This weekend my siblings and I hosted a major family celebration. There were over 150 attendees, dinner, dancing, drinking etc. We have spent the last nine months planning it and was a source of stress and worry for me. It went fine. Most of the things I was worried about weren’t a big deal at all. It is always confusing for me when things that I expect will be difficult turn out not to be. It makes me wonder if my family is as difficult as I think they are or if I am always overreacting to things. Unfortunately while the event is over the visiting with family isn’t because some people are from out of town and are spending the next few days here so there will be more casual events. Too much time with family is difficult for me because I feel myself slipping back into the familiar role and my family shakes my reality. They are the kind of people who tell you everything is fine while they crying or stomping around or other times are completely unemotional while telling you how deeply hurt or angry they are. Their words rarely match up with their behaviour and so I’m always off balance and am trying to keep everyone happy.
At the end of last week I had an extra session with M (which means a total of three) because the second session was filled with stories about my FOO and the upcoming party. I wanted to talk about the possibility of changing seats or touch in therapy but M was so interested in my family that he kept asking questions. I’m not good at asserting myself during my sessions so I answered direct questions, didn’t volunteer information and tried half-heartedly to change the subject. When I left I was so angry at the waste of a session and the feeling I had that M is more interested in my family than me. When I went in for my extra session I managed to tell M I was angry and that I thought he was avoiding the touch conversation and over invested in my family stories. I wasn’t really angry any longer so I was calm but I said it. M told me he understood why I felt that way and he wasn’t avoiding anything. Of course that cleared the way to us talking about touch and comfort in therapy. It was a slow, painful conversation that didn’t actually address what would happen in a session but actually focused on the many reasons I think that M wouldn’t want to sit any closer or touch me. I talked about not being able to believe M cared about me and wasn’t sitting there wishing I would quit therapy so he wouldn’t have to see me anymore. It was one of those sessions where there is no possible quick resolution and it is really just talking about the feelings. Painful and tomorrow I’m supposed to continue the conversation.
Last week during my second session with M I managed to express some of those overwhelming feelings that contributed to the feeling I was disintegrating. It was painful and difficult. I was chaotic bringing up different thoughts and feelings that were only linked by the fact that they were overwhelming me. I’m not sure M could follow everything but that is a feeling I’ve only got five days later when I listened to the recording of the session. At the time I felt some relief because I was able to disclose my feelings and that helped contain me so I felt less like I was spinning out of control or disintegrating.
The session was filled with tears and painful silences which is not uncommon for my sessions but is still upsetting. M responds to my crying and silences by giving me lots of times and then pushing me to explain more about my feelings. I am always looking at my hand that is covering my or closing my eyes so I have no idea what he is looking at or like. Many times I feel like a specimen being observed while I’m so emotional which means I try to hide more. Near the end of the session I managed to ask M if he would consider changing the way we sit in therapy so I felt less like he was watching me. I told him I’d like him to sit beside me and told him about one friend irl that I’ve started sharing some of the stories of my painful childhood. If I start to cry in front of her (which is something that happens more and more now that I’ve started destroying the defenses that I used to control my feelings) she has reached out to put her hand on my shoulder or grab my arm. She hasn’t said much and I’ve felt comforted by that action. It isn’t an attempt to make me feel better and stop crying how being engulfed in a hug or a rush of talking to console me. It says something about the fact that she cares about me, she is willing to listen to my pain, and she isn’t repulsed by me all things that I don’t feel when I cry in my sessions in front of M. I asked him if he would be willing to try something like that in a session and he was quiet for a long time before saying he would be willing to try something we both agreed to if it would help me feel less like a specimen.
At my Monday session, M asked me how I imagined changing seats in therapy would work, whether it would make it hard to feel connected if we were sitting beside each other and couldn’t make eye contact, what it would look like. He didn’t mention the touch and I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I had brought it up at all so I didn’t really answer his questions and we didn’t discuss it further. The rest of the session was difficult because I felt shut down after not being able to discuss it. I’ve read a lot of discussions of touch and comfort in therapy. I’ve heard stories about T’s who give hugs and hold hands and sit next to clients and read them stories or play with them. I’ve also read that therapy is not able to replace or redo things that were missed in childhood and that the real work in therapy is recognizing and grieving the loss of what was missed so that satisfying the desire for comforting touch would prevent working through feelings around that desire. I wish that therapy could comfort me. It feels like I have made progress in some areas in my life over the last three years but therapy has almost always been painful and difficult and the changes have occurred slowly and incrementally until they add up to a noticeable change.
When I told M the story about my friend I only told him what she did, reaching out and touching me. I didn’t share what that touch meant to me, how I felt about her and our relationship and how it highlighted the things that I didn’t feel in my relationship with him. I didn’t want to be that vulnerable because I know if I talk about it he will hear the longing in me to believe that he cares about me and isn’t repulsed by me and wants to comfort me. I also think that talking about what I don’t feel in therapy is like complaining about M and asking him to change or adapt to me which feels like I’m being manipulative. Unfortunately I think that I have to tell M how I would like to feel when I’m crying in his office and admit that having my friend touch me spontaneously was helpful and healing. That is what I would like to feel sometimes in therapy and he should know that even if we don’t actually try anything different.
I feel like I’m losing my mind. I swing between such extremes of emotion. About an hour ago I felt fine, a little tired because I didn’t sleep well last night and a little worried because M hadn’t contacted me today even though I had left a couple of voice mails and an email after my session yesterday. Then M called and when I tried to talk about what was so upsetting to me after my session the roller coaster started. I’ve been trying to talk about something that I’m so ashamed of and is so confusing to me. It has to do with intimacy and desire and sexuality and my problems keep changing so I can’t pin down what is wrong. Sometimes it is what I’m thinking sometimes it is memories, sometimes it is a feeling way down to my core that I’m wrong and bad and disgusting. When I try to tell M about it I can’t because I don’t want him to know how bad I am so I hint at it and expose it a little but then I can’t accept what M is saying because he doesn’t know the whole truth.
I stumbled around trying to tell M this and he tried to respond. He told me I didn’t have to tell everything for him to understand. I don’t agree. He said it would come out slowly and we would work with it as it comes up. I said I don’t believe you that is not how it is going to work. He said how do you think it is going to work and I said it won’t because I can’t explain it or maybe it is not understandable. He suggested I just feel it isn’t understandable because what happened to me as a child wasn’t understandable. I was upset because he didn’t believe me and I said that to him. He said I believe you feel that way but I don’t believe it and then we can start with that tomorrow.
After I got off the phone I was so angry I shook with it, my jaw aches from clenching it, my chest hurts like it is going to burst. So I called him back and of course he didn’t answer I’m sure he only answers one phone call a day from me because he hates me. I left a message telling him I’m not coming in tomorrow, that I can’t explain because I’m so bad and trying to convince him of that was tearing me apart and I had to keep hurting myself.
Then twenty minutes after that message I’m overwhelmed with sadness. I’m sorry I lost my temper with M. It is not his fault that I can’t hear him and I get so angry. When he tells me I don’t have to tell him the whole story I think it is because he doesn’t want to listen to it. When he tells me it is going to take time and we can go slowly I think it is because he doesn’t care if I’m like this or how long it lasts or how much I hurt. He shouldn’t have to put up with me being a bitch because I can’t handle things. So I’ve gone from fine to furious to deep grief in the space of an hour. I’m losing myself.
Last week I took my board games back into my session with M and he told me he would like to try one. Of course his office isn’t really set up for game playing but we made do and I taught M one of the games. He had warned me he wasn’t very good at games but I didn’t realize how much attention he had to use to play. It ended up being a very quiet session where the only comments were about the games. After we finished I talked a little bit about the fun times I had as a child playing games with my brothers and sisters and friends. It is unusual for me because I only talk about painful things usually.
During my second session instead of a game I took in a jigsaw puzzle because I thought it might be a better choice because we could give the puzzle a different amount of attention and talk at the same time. Also we could ignore the puzzle as much as we wanted unlike a game during which I feel like we should finish it. I have a really nice wood puzzle with the most interesting laser cut puzzle pieces in fascinating shapes (made by Liberty puzzles if anyone is interested). M and I spent a few minutes discussing finding a board we could hide under the furniture in his office and pull out during my sessions. Then we spent most of the session talking about a fight I had with my husband the night before. The conversation was a little easier for me because I often find it easier to talk about present day problems unless they are directly related to my childhood. I’m not sure how this new strategy will work out but I am grateful for the fact that most of the sessions this week I wasn’t agitated and anxious. I felt more relaxed in therapy than I have for the last three months and that is refreshing.
I just found this in my draft folder when I thought I published it two days ago. It is a perfect example of how much I am struggling right now. I think I’m doing something to find out later I didn’t or I find things I did I can’t remember doing. Very frustrating…so from two days ago…
I’m sitting at work so anxious and afraid I feel sick. I can’t concentrate. I just keep checking the clock and watching my email. Why, I’m hoping for an email from M. I had an exhausting and over whelming session last week. When I left I was so dissociated I almost had two accidents, one when I forgot how to stop my car and the second where I walked across a street without noticing an oncoming car until it honked and braked. That was scary because my 13 year old daughter just followed me blindly into danger. I also had to leave a crowded school gym in the middle of a class performance when the song they were performing triggered a grief so overwhelming I couldn’t control the sobs. That all happened in the first 3 hours after the session ended. Since that session I’ve tried not to think about going back until now when I can’t stop thinking about it.
M decided to confront me directly about some of the most difficult things I’m struggling with right now. It has to do with the intimate relationship between me and my husband and the behaviour I disclosed to M about six weeks ago and talked about in this post . Since that disclosure I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotional behaviours from seeking constant reassurance from M to quitting therapy to seeing another T for a consult. I’ve closed down completely and haven’t been able to share my feelings about anything with my husband or M. I’m lurching from crisis to crisis and feeling like I’m drowning in memories and triggers and connections I’ve never made before between my childhood abuse and my behaviours and I’m deeply ashamed of myself. So ashamed that I can’t talk about it at all. During and after my sessions with M I’ve accused him of avoiding the topic because he was uncomfortable and I’ve looked for proof he wanted me to leave therapy. I’ve struggled to find a way to decrease my fear and anxiety enough to be able to talk to M about what is going on for me and we’ve talked about moving around during sessions, changing subjects more, discussing the feelings going on in my body but when I actually get into the session I freeze and don’t want to try anything different. I’m too afraid.
Last session I took in some games because playing games has always been an activity that has a lot of positive associations with me and doesn’t require too much attention so I can talk while doing it. My husband pointed out that some of our best conversations early in our relationship started while we were playing games. I took the games to my session but didn’t have the guts to ask M to play a game with me and instead he decided to address things head on, asking questions that I didn’t answer, talking about the fact that he didn’t think it was something to be ashamed of even though he knew that was how I felt, encouraging me to talk about it and explaining that it would be incredibly difficult to change things if I wasn’t willing to share what I was going through with my husband when I was intimate with him. I told him I couldn’t talk about it and I cried and I spaced out so I wasn’t always hearing what he said. At the end when I went to gather my stuff and leave I noticed the board games and was crushed by the awful chasm between what he talked about and the innocent kid games I had wanted to play. I managed to tell him about that and the sense I had that the difference between the innocent games and my disgusting behaviour was impossible to reconcile. He said he wasn’t disgusted by me both then and later by email but I don’t know if I can believe that and does it really matter because I’m disgusted by me and I spend much more time with myself.
There was a certain relief in the day or two after the session because at least we weren’t ignoring the elephant in the room but now the fear and dread as set in. I’m sure he is right and the only way through is talking about it with him and my husband but I’m not sure I have the courage for that. I had the courage to disclose it six weeks ago when I felt very close and supported by M and I could admit I needed help but that courage is very different from the kind of courage required to go back even when you don’t feel close and supported. I’m not sure I have the courage to live over and over with M knowing about me and I don’t know where anybody finds the courage to continue talking about the things that hide in the darkness of their soul. Over the last three and half years I’ve been inspired by many people I’ve never met through their stories on the internet and right now I’m in awe of the courage required to keep working through their shame instead of hiding away. I’m not sure what I’m going to do today and I know that I’ll have to keep choosing it day after day after day which brings me back to fear.
I’ve been incredibly busy lately and sick and tired. In some ways I’m detached from a lot of feelings right now. While some things in my life are going well and I’ve made a lot of progress others are completely stalled. I’m overeating constantly like I’m afraid if I stop all the food might disappear or I might have to feel something. I haven’t had sex with my husband in over a month and I’m much less afraid and triggered about my childhood so things are going smoother but I’m afraid I’m never going to be able to have sex again. Now matter what I do I can’t hold onto any positive feelings about M at all. I have sessions like last week where we talk about what isn’t working and what we can try in the future and then follow them up like today where we end up in the same pattern neither of us trying anything we discussed. I didn’t feel like talking about anything because I’m detached. M suggested maybe I’m afraid there is no hope of change so that is why I don’t want to talk about things. I think he is right but he thinks I’m talking about eating or sex and I’m really afraid there is no hope of therapy working. I’ve spent over three years learning to trust M and talk about difficult things and I’m finding out I’m wasting my time. Tonight I sent him an email that said “I want you to tell me to fuck off because this isn’t helping” and to make things worse I sent it to his home account when I usually only write to his office account. He didn’t answer but that is not a surprise. I wish I could do something helpful.