Tag Archives: Alone

Cold comfort

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In the weeks since DS announced he is closing his therapy practice and moving to another country, I’ve been trying my best to keep things together. Like a mantra, I tell myself it will be okay after August and that this is for the best. My husband, family and friends have been very supportive and collectively tell me everything happens for a reason and I will get over it. It feels like there is this expectation that I should be over it now because they have said their kind words and allowed me to vent. The publicly acceptable gap for mourning is closing.

And yet the pain is so fresh. I don’t WANT to lose DS. I don’t WANT him to be so far away and very possibly never see him again.

When the lights are out and the night silence opens the space for terror and isolation, I cling to my cow Daisy for dear life and wish all the pain inside away. I try to find sleep in the fetal position and wedge Daisy’s head between my chin and shoulder. Sometimes, the softness against my bare skin seems to work and I find myself calming down. Other times, I lay curled in the dark with my racing thoughts and sleeping husband, at times wiggling closer to his warm skin for comfort and desperately wishing I could share in his utter surrender to the world around our bed.

If DS knew how much this was affecting me, I wonder whether he would think it’s all because of the transference and therefore not as valid or real? It’s real to me but I still question my own experiences and perception. It feels like his departure is more than just a re-activation of abandonment and safety fears from my childhood. I’ve connected with him on a very mature level. I will miss the relationship we built together, his listening and empathy skills, and especially the small bits of “non-therapist him” that shone through.

Our session on Wednesday was so disjointed and I feel like such a loser. I so desperately want to connect with him and enjoy our sessions while we still have them. But instead I just felt so sad. Having him in front of me was the most painful reminder of everything that I am going to be missing.

I saw blue wrapping paper, or what looked like it, in his bin as I was throwing my tissues away. For all I know, it could have been an envelope but I imagined another client giving DS a parting gift and I felt so excluded. Other clients are merrily sharing happy, intimate, nostalgic or healing moments with him, processing things, and here I am, weak and unable to connect.

It feels impossible to show myself compassion right now. Instead, all I hear is: you are pathetic.

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What do I do now? (and why does DS feel so far away)

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For the last few months, my colleagues and I have been dealing with a highly uncertain situation in which our company was considering closing down. There were meetings in which very little was actually said. Most of us went on holiday in December without knowing for sure whether we would have some form of job security in the New Year. The most horrible part was the rumours. People in the industry seemed to know more about what was going to happen than we did. It was humiliating.

We eventually had a staff meeting on Thursday. A few of my colleagues and I tuned in via conference call after a stressful two hour delay. Our boss confirmed that our company was being liquidated and would shut its doors at the end of next month. It was like a punch to the gut. My belly twisted and turned as I heard the fear and anger in my colleagues’ questions.

The last few days have been weird. I have only cried for a few minutes. This is highly unusual as its usually the first thing that happens to ease internal pressure. I’ve felt lost, sad, angry, confused, tired, numb and sick. I’ve had blurry nightmares where I wake up without remembering what happened but feeling horrible and tired. Last night, my eyes shot open at 3.30am and I couldn’t fall asleep again. I usually sleep pretty well. My husband has been amazing and I don’t think it would have been possible to get out of bed if it weren’t for him.

The retrenchment has brought up all sorts of issues and questions. I am extremely sensitive to changes in my life and threats to security (You may say: well that’s life…full of surprises! While I realise that, I can’t change my fundamental sensitivity. I can only hope to work with it rather than against it). I don’t want to be a burden to my husband by relying on him if I can’t find a job. I loved my job and it was a big part of my identity and sense of accomplishment in life. How do I find a job that offers the same challenge and is also in line with my ideals and ethics? I guess I will have to find out.

The timing of the retrenchment coincides with confusing feelings about the therapeutic relationship. DS and I had a really weird session a week ago. I drew quite a few parallels between the transference and not feeling I was “good enough” for my dad. There were moments of insight and clarity as we chatted but the session was also painful. I can’t really remember the whole hour. It feels as though someone took an eraser and haphazardly worked on parts of my memory. What I can recall is sitting at the end of our session, feeling very out of sorts. Things felt fuzzy and I sunk into his couch, staring up at the ceiling. My whole body felt tingly and I floated about. I think I remember DS asking me a few times about what I was feeling in my body. It took a lot of effort to answer him. I just wanted to escape into the fuzziness. It felt so relaxing and inviting. Not sure what it was. And then I snapped back into my body when I realised I was running past our time. I am always very conscientious about keeping to time. I felt disorientated but told DS I was “fine” and got up. He said he would see me next week and I walked slowly out of there, putting my hand on the door frame to steady myself.

That bodily experience has never happened to me in therapy and I felt vulnerable and confused afterwards. I desperately hoped DS would e-mail or text to check in and see whether I was okay. He didn’t. That, and the fact that he let me walk out of his office in that state, makes me feel like he doesn’t really care. Like it’s just an illusion. I know therapists sometimes don’t make contact in these types of instances because they want the client to know they have faith in their self-soothing and coping capabilities. But I feel more alienated now. I don’t feel stronger.

As if that weren’t confusing enough, he said he would not be able to meet with me for our session next week because he is away. It was me who noted it was after the Valentines weekend. I immediately assumed that he must be in a relationship and going away with the one he loves. Not good for the transference feelings, especially abandonment, pining, anger and loss.

I guess it just feels like I have to do this alone because he won’t really be here for me during this very stressful time. Yes, he may meet with me an hour a week but whose to know if it really means anything.

Everything must eventually pass and on some level, I know this will be an opportunity for growth. It just feels so overwhelming.

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Love, loss and longing

 

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Love, loss and longing have flitted in and out of my consciousness the last two weeks. Without my therapist DS (Deep Soul)’s presence, I have been a little boat on a deep body of water, trying to navigate emotions snapping like ravenous piranhas under my belly.

Love…

My husband was a welcoming dock. Warm lips and kind words lubricated my bow. I gratefully lost myself in him. It was a temporary reprieve from the somewhat inexplicable sadness and confusion kicked up in the therapy room.

At the same time, my spirits were lifted by the week-long visit of an old university friend who has been like a sister to me. She recently went through an extremely difficult time in which she was admitted to a psych ward with depression and anxiety. I slipped into a familiar caregiving role with ease and focused on her wellbeing with all my might. I wanted her to know how much she was loved and appreciated. We spoke for hours on end and I took off time from work to treat her and show her around. Most importantly, I was a container for all the emotions she struggled to handle. When she criticized herself, I questioned her beliefs behind the criticism and softened the blow. When frustration threatened to crack her apart, I stood patiently beside her and held her hand. I took in all her sadness and despair and reflected love and acceptance back. I did this because she needed me. And this is the care I would have wanted from someone had I been in a dark pit with no way out. Perhaps mirroring a therapist’s containing care was unsustainable but I think the holiday did her a world of good and it offered an escape for me.

I also leaned in to our upstairs neighbour, her husband and their adorable 11-month-old son. We have recently became close and I’ve developed a strong bond with their boy, who lights up with a smile and holds out his tiny hands every time he sees me. The friendship has been a welcome breath of fresh air for both of us. You see, my neighbour has a busy and sometimes lonely schedule as a famous pop singer.

Loss…

Just as soon as our house was bustling and full of life, it emptied out. My husband left early this morning for a week-long business trip. A few hours later, I hugged my friend goodbye and watched as she left for back home. An empty house. The smell of the pancakes my friend made for a farewell dinner lingered in the air. I caught a whiff of my husband’s shampoo on our bedsheets.

Upstairs, I could hear my neighbour and her family packing for a month-long music tour overseas. They would be leaving before nightfall. Next door, I heard the sound of people packing up boxes and moving furniture out. It was the family of our elderly German neighbour who had come to move him into a retirement home. They painted over the oil splatters and smoke stains of a lonely man. They replaced the smell of neglect with the smell of paint and disinfectant.

The ache of loss dragged my stomach down.

Longing…

I long to be okay with everything I am feeling. I long to understand why I sometimes feel so unworthy and damaged. Why do I feel like the love and happiness I receive will just as surely be taken away from me if I enjoy it and attach to it too much? Why am I so hyper-vigilant about possible abandonment and perceived alienation? I wish I knew.

The week stretches before me. I am scared. But I also see a time to sit. To contemplate. To feel everything. Life is bittersweet and the universe has thrown me a bone to keep the scales in balance.

I saw DS again tonight after a series of interrupted sessions. I was not quite sure what to expect after our tempestuous session last time. The session helped sooth me a bit and prepare for the week and our future sessions. As always, my dream last week spoke louder than words:

I used a magical machine that gave me the option to warp to different places. I pressed a button and it warped me to a house on a hill in a posh housing estate. I was invisible because the machine had put an invisibility cloak over me. From the patio, I could see a pool as well as the rolling countryside over the high walls and electric fencing. I guessed this was either DS’s house or his family’s house. I stood at the bottom of the house and saw a family on a higher patio playing around and joking with each other at the table. They all had curly hair like DS, some brown like him and some blonde like me. I desperately sought DS because I needed to speak to him. I couldn’t find him and guessed he must have been inside a bedroom because he was sick. There was no way for me to get past the family because then I would have become visible. I had an aching sense of loneliness and separation looking at the family scene. There was an ornamental metal hippo sculpture next to me. I patted and stroked it lovingly while lost in thought and unsure of where to go next.

And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation (and reunion, I would add)… The Prophet by Kahil Gibran.

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The spoken pain of therapy

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I felt so disconnected from DS (my therapist Deep Soul) tonight and I’m in shock at what happened in our session.

This was the first time I had seen him in two weeks. Two weeks felt like two months with everything that’s happened. I told him how much I had missed him and how disappointed and abandoned I had felt by both my dad and him. Because he had been off twice on sick leave, I had also worried so much about his health and whether he was okay. As I sat there, there was a visceral feeling of panic and I shared that there was a part of me that was just waiting for him to announce that he was leaving me, whether by choice, sickness or something else. I was shaking and felt really alone in that room while he watched me trying to pull myself together. Eventually, I managed to stop shaking after I did a few breathing exercises and visualisation (which I initiated, not him). Nothing was spared in sharing my feelings with him as I know by now they can be vehicles for growth. I said my husband and the blogging community were a help during the time we had been apart. He acknowledged that it must have been difficult for me to feel both worry and abandonment and then he kept quiet.

The hills are alive with the sound of crickets…

For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling his attentiveness and care. He was reflecting back what I had said but there was an emptiness to it. It felt like this was his job. I was not a real person before him with real concerns. It was unsettling.

Thinking that we might get back on track again. I shared with him how I had recently discovered the concept of the inner child through blogging. I asked if it was okay to read the eye-opening conversation I had with this inner child by calling up my blog on my iPad. He said it was okay and I managed to read everything (after a lot of stopping, choking up and being asked what I was feeling).

Then he kept quiet. I asked what DS thought about the whole thing. He asked for clarity and I said I wanted to know what he made of the concept of the inner child. He seemed a bit confused and was frowning. My body language gear was in overdrive so his gestures felt really pronounced. My brain was telling me that he didn’t get it or he thought it was silly. He didn’t understand me. I battled through an explanation of my understanding of the inner child and what I felt it meant.

I told him I was struggling to feel connected to him like I had at our last session. The therapeutic connection had felt strong and trustworthy. Now it felt like I had imagined it. “I guess I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to feel that way about you now”. He didn’t say much at all. “When you don’t share your thoughts, I have to work out what’s going on in your mind. Your silence is provoking my anxiety, DS.” He nodded.

It just feels like you are not here for me when I need you now. This is how I have felt recently. It’s been so hard trying to deal with my feelings and emotions without you these last two weeks. I was doing my best to be my own therapist and it’s just so ironic that I finally have you in front of me and it feels like you are not here. It feels like I still have to battle it on my own.” Things were starting to feel like the time I had entered therapy last year… at that stage, I was wrapped up in a tightly-bound cocoon, a cage made up of strings I had cast to protect myself. This cocoon was built up because I had been cast out. Nobody had understood me. I felt like an alien, a weirdo, a reject.

When in doubt, pout, scream or shout…

“In my head, I have been thinking about what this time apart has meant for you. Have you thought about me at all? Did you think at any stage about what I was getting up to or how I was dealing with things coming my way? Or did it never even cross your mind?” Silence. “It scares me to think that I didn’t exist in your mental world even once. How can I sustain our therapeutic connection between sessions when I can so easily be replaced by other clients? It petrifies me to think you don’t care. Especially because you are going away next week and I will not have another session again for two weeks.”

When I was finished, DS said a few things slowly with an objective tone in his voice. I can’t remember it all but he was trying to connect the abandonment I had felt with my dad, with how I was feeling about him now. This was NOT the right time to bring that up. Doing so completely invalidated my feelings by reducing it to transference. I felt like he had minimised my concerns about the therapeutic relationship, and in so doing, had also minimised how he was contributing to what was happening.

He was not getting that this conversation was SPECIFICALLY about needing him to be a good therapeutic person I could trust and knew had some inkling of care for me. I needed him to show me what it was like to be comfortable with emotions in a way that still respected boundaries. This was the only way I would be able to heal through therapy.

“I’m disappointed that you are using your therapeutic voice on me. This is not the time for that. I feel like you are hiding behind it. I can’t detect any emotion or care in your voice. I need to feel that you actually give a crap” (Okay, I wish I had thought of the last line at the time but was a bit too overwhelmed by my emotions).

All he said was: “I understand this one-sided therapy relationship must be painful for you.”

Replace any witty heading here with: what the actual FUCK…

Well, what a way to make me feel safe and secure. Not. That line only served to fuel my paranoid thoughts that he really doesn’t seem to care. I had opened my heart to truly express just how much pain I was in and that this was THE time, if any, to be authentic and show up too.

“Okay, so I’m hearing that you don’t really care? I’m disappointed. To be honest, I’m actually really hurt.” At that point, I gave up the brave front I had been putting on to try get somewhere and broke down into a heaving pile of a mess on his couch. With every bawl it felt like a piece of my heart was clunking onto the floor.

To add to it all, I was completely ashamed to be so emotional in front of him without a safety net of trust and concern. I hid my face and probably would have felt more at home in a dung beetle’s hole.

After what seemed like an eternity, he again reflected stuff in his objective voice because our time was up. I honestly couldn’t stomach any of it given that this was precisely what I felt I didn’t need in that moment.

With that we said our goodbyes for the evening and I exited his office with more sniffs and tears. I don’t know what the hell happened tonight but I feel numb. It’s so hard for me to find self-compassion at a time when this man who has become an attachment figure is not attuned. My inner child has also gone into hiding.

I just feel so much pain now.

EDIT: In hindsight I can see that he is offering me a form of care but it doesn’t make the pain feel less and I still completely confused!

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