Where am I in healing from my mother wound? 

How am I feeling about her at the moment? 

Where am I in this journey to heal from the mother wound – of being an unloved daughter of a narcissist? 

I don’t know. 

This is the thing, everything is so confusing in this recovery. It all seems to overlap and intertwine, nothing seems clear cut and obvious, nothing is easy to articulate or process. I think that’s what makes it harder. You make progress in one aspect and then you fall back in another. 

I often wish someone would give me some sort of map of recovery, so I could see what stages there were, which stages I had “completed” and which stages were yet to come. I question myself why? Why do I want that? and I think the answer is that I want to know I’m getting somewhere and I need to know there’s an end in sight somewhere – the feeling that this pain and confusion is never-ending is too much to take. 

It’s like peeling a very large onion. You learn something (that she’s a narc for example) a layer comes off as you take that in and you learn what that means. That takes years and then your understanding and awareness deepens a bit and you learn something else, maybe that you feel guilty for thinking badly about her – you explore that, where that comes from and why and another layer comes off. This goes on and on. 

I have no idea how many layers I’ve peeled off this onion now, but it feels like a hell of a lot and it feels as though its scarily never-ending. It’s the fear of what’s to come and how much more pain is yet to make its way into my heart. 

My latest realisation this week is how scared I am of her. I knew I was scared of certain things, but this week I’ve seen and felt the true strength of this fear in a way that I’ve never “seen” before. It’s shaken me up a bit to be honest. 

Was that small child as scared as this? I mean, if I’m this scared with my adult knowledge, life experience and safety, how the hell did a helpless child feel who had to live with her night and day? The answer is that the child made it her fault. Mummy was good – she was bad. And that’s stuck. I don’t know what’s worse. 

She couldn’t get away. It makes me feel sick. 

So I’ve been asking myself, what exactly am I scared of? 

I just don’t know the answer. I guess it’s just the way my inner child has been programmed. It’s not a conscious thought process. The way I reacted and how easily I was triggered Wednesday was excessive – she was dangerous. The way I felt and the way my body reacted Saturday evening before going to her house tells me I was very scared. 

I know logically there is nothing to be scared of. I’m an adult now – I no longer need her for survival. I don’t need her approval now. I have my own life, house and family and I don’t even have any warm feelings towards her – I dislike her and I HATE the lack of connection between us and how raw that feels to me. 

Avoiding her for as long as possible seems the best and safest option. 

Yet I now have the option to cut her out completely and yet I choose against it? Why? The truth is (and it’s hard to even admit this), that it’s for her sake. 

I see her for her sake. To keep her happy. How fucked up is that? I don’t see her because I miss her or because I enjoy her company. I subject myself to the anxiety before visiting her, the false-self during my visits and then the pain and sadness that follow the day after when I inevitably cry and mourn a little more the difference between what I want and what I have. 

It’s like self-punishment. I punish myself for her gain over and over again. 

I know that T, my boyfriend and probably my readers will be thinking that I don’t need to do those things, that I don’t owe her anything and that it’s probably infuriating to read – yet the idea that I could live without her seems impossible. Which again makes no sense because she does nothing for me!!! What would I miss other than the apprehension, anxiety and fear? 

I think perhaps I’m scared of her ability to manipulate me and how easily she can do it. 

I’m scared she will suck me back in without me realising. 

I’m scared she will turn me bad – make me do and say things that are not really me as I morph into the people-pleasing me I used to be with her. 

I’m scared she will ruin my life. She will damage my relationship with my boyfriend, with my other family members, with friends or my boyfriend’ family…. and why? Because she can and because she has done before. The risk is real. 

I’m scared of what could happen if we got into an argument. Of what I would do or say. Yet there’s a part of me wishing for an excuse to let rip and have an excuse to break ties. 

I’m scared of having to feel the depths of my feelings about her. 

I’m still scared I’ve got it all wrong even though logically I know i haven’t. 

I’m still scared that everything else in my life is borrowed and that I may find myself alone one day and need her. That ultimately she’s the only thing I’m guaranteed to “keep”. 
I don’t like her and I don’t like who I am around her. It’s all too fake. I feel I loose touch with myself when I am there and it’s scary how naturally that happens, how quickly and how effortlessly. 

I don’t feel love for her as a daughter “should” and I can’t handle the disconnect that’s recently become so obvious. That hurts me deeply. 

The denial has left (for the most part) and the harsh reality that’s left is frankly sickening. 

I find myself caught in cycles of self-pity, mourning and grief, anger then depression. 

I wish I could go back in time with this new knowledge and grow myself up properly, differently. I wish I could save my inner child from the feelings I had to endure. I wish someone could save me from enduring them now too.

So much damage has already been done, what more am I scared of? Family relationships have been ruined. Family members think things about me that aren’t true because of her and I’m dealing with that – though it’s a struggle because it’s unfair – I’m learning to accept that’s how this is going to go, I’ve given up the fight. 

I don’t need anyone’s approval anymore. I don’t want her’s and if I can’t get my Nan’s or my sister’s or whoever else’s then so be it. 

But I do want to get to a place where I fully support myself. Where I have less doubt and far less fear. When will I feel strong on my own?

I’m only uncovering the truth, my truth and yet I feel like I’m being deceitful in doing so. I’m sick of the blame being on my shoulders. I keep telling myself, if she wanted me to speak nicer about her, she should have given me nicer things to tell.. 

It all comes down to the fact that I am hurt so very deeply by her. My heart physically breaks when I’m in touch with these feelings. It feels like it will be eternal. I can’t intellectualise this away. It’s not possible. My mother is too self absorbed and selfish and narcissistic to love me how I needed and still need to be loved. I didn’t have the mum I needed – or deserved and I never will. 

How do you heal that hole in your heart? 

Why didn’t I get that? I’m learning it wasn’t my fault, I’m believing this, slowly… yet I need explanations. I need logic to help me accept it and there isn’t any. I have to feel this to loosen its hold. 

I know it’s not true, but it feels like I’m the only daughter who wasn’t loved by her mum and dad in the world. It feels so acutely personal. 
There’s grief, sadness, anger, hate, disbelief and it’s all muddled up and confused. 

People talk about me setting boundaries with her that would enable a more beneficial relationship between us and there is nothing I can think of that would enable this to happen because as awful as it sounds, it’s not boundaries I need, it’s an entirely different mother. 

Sure I could suggest we meet at a different location, a restaurant for example so it’s less on her territory. I could lay down the law and ban certain subjects of conversation etc but none of this seems appealing to me because none of those adjustments would give me what I need. It doesn’t feel as though a middle ground is achievable or even wanted. 

So what, I would rather put myself through this self punishment than even try and apply helpful boundaries? Yep. How distorted is that?! 

In an ideal world, she would do something so undeniably awful to me that I could evidence and then I’d cut her off forever. Nobody could think badly of me because “look what she did!!” They wouldn’t be able to take her side, they wouldn’t pity her and I would be guilt-free. I could finally cut the ties and walk away with my head held high. Some readers may be thinking that she’s already done that in so many ways and you’d be right, but none of it is easy to prove and even she isn’t able to admit any wrongdoing yet alone apologise to me. So there’s still that doubt that I have it wrong. That I would be making a huge mistake. 

Then there’s all the people that tell me I should try to emphasise with my mum and understand that she loved me the only way she knew how, that clearly she has wounds herself that affected her parenting ability and then the guilt is back in my hands – it’s me in the wrong again. 

Tell me this gets easier please? I feel like I could drown in the confusion and pain this brings. 

Winnicott: Fear of Breakdown

Have you ever read about Winnicott’s fear of breakdown? If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you Google it and have a read. I just found a paper written by Claire Winnicott (psychoanalyst and wife of Donald Winnicott called, “Fear of breakdown: A clinical example” and I found it utterly fascinating and extremely comforting.

Below I have picked out a few of the most relevant quotes for me personally within that paper and I think that some of my fellow bloggers may find this as interesting as I have.

According to D. Winnicott, the fear of breakdown is described as “a previous early breakdown occurred at a time when the ego cannot organize against environmental failure, when dependence is a living fact. At the dependence stage environmental failure disrupts the ego defence organization and exposes the individual again to the primitive anxieties which he had, with the help of the facilitating environment, organised himself to deal with. This leads to an unthinkable state of affairs”.

 

Clare Winnicott says in her paper “In fact the word anxieties is not a strong enough word, and Winnicott lists what he calls the primitive agonies against which new defences must be constructed. This early trauma will continue to be a threat until and unless the patient is able to experience the original event now with the help of the ego supporting analyst (mother)”.  Winnicott concludes “there is no end [to the analysis] unless the bottom of the trough has been reached, unless the thing feared has been experienced”.

Clare Winnicott discusses one of her patient’s story which, in my opinion, is well worth the read. In that story she talks about the patient working through her “negative feelings with regard to dependence” – something that I struggle with in my therapy and something that I know fellow bloggers also struggle with.  I am hoping this may normalise it for you as it has for me.  She also talks about the “broken-down child” and how that part of her patient was “split off and defended against”.  Claire Winnicott says “In other words, she developed a successful false-self to deal with the situation”.  This is one of the “primitive agonies” that Winnicott described in his theory.  My thoughts as I read this section were that this explains why my T used to press me to not only consider the “self-sufficient adult” and to think about the non-logical, non-rational parts of me.  When she used to ask me where my feelings were. My false-self was certainly centre-stage.

She explains that her patient began to see her as “a mother therapist who could feed her” albeit via the power of a dream. Claire suggested to the patient that the patient saw her as having “special powers”.  I know this is something that I can relate to. My T has been placed on a pedestal and I certainly view her as being some sort of “golden healer”.  Irrationally thinking that if only I could get more access to her, that I would be healed when deep down I know that is untrue. At least it appears to be a normal part of the process.

The example discusses the patient’s use of a transitional object which is something that a lot of us going through trauma therapy have spoken about before. Another reassuring thing to read.

The patient later has a dream where she literally picks up her child self. Clare Winnicott suggested that this represented the fact that the patient “felt strong enough with my help to go back and pick up and carry that distressed child part of herself from which she had been cut off for so long. I also said it seemed that the child was now no longer frozen, but was ready to move and come alive and to be part of her grown up self”.   This was of particular interest to me at the moment because I was telling T on Tuesday that all of a sudden the “voice” of my inner child is clear, that suddenly it is very obvious that I have an adult voice and a child voice and that although they are in constant conflict, it is very much there and it didn’t used to be.  Reading this has reassured me that perhaps this is a sign I am getting stronger and am more able to “move and come alive” as Clare describes about her patient.

 

In summary of her patient Claire says “as the transference became established the patient was able to reveal to the analyst in a concrete way the nature of the early trauma which had caused the original breakdown at a time when the patient’s immature ego was not strong enough to encompass the experience. The traumatized child part of herself therefore became split off and defended against. The work of the analysis has been concerned with the gradual experiencing for the first time, with the support of the analyst, the pain and terror of the early breakdown. Over a period of years this has led to the re-discovery and reintegration of the lost child in to the patient’s present ego organization”.

 

Perhaps this may offer some explanation to anyone who is feeling frustration and anger at not being able to cry in therapy yet? Maybe the tears only follow once the psyche starts to acknowledge that lost child and lets it speak out. Some lost children will take longer than others to come out of hiding due to their own personal trauma. For me, this took over 2 years. I guess it depends on quite how long and how strong that defence was, how strong the “false-self” has become and how safe it feels now. I relate this to all of us who have longings that we are too scared to act on: I hope that we learn to push past each of our uncomfortable limits a little bit more each time our therapists respond in a caring, understanding, attuned and non-punishing or judgmental way.

The therapeutic journey seems to be more clear-cut to me having read these papers. Obviously as with any theory you will have your own opinion on it, but for me this is encouraging. It has helped to explain away and normalise the fears I have with dependency, the depth and strength of the feelings of grief and sadness (the primitive agonies), the need for a strong mother like attachment with my therapist, the use of transitional objects, the need to “hear” the child within, or the “lost child” as it is described here.  It explains that gradually over a period of potentially more years, I will re-experience the initial breakdown in small more manageable chunks and that is how I will heal.  I have even read that “This fear is characterized by feelings of falling forever” and that sums up very well the feelings I get when I am in what I call an emotional flashback, where I am triggered and regressed. Those times I have written about where I feel utterly desperate and unable to function as an adult, unable to go to work and just want to stay in bed and hide from life.

I hope this helps others the way it has helped me.

 

 

 

 

Am I being nosy?

Last night’s session

I was as desperate to see T last night as I was nervous.  I had emailed her on Monday evening to tell her what had happened with work and the doctors etc.  She had said we would talk about it when I saw her and so hence the nerves. Saying that, I was glad that T already knew what was going on and that I didn’t have to walk in there and tell her.

She asked me how I was feeling and I said I was feeling okay… I don’t think I was actually looking at her though.. it all felt very awkward.  T said “I don’t think you are okay actually” and then we spoke in detail about what work had said and what the doctor had said.  She said that I didn’t need antidepressants because I wasn’t depressed.  She said I was in fact “coming out of depression and beginning to feel” probably for the first time.

I liked those words. Those words felt far more promising and hopeful than being told I was in fact, depressed.

T went on to say that antidepressants would block me from feeling the things that I very clearly need to feel. I told her that was my worry also but the doctor had said it wouldn’t interfere.  She asked me if I had got the pills and I said no, I hadn’t bothered because I didn’t want to take them.

We spoke at length about work and how they have handled this. I told her that I felt like a fraud yesterday because although on Monday I was in a mess, yesterday I got up early and went to the gym, went food shopping etc and felt fine.  I said that now I am signed off work for a week and it felt wrong and insincere.  T said I didn’t need to be signed off work but that everyone just wanted a quick fix. Work expects me to be “better”, the doctor gives pills that essentially fake that feeling – she said how very frustrating it is that nobody has a real understanding about these things.  She told me that I wasn’t depressed nor mentally unwell, I was just struggling a bit with processing the trauma and I was becoming quite regressed at times like that. I agreed.

I told T that my team coordinator had suggested my T wrote a letter to them to tell them what they should expect from me, what I was dealing with etc. T said she wouldn’t write a letter but she would speak to someone on the phone if I wanted her to. She said she wouldn’t discuss specifics about my therapy but would explain that sometimes I just need a bit of space to be able to cry and that working from home every now and again was helping with that because I was still able to do my job but didn’t have to spend the day crying on the train or in the office. I told her that is exactly how I felt but now they had taken that away from me.  T started to say a few of the things she would say on the phone to my HR department and she sounded FIESTYYYYYYY!!! I liked it. She clearly would not be taking any shit.  She sounded fiercely protective of me, I liked it. I also thought I would not want to get on the wrong side of her LOL! She said she would tell them that the way there were treating me was absolutely disgusting (amongst other things).

I told T that I liked being able to send her the hard stuff before seeing her because I always worry that she will react and I will see the reaction on her face.  T said she thought a lot of this came down to feeling ashamed which is part of the reason she thought I locked myself away.  I admitted that I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t handling things well and that I felt I should be able to deal with it better. T told me that I couldn’t because I was never taught how.  She said I was never given the tools to self-soothe and said that anyone with a childhood like mine would feel exactly the same way.

Moving on we spoke about my actual feelings during the crying.

I hate this bit because I still can’t express myself. T asked me what it was I needed when I was feeling like this and I told her I didn’t know.  I told her I had no conscious thoughts and that was very frustrating.  She asked me whether I felt that I needed her? I felt mean saying no, but said I genuinely, seriously did not have the answer.  I didn’t know. It all just felt very hopeless and huge and as I had said in my email to her the day before, as though the sadness and pain would never end.

She said that she had been a little worried that my crying wasn’t providing any relief.  I said I wasn’t really sure.

She said that it was okay to feel I needed her in those moments and that she wanted to know what my fantasies were.  I said again, I just didn’t know.  T said that perhaps it was an idea for us to check in by phone to see if she could help to ground me a little.. this wasn’t something I had ever thought about. It wasn’t something I had even fantasied could be an option. I don’t know if she meant a quick few minutes to ground me or a proper paid for session and I didn’t ask.  I said that perhaps it would hep but that during these times, I can’t even speak because I am crying so much.

T said that what she worried about was that during these episodes I was kind of experiencing a repeat.  I wasn’t really sure what she meant at the time but we later discussed this a bit more and basically when I was a child, I spent 99% of my time in my bedroom. I guess it was my safe place (that and the fact that I wasn’t actually allowed in the lounge because of “adult time” pfftt!!).  Anyway, I used to have extreme OCD and even eat my dinner in my bedroom.  T was concerned that I was repeating this by locking myself at home on my own on days I felt that low and suffering alone rather than trying with someone who could help me a little. I guess that was what I was used to.

I said that this was true, I did like to lock myself away. I liked to draw the curtains and hide under a blanket. I rarely shower and I never put on make up. She said that this was what she worried about. That I wasn’t able to ground myself or be comforted by anyone and that if I wasn’t sure I was getting any relief from these crying episodes, perhaps I was almost re traumatising myself.

T said that she had been thinking about me and I admitted that when she says that, I guess I still struggled to really believe it.  She said she had been questioning whether to send me a text to tell me she was thinking of me but she wasn’t sure what to do because she said then the one time she doesn’t text, it could feel as though she isn’t understanding my pain. I agreed with her because I know myself well enough to know I would feel very hurt if she text at certain times and not others, especially if I perceived them as equally painful.  I do like that she even thought about this though. I also thought that the check-in calls were a nice suggestion because I felt I already took up enough of her time.

At some point in the session T asked me whether there was anything else perhaps that I had written about on my blog and not shared with her. I said no. I said honestly there is nothing else. I then questioned myself.. was that true? I think so.  The problem with that question however was that it made my inner critic say “see, even T doesn’t know what you are making such a fuss about!”.  It also said that clearly this isn’t “normal” for other people and has made me feel like I am exaggerating or doing something wrong.

I then told her that I had a dream about her the other day where she was Jewish. I said that there really wasn’t much to the dream at all but that she was Jewish and had a large photograph of her mother behind a desk who was also Jewish.  T asked me what being Jewish meant to me and I said not a lot really.. I said I had been asking myself the same question but hadn’t been able to come up with much.  I said I had Googled it and couldn’t find anything that rang any bell.  I added that the reason I knew she was Jewish was because in the dream she had this hugely exaggerated Jewish nose (I know this reads very as hugely stereotypical and isn’t meant as offensive!) I said I had looked up the word nose and the only thing I could come up with was “being nosy”.  T asked her being nosy or me and I said me.  At this stage I kinda figured out that the nosy dream could have been about the blog post I wrote the other day called “What I was really saying was” … shit. I have since debated sending it to her/reading it to her tomorrow but I feel too nervous.

Anyway, when I woke up this morning I remembered that last night I had dreamt I had a new therapist and this therapist was saying the exact same things as T – the same words and the same phrases.  In the dream I was really hurt and shocked because it meant that nothing had been authentic with T –  it had all just been textbook stuff. I don’t think this consciously about T but I can only assume that subconsciously I am worried about that somehow.. I haven’t thought too much about this yet but I will give it a bit more thought. I might share that with her tomorrow.

Lastly T asked me how I was feeling about not having therapy next week (I am going to be on holiday).  I told T that stupidly, I hadn’t really figured that out until a couple of hours ago. I had been thinking of her next break as mid July and it had only just occurred to me.  She said whether it was me or her going away, the break may still be just as difficult.

I think I am going to re-read that blog about what I was really asking her and see if I can somehow muster up the courage to let her see it… agh I’m just not sure I am ready yet.  We will see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling like a fraud

Yesterday I was working from home because I felt so down. I couldn’t stop crying and was just generally a bit depressed.  As the day went on I thought that I needed to take a few days out and so I emailed my team coordinator and asked if it was an option to take a few days unpaid leave or to work from home a few more days.

About 3 hours went by without an answer. Eventually the phone rang and it was work.  In a nutshell they said that if my mental health was that bad, I shouldn’t be working from home at all and that going forwards, the agreement we had that I could do this now and again when I couldn’t face being at work – was no longer an option.

She then said that I had been using my annual leave for days like this too and that I would not be allowed to do this either… apparently annual leave should be used for fun and not for depression…

I’m not sure when exactly but I ended up crying so much that I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk at all and was more or less hyperventilating! It was pretty embarassing because she kept saying “hello?” “are you there?”… aghgh cringe.

She told me that I should go to the doctors, get signed off work for a while and get antidepressants if I wanted to take them. I said I didn’t.

I went to the doctors, I got signed off work for 2 weeks, was given a prescription for antidepressants, sleeping pills and a form to get a blood test.  Apparently the blood test was for lots of things but one of them was to check my thyroid… he said depression can be a sign of thyroid problems.

Then my actual line manager called… he didn’t have much to say. I told him what the doctor had said and he was pretty quiet the other end of the phone… he didn’t feel particularly supportive.

I then sent T an email telling her what was going on and I said that it felt as though this pain and the tears would never stop. That it felt never-ending.  She replied and we said we would talk tonight at my session…

Turning to today, the feelings have vanished. I feel like it all happened to someone else. I am aware that this probably means I have dissociated and I know there is a high chance it will all come flooding back at T’s tonight… maybe? but it’s left me feeling like a fraud. I feel like I’ve made some big song and dance … like I’ve made a load of drama …. I thought to myself maybe I am just a lazy (insert word of choice) who will do anything for a few days off work…… T says not to attack myself which I guess I am doing when I think those thoughts.

Oh meh. I don’t know where this blog is going or what the point is exactly in me writing it. I was hoping I was going to uncover something unconscious but that doesn’t feel as though it’s happening.

The problem is that no two days are the same in my head at the moment. I am glad for some time off but I don’t want to feel like a fraud. I am worried about all the drama I have caused and I’m not sure whether any of this was really necessary or not… the doctor said I was mild to moderately depressed but not severely because I hadn’t thought about ending my life. I know that many people have it much worse.