Longing for the mother

I woke up this morning with a thumping headache, a bad mood and a bad back ache. The back ache has got gradually worse the last few days but today it hurt a lot.

As we are staying with my fiancé’s family at the moment and his kids also stay with us at weekends, it was all a bit too much for me this morning. My mood was getting worse and holding it all in was getting harder and harder.

I found myself thinking about my T. I have thought about her a lot the last few days since my session on Tuesday. The closest feeling I could relate my feeling to would be “missing”. It was like I was missing her but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.

I touched on this briefly the other day, but the words I come up with are words such as “longing” and “missing”. As one of my fellow bloggers pointed out, it’s the grieving of the mother wound. I’m in touch with feelings of loneliness and sadness. It’s feelings I experienced when I was young and stuck with an emotionally unavailable mother. Isolation and sadness, emptiness. I feel those things again today and it’s very hard.

I wrote a list of words that just felt relevant to me today, they included the following words:

Missing

Longing

Sadness

Flat

Attachment

Connection

Emotional

Closeness

Attachment pain?

Mother wound?

Grief

Loneliness

Aching

Needing

Nurturance

So I think perhaps the feelings of sadness, aloneness, missing and longing are old feelings and in the here and now, they make me want to seek comfort and nurturance, connection and warmth. I want the familiar and genuine connection T offers me. I guess what I’m craving is “a mother”. MY mother but not my actual mother – it’s back to that fantasy mother I guess.

T provides me with some of the things I feel I need today and so I guess it makes sense for me to long for her in some ways – even if it’s not really her I need, but MY mother. The hole where my good enough mother should have been/be, but isn’t.

Days like this, times like this, being around lots of people makes me go stir crazy. I really struggle with that. I need time alone, I crave space and quiet. I need to cry or read or write or drink tea in a blanket. I struggle being “stepmum” and looking after the kids because I guess I’m triggered to a child like place myself and if I’m totally honest I think I struggle to be affectionate or enjoy them because it taps into the lack I had/have. I know that’s not what I should say or how I should feel but the words just came out so I’m sure they must be true.

It makes me angry. Perhaps my anger is hiding my sadness? Either way I couldn’t cope this morning and so guess where I am as I type this on my phone? I’m in my car. My lovely new car. I decided to grab a flask of tea, my psychologies magazine, my “Dear Daughter of a Narcissistic Mother” book, my make up bag(?) and off I went. I have only driven to the local park where I’ve parked up with the heating on and I’ve put my make up on, I’m listening to the radio and the snow is gently falling. I feel so calm now. Nothing like 45 minutes ago where I could have exploded from all the various emotions I wrote about above.

There’s some guilt that I shouldn’t be hiding in my car on my own and that I should be with my fiancé and the kids but I need to look after myself too, right? And what good am I to any of them in the state I was in earlier?

I feel so mean saying this but this is my happy place right now. I’m so at peace right now. I’m warm, I have my tea, I’ve kicked off my Ugg boots and am sitting cross legged (I’m small!), sipping my tea and typing out all these feelings which gives me such a release. I could stay here for hours if I didn’t feel like I should be with them.

I’ve read many articles which say in order to heal you need to internalise the good enough mother (so T) and that you learn to mother yourself and you learn to soothe yourself. I wonder in times like this whether the longing for comfort and closeness will ever go – right now it feels unlikely. I know I’ve been able to calm myself a bit, I’ve been able to give myself a little bit of space and I do understand that is progress… but I would still just like to be looked after if I’m honest. What I would like is for a really tight hug from a caring and kind mother. I would like to be a little girl for the day and not the adult. I hate that I’ve missed that chance and that I’ll never get that again.

I’m grieving that chance I suppose and I’m craving closeness and connection to make that pain more bearable when perhaps I just need to learn to tolerate it and let it pass?

Safe enough to “act out”

I’ve been thinking of my phone session with T ever since we got off the phone yesterday. I’m pretty sure I was processing it overnight and it was the second thing on my mind when I woke up this morning (second only to the fact we have to find a new house to live in!).

One of the things that I remembered since writing last night was T saying that it was actually a sign of feeling safe that I was able to cancel my session the other week.

Don’t get me wrong, she very quickly tried to encourage me to always go to my sessions no matter how hard it was or how angry or upset I was feeling, in fact she said “even if you have to get here crawling on your hands and knees!!” So I just want to make it clear that she wasn’t rewarding me for it so to speak.

She said that I must have felt some sense of safety that I could be angry and cancel a session knowing it could, possibly, hopefully be repaired and made to feel better again… eventually.

She asked me whether I was scared she would retaliate or attack back or punish me for my anger and I told her that actually, I had been able to hold on to the fact that in the past she has never done that and that I did know she would allow me to have and tell her my feelings without embarrassing me. I did manage to hold that fact (this is progress, right?).

I’ve thought about this a few times since and it may sound a bit weird but I think it does show a sense of safety doesn’t it?

I used to always strive to be TWBTC (the worlds best therapy client) and obviously perfect therapy clients do not cancel sessions and do not experience any anger towards their T’s do they? Yet alone TELL them about it! So yes, I do think it shows some kind of ability to hold on that all will not be lost, all will not be ruined and destroyed forever.

This made me think about what would happen with my birth mother (note the negative tone). I genuinely don’t remember a single time that I’ve sat my mother down, told her that she has upset me or annoyed me somehow and had her say she understands how I feel and apologise OR say she understands how I feel even if she has her reasons. Isn’t that saying something? I have NEVER had that experience with her. Not once.

What I have had is her belittle me, tell me I am pathetic and childish or need to grow up or attack me back with things I have done that upset or hurt her somehow. She had often told me how ungrateful I am and remind me of “all the things she’s done for me” but the difference in the two experiences is huge.

T reminded me yesterday that my mother’s inability to show me love and affection and the fact I didn’t FEEL loved, was about her and not me. She said quite strongly that I AM loveable, that it was her issue and not mine. She also said that mothers who absolutely smother their babies and are draped all over them is about their needs (the mother’s) and not the baby’s. She said it’s similar in therapy, the baby shows it’s mother what it needs and so does the client. There is no need for a mother or for a therapist to smother. It doesn’t allow the baby/client to breathe and think for itself.

Anyway, the point of this blog was meant to be that although not advisable or encouraged, it may well be progress that I’ve been able to get angry and “act out” probably safe in the knowledge somewhere deep down that she will still be there.

Trying to recover from the rupture

As 4pm drew closer today I began to feel more and more nervous. At ten to 4 I had to rush to the toilet where I got stuck for the entire 10 minutes (sorry for TMI)!. I watched my phone hit 4pm exactly and felt sick… I found T in my call list and pressed dial.

The phone rang just once or twice and then T picked up. I didn’t know what to say to her.  We said hello and then she asked me how I was currently feeling  had felt since I had sent her my email the other day.  In all honestly I wasn’t sure how I felt so I actually had to think about the answer to that question. I told her that her reply to my email had helped to lift a lot of the anger and pain and that knowing I would be talking to her today had also helped although I admitted that I was nervous and scared that it may end up making me feel more pain.

T told me that she had done some writing that she wanted to read to me to try to explain why she spoke differently to me and to other people. I was quite shocked at this, I’m not sure why but I think it’s something about the fact she had been thinking about it a lot and had clearly put a lot of thought in prior to this call.  Writing that now sounds obvious really doesn’t it? I guess of course she did.  Anyway, she begun to read to me and I can’t quite remember what she said but I do remember that I started to cry pretty quickly because what I “heard” at first was something that meant “some people need more love than others – than you do” and I cried because I thought my worst fears had come true. There really wasn’t anything she was going to say that was going to fix this rupture and there really was nothing she could say that was going to make me feel better, to enable me to trust her enough to be vulnerable with her again – to do the work with her anymore.

She said something about how she didn’t want to force herself and her love on me (as I heard this I thought to myself “it isn’t forcing when I want it”.) She said something about how my mother was an overbearing narcissist, that she didn’t want to repeat that for me and that she trusted me to show her what I needed.  She also said some things about how she worked using her intuition and that she truly believed that she was a good enough mother figure to me, and to all of her clients.  Now I got what she meant about my mother being an overbearing narcissist in one sense, but in another I was confused because my mother DIDN’T show me any love or affection so surely that isn’t the same? Surely that IS exactly what I need? There was so much being said and so many thoughts and feelings going on at once that it is hard to remember it all now.

She then explained how everyone she sees has different needs and said to me to think about my 3 stepchildren and how I would treat them all differently, but love them all the same amount.  She said you could have two children and one need a lot of reassurance and the other not need that so much. She said she worked using her intuition and was guided by me.  At this stage I was feeling pretty confused because, as I’ve already said, I understood what she was getting at, but I just kept thinking… yes, but I NEED you to show me love and affection so why won’t you do that??? If we all have different needs and I’m yelling at you because I want something (for my needs) then why aren’t you doing it?

I cried pretty constantly the whole time she was saying these things and then she asked me if I understood what she had said.  I told her I kind of did but kind of didn’t and she said it was okay if I didn’t fully get it at this moment in time, that perhaps I would in the future and that perhaps it would take more than just this one hour (someone had said this to me in a comment the other day and I am thankful they did as otherwise my expectations would have been too high – thank you).  I still felt rather disappointed and a bit deflated at this stage.  I could hear she was trying to make me feel better but it just felt a bit like what she was saying to me and what she was expecting me to feel weren’t tallying up somehow.  Like, was I missing something here?

She said that there was no denying it “was a monumental way to cock up“.  She actually admitted to me that when she realised what had happened, she had to phone a therapist friend of hers to cry to them! I felt instantly very guilty and sorry for her when she said this and said “oh nooo did you?” and before I could finish saying it she snapped quite abruptly “No! You do not feel guilty for that, I am not telling you that for you to feel bad about, but simply so that you understand that I did and do care very much“.  She said she knew instantly how deep this would have hit me and then said that the only reason she didn’t pry into how it had made me feel instantly and by text was because I was meant to be in session with her only a few hours later – until I cancelled.  She also added that being a therapist was a vocation to her and not just a job.  She said she really does get it and does deeply care, it wasn’t somethign she did simply to pay the bills.

I eventually said to her outright “I get that everyone has different needs and that you treat us all differently, just as I do my stepchildren, I get that.. but, I feel like I am always fighting to get someone to show me love and they never do and that IS what I want!” T said that it might feel to me like what I need is for her to show me lots of “gushing love” but that often what we think we need, isn’t actually that helpful for us.  She said that if she is working with someone who has had no love and affection from a mother and who has suffered childhood trauma and cruelty, that gushing them with love would be extremely damaging and painful for them.  My ears pricked up…  I questioned why and she said in the most extreme case, showering someone who has been loved deprived with affection COULD lead them to commit suicide. At this point I was listening intently but still confused and then she said this:

“Imagine a baby that is starving, literally starving and nearing death, extremely malnourished and very sick.  What you might think you need to do is to take the baby and feed it and feed it and feed it to make it better, to save it? But actually that would kill the baby!  What the baby would need is to be drip fed tiny bit by tiny bit until it built up a tolerance and could slowly adjust to having more food”…

Something about this image clicked in my head and really made sense… okay… okay, this was helpful – I told T this image was very helpful. She continued explaining and said that in my head I think I know what I need but that a lot of that was fantasy and built up using the fantasy that she is the perfect mother and that the perfect mother would and could never hurt me.  But that the fantasy was wrong.

I told T that it was so painful for me because so many times over the years I have got upset and complained to my mother that she never hugged me or told me she loved me or showed me any affection and my mother would shame me and tell me to grow up and tell me that I wasn’t a child and that I was pathetic.  I said it felt like the same thing was happening all over again – not the shaming so to speak, but like T was saying that she wouldn’t show me any affection even though she could have.  I told T that my mother was always very gushing with her men – just not me and the feelings were triggered by the text she sent me.

She said something again about being led by me and I said something like “but I have told you before that I sometimes find your emails lacking warmth and a bit cold and clinical!” and she said it was quite a while ago and said “lets not get too carried away, it is only an email sign-off, you do FEEL my love in many other ways – I know you do and I know that you have the capacity and capability to feel that love. Some people cannot feel it and need me to speak to them in different ways, in ways that might help it to get through to them. You feel my love here”.

Hmm…something about what she said made me feel ashamed. It felt as though she was saying “Jesus Christ, it’s a bloody sign off on an email!” and so I said that I understood that it was stupid and I was being irrational but she butted in and said she doesn’t think that for a single second, she said how much she understood the pain was very deep. She said every therapist’s favourite line… twice “This IS the work” with extra emphasis on the IS. I had to try not to chuckle.  She then spoke about “the frame” which I took to be a reference to the therapeutic frame, as in the guidelines or something? She said that it is expected and normal for me to want to bash the frame about and hit it and try to change it and it is her job to hold steady whilst I did that.  This gave me an image of a toddler who wants things it can’t have and kick and screams for them all the while the mother is calmly saying “no” but not shaming the child and, perhaps, validating the child’s pain? I don’t know, I could have this entirely wrong. I need to do some reading about the frame to fully grasp this I think.

[What I need to write next may offend/upset/annoy or possibly trigger those who have D.I.D or parts – I am not sure but I want to be cautious so consider this a warning if you want to continue reading].

T said that the person who the text was actually for was much more dissociated than I am and she said that sometimes she “doesn’t even bloody know I am here at all! I have to fight to get through to her to know I am there for her!”.  She then said I wasn’t that split and dissociative and that I did know she was there – that she only had to say something gently and I knew it, but that the other girl didn’t.  She said that working with parts was an entirely different way of working but that I wasn’t that split-off. She said that I was integrated.  (I questioned how true that was as she said it..).  She later said that the work I was doing was entirely different and that we were “nowhere near each other” whatever that meant.

I told T that I always secretly hoped I was her youngest client and that it made me special to her somehow.  She told me that it didn’t matter whether I was the youngest, oldest, prettiest or whatever.. that I was special to her just for being me.  She said that I didn’t need to “jump through hoops” for her.  I cried as she said this even though it felt a bit of a cliché you know like “you are special just the way you are”… but I think I believe her….. I think.  She said that I was working “beautifully” and was doing very well and that she admired me said I had plenty of courage even if I didn’t feel I did at times.  She said something along the lines of how the other client was in a very difficult place and that therapy was very difficult and unpredictable for her but for me, I may be struggling but i am progressing along very well.  I have mixed thoughts about this.

She told me that there was a space inside her that was just mine and that nobody else could ever take or come near because it was just for me and then said that she wondered if it felt a bit like finding out you were going to have a sibling when you were a child – others – someone else to share mum’s love and being really angry about it.  She said she wondered if it reminded me of when my sister was born?  I admitted when my sister was born I was terribly upset and jealous, having been an only child for 7 years, I was used to that and when I already had no love or affection another child surely meant I would have even less?! I’m not sure how accurate that fear was because it made not difference to the lack of love I got but it did result in lots of other feelings of insecurity and being forgotten or left-out.  It set me (and my sister) up for years of competing for her attention. The ultimate power-trip I guess. MEH.

She told me she had a lot of love and care for me and she said if I wanted her to sign her emails off “with love” from now on, that she would. I felt immature but thought to myself that it really isn’t the same when you ask someone is it? LOL and then she said …. I try to match your style in your emails to me… and I interrupted her and said, I had thought this only today.. when I re-read my emails to her, I always signed them off “Thanks, TT” and admitted that was rather formal, especially for me! I said I had done that because I was copying her style and she said she was following my lead!!! I did laugh at this.

I guess the main things I took from the call were that she thinks lots of affectionate words and gushing love is NOT what I need, even if I think I do… that she thinks I have the capacity to feel her love in many other ways and that some clients do not and that because I am in a constant state of hypervigilance, looking for perceived proof of being rejected or abandoned, that is why this hurt so much.  It did tap in to some very deep wounds of mine, mainly being unloved/unloveable and not special.  She said once or twice that I did not get to experience the good enough mother and that I was not taught that was allowed to feel angry and resolve something with her and that her love did not change for me if I did have those angry feelings.

Right now I have lots of words and thoughts and reactions to sit with and work through but I do already feel heaps better.  She reminded me that each rupture we get through is helpful and will build a deeper level of trust.  She said with each rupture that we successfully repair, I will gradually remember that things can be survived no matter how hard they get between us. I understood what she meant as she said this because the other day it seemed insurmountable and now it doesn’t.

Right now, believe it or not… whether she signs an email “with love” or just her name feels wholly insignificant… isn’t that funny? Or perhaps makes me a little crazy! Perhaps her reassurance has helped me to come out of my triggered place and back into a more rational and adult place? I’m not sure.  I feel hopeful but yet the remains of some sadness lurk below the surface, a bit like when you’ve got back together with an old boyfriend and you are glad but you feel a little fragile and kinda nervous and careful? on guard perhaps?? I dunno, it’s hard to explain.