happened was that she replied nicely, very kindly – but in my eyes, to me, about the wrong thing. It felt she got it wrong and the anger that brought up in me was pretty scary. I was so angry that she hadn’t “got it”.

It wasn’t about the child bit not having been tended to in session (as she said) it wasn’t that! It was just that I didn’t want to leave her again. I didn’t want to have to go away from her. I suspect there is some transference going on here – perhaps I am feeling something from my past or whatever, perhaps its an emotional flashback.  It feels to me that it is about the break and about missing her and being left alone again already or something. Perhaps I am scared she will be gone too long – I don’t know but what I do know is that it isn’t that the child bit didn’t feel it got what it needed – it wasn’t that. It’s just that I will miss her.

I got so angry because I felt so unseen and T has never made me feel like that before. I felt so much anger that she missed the point – that she had read my writing and was being so misattuned to me – that was so painful. She’s meant to be perfect – she’s meant to be a mind-reader AND she’s meant to just get it and make it feel better but she didn’t and that felt horrific. She made it worse and now I hated her for that. I felt so disappointed.

I shouted “no!!! no!!!!” out loud through my sobs to myself – no, please don’t get it wrong, please don’t make me feel worse, please don’t be imperfect, don’t let me be angry with you. Because she is the only person that I’m NEVER angry with you know? She is the safe person, the safe place. She is the good mother and I don’t want to turn her bad.

 

T has said to me in the past that sometimes in therapy our psyche can distort things to get us to where we need to be. So with that in mind, perhaps I have “made” some anger at T as I need an excuse to direct my anger somewhere? But obviously if that is the case it is unconscious and so it doesn’t FEEL like that.

It could be misdirected and actually be about anger I have towards my mother (I will call her bitchface from now on I think).. but that hasn’t been my style before, so why now?

OR it could be that being angry with T is easier than having to feel that horrible, painful longing for her that I was feeling before she “got it wrong”. I don’t miss her now I’m angry although I am desperate for this to be resolved.

Who knows.

That now leaves me here and wondering what to do for the best. Half of me wants to contact her again, take another risk (although that feels very scary). I half want to tell her that I’ve felt angry since she replied yesterday because it feels she didn’t “get it”. To tell her that it triggered a strong reaction in me of anger and that I’ve felt uncomfortable about it since. To tell her that my response was typed very bluntly (but I wasn’t sure she had picked up on that or not) and as she then hadn’t replied it felt even worse (hello, why aren’t you a mind-reader??).  Oh and that kind regards, best wishes and all other sign-offs were pissing me off too because they felt cold and clinical and that her name and a kiss would feel much warmer (LOL).

Or do I just sit with it and wait until I see her next Tuesday night?

That is potentially safer in that there can be no more misattunement – no more understandings and therefore no more potential anger or sadness to have to deal with BUT the likelihood is that I will push it all down and away and come Tuesday I will feel as though I am “over it” although I probably won’t be and I won’t tell her because I won’t feel it necessary and then and even if I did, the feelings would be removed and it would all feel rather unimportant and small. That doesn’t feel particularly healthy or productive.

What is best, not risking more misattunement and not getting anything resolved or risking more misattunement and more anger but getting some reassurance?

I hate it when these things crop up at the end of the week and then you have to go into your Friday and weekend feeling confused and hurt and upset and rejected. I don’t want to have to carry that all weekend and i don’t seem to be much good right now at “holding” it (if I ever have been).

T has said to me in the past that when my anger comes I may find her emails set me off and that we can’t deal with the anger via email because it can make it worse – she said it almost becomes a case of damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t in regards to responding to a client in that situation and that she may have to reply to say we would speak about it in session – to “bring the anger into the room” – and can you imagine if she did that? IF best wishes set me off, what would that do?

Is there a chance that T IS right? am I misunderstanding my own feelings? Because if I am, then clearly I do not want to be telling her all of this and then look like a total tit! My gut is telling me that she isn’t right but I am now so confused by everything I am doubting myself.

Yeserday in session T said how there will be a part of me that is still hoping my mother will change and I said no there isn’t. She said there will be even if I am not consciously aware of it and I said again, no there isn’t. Not any more. I felt a bit of resistance in me. A little tiny bit of anger I guess – NO I DON’T!!! but I imagine that could be because she is right and I am wrong. Is this the same? I don’t think so, but???

WWWWWAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

 

Ps, bitchface text me about ten minutes after T’s response – can you believe that?

 

 

 

FFS

Read previous blog first or this won’t make any sense

I’ve never felt anger towards my T before. Never. Not consciously anyway.

Until just now.

I emailed her to tell her how upset I am and why. I even put in quotes the sentence about wishing I could sit on her lap for longer etc.

She replied just now, it’s a very kind and gentle reply but she didn’t understand. She said how tough it is for me that my child part didn’t get tended to today because I only ever take my adult self on a Thursday. But that isn’t the problem!

I know this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to people but I felt so hurt and upset and disappointed and (I can’t believe it but..) angry!

I burst into tears and said out loud “no, no!!!”.

Now I wish I hadn’t told her! Now it’s worse.

I replied quite bluntly (another first!) and said it wasn’t about that. It was the break stuff. I don’t think she will reply because I kinda closed the convo down but maybe if she picked up on some anger somehow that would help? But why would she pick up on anger – I didn’t tell her I was angry. Clearly she’s not a mind-reader!

Oh also. What’s with fucking kind wishes or best wishes or whatever – why does that feel so horribly cold and professional?!

AGGHHHHHH!!

I Haven’t Sat On Her Lap For Long Enough Yet.

When I left my session this afternoon I walked to my car and felt like I had a heavy weight inside my chest. It was heavy and strong. I knew that meant  that I was upset, that I needed to cry.   I got in the car, started the engine and put my seatbelt on and then I just sat there for a moment to see what was going on.

My eyes filled up with tears but it didn’t feel like I could get in touch with these feelings sat outside T’s house and so I drove off.  A few more tears rolled down my face a few minutes later. I tried to figure out what the tears were about  and a fleeting ‘voice’ in my head said it was because I was driving away from T’s. I quickly rejected that thought, nah, it couldn’t be that.

I drove to the gym despite the fact I really couldn’t be bothered to go. I thought that perhaps I could run it out. Usually it helps to release some tension but it didn’t because I couldn’t catch a thought long enough to use it fuel me.

I left the gym and drove home. On the way home my road rage found its way out again, I found myself screaming “fucking go then!!!!! IDIOT!!” and could feel how wound up and tense I was.  I questioned myself – am I angry?

That didn’t feel right either (although the road rage clearly is an anger release). I WAS angry but I was also other things. Anger was too simple.

I got home and went and had a shower and then I sat on the bed and burst into tears. Ah thank God. That release was sooo needed. I remembered to be nice to myself and I tried to talk to my inner child (in my head) asking what was upsetting her , asking what she needed?

Some fleeting thoughts came and went and they seem to be a mixture of  a reaction of the material I spoke about in therapy and leaving therapy today.

Why am I upset about leaving my session though? I haven’t worked this through properly in my head yet but the thoughts unfiltered are something like this: She only just came back and now I have to leave her again. I want her to stay for longer. I wish I could have stayed for longer. I haven’t had enough yet, it doesn’t feel like I should have to go away again yet …… [insert floods of tears here – hang on….].

Okay.. that got me.

I shouldn’t have to go away again yet/already – SHE shouldn’t be gone away again/already….

I know logically of course that she is now back from her break. That we are back to normal sessions but something about leaving my session has set me off. I don’t know why.

If I try to liken the situation to a real-life past event I can think that my mother regularly went away on holiday and then when she came back I would see her for a day or two before being shipped back off to someone else as she went out clubbing etc. Is that what I am remembering/feeling? Perhaps somewhere inside it feels as though I’ve seen her a little bit (but not enough) and now I am going to be away from her for another 5 days. 5 days feeling like forever right now when in fact it isn’t a long time and factually speaking it’s 4 days as I see her on the evening of the 5th…

I just feel I haven’t had enough yet. I don’t feel like I’ve made the most of her – I haven’t absorbed her enough yet. Her face and voice feel a bit faded at the moment.  It isn’t quite strong enough yet. She doesn’t seem “here” enough yet.

I haven’t sat on her lap for long enought yet to be able to go off and play happily. I still want to sit there and I want to cuddle her and smell her perfume and take her in for a bit longer before I have to leave her again. (Metaphorically speaking.)

I’ve had tears running down my face the whole time I’ve been typing this – they haven’t eased off yet.

I feel I have not had enough yet. I shouldn’t be back on my own again yet. It isn’t fair. She is too far away already and again and it hurts right now. It really, really hurts like hell.

Activated Attachment System

It’s Tuesday. The day I’ve been wishing would hurry up and get here so that I can see T and speak about everything that has been driving me insane since Friday, but guess what? I am fighting against the fact that I don’t want to go.

This is so typical for me, this is what I do when she’s been on a therapy break and I’ve spent a week or two counting down the days until I can reconnect with her, only to arrive at that day and …. Nope, I don’t wanna go. I guess this is the push and pull of my anxious attachment. Come here – go away.. Jeez it is exhausting.

 

Attached

I read a book a couple of years ago Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love” by Rachel Heller and Amir Levine and I am re-reading it now, now that I am further into my therapy journey and now that I have more insight on myself and why I do things. I seriously recommend that anyone who struggles with attachment related injuries gives it a read, it is wonderfully validating and very helpful.

I keep trying to visualise tonight’s session. What will I say to T when she asks me how I am? Sometimes I start to play out a possible dialogue and other times I tell myself not to plan it, to just turn up and see what happens. I am nervous. So I’ve been doing what I usually do, reading as much as I can on the internet and in books to kinda diagnose myself. It’s like I want to be able to take the information to T almost so I can say “I did and felt this… but it’s okay, because I read in this book that it’s because……” which I know is completely ridiculous because she is a highly educated, talented, skilled therapist and she doesn’t need me to take her snippets from Google! Still, perhaps I have a fear that she will punish me and I am trying to protect myself by doing this.

On that note, I think I have figured out what sent me spiralling and as usual, it is all about my attachment style. Taking some quotes from the book, and a website, here is what I’ve learnt:

“The attachment system is the mechanism in our brain responsible for tracking and monitoring the safety and availability of our attachment figures. If you have an anxious attachment style, you possess a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened. Even a slight hit that something may be wrong will activate your attachment system and once it is activated, you are unable to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he or she truly is there for you and that the relationship is safe”. 

“Once activated, they are often consumed with thoughts that have a single purpose: re-establish closeness with their partner. “activating strategies”.”

“Activating strategies are any thoughts or feelings that compel you to get close, physically or emotionally, to your partner. Once he or she responds to you in a way that re-establishes security, you can revert back to your calm, normal self.”

[Next section taken from: http://the-love-compass.com/2014/02/22/understanding-the-needs-of-the-anxiouspreoccupied-attachment-style/]

“Protest behaviour

A protest behaviour is any action that tries to reestablish connection with the partner and get their attention. If we can reassure our partner’s needs before they engage in protest behaviour, then they can be calmed very quickly. If things continue to escalate and needs continue to go unmet, protest behaviour ensues and can harm the relationship. Protest behaviour includes:

Excessive attempts to reestablish contact: Excessive texting, calling, messaging etc.

  • Withdrawing: Ignoring, not taking calls, etc.
  • Keeping score: Waiting to see how long it takes for them to call you back and waiting the same amount of time before returning their call, waiting for them to apologize, etc.
  • Acting hostile: Eye rolling, walking away, leaving room
  • Threatening to leave: Making comments that you can’t do this anymore and that your better off without the person in hopes that they will convince you to stay
  • Manipulations: Saying you have plans when you don’t, not answering calls, playing games
  • Making him/her feel jealous: Making plans with an ex, talking about your attractive coworker, texting friends of the opposite sex, etc.
  • Protest behaviour can manifest itself in anything that jolts the other person to notice and respond to you. It can cause harm to the relationship.

Longing for someone who is no longer available – biological and emotional make up is programmed to try and win them back. The process of attachment follows its own course and schedule. This means you will continue to think about the other person and will be unable to push them out of your mind for a very long time.”

 

Using this to help me 

So I think that I understand what happened for me:

  1. Something activated my attachment system. I think this was my reading into the comment that T made about how she had hoped I wouldn’t need to be in therapy for long. As previously explained, I had read into this that I was much harder work than my T ever anticipated and that basically, she probably wished she had never taken me on.
  2. I emailed T to re-establish contact… but unfortunately for some reason, her response wasn’t enough to settle me and so I then….
  3. Engaged in protest behaviour – however the chosen method was internet stalking. I guess this felt like the safest option because she didn’t have to “know” about it.
  4. Unfortunately said internet stalking resulted in me feeling even worse upon finding out she is married and has two daughters close to my age which just fuelled my insecurity.
  5. I then became fixated/obsessed with T due to “longing for someone who is no longer available” – this explains why I was unable to push her out of my mind.

I guess the purchasing of the book for T was all part of this longing – it was a way of establishing connection and closeness .

 

Tonight

I know I should probably relax a bit more and not spend so much time analysing the crap out of myself and my behaviour and thoughts, but it has actually benefited me figure this out. I feel much more able to take it to T tonight and discuss it with her now that I understand the bigger picture.