Failure and avoidance

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks which is unusual for me. I think it’s party because I am putting my energy into getting through each day which involves trying to avoid the anxiety and stuff the emotions down. Life feels so overwhelming. I am constantly trying to keep functioning and not have a breakdown. I have been reading posts, but I have struggled to know what to say in support. My words never come out in the way that I want them to.

I’m fairly certain that I am going to lose my job, but my brain is still not capable of letting me do what is good for me to prevent that from happening. I struggle to see the light when I realise that I was born a fuck-up and will always be one. I don’t see the point in living if I will forever be fucking things up. The shame is enough to kill me. I’m too ashamed to go into more detail even here because there are many people who hold down jobs whilst managing their mental illness. I should be able to do that. I think that I have been given more than most of you in the way of functioning ability in everyday life.

This reminds me of one of my aunties. I think that she has lost a few jobs in her time. I have always been given the impression by my parents that she is too much. My dad once said that in a not so direct way. He has no tolerance for her really. He says that she is too emotional and high maintenance. They’re not close at all. She is the same age as my therapist strangely. His attitude is shit if you consider the fact that her ex husband was abusing her when her eldest daughter was just a toddler I think. Her daughters are also more securely attached than my brother and I. They seem to be anyway. It’s such a subtle thing, but I guess it is part of the reason why I have learned that it’s not acceptable or normal to cry.  He openly mocked my auntie’s for crying at my uncle’s wedding. I don’t know him at all. He is so closed off. We don’t have a connection. I think that we’re very different in a way that I don’t show him.

I went out for a meal with my family on Saturday. There was about 22 of us. My nephews were a little off at first and that unsettled me. They seemed quite shy which is unusual for them. They are quite sociable little boys. I guess it’s because they don’t know the majority of our extended family. We are spread out all over the country really so we don’t see each other that often. We also don’t visit each other in the way that my sister in law’s family do. There was also a bit of trouble with the service at the restaurant and it escalated. I could feel the tension in the air which I could feel generally anyway. I don’t feel a connection to any of my family. I find these events quite fake even though my family is probably only mildly dysfunctional compared to that of some of you.

I got an email from my therapist last Thursday – the 29/11 . She said that she ‘had remembered’ me saying in my journal that I had gone out the  Saturday before despite the anxiety and that it is something to be proud of. That statement made me wonder (hope) that she had been randomly thinking about me whilst she was going about her day. In reality, she had probably just read it in my journal. I’m not complaining about her emailing me of course! I’m really grateful that she has managed to email me every week so far. It helps me to feel like she is still there, but her support makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m still hoping that the weather will work in my favour and I will be able to get to my session on the 12th. I wrote this paragraph last weekend and haven’t had an email from her this week. That doesn’t bother me because I am only a few days away from seeing her. That is what I am trying to hold in mind anyway.

I think that I have been able to stuff my emotions down for the past few weeks, but now they are back. That may be in anticipation of seeing T though. I don’t feel like I can settle at the moment – not that I have ever really felt settled. I also find Christmas to be super draining. Trying to work out what to buy for people and being more sociable than I would usually be. I just enjoy the enforced time off work. Next weekend will be busy and social so I’m hoping that my session will enable me to get through that. Being able to connect to someone and be heard will hopefully ground me – or break me down! The emotions are still scary to me. I have no idea how to deal with all of my feelings without being in T’s house way after my session has finished. Today, I am tempted to cancel the session because I don’t feel worthy enough. How can she be nice to someone who is such a fuck-up?

This post is a bit all over the place, but so am I.

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The long term effects of childhood trauma

I’m always a bit reluctant to post things like this because I wonder if it is like I am teaching my Grandmother to suck eggs as they say. I know that a lot of us are good intellectualising therapy! But I found this video about childhood trauma quite useful and interesting.

 

Kati has a YouTube channel about mental health, but I thnk Dr Alexa is great. She explains things really well. They have done a few other videos about trauma together.

The part about generational trauma is interesting to me. It made me wonder if my dad’s reaction to losing his sister has been passed down. Although, I think it is more in his behaviour than anything and that isn’t specifically what they are saying. My dad is totally shut down in terms of emotions and feelings. Unless it suits him.

It’s also interesting that Alexa mentions that we may look for the things we are not getting in others. It’s something that I mentioned recently about attaching to female teachers and wishing that other women were my mother. I didn’t know why I was seeking a female role model at the time. I’m not saying that I have experienced trauma at all, but I guess I am intrigued as to why I struggle the way I do. I’m not big on labels, but it’s hard to not have an identity and also not be able to explain why. On the surface I have had the perfect life, apart from the divorce. It’s very confusing.

As an update, I received an email from my therapist yesterday evening just before 7pm. I was surprised, but she seems to have made sure that she made time somewhere. I was relieved as you can imagine. It doesn’t really stop the emotional overwhelm, but it’s reassuring to know that she is still there waiting in the wings for me. I also understand why the fact that it’s not a predictable check in concerns some of you. I do think that she would do it at the same time each week if she was able to. The majority of her clients are short term so I imagine that she may have a session one week that wasn’t previously booked because she is dealing with client enquiries. She doesn’t have the same schedule each week as some therapists might do. A therapist who spends all day in front of a computer isn’t seeing clients! I have been writing thoughts and feeling down as they come up to take to my session.

I did leave the house today afterall. I took my headphones and listened to a Brene Brown podcast on the train. Anxiety is exhausting and I feel quite low, and lonely tonight. There has been some conversation on the family Whatsapp group that we have tonight, but I still feel alone and in need of the connection with T. I feel bad and ungrateful for that. The need for T feels very primal though. I don’t really feel like any validation from my family as an adult will fill that hole – rightly or wrongly. It’s also not validation that is coming from my parents.

The only way out feels like through all of this grief. Ugh.

 

Anxiety 1 – Me 0

My plans for today were to do some Christmas shopping. My mum is away and I am busy every weekend in December except the weekend before Christmas, and I don’t want to leave it until the last minute. I also wanted to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. A lot of people on social media seem very smug about not buying anything. I don’t know why. They must have loads of money!

Anyway, it’s 2pm and I still haven’t left the house. I feel so anxious. I leave the house alone to go to work because that’s what I have to do, but socially it makes me so anxious. I know that there is no threat but I feel very self conscious. I worry about being overwhelmed and falling apart in public.

I did a bit of shopping last night after work and the shop assistants talking to me made me feel awkward. I don’t know why they are doing that. Christmas sales targets maybe.

I am trying to reason with myself. I could go and get what I wanted and see how I feel. Although that involves trying on something and asking for sizes. Yikes. If I want to come home afterwards, I can do. I at least want to get my mum’s present whilst she isn’t here too though.

Ugh, anxiety sucks. Giving in now will lead to more stress in a few weeks. Deep breath – headphones in.

Longing

I have felt paralysed by anxiety for well over a week now.

Yesterday morning, I was hit with the intense longing to be in the safety of the the therapy room with T. It won’t go away. She hasn’t yet emailed me as part of our check-in. I can feel the abandonment anxiety starting to grasp hold. I understand why she might not email me every week because she was open about that in our last session. I am trying to remind myself that the intention is there, but it may not be possible for her to do it. It’s still incredibly difficult though.

The National Park that I have to drive through to get to T’s had it’s first snow this week which makes me nervous about whether that will happen in a few weeks. I know that the Canadians laughed at us Brits earlier this year during the ‘Beast from the East’, but our infrastructure is not equipped for snow!

I just feel totally exhausted by life. I feel all of these emotions for a reason, but trying to hold down a job at the same time is draining me at the moment. I’m not expecting anything from T this week now and I know that you’re probably all bored of reading the same thing in this blog all the time. It’s the only place that I have to express myself.

Please refrain from telling me that I should have weekly sessions. It’s not possible at the moment. I am aware of the position that I am putting myself in, but I am choosing to stay with my current therapist.

Barriers

I am hurting at the moment. There is a cavern inside of me.

I spent Monday paralysed by anxiety. I just couldn’t think straight because I was just so worried about everything. Trying to appear calm and in control has the opposite affect.

Work is just draining. I know that a lot of us have to do it, but I feel like I have to put on an act. I have to have it together. Being human is not acceptable. We have to get everything correct the first time. The people that I am dealing with are very unforgiving.

I have spent last few days trying to remind myself that T knows how important this relationship is. But also that I need to protect her and in telling me basically not to email her, she is protecting herself too. Despite telling another blogger that I don’t care if she responds to clarify her words at the end of last week’s session – I do care.

I hate myself for needing her knowing that she doesn’t want to be there. I understand boundaries, but I feel like she is putting up barriers to protect herself from me. Some people can text and email their therapist whenever they like. I knew that she would end up hating me eventually. I just hate myself so much. I feel like such a bad person.

I have no idea what is going on or why I really feel this way. The last session triggering grief perhaps – I don’t know. I need to know that she is still there waiting.

Therapy boundaries – stream of consciousness

This post is a stream of consciousness because my brain and body feel full at the moment. Full of thoughts and emotions. Not much of a change from the norm really.

I was out with my mum yesterday and she was texting one of her friends about going out on Saturday night. Said friend said that she couldn’t because she’d had a bad night with her son who had been up all night drinking. Said son has bipolar disorder and only has rare periods of time where he is settled and functioning. I have never met him so I don’t know if he takes his medication or not. There are people with bipolar who do take their meds and still aren’t able to settle and their moods are constantly changing. My mum commented that her friend is turning into a recluse and she shouldn’t. My mum has a short memory. Up until four years ago, she was drinking heavily and struggled with leaving her in case something happened to her. She is very judgemental of this guy. He apparently saw a psychologist who advised him that his upbringing is one of the causes of his poor mental health. My mum disagreed with this. I know that she is supporting her friend, but she has very little understanding of mental illness. Maybe he just isn’t a great person, but I try to see the best in people. Said friend is lovely and seems to love both of her children so I can’t comment. She is divorced though and her ex is pretty useless so growing up without a constant, reliable father figure may be a contributing factor. My mum and I just don’t connect at all.

I am feeling unsettled at the moment. I am reading about therapy boundaries in an attempt to work out if I have done something wrong. Why else would T remind me that we can’t continuously email back and forth even though we don’t? Or at least I don’t think we do. It’s an obvious boundary that I thought I was obeying. Unless it comes from some guilt of not being available even though she’s not supposed to be available in between sessions anyway. Not that I want her to feel guilty. I highly doubt that is the reason. Although with the digital age, therapists are more available than they would have been 20 years ago. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t want her to be more available to me – of course I do. It’s not going to happen though.

The main thing that she said was that ‘words can be misinterpreted’. I agree with that and I have a tendency to assume that she is being negative in emails because I just expect it. I suppose I’m just intrigued to know why she said it. It was a bolt from the blue and I was just about to walk out of her house after my session. I guess that a lot of our boundaries have been unspoken up until this point. The abandonment anxiety means that I fear being too much even though I only see her once a month so I consciously don’t contact her unless I am emailing my journal as agreed. I don’t want her to burn out or resent me. I like to think that I do a lot of work outside of sessions to make the sessions worthwhile and productive.

Although we would probably get along well as friends, she is very professional and very passionate about ethics. If either of us crossed the boundaries, I would lose a therapist. I wouldn’t gain a friend. I recently read another blogger state that she hates it when people say that everything happens for a reason because of the shit that people have been through. But I do try to think that the only reason for the disastrous and damaging relationship with her sister in law was to lead me to T.

In a way, I also understand the need that a lot of bloggers have for their therapist to be their mother. I mean besides the obvious fact that their mother is rubbish. The attunement and validation from a therapist is addictive really. My mother is better than most of the ones that I read about, but still falls short of ideal. I feel guilty for saying that though.

I was often drawn to female teachers in high school and I never understood why. I wasn’t attracted to them physically, although I have questioned that since starting therapy and realised that it’s not the case. I think that I was looking to them to help me to find an identity. They were usually about the age that I am now – early thirties so younger than my own mother. As a side note, I assumed that T was in her late thirties when I started seeing her, but she was actually in her mid-forties. Subconscious wish perhaps? She looks fab for her age though to be fair. Anyway, I don’t think that these teachers always came across as being confident or self-assured, but I was just drawn to them. None of the other girls in my year were this way with teachers so I felt weird. Teenagers are pushing boundaries and trying to figure out who they are. They need guidance and reassurance. I wasn’t a typical teenager. I wasn’t allowed to go and hang around on the streets when I was 14 because my parents wouldn’t let me. I wasn’t getting the guidance and reassurance at home nor was I getting the opportunity to push boundaries and makes mistakes.

I also used to wish that my friends mothers were my mother. I remember once writing in a notebook that my friends mother, they were our neighbours at the time, was ‘starting to treat us more like adults’. I don’t remember if I specifically used the word ‘adult’, but it suggests a need for respect and recognition perhaps? I don’t know. It’s just interesting to me now. I think that I was about 11 at the time.

I don’t view T as a maternal figure, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the fact that she isn’t a mother herself. She just doesn’t respond to me in that way. Part of me wants to ask her if she has been in therapy and if she has always been the serene, positive person that she is today. I don’t know if she would answer the questions though and I think that the answer is likely to be no. Losing her mother at 8/9 years old and growing up with a woman she describes as the ‘evil stepmother’ – quite likely to have been in therapy at some point.

I have read in blog posts recently about ‘splitting’ and have wondered if I experience this. My assumption from T’s comment at the end of my session is that I have done something wrong. I have been bad. I am always either bad or good. There is no in between. I am not a person who makes mistakes. I am bad and a failure. My parents are also vague so that’s probably why I am shit with boundaries.

I think that I have felt connected to T from quite early on, but I wasn’t consciously aware of it so I didn’t outwardly express it.  I didn’t really say anything of any therapeutic benefit and would talk about things in the present. I couldn’t feel any sort of emotion at all. I could have stopped therapy completely many years ago, but something must have kept me going back and I don’t think it was attachment. She has recently commented that I talk more in sessions now than I have for the majority of the sessions. I guess I need her more now because I am aware of those unmet needs. It just sucks that I can’t see her more often and at the time when I could see her weekly, I was too numb to work with all of this vulnerability and grief.

Now that I think about that conversation again, I wonder if I have triggered T in some way. Maybe I don’t give her enough head space in between sessions. Maybe she feels manipulated. I feel like she told me that it was safe to come close and then pushed me away again – push and pull. It reinforces the image I have of my therapist contacting her supervisor after our sessions and asking what she is supposed to do with me. The supervisor advises her to reinforce the boundaries to cover herself.

Anyway, this post has gone off in all sort of random directions. Anxiety is off the scale today. I feel like I could be popped like a balloon.

Too good to be true

I had therapy on Wednesday. It was mostly positive. I partly resisted the urge to text her to confirm the session because I was so anxious, but was also too busy at work to do it in the end.

I sat down and she asked if I had anything to read because she didn’t want to forget once she gets in ‘the zone’ as she said. I said no and she asked if there was anything important that I wanted to start with. I said that I had struggled with abandonment and huge anxiety as a result. I didn’t feel able to explain that it was mainly due to the missing emails. I know I said that I would, but it’s so hard. I struggle with the idea that I’m not criticising her.

She asked who I thought would abandon me – ‘you mainly’ was my answer. She asked if I meant personally or professionally.

‘Both. After what happened with C, it feels inevitable.’

‘Why?’

Because they have to or I’m too much. I understand why it went wrong with C, but instead of just telling me, she was nasty. She said that I was incapable of changing – maybe she is right.’

‘Unless I win the lottery, I won’t be giving up work! I have to work. I also don’t plan to get another job because I like doing this job. It would also say more about me than you if I was to abandon you professionally. I know how important this relationship is.’

It’s really important to hear her say that because I don’t say it to her directly. I explained that I know that she only has as much control over her personal life as anyone else does and that I had worked hard to rationalise these thoughts, but it’s tough to argue with anxiety. There’s obviously not a lot that she can say to that. I also explained that the abandonment fear is probably because of the way that my dad left. I am always expecting a shock and to be left with no warning.

‘The fact that you are attaching events from the past to our relationship indicates that you trust me. I’m not offended by any of this. You know that you can’t change the past, but we can work through this.’

I talked about how draining I find general life at the moment. As an introvert, having to talk all day on the phone at work is exhausting as well as dealing with the anxiety. She talked about the physiology of stress and anxiety which generally makes me feel less crazy. She also asked if I was eating enough because of the energy that the stress will burn. Not something that I expected her to say.

She discussed how I could have a statement to say to myself when the abandonment anxiety hits – such as ‘H respects and values me. Our sessions will continue.’ Something along those lines anyway. I can’t remember what she said exactly. My eyes started to feel hot and she asked why. I explained that it seemed to be triggering emotions because I have never heard those words before and so directly. I think that I started to dissociate because everything started to go white and I had to fight to stay present. I felt like I was drifting off.

She asked if there was anything else and I mentioned the fact that I struggle to know what to say to my nephews, and if I’m giving them enough. We talked about them playing and she told me to sit on the floor with her. I’m not sure what the purpose was other than the fact that is where a lot of children play. She talked about my role as an auntie and that I’m not solely and primarily responsible for their mental wellbeing. I guess we have something in common because she isn’t a mother, but she is also an auntie.

We then moved onto the hypnosis part of the session.

Afterwards she apologised for only sending two out of the five emails she was supposed to send. I didn’t explain the impact it had me because we were more or less out of time. She said that work just gets so crazy. Well, she did the hand action to imply that. A lot of her clients are short term so I imagine that is dealing with enquires a lot of the time. She probably doesn’t have as set a schedule like a therapist with long term clients does. That’s why I know that it’s not something that she can schedule because a week later, she could be in a session with a new client. Although she said that she hates excuses because there are no excuses. I should probably try to take comfort in the fact that the intention was there. She said that she will try to send email me. I guess it makes things a bit clearer.

We booked the next session which is another five week gap. It was either now or five weeks between the December and January sessions and I find both of those months particularly difficult. She also said that rather than cancelling the session if it’s snows, we can do the session over Skype or WhatsApp. My laptop has a camera, but I don’t know how to get it working. I don’t fancy having to hold my phone in my hand for a while. I think she has a MacBook too so she can get WhatsApp on that. I’ll have to see if I can get the camera working on my laptop. I’d rather not have to do a Skype session though.

Lastly, as we were at her front door, she said that I can email her if I need to but to be conscious that she might not respond. Fair enough. If it’s about the session she will respond. She said this is because she shouldn’t enter into a back and forth conversation with me over email. I get that, but I have never tried to get her to do that.

She mentioned in an email last week that something in my journal was cryptic and also mentioned the cryptic Facebook statuses in relation to a friend from many years ago. She also once said that she thought I was dropping hints in my journal in the hope that she would ask me about it. Not that I am consciously aware of anyway.

I feel wounded. Like she is accusing me of trying to draw her into a conversation over email by being cryptic. That is basically a formal way of defining attention seeking. I wasn’t aware that I was being cryptic, just saving the vulnerable stuff for the session. I probably was attention seeking on Facebook, but that’s because I needed the attention. I’m struggling with how all of that links up – in my head anyway. I feel a lot of shame about how I behaved all those years ago, but I was desperate for reassurance.

She may be trying to set a boundary, but that boundary is already set in my head. Ugh, I feel so shit about this. It’s difficult not to feel like I have done something wrong. Maybe the connection and validation feel too good to be true and I have to find something to feel bad about. It’s difficult to see how I deserve the validation. Someone thinking that I am manipulative triggers a lot of shame and just makes me hate myself.

She met me where I am, but the way that it ended has thrown me. I’m rubbish with anger, but the need to defend myself is strong. She likes to think that she is direct, but not always. I needed her to explain why she was saying that and if I have actually overstepped a boundary. I don’t object to the boundary, but I think that it’s hard to hear her say it. I know that a therapist telling you that you can contact them all the time is not healthy and I would never expect that of her.

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I can’t stop thinking about that last conversation. Planning to defend myself which I find easier to do over email than in person.