Another family dynamic identified

I spent some time reading about siblings from narcissistic mothers today.  I have figured out some more stuff about my family dynamic.  More eye-opening and rather painful/sad stuff.

I read about how in a family with a narcissistic mother, one child will be picked as the Golden Child and one will be the Scapegoat.  The Golden Child is picked as the most reliable source of narcissistic supply and tends to be the most similar to the narcissistic mother.  The Scapegoat therefore, is the outcast and gets far less attention.  They feel rejected.

In my case, this created sisterly rivalry between me and my sister.  2 sisters competing for the mother’s attention and love and only 1 of us getting it… or so it would have seemed at least.  This leaves the Scapegoat feeling intense jealousy towards The Golden Child.  To the Scapegoat, it is as though she is forgotten and the Golden Child gets a different mother.

For me and my sister, I was the Golden Child.  At least that is what my false-self had led us all to believe.  I morphed into what my mother needed me to be: her.  I would sit and drink and smoke with her.  I would dress how she told me to, God, I wore her clothes! I would do my make-up how she told me to, say what she told me to. I would go to clubs with her, talk about friends and family with her and agree with her always.  I even used to do her dirty work for her and dump her boyfriends for her!

To my sister, the Scapegoat, this would have looked like I was so similar to my mother – that therefore, she was so different.  Alone.  Because of the age difference between me and my sister, she couldn’t join in on a lot of this.  I wish she could know what a good thing that was. She felt left out and not as favoured.  When she voiced this, my mother would say that it wasn’t her fault my sister was too young to drink or go to clubs.  My sister never smoked, never drank.  She was different to her… to me.

The morphed me then went a step further.  My mother got a boob job and told me how I needed to have one like her.  So I did.  My mother loved this and I guess my sister probably hated this so much.  The supply that must have given my mother!

My sister decided she didn’t want a boyfriend for a few years, something which was totally foreign to my mother. My mother would tease her and say she was gay.  My mum always had a string of men, one after the other; sometimes more than one at a time.  And so I always had a boyfriend too! Another thing that my mum couldn’t relate to my sister about.  I provided endless drama with my ridiculous and disastrous relationships.  I told my mum WAY too much and would be at her house every single weekend crying over my latest failed relationship, drinking and smoking with her whilst she counselled me.  Naturally I was thankful and she got her well-needed supply.

You would think then that I would have been happy? But I wasn’t.  None of this was my real self. It was the false self that I had created in order to get some sort of approval from my mum after years of having nothing from her.  Also, just to create more of a headfuck, she would randomly befriend someone my age and they would become the best thing since sliced bread. One of these girls even moved in with us.  I hated her. I got so jealous – but I guess that is what taught me what I needed to become to get to her.

My sister would sometimes get upset and tell my mum how she felt.  Obviously my sister didn’t want me around.  I guess she probably hated me. I feel stupid that I’ve never realised this! My sister became pretty individual. She got lots of tattoos, piercings, she dyed her hair bright colours, pink and blue.  She developed a very funky sense of style.  Come to think of it, my sister calls herself a Wildflower on her social media bios.  I guess I understand why.  That must be how she felt.

Come to think of it, she pretty much did the opposite of my mother – and me.

Sometimes she would complain to my mum that she craved a normal family. She would say how she wanted a family night in with board games or a film with a chinese or a trip to the cinema with my mother.  My mother would say that she was pathetic and immature. That she needed to grow up.  My sister would go away angry and upset. My mother would slag her off to me and I learnt not to say the same things.  I would (shamefully) agree with my mother that our family just wasn’t like that.  How I wished it was.

My sister sometimes shouted at my mother that she didn’t know her at all. That she didn’t know her favourite colour, food or song.  My mother used to look completely flabbergasted at those comments.  My sister was right. She was clearly voicing that my mother couldn’t see her.  She didn’t.

My sister has suffered from depression since she was a young teenager.  I guess from growing up feeling rejected, unloved and unseen. Luckily she has a good and present dad in her life and she moved in with him for some years which would have helped a little at least.

What my sister will never understand, or perhaps believe, is that I have grown up feeling the same was as her.  It wasn’t until 18 or maybe 20 that my morphing into her took off. Until then, I had many years of being constantly told I was boring, dull, a boffin.  I was called Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous and humiliated.  She made it clear to me that I was a nuisance, in the way and not liked or loved.  I was in the way. I got in the way of her men, her social life and her sex.  Although that didn’t actually stop her!

So often when I was young I would be asleep in bed at home – alone and she would come home with loads of people to have a party. The music would suddenly come on very loud, and the house would fill up with strange men, drugs, drink, smoke and sex.  I hated it.  On the occasions when I would ask her to turn it down or tell her to be quiet, that they had woken me up, she would humiliate me for being so boring and tell me to go and read a book (God, it sounds like a scene from Matilda doesn’t it?!).  She would ignore me and carry on regardless. I hated it so much.  She always said the same thing – my house, my rules.  Whilst you are under my roof.. blah, blah, blah.

My sister probably won’t remember this, but I looked after my sister EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I looked after her when I was a kid myself. I fed her, bathed her, put her to bed. It was me that read her stories or tucked her in when she cried at night from nightmares.  We did help each other.  I have some nice memories with her actually.  We always shared a room and would play like kids did occasionally.  We used to make food from paper and pretend to run a cafe, we would play with dolls, make up dances.  Her dad used to take us both on holiday and we would have a nice time with him.

It is so sad that this all became so twisted. Yet again, things could have been so very different.

And now it has all changed again. Now my sister is the Golden Child and I am the Scapegoat.  Because of the work I am doing in therapy and the fact I have detached from my mother, my sister now has what she thinks she has wanted her entire life – my mother.  If only she knew.

I guess the only difference now is that I don’t want that place like my sister always did.  I feel so sad for her.  The anger I felt for her has subsided as I write this tonight. I know I can’t save her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Empaths & Narcissists: Wising up

Hi all, happy Sunday.  I’ve been having a lot of inner-dialogue today so thought I would take some time to sit and write and clear my brain out a bit.

I feel pretty good really although busy in my brain.  The main thing occupying my brain space at the moment are thoughts about empaths and narcissists.  I’ve been Googling a lot about the toxic and dysfunctional attachment they have with each other, or more accurately, myself as empath and the narcissists in my life.

I’ve been doing my usual Googling, looking at quotes on pintrest and reading books to help really cement things in my brain and I’ve learnt a lot of stuff.  I have never really read much about empaths and what they are but I now see that I fit that label very well.

As an empath I pick up on other people’s emotions VERY quickly and easily. I can feel their emotions and I have clearly internalised growing up that it is my job to make those people feel better. To be some sort of healer or something.  I am highly sensitive. I care what other people think about me to excess. I have some sort of antenna for mood changes, facial expressions and various other things that other people probably don’t notice.  I now understand that the purpose of being so aware of these moods/emotions is basically that I have lived constantly hypervigilant.  Always living in fight or flight mode – it was for my own protection! My unconscious plan was that if I stayed alert, I would be able to quickly eradicate any perceived danger from someone who was dangerous (someone who is angry or upset that could cause me harm) and that I could learn to “fix” whatever the problem was for them, I would then be safe again. Hence why I am such a people-pleaser.  It was actually a clever defense mechanism but one that I now need to stop using.

All throughout my life I’ve been called “sensitive” and “needy”. My mother and my ex work friend (hereafter to be named “Tina”) always told me I was overly sensitive and made it clear that was a character flaw, however…… from what I now understand, that is exactly how they liked and needed me to be! If I wasn’t such an empath, if I wasn’t so “sensitive” then I wouldn’t have been able to provide such a wonderful source of narcissistic supply for them. Isn’t that ironic?

Moving on to them, the narcissists in my life – they are attracted to empathetic, people- pleasers like me because we provide them with everything they need to feel good about themselves.  Narcissists are not empathetic people, they do not have the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes, they are not kind and considerate and they need a lot of admiration. They crave everything that an empath happily provides. So unfortunately its a sick kind of win/win situation.  Everyone’s happy.. right? Unfortunately yes, until the empath wises up to whats going on and gets some boundaries OR the narcissist decides to discard of  the empath through boredom and moves on to a new source of supply.

Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes and the two I am writing about, my mother and Tina are very different types. My mother is your more stereotypical narcissist, she is loud, a know-it-all, she is always trying to be the centre of attention, she is fake, a chameleon, she thinks she is beautiful and cares VERY much about material possessions. She is selfish and bossy and she does not care what people think of her because in her eyes, she is the creme de la creme.  Add to that the fact that she is my mother and she had a lot of control over me, plus she had all of my life to train me to please her properly.

The way that my mother controlled me was mainly by her never giving me her approval or love. She was emotionally (and physically) absent and unloving. I never felt good enough for her and so I would do and try literally anything. Every now and again, I would get a very tiny snippet of approval as a reward and I would then know what I needed to do more of .. except it was like she dangled a carrot that I would never reach.  This “approval” made me invent a whole new “self” a fake personality that was much more like her. Luckily that didn’t last and the real self is still here and fighting to get back out. Unfortunately my sister is now at this stage and is clearly becomming more and more sucked in to narcissisim herself for the same reason… our mother’s approval. It’s sad.

Tina on the other hand is a more covert narcissist. She is not physically that interested in her appearance, in fact she is obese. Her narcissism comes from her ability to play the victim card very well. She makes you feel sorry for her. She makes you want to look after her or make her feel better about her miserable life but yet, confusingly at the same time, she makes it clear that she is above you, better than you somehow and much more knowledgeable and well put together than you are. She controlled me by playing on my people-pleasing need and used to guilt-trip me into keeping her happy.  If I did not keep her happy then I would pay the price of her guilt-tripping me (look how sad I am already, are you really going to leave me like this?), making me feel I was being extremely selfish (after everything I have done for you?) or by being more passively aggressive by not talking to me for hours/days and sulking very obviously by slamming and banging things and muttering barely audible things under her breath.  She did also outrightly tell me I was selfish and “rude”.  Tina kept me in a down position. She kept me weak and vulnerable and needy. She kept me small.

And so I spent the last 8 or so years trying to keep her happy at my own expense – as an empath I had no boundaries and I didn’t know where I ended and someone else began. I genuinely didn’t realise that it wasn’t my sole purpose in life to make everyone else feel better! I didn’t even consciously know that I did this.

Its sad actually that I ever attracted Tina in the first place because what drew me to her was how different to my mother she was!! Little did I know she was actually going to be the same (in a different but toxic way).  Tina was bundles more maternal than my mother was, she had children and she doted on them. She spoke about them all the time and she sold me this story of what a wonderful mother she was. It was everything I ever wanted and so I wanted in on that. She called me her “adopted daughter” and I called her “work mum”.  Now I realise how sadly sick that was.

So, here I am now 29 years old, nearly 3 years into some pretty intense therapy for “insecurity in relationships” which actually turned into therapy for attachment based issues, having a narcissistic mother, childhood trauma of various types and other things that I am only just learning about… but I feel genuinely relieved, pleased and, dare I say it? proud that I am understanding all of this for the first time. I am seeing it through clear eyes for the first time in all its distorted, murky, twisted, sick dysfunction and it feels weirdly empowering.

This is what I’m thinking today. I am an empath – I accept that 100% and that being an empath doesn’t make you this sweet, innocent, perfectly nice girl it actually makes you give away your power. It makes you weak and vulnerable. It means you have no self-esteem and you rely on everyone else to tell you who you are. That is not good. Being an empath is a weakness, not a strength.

My mother, and Tina (and my old friend who I’ve previously written about that I walked away from last August) are all narcissists which yes, does make them all selfish and abusive to varying degrees BUT I allowed them to be that way. It is ME that let them have that power over me and ME that encouraged their control to continue.  I accept that too, I own that. [I guess I have slightly more sympathy for myself where my mother is concerned because I was a baby and child who knew no different but hopefully you know what I mean.

So I now understand what part I play in all of this and in life generally I guess. I also understand what parts they play and that means I can change it. I’ve now ended two friendships with narcissists that were bad for me and bad to me. They are now out of my life and the guilt for friend 1 has totally and completely gone. The guilt for Tina is lessening every day, particularly this weekend since I’ve read and understood all of this stuff, it’s really helped to ground me. It is very hard to undo everything you’ve ever known, and it has clearly taken me nearly 3 years of therapy to get to this stage which sounds INCREDIBLY slow doesn’t it? but I think I needed that long to get my head around this, to fight through my defences and to really accept all of it enough to be able to look at it more objectively and change it.

My mother continues to be a hard case to crack, clearly she is never going to be as easy as friend 1 and Tina – there is a lot of deeper stuff involved with her, but one thing that is helping is to know it isn’t actually about me at all. It truly isn’t – I see that now and that takes the sting out of things so much.

On that note, I was with her last night at a gathering at my aunt’s house. I sensed as soon as I saw her some sort of aggression or anger or something. It’s very hard to describe, I can sense it on her. It may be in her eyes or something.. I can FEEL it (see, empath me!) and I acknowledged that to myself. During the course of the evening she got visibly worse, probably helped by alcohol.  By the time we had left the gathering she:

  1. Completely ignored me when I told her me and my fiance were heading to a wedding show today. She literally went “umm” which in my mother’s language means “I couldn’t give two fucks”.
  2. She later called me by another girl’s name who she is friends with. That girl wasn’t even there.
  3. She clearly got jealous that I was having a good time and dancing to the music that my uncle was playing and so turned his music off and replaced it with what “everyone else wanted”. She then told me “it isn’t all about you!” which irritated me beyond belief at the time because I had nothing to do with my uncle’s choice of musi, but today I more clearly see the blatant projection of how it is actually “all about HER”.
  4. She then invited two people to my wedding in front of me! People we had only met once, a year or so ago who absolutely would not be invited to our wedding. I couldn’t believe the front of her. I am not sure whether it was done to get a reaction from me and enjoy my night, because she was visibly irritated by my enjoyment – or – whether she just invited them because she thinks she has the right.
  5. And lastly, on the way home she told me how at a party recently her and my cousin (who I dislike BECAUSE of my mother – long story) were talking together for hours and hours and how she wished my mum was her mum. She literally said “she loves me and said she just wishes I was her mother because we are so close“.  It riled me up so much at the time but today it makes me laugh. What a pathetic attempt at making me jealous! That cousin gives her everything she needs. She showers her with admiration and affection and they are “close” yes, very.. I would go as far as to say dangerously enmeshed. Good luck to them, rather her than me!

So, watch this space. I am making changes and I am feeling good about them. A new me is in the making.

removing toxic ppl

this is the part wherecant change ppl

stage 4 boundaries

Some links that I found helpful:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201602/10-traits-empathic-people-share

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/06/the-toxic-attraction-between-an-empath-a-narcissist/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-orloff-md/are-you-an-emotional-empa_b_697483.html

 

 

 

Self Integration?

Yesterday I wrote a brief description of a dream that I had Monday night.  The dream left me with a very intense feeling of what I can only describe as maternal love.  Now I have not had any children yet although me and my (now) fiance were trying for about 17 months prior to getting engaged.  Now the wedding is booked we are putting that on hold until after the wedding, partly for practicalities but partly because I/we need the break from the emotions that trying unsuccessfully brought us.

Anyway, to the point – I have never felt a feeling like that before. It was like love on steroids and yet clearly it was only a dream.. yet it felt so important somehow.

A lovely blogger helped me to think about the dream in more detail earlier, we spoke about how the baby could symbolise the child/baby part of myself.. I agreed and then I went into my session and spoke to T about it a bit more.  Here is the dream again with a bit I left out the other day:

I had a baby girl. Her name was Kia. She was wrapped tightly in a blanket and I was either holding her over my shoulder or pushing her in her pram. At one point in the dream I stepped off of a bus and when I looked into her pram, it was empty and I panicked and turned around to see my mother holding her – I took her off of my mother and then my mother pushed the empty pram instead.  Later in the dream I gently rubbed the side of her face and she laughed and “spoke” to me in her baby language. I laughed and spoke back to her in baby language but the feeling it gave me (as I explained above) was just phenomenal.

I find it so weird that a dream can leave me with such a strong feeling when I’ve never felt that in real life – how is that even possible?

T said she also thought the dream was hugely symbolic. She agreed that the baby was probably symbolic of my child/baby self. I said that I felt it important that I “took the baby back from my mother” and that my mother was then “pushing an empty pram”.  T said that my mother may as well have been pushing an empty pram, I agreed.  I said that it didn’t feel like grief processing because there was no element of sadness whatsoever. T said that she felt it was actually a very transitional dream – a sign that perhaps I have fully accepted my child part into myself.

I can’t find the right words right now to really express what I want you to feel as you read this, I’m not sure that is possible but it just feels SO IMPORTANT. So, so important. Madness from a dream!!

Anyway, I read up about self-integration which made its way into my brain because I was re-reading an old blog of mine earlier (Winnicott’s fear of breakdown) and in the paper I referred to by Clare Winnicott, she speaks about how her client had a dream where she picked up her child self and Clare Winnicott thought this was hugely symbolic of her patient integrating – growing and healing and I can’t help but think my dream is a very similar thing. It FEELS like something in my body, my being… there has been some sort of shift or something.

I’m sure I sound a bit weird ha! But there we go.

I think I’ve changed a lot lately, I’ve had to go against everything I know with my ex friend at work (I really need to find a better name for her). Setting such firm boundaries, ending a friendship, not letting the fear, guilt, panic take over – putting myself first and standing strong despite perhaps not feeling it!! Surviving everything that came as a side effect to me doing this, such as the preoccupation with predicting what she would do and say when I saw her, dreaming about her, doubting myself, crying from the fear of it all… and so on and so on…  I am still here and I am okay. It is hard, its tough and I am currently witnessing her in the middle of a smear campaign trying to make herself look like a victim and me look like an evil bitch – its okay. It will be okay. I am okay. And that is huge.

As well as that I had a run in with my younger sister a few weeks ago because I wouldn’t cancel a therapy session which she wanted me to do. Because I wouldn’t do that, she decided I was selfish and her and my mother clearly had a lovely little bitch session about me which wound me up. But I didn’t bite. I WAS angry and yet again, I did doubt myself a lot .. perhaps I was being selfish? T helped me to see that my feelings were justified but not to be acted out.  Yet again, I just had to hold firm. I sat on Pintrest for hours looking at quotes of “boundaries” and reassured myself that I was doing the right thing. She was very angry with me and my mother even made a point of telling me how upset my sister was with me… I told her what I wish I could have told the pair of them really, that it doesn’t make me a bitch because I won’t do EXACTLY as she wants me to. I told her that my counselling (swear word to my mother – physically makes her wince!) was a very important commitment to me and one that I stuck to whatever else was happening. I told her I only get to miss two sessions a year otherwise I have to pay the entire £40 which I couldn’t afford to do and told her that I had offered all sorts of alternatives such as joining for a drink afterwards etc etc…. the very clear message was “I am not being selfish and I don’t care whether you or she thinks I am”.

I held my own. I owned it. And for that I am proud. [Side note: I put a picture of a quote about boundaries on FB today and my sister quoted sarcastically so clearly it hit a nerve].

Aside from all of that, there is the stuff I’ve written about lately regarding my soon to be stepdaughter and some of the struggles we have both been having. There is a hell of a lot of different things at play with this. There is clearly fear of being left behind, forgotten about or replaced by me from her side of things and from mine there is clearly some jealousy which probably comes from daddy issues of mine. I am very aware of all these different triggers and am speaking to T about them all a lot at the moment, I feel very proud of myself for being able to be objective and be able to self-reflect on the whole situation no matter how difficult it might be.

Its funny really, since the engagement I had worried that the excitement of getting married might overshadow my therapy and stall any progress… now it feels the opposite is true.

Sorry if this blog reads as really up myself, I very rarely big myself up but this does feel monumental and I want to document it to be able to look back on.

boundaries quote 2boundaries quoteselfish

Revelation?

It’s Sunday afternoon. 4.11pm as I start to type this and I feel good. I feel good because I saw my mother last night and have got that out of the way. I survived it. I came home this morning feeling sick (which seems to be happening a lot at the moment when I am in touch with my feelings about her or/and my Dad). But my wonderful boyfriend gave me a hug, we had a huge chat and I cried a little and now I feel good.

My boyfriend said some amazing things and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I might just be believing some of the things he said.

We spoke about my Dad. I have written a lot about him recently and the whole holiday situation so I won’t go over it again here.  My mother brought him up last night as expected (she hates him, he hates her – it’s been 28 years, get over it). Anyway, I got sucked into talking about him which I shouldn’t have done because I had been drinking and it’s a very sore subject for me and because, and I hate to say it, for some reason I still fall into the trap of telling her what she wants to hear about him – which is that he’s still being shit.

She loves to hear he is still being shit despite the impact that obviously has on me and I fell for it and launched into a speech about the holiday, about my brother’s texts Friday night, about how he signed my birthday card with his name instead of Dad. Obviously she loved all of this because, I guess, it makes her feel less threatened and makes her feel less of a shitty mother (if only she knew).

But then she said “I don’t understand why you are still upset by this? Why do you still care? Aren’t you used to it by now? When are you going to get over it? I don’t know why you allow it to bother you? Why don’t you just stop begging for his love?”

OUCHHHH.

Ouch because it’s true, isn’t it?

Why aren’t I “over it” yet? I’ve had my entire life of being dissapointed, let down and rejected by him. He’s been vacant for huge amounts of it… he has never changed despite many promises to try… why does it still hurt me so much?

I told her that I didn’t know why but that I can’t help the way I feel. That if I could stop feeling like this then I would, but that I can’t.  She went on to say that he is only my father in terms of biology and that she doesn’t understand why I feel it so important to be loved by him just because his title is Dad.  She said she doesn’t get it and said how she told her Dad to f.off when she was my age and has never thought about him since.  [Obviously I have a VERY different idea about that – her lack of caring about her dad could very easily have contributed to her extreme narcissism, but she’s too defended against her feelings to feel that]. And because she is narcissistic, she wants me to have the same life experiences as her, not better and so me having a decent dad or me having a decent relationship with him is NOT what she wants for me. Oh so lovely.

Back to today, my boyfriend mentioned this and said she is wrong. That of course it still hurts and that he understands that completely. I told him that when my mother said that if I hadn’t contacted my dad 2 years ago (after 3 years of no contact) that we still wouldn’t be talking… I said that really hurt me because it was true. I knew it was and I HATED that fact.

My boyfriend said that I didn’t actually know for a fact that was true. I said I did. I said that I had asked my Dad at the time whether he had intended to contact me, whether he would have done at some stage and he didn’t literally say no, but he meant no. He said he would have left me to it.. so that’s pretty much evidence isn’t it?

He said that it truly is my Dad’s issue and that it isn’t a fault in me. Cue me breaking down in tears because I truly believe it is me that is the problem. My poor boyfriend must have the patience of a saint because we’ve had this conversation soooooooooo many times. But then my boyfriend said this…

“Okay, give me 2 examples of why you are such a bad person your Dad doesn’t want to love you?”

And I froze. I thought and thought and I thought to myself for the very first time ever “I’m a decent human. I am a NICE person. I truly am”. I thought about different character flaws that I have, I don’t think for a second I’m anywhere near perfect, but even they didn’t seem to be applicable in this situation because we all have flaws and besides, my dad wouldn’t even know those flaws because he doesn’t know me enough!!! I did offer one suggestion:

“I remind him of my mother” but my boyfriend said, quite rightly “is that your fault that you remind HIM of someone?” and no, of course it isn’t.

Bloody Nora. In the words of Jamie Lawson… I wasn’t expecting that.

My boyfriend was laughing at the fact that for the first time in my entire life, I really believed this. I AM a nice girl. I DO deserve to be loved and treated well. That I genuinely do not “make” my father unable to love me. That it ISN’T my fault. It isn’t about me.

Jesus… it isn’t about me. Wow.  This dude should be a therapist LOL.

I’ve replayed this conversation over and over in my head since he said it this morning. He is so right isn’t he?

We then spoke about this fantasy I have of him being a great dad to his 3 boys and my boyfriend said:

“What makes you think he is such a great Dad to the boys? Does he take them out? Does he go to football matches with them? Do they go down the pub for beers? Do they go out on Sundays together?”

You may have guessed that the answer to all of those things is No.  He asked me what it was that he does that made him such a great dad in my head.  I said

He’s there.

And my boyfriend said he is there yes, because he lives there – and so do they…. it isn’t that they’ve all moved out and he is regularly contacting them, popping to their houses or having dinner with them on Sundays. They share a house so they just happen to be together.  He also told me that my fantasy of them all chilling together every evening watching tele probably wasn’t accurate either. He pointed out that the boys are all in their early twenties and have girlfriends so probably weren’t at home much! And as I write this, I am thinking that they hadn’t been on a family holiday in 14 years before this one and that says a lot, doesn’t it? I’m sure they could have done if they had wanted family time enough, even camping if finances were tight. This holiday happened because my brothers suggested it and probably pushed my dad into booking it.

I said he was right. Of course he was/is. I’ve distorted it all so much in my head all of these years. It has always been me that made him a shit dad to me. This was backed up and evidenced by the fact he was such a wonderful dad to the boys when the truth is, he probably isn’t! My boyfriend said when the boys all move out, it will probably be them or their mother doing the contact and he is probably right. Admittedly there is still a voice in my head that is thinking “nah, he will be great” but even I can see that the history speaks for itself, how likely is it that he will be great at keeping in contact with them when he’s allowed literally years to pass between us?

I cried again after this conversation. I think out of relief? Some strange feeling of ease has been in me since this. I wish this was something I had felt all of my life. It could have saved me from so many sleepless nights, so many tears and so much pain!

I also cried a few tears about how if I had a decent mother she might have been able to have helped me internalise a solid sense of self, some self-esteem and she might have been able to make me feel lovable growing up (like my boyfriend makes me feel now as an adult). It strikes me as very sad that she didn’t do those things for me (whatever her reasons) and that I’ve never felt this way before and I did cry a bit for myself in that I will admit.

My boyfriend asked me how old my inner child was right now. I told him she was 6. She’s always 6 (just as my 25 year old teddy has always been 2! LOL).  He asked me what I would say to her if she were here in the room with us and I said I didn’t know and so he started to talk “to her” which I literally cannot handle so told him to stop. But he said that he would tell her she was amazing. That she was not only what he wanted in a girlfriend, but in any person in his life. That he loved me and that I was a fantastic, kind, loving person and that no decent Dad would have missed the chance to parent me. (More tears!!!).

I then said to him that I had got choked up during Cars 3 at the cinema yesterday because someone said “the best thing in his life wasn’t racing… it was you.  He saw things in you that you don’t even see yourself” and my inner child cried a little at how she has never had even one parent think that way about her. To be the best thing in a parent’s life. To be the apple of someone’s eye. That someone had so much faith in you, they “saw things” that you didn’t… wahhh.

I don’t mean to sound like I am feeling sorry for myself from every angle here, but the true force of all this shit is suddenly very obvious. The mum and dad wounds are very prominent right now and I am not going to repress it any longer. This shit has to come out.

Could today have been a breakthrough moment? I hope so. I hope it doesn’t fade into the background and get overtaken by my critical inner voice.  We will see.

Thank You 😊 

Going through a journey to heal yourself from childhood trauma, adult trauma, abuse of any kind, addiction, illness… whatever it is, trying to heal is one hell of a ride. It has so many ups, downs, twists and turns and you sometimes leaves you hanging upside down!!! 

For me, my blog is so important on this journey. It’s important for a few reasons: 

  • It helps me to “vent” out my feelings somewhere that I feel I won’t be judged:
  • It helps me to figure out what my feelings even are when I don’t know:
  • I like to be able to read back on old blogs to see any patterns or signs of growth. Sometimes I like to read old blogs just to feel a connection to my T if she’s away: 
  • Writing up sessions helps me to process them:
  • I get to read all of your stories and try and support you back:
  • I get to read lovely, supportive comments from all you guys: and more importantly… 
  • I never feel alone in this journey. Because of all of you. 

Now I know this is all very me, me, me but I just wanted to say that I think having a therapy friend(s) or friends who understand your struggles with trying to change your life in one way or another is so important. 

In my “real” life (I know it might surprise some of you, but my real name isn’t Twinkletoes *gasps!!) I don’t have anyone to talk to or share this stuff with, and so you guys that share your own stories, struggles and triumphs and comment on my blogs occasionally, you really are very important and I just want to thank you all. 

I am proud of all of us and because of this, my blog feels like less of a blog now and more of a little community. 

#ProudOfUs #Survivors #TherapyFriends 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Fairytale Ending: Amended/Revised

For anyone that read the fairytale ending, this is pretty much the same post but I have expanded on it and sent it to T ahead of tomorrow’s session. Don’t ask me where I found the courage to do that……….. aghhhhghgh.

 

Matilda and Miss Honey

The child in me has been waiting for an adult to come and save her. She has been waiting to be rescued for approximately 29 years. She wants someone to come and take the pain away. Someone to fix everything bad that has happened – to magic it away forever.

Matilda got her happy ending with Miss Honey and she wants hers.

I used to hope that adults, mainly teachers, would see that I was a good girl and would adopt me. Friends’ parents would joke that I was their adopted daughter – it was a joke to them about how regularly I spent time at their houses, but to me it was the potential beginning of my fairytale ending.

Enter T

So I find T one day many years later. At this time I am an adult in age, and in physicality, but emotionally a child. Emotionally stunted at about 6 years old. Still unknowingly craving love, affection, understanding, acceptance and warmth.  Still so desperate for that bond.  That unconditional love. I had a yearning for something but I didn’t know what it was, or how to get it. I tried to get it by moving from boyfriend to boyfriend, even at a young age. I don’t like that about myself but I understand that I just copied what my mother did – that was all I was taught to do. Clearly it didn’t work. But I didn’t need a man, I needed a mother.

I guess I picked a female T for this reason. It wouldn’t have been so easy to find my new mum in a man would it? My fantasy about therapy wasn’t only to “fix myself” but I guess I had this feeling that I could potentially find a kind adult to care for me. Someone who would listen to all of the pain and have genuine compassion… someone who, like I used to hope my teachers would, would see I needed rescuing and would rescue me. I guess in a way it was hoping someone would take pity on me.

Looking back I felt (feel?) some similarities between T and my mum in that I saw them both as powerful, authoritive and strong. I guess therefore potentially dangerous. I felt a similar unconscious sense that I had to be good, well behaved, polite, well-mannered. The alternative? Punishment.  But of what kind? I am not really sure. Abandonment and rejection perhaps.

I liked and respected T for the first two years that I saw her, but now it is more than that in ways I am not sure I have the words to explain. Just thinking about it makes me well up with tears. I’m not entirely sure why, I think I am scared sometimes by the depth of feelings I have for her and how painful the loss would be if she went away. Is it worse to lose something wonderful or to have never had it?

T has shown me and given me things that I had never seen or felt before. Patience, understanding and non-judgment – but I think the thing that sticks out most for me is attunement. I don’t even think I knew what that word meant a while ago and now it is the word I use most regularly in all of my diary entries and blogs. Attunement is key. It is so important on such a deep level. I don’t think I ever felt my mother attuned to me and what’s more, you can’t fake attunement apparently so it truly is precious.

“being or bringing into harmony; a feeling of being “at one” with another being”

I’ve written a lot about all of the ways T is amazing and how I love her – or what she gives me or represents. What I still childishly fantasise her being one day – effectively my Miss Honey.

But…. on the less lovely side of things. T’s attunement to me, her patience and everything else, have suddenly shone a beacon of light on the loss. The loss of my childhood, my innocence and my birth-right to have been loved by my “good enough” mother. A childhood that felt full instead of starved and warm instead of cold. Safe instead of dangerous,. Loved instead of hated.

All of a sudden I am feeling the stark contrast of what T offers me and what I have/had and it hurts. Like it hurts my entire being.  My soul. Everything. It hurts me in a way I don’t think can be explained.

As I write this I have this strange energy coursing through my body, like adrenaline. Maybe it’s anger. It’s mixed with sadness and prickly tears. But the tears aren’t flowing, they are forming a barrier behind my eyelids almost refusing to come out. Like they are trying to stand strong. Like a line of soldiers making a human fence.

Everything that I (very cleverly) defended myself from knowing, seeing and feeling suddenly staring me in the face with a (not so) welcome home banner. I’ve reached the truth, my truth and it makes me want to debate for a moment if I want to keep walking towards “truth” or run backwards to denial and just pretend none of it is real.  Although that isn’t possible now. I sometimes question what was harder: blaming myself for everything, for the things I didn’t have; or knowing it wasn’t my fault and knowing who’s “fault” it was… what is worse? Which is the lesser of the two evils?

Verbal Diarrhoea

The adult part of me knows this is necessary for my healing. That this “is the work” as T would say. I guess that is what enables me to stick it out and not run away. (That and the fantasy of Miss Honey of course) but child me is in pain and shock and so I guess that explains why now I am craving the fairytale more than ever. I feel so regressed so regularly in therapy and sometimes in-between sessions and the craving for T is more intense than ever before. I think that the reason I enjoy writing my blog about therapy, enjoy reading other people’s, reading therapy books, re-reading my old blogs and the comments on them, is all part of this – trying to “feel” the connection that I am craving when I am not physically there with her.. and then sometimes when I am there, the sessions go way too quickly and the loss is right there again sitting in my chest hard to ignore. So I talk fast. “Verbal diarrhoea” as my mother would say, because I have so much to say, so much to share, so much to be soothed and so little time.  And then I leave and feel so ashamed of how much I’ve talked. I should not be the centre of attention – that is for my mother and not for me. I do not deserve that. I will be punished for that – and so I punish myself.

Tuesdays/Thursday Sessions

Thursday sessions sometimes seem like they don’t give me the same feeling that Tuesday sessions do and that is annoying because it is my “ last chance” at connection until the following Tuesday and that feels like a lifetime.  I keep wondering why it is that Thursday sessions feel so different and it feels as though I go into that session more (too) adult. It feels as though I go to Tuesday night sessions way more in touch with the child me, the regressed me, the sensitive me that wants to bare her soul and be soothed – whereas Thursdays I am an adult who wants T to see how competent I am. How grown up I am and I am so bloody fed up with trying to be the grown up so why do I do that? Perhaps I don’t want T to think I am a complete lost-cause. I don’t want her to think I am pathetic and childish and immature. I want her to think to herself just sometimes when I leave that she can have a normal “adult” chat with me about normal life things and not have to feel as though she is babysitting me or teaching me how to be a normal person…. And yet even that is completely contradicted by having a childish need to be rescued so none of it makes sense. It’s like the child in me has a tantrum when I leave on Thursdays and is shouting

“Hello? What about me? Now I have ages to wait just so you could be all grown up”

I wonder whether T sees a difference between Tuesday me and Thursday me or whether this is purely internal?

 

Therapy Breaks

And then you have therapy breaks. I mean, the adult gets this – of course she does, but the child wants to shout:

“What about me? You can’t just leave me here on my own. I will die without you looking after me”

It thinks it very cruel that it is expected to fight against everything it knows to “let someone in” and to learn to trust, to learn to take down the barriers and try to stop the competent (fake) adult taking over. So it does, slowly, very slowly it does this and then it is left alone?!  WTF is that about.  You wouldn’t leave a 6 year old child at home on their own for an entire week because it would die. Unable to eat or wash or anything and it feels almost the same, but emotionally speaking. Mixed messages – confusing. “Trust me, I won’t leave you” – oh, I’ve gone away. Then there is inner-dialogue between adult and child

“T deserves a break, she needs a break to look after you properly. It is only a week [or two weeks], she will be back before you know it”

“She hates me. She wants to leave me. I’ve worn her out. She is fed up of me. She won’t think about me, she will forget me. She won’t ever come back! I don’t need her anyway. I am fine. I am grown up and mature. Watch me cope all by myself. I don’t even think I need therapy anymore”

To the people that created this therapy. Freud etc: you missed something here!

 

Adult vs Child

Adult me knows that I am an adult now and that I cannot now get all that I missed and long for. That it is too late. Adult me knows therapy will help me to accept this and move on. Adult me knows T isn’t going to become mum and make it all vanish – that she doesn’t have a magic wand and that she can’t wave it so that I am 6 again, but her daughter, and none of it would have happened. Adult me gets that in therapy T will help give me some of the things that I didn’t get that will help me. Things like a kinder internalised voice – she had already done that to an extent and she is helping me not to feel so ashamed for having needs, to feel loveable. But child me… she hasn’t quite given up the hope of being rescued yet.  I know the happy ending will still be far nicer than the story ever was…. That in comparison the ending will be nicer than it could have been…. but I have a way to go to be okay with this. Today I feel robbed and angry. Like I have a hole in my heart that is exposed to the elements and it feels like no amount of plasters or stitches or even filler can make it better. Horrible image, but it feels like it is left open and it is being chewed on by insects.

That poor little girl was and is so desperate to be loved by a mummy that she didn’t get. It makes me sick.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for what I do have – that I have found T, that I can get so much from her that I have never had – but I guess like a child it wants more of what it likes and it can’t really have much more and that seems so unfair. Knowing that T is a mum seems to make that harder because it makes me jealous that her children get her as a mum so when she has said the words “my children” I have to try hard to keep my face neutral in case she can see anything in me change. Poker face.  Luckily she can’t feel the movement inside my chest.  Plus anyway, it is obviously a one-way relationship where I can’t ask her things that I want to know and so it isn’t really the same is it? Because what I “love” is the feeling I get because you can’t love someone you don’t even know. The whole thing is so confusing.

Dream

I had a dream on Saturday night that two boys I had been intimate with in my life (not both physically) told me that I had an infection on my bottom – I looked in the mirror and it was disgusting, all scabby and disgusting. The word in the dream that jumped out was “bacterial”. I hadn’t seen it because it was behind me, on my bum and so out of my view and I felt hugely humiliated and dirty. I felt so ashamed that they had both seen it and knew it was there and that I didn’t.  I have thought about this dream a lot since and I think it is representative of the fact that people that knew me well enough “saw” I had issues, problems, gaps… but that I didn’t and how ashamed I am about that and now the “scars” of it all seem to be obvious – like the scabby rash thing in my dream.

“A hidden or invisible attack that may weaken or even destroy you” – “Feelings of inadequacy or a sense of uncleanness”

 

One thing that amazes me is quite how relentless my inner child is at not giving up that hope. I am not sure if that makes her determined or stupid but there we have it. She isn’t ready to drop that fantasy yet. Saying that, I do admire the fact that she has continued to fight and has never totally given up. I wouldn’t have blamed her.

My adult wants to make it all better for the child. To cuddle and love her better and yet the child is saying “No! not you!! – someone else!!

The thought that I can make this better for myself seems ridiculous because although half of me wants to be grown up, the other half wants to stay young because if I stay young then Miss Honey will come and if I don’t – she won’t.

 

I do not want to have to be my own mother. I don’t want to grow up (even though I already have).

The Grazed Knee Analogy

On Thursday I told T that when I left her on Tuesday night I was very upset.  She asked me how I knew I was upset and I said “well, because I was crying”.  She repeated back at me “you cried” and I noted that I felt a bit uncomfortable with her saying those words.

I’ve noticed lately that I said I felt “miserable” when I actually meant I felt angry and now I said I felt “upset” rather than just saying I cried. I wonder why?

T didn’t seem particularly surprised by this.  She said that at the moment I am really dipping in and out of “it“. What does she mean by “it“?  I don’t know but I imagine she meant “the work” as she calls it.  She said I go in “it” a bit, then back out again.  She said “you need to go at your own pace, you can’t rush it” and I thought – are you implying I am trying to rush or are you saying you understand why I am being slow? What was the comment meant to mean…nothing like over thinking things hey? Welcome to my brain.

I told T that I was really struggling at the moment with not being able to pinpoint a reason for my tears.  I said I wasn’t sure what exactly I was crying about.  T looked quite surprised and said almost sarcastically “you don’t think you have a reason to be crying?” and I quickly said that I didn’t mean I didn’t have anything to cause me to cry, just that usually you know exactly the reason. For example you might cry because you had an argument with a friend or because your boyfriend was an idiot… but when you are just crying after therapy with no proper “reason”.. that feels different and for me, hard and scary. T said that just in the last session alone there was “enough to cry about for weeks”….. was there?

She said that she thought perhaps when I was a child and I grazed my knee or cut myself as children do, that perhaps my mother could deal with the tears about those sort of upsets.  She quickly added that she didn’t mean to imply that she was particularly caring and warm, but that the tears were not punished because she could physically see the cause of the upset.  BUT if I were to cry about something emotional, something without a physical and obvious bruise – no actual blood so to speak, that is when she demanded a reason why and would get angry and blame, shame and embarrass me.

I had never thought about this before but it rang true immediately. I thought for a moment and told T that sounded very possibly true.  I did agree that there certainly wasn’t ever any kindness even with grazed knees, but perhaps there wasn’t the shaming and anger.  I can’t remember any particular instance which would have been helpful and that the two more major physical hurts I had as a kid she couldn’t handle because of the blood.

I told T that when I was a young child I was very small and very skinny and my legs were always covered in bruises. I said that my mother used to make me wear knee-length socks to cover them and T said that I even had to hide my physical bruises and that I was taught they were something to be ashamed of. I said yes I guess so. She said that my mother couldn’t tolerate any imperfections of any sort and so the bruises had to be hidden and I had to be perfect.  I agreed but said she allowed my teeth to be awful which didn’t fit the perfect image.  I said that as a baby and child she gave me Ribena in a bottle instead of milk and that it rotted all of my teeth.  I said they looked horrendous and that when I was about 11, I had 6 teeth taken out at once under GA and then another 4 taken out at 13 before my brace was fitted. I said that they were perfectly straight after wearing the brace for over 3 years but then my dog chewed my retainer and she wouldn’t replace it because she said it was too expensive.  I told T that my mother’s teeth were not very nice – they weren’t straight or white and so perhaps that is why she didn’t care about mine (nobody can be different to a narcissist).

Somehow this conversation made its way to me talking about what her ex-boyfriend did to me. I won’t go into detail here but basically he groomed me and then was physically “inappropriate” with me (T’s words) and it scared me. A LOT.  I was only 14 at the time and he was someone I trusted, my mother’s boyfriend and about 45 years old.  I was petrified and didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t tell any adults – only my two best friends and I swore them both to secrecy.

I told T that for some reason, I had this strange fantasy that one day I would tell my mother what he had done to me and that something would be magically fixed.  That it would make things better.  I think now I understand that I was hoping she would see the damage that had been done to me (“physically” as in, he physically touched me) which perhaps she would accept a bit more than the emotional damage that she couldn’t see that I had been feeling for years (the grazed-knee analogy).

Unfortunately that did not happen. What happened was the opposite. She eventually (not initially) accused me of making it all up. I was not validated in any way. She made the whole thing about her – how upset she was, how she couldn’t eat, how she couldn’t sleep.  I was told not to tell anyone else, especially my grandparents as they would “have heart attacks and die”… you get the point.

I said to T that I wish I had never told her because it didn’t make anything better, it just made it all much worse.  T said that there is the pain of the event and what he did and then there is the pain of knowing you can’t turn to your caregiver for safety and comfort because they can’t help you and then eventually (10 years later) you tell her in the hope that it is going to fix something and … it doesn’t, it makes it worse.

I said to T that the whole thing was totally fucked up anyway because when I broke the news to my mother she went to wake her sleeping husband up to tell him.  But the thing is, he already knew. I had confided in him one drunk night and he had told me never to tell my mother because she wouldn’t be able to handle it.  Yep….. it was about her. So when she “told him” he acted shocked and horrified and then came downstairs to where I was sitting in floods of tears and acted his arse off like a soap star that this was new information.  He even sat there asking me questions that he already knew the answer to……. wtf? I see now he was scared of my mother like I always have been.

As usual I did the good girl thing and kept my mouth shut.  I really, really wanted to tell my mother over the coming weeks and months that he knew. The only thing that stopped me was that she never believed me about anything else and I had my entire life history of her taking her latest bloke’s side, so would this time really be any different? Clearly not.. I fought against that dilemma for a long time.

T was listening attentively and seemed to agree with my feeling that it was all very fucked up.  She seemed sympathetic despite knowing this stuff already.

Then……

I told T something that sounds very strange.

I told T that when I was younger I used to imagine telling my mother about this sexual abuse on my wedding day.  I know, I know.. please don’t ask me why my wedding day because I have absolutely no idea.  T seemed confused and seemed to be trying to find some sort of link – as did I but without any luck.  I said perhaps it was because I was then going to be “off her hands” and grown up or something? I said that the nearest thing I could compare it to was this – you know when you are watching a film and a couple are about to get married but right at the very last-minute one of them tells the other at the back of the church that they’ve had an affair at some point…..that they had to come clean, that the other person had to know the total truth before they committed to the other person? I said it was just like that.

T said that would suggest that I had done something wrong. I said yes, it does sound that way saying it out loud. T said it almost sounded as though in the fantasy, I was marrying my mother.

We discussed this for a while and I felt embarrassed because I know it sounds very odd and I wish I could tell you that I’ve somehow worked it out and understand the deeper meaning but unfortunately I can’t.  I still do not know. It’s very messed up.

T asked whether my mother had any beliefs about not having sex before marriage or anything like that? If I had been drinking I would have literally spat my drink out at that suggestion. I said absolutely not and laughed – my mother was the complete opposite of that. Sex was something that she did A LOT of and sex was encouraged on me at a young age.  It certainly wasn’t that.  T said she knew it wasn’t in line with her characteristics but said that sometimes people have these sorts of beliefs despite the way they act themselves.

I’ve thought about it a lot today. Saying it out loud felt weird.  Writing it here for you to read feels uncomfortable but I am hoping that going over it will help me to figure it out somehow. I am actually still surprised I told her this knowing how odd it sounds.. it just slipped out.

Why would you imagine as a child that the day you would tell your mother that her (then) boyfriend had sexually abused you would be your wedding day, at the back of the church?

What I was really saying was…

Towards the end of my session yesterday I told T that I had recently read a fellow bloggers post (you may recognise yourself in this if you are reading but I am keeping this anonymous for your privacy – I hope you don’t mind me writing about it!!) where she detailed that she had sent her T an email clearly showing how much pain she was in and subsequently her T’s response. I said that it had shocked me to read the T’s response because it felt so cruel and so unattuned.  I said it had really shocked me and I guess scared me in a way because I don’t know what I would do if my T did that to me.  My T has recently suggested that humiliation is a real issue for me because my mother always punished me for having needs and embarrassed me at the same time for being too needy and so I guess that is why this tapped into me so much.

I guess the worry that my T might respond to a similar email from me made me panic.  What would I do? How would I respond? How would I continue to see her? What would happen if my T were to become “bad” in my head? Then what?

My T said that often therapists who “haven’t done their own work” can sometimes struggle with knowing how to be attuned to things like this.  The push and pull of people affected by attachment trauma is palpable – to me at least – because I experience it first hand and luckily for me, my T seems to “get it” enough that I feel understood. So far at least.

I told T that I had responded to this poor lady with sympathy and said that I was sure she wouldn’t appreciate me or anyone else “slagging off” her therapist because I know I would become extremely defensive, but that I wanted her to know that I “got it”.. I said other people had responded in much the same way as me.

T said that therapists that haven’t had their own therapy and dealt with their own issues often come up against countertransference and can struggle to properly “see” the issues their client is facing enough to be able to respond in the appropriate way. For example I said that someone I know regularly threatens to cancel their next therapy appointment when distressed. I said that even I (as a completely untrained individual) understand that this isn’t really because they don’t want to go to their session, but it is out of fear and panic and pushing away when they most need something – the same way that I push my boyfriend away when I need to be held and comforted most.  My T agreed with this and said that usually someone threatening to quit or cancel sessions is for that same reason and that they mostly just need to know that their therapist WANTS them to come, that they will stay, that they won’t give up on them or abandon them – like a lot of us who have been previously abandoned and assume the same thing will happen again.

I think for me when I need my T the most that is when I am the most scared of her. I’ve written a lot recently about the fear of needing T and how I find it difficult to put into words – the fear is so huge and feels life-threatening, I think perhaps this feeling is similar for others.  I honestly believe the only reason I’ve never cancelled a session is because I am far too compliant and too much of a people pleaser to take that risk… but perhaps it will happen one day.  T often warns me that one day I will feel a lot of anger towards her and that I may not want to come.. she’s been right about everything else she’s predicted in the past despite how unbelievable it seems at first.  For example she used to ask me how it felt when she was going or on a break and I used to laugh and find this really weird… not so funny now is it Twinks? LOL.

Anyway, back to the point – therapists that have or haven’t “done their own work”. T said that therapists that haven’t worked through their own issues may be triggered by a patient in distress and this can sometimes explain the reason for a (what seems punitive) response, especially by email when it is hard to know the way in which something is meant.  I know for me I read emails in the mood that I am in rather than the way they may have been intended.  Have you ever shown someone else an email or text that you think is rude or abrupt for someone else to say they don’t see the issue? … hopefully not just me. I am hugely hypersensitive and very hypervigilent so I notice the most microscopic of change in people – another thing I can thank my mother for.

I asked T what would happen though if the therapist hadn’t had any attachment-based trauma and was dealing with a patient who was very wounded by attachment based stuff? I said what if they had no attachment problems growing up –  how would they understand? T said that nobody ever has absolutely no attachment issues.  I questioned this as I had thought for a long while now that most people who were securely attached wouldn’t have experienced ANY attachment related problems.  T said that everyone has some kind of issue growing up because no parents were absolutely perfect – and that attachment effects so much in our lives, the way we respond to life, the way we grieve, all sorts of things. She then said that therapists barely touch on attachment in their training…………………

Whhhatttttt???????? Sorry but this seems absolutely mental to me. I just assumed that all therapists learnt about attachment in a very deep and detailed way .I assumed it was the pillar of their learning? At least the fundamental building blocks no? Apparently not.  I didn’t hide my shock when T said this. I was really thrown.  She said they touch on it in a very basic way in that they learn that a baby’s attachment to its mother will have links to how that child (then adult) will grieve.. she said that all her learning has been through her own therapy, through being a therapist and through reading and training seminars etc.  Wowzas.

So I said, the thing is, I find it hard to believe that a therapist who hasn’t had deep attachment trauma could come anywhere near to understanding what people like me experience – what we feel and how we view the world, the people in it – how we see things. I just don’t think you can learn that stuff in a book.  T said she believed that experiencing things would certainly help.

I said to T that if you were a therapist that had similar issues to someone sat in front of you who was deeply distressed and crying and feeling this unbearable pain how hard that must be – that it must tap into their own issues? I said if I was a therapist and someone was in front of me going through things that I could relate to, I think I would find it incredibly difficult and would end up crying with them! T said that once you have done your own work, you hold a boundary and you don’t get affected by it in the way that I might think I would. She said once you’ve worked through your own stuff, you are boundaried and it doesn’t feel like that….

 

Okay so basically what I was saying to her was this:

T, what happened to you growing up? Did you have attachment trauma? Did you have a shit caregiver? Were you abused? Was your mother narcissistic like mine? Was your Dad an absent, head-in-the-sand coward too?  Please tell me about your life so that I can decide whether you really understand my pain.

Do you realllyyyyyyyyyyyyy understand how I feel or are you just remembering things you’ve read in books?

Why don’t you cry when I am upset?

Share your history with me please!

 

But clearly I didn’t actually say that and I think I was hoping she might work that out and ask me if that is what I was getting at – but she didn’t. Or at least she didn’t then… maybe she will think on it and what I *really* meant, we shall see.

Back to the crying conversation: T said something like “I am not really a crier” or “I don’t cry often” or something like that…. I didn’t like it when she said that because it took me a very, very, very long time to be able to cry in front of T and I still feel hugely uncomfortable and embarrassed when I do cry in front of her… for some reason her saying she isn’t a “crier” made me feel like she would judge me more than I already worried she did. Obviously though I acted as though she had said “I like cats” and just smiled and nodded in interest.

She then said that she had a previous career (“before I had my children”) (OUCHY – Why do I hate this so much. T: please stop talking about your children, I don’t like it)that had helped her with this stuff.. she didn’t expand on what that was (although in the past she has told me she worked with domestic abuse victims and that she worked in a school and a care home) – so I assume she meant one of these: my mind has since fantasied that she was saying

“I’ve worked with victims of domestic abuse who have had it much, much worse than you – that will stop you crying at attachment trauma“…

but I know that isn’t really the case.

T said it really wouldn’t be helpful if she were to cry (if a therapist were to cry) because it would put the patient in a precarious situation. She said that if someone was co-dependant or was used to parenting the adult (like me…) that person would then feel a duty to protect and look after the crying therapist. That made sense I guess.  I admitted to T that one half of me would feel like they really were moved by what I was talking about – enough to cry for me but that yes, if she were to cry I may feel I had to stop what I was saying because I wouldn’t want to be the cause of her tears… it was a double-bind.  She said that sometimes she may feel her eyes go prickly/water but that she could generally hold her own stuff back.

I said to T that therapists must see so many people cry that I guess it is hard to be moved to tears – they’ve seen it all and heard it all.. I was basically implying that nothing would shock them enough to be that moved emotionally by someone else’s pain.

I was basically saying:

Do you think that my stuff is boring?

Do you think I am over the top upset?

Do you think I should be over it by now? That compared to other clients, my stuff is very basic and not a big deal?

Do you think I exaggerate or that I feel sorry for myself?…..

 Do you ever get upset for me?

Do you ever nearly cry at what I tell you?

Do I as a person MOVE you at all?


The session was over at this point and I was standing at the door on my way out when T said that of course they get moved by things and that they’ve never seen or heard it all – that they are not robots and of course they still have their own feelings about things but they have just learnt to handle them effectively and that they need to do this in order to not “burn out”. She said that therapists who were burnt out were dangerous to their clients which was why their breaks were important. She said that burn out was a dangerous little shit.. and that she could see it from a mile away.

She said “bring this back with you next week” and I said “Yep, will do!” but I meant: l want to see if you remember and I want to see if this plays on your mind at all and you work out what I was really saying/asking you.

We shall see but I just have this feeling that she won’t, which is a shame.

Questions about the fear of needing

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly since my session Tuesday night and since my last blog, the comments that you lovely lot have been leaving me and today’s thoughts are:

 

Question: If I had a different childhood and therefore a different attachment  (perhaps secure rather than insecure/disorganised) would this be different? Do “normal” children/adults not experience this fear?

I think I know that the answer to that is that no, they don’t… that this fear of mine is uncommon (although clearly not unheard of according to things you guys have said in support) but I think I am just trying to get my head around this properly.

Not to sound like a child “blaming” someone but… so it’s her fault that I feel this way? It’s because she didn’t consistently meet my needs that I learnt to be scared of needing someone to rely on? Is that really right? If so, I feel so sick and angry about that today. How bloody unfair. How cruel.  How can you punish a child and scare them for having needs?

For me to feel scared of relying on someone – particularly someone like T who is clearly there to help me, I have clearly learnt that depending on someone and being vulnerable is potentially risky. Risky how? A risk of rejection or risk of abandonment or punishment I guess… and how would I have learnt that lesson? I assume by being abandoned physically and/or emotionally or by being made to feel rejected or ashamed. I guess my mother’s whole “you are so needy” is an example of that……………….. sorry if this is blatantly obvious to you guys, clearly it is taking me some time to understand this on a deep level.

 

Next question: this desperation of contacting T, of needing her there, of needing her to help me hold my stuff – is this how a child feels towards her parent when she is young or something? Or is this just something that I am personally experiencing with T right now?

I ask that because I am aware of the “re-parenting” that is done in this type of therapy and that T has said to me so many times before that I “need to do with her what I wasn’t able to do as a child”…. Is that what she means?? I wonder if that is why it feels so primal/infantile? Regression that kind of thing?

I am seeking answers today and I’ve woken up feeling unwell. Sick, blocked nose and headache-y. I don’t know if I am feeling sick because of this stuff – if it’s emotional or whether I am just genuinely getting unwell and that’s making me feel shit. Either way… I need to understand this stuff a little more.

too much