This Will Be Long & Painful

I was so angry on Wednesday. I’ve rounded out, a bit, and I am going to actively try to be vulnerable and present with A the next time I see her, next Wednesday.

The problem is that I am confused about all I’m feeling. I feel emotionally stuck in the past. Like I have one foot in the present, and one back then. The things in my day to day life are fine, good even. But I am angry and sad and scared and confused and grieving. I am lonely and hurting. But I’m not actually physically alone. The email dragged me backwards (I deleted it, by the way). 

I was really closed off last session. I was stuck in a lot of the limiting beliefs, in the narrative that my entire life has been. I didn’t even realize I was stuck there. And the therapy room and relationship represent the exact opposite of that to me. With A I have the ability to say no, to act how I feel, to trust myself. But I couldn’t access that safety on Wednesday – I didn’t want to go there and it didn’t feel safe. And A met me where I was at but also spent last session doing what felt like literal chipping away at that icy guard and frosty exterior with an ice pick despite my anger and resistance and defiance and literal eye rolling. And she would stop long enough for me to catch my breath before coming at it from a different angle. She couldn’t let my heart freeze.

And I was mad because it was fucking painful, even though it was a painful thing I needed. And I hated every minute of it. And I left frustrated – but what she had to say did sink in when I woke up the next day. With that centre part of me, that hole, completely open. I went to bed all restricted and angry and woke up just… open. Like you could shine a light through the centre of my body. And I remembered what she said… when I had been too upset to hear it the day before. She said something about her job being to help me trust myself. And she also said something about my needing to ground before I can move through this. And the next day, I felt like I could hear that message. I emailed to see if she was able to see me again (she wasn’t) because I was so worried that the openness and willingness to hear her was going to go away.

And it has, a little, I think it has to in order to help me cope with everyday life. The lemmings had to build a wall over the hole. But I have tried really hard to keep myself here, in this vulnerable place. At least partially. I’m fighting for it. I’m fighting to allow the grief hole to exist, to acknowledge that I feel stuck between two worlds. To acknowledge that the cruelty of that email brought so much back for me. To not dismiss emotions that do arise but kind of care for them as much as I am able. To hold myself in an adult space but not dismiss or bury this underlying current.

I have been trying to remember that A cares, that care is at the root of the work that she does. And I know that even though what she is asking me and encouraging me and coaxing me to do is painful to go through… the result is healing. And I can’t have the healing without the pain.

I wish I could have the healing without the pain. I truly believe A wishes I could have the healing without the pain too.

But that critical voice is back and is telling me A doesn’t care. That the situation isn’t bad enough to be reacting like this. But in reality the situation isn’t black and white. It isn’t all or nothing. And I know the only way through this is to sit with the emotions that hurt. I’ve been here before, afraid of the emotion and unwilling to deal with it and steeling myself for it. Pushing it away and being unable to cry. It feels like I’ve failed because I’m back in this space and it feels like regression… but therapy isn’t linear (thank you for that reminder, smile). And yes we’ve circled back but it was my brother’s email that brought me back here… and I never would have taken the steps to protect myself (and therefore never would have received his email) without being in this emotional place the first time around. So it can’t be regression. It’s progress. But shitty feeling progress.

His email… it did set me back. It feels like it’s put part of me back a decade… and it’s one of the reasons my brother has to be out of my life right now. Because every point of contact with him brings me back to this place – and we can’t have a relationship as long as that is a thing because I’m not capable of differentiating then from now yet. No matter what he says or does, even if it’s innocent, I end up with one foot here and one foot in a reality that doesn’t exist for me anymore. How do I heal or get stronger if I’m constantly being dragged back? I was at a point before Christmas where I felt like I was able to trust myself. And that vulnerable trust was shattered because I am not yet able to be myself or trust myself when faced with the harmful messages and narrative of the past. Or even faced with the reminder of them. There is no doubt that email was incredibly harsh, but I feel like all forms of contact were starting to be harmful regardless of content.

So here we are. I am behaving as adult like and perfect as I can at work in order to maintain the good life I have built. People are noticing and asking questions and I am keeping the walls up. But with A I am going to work on letting those emotions and that inner part of me have it’s say – to not judge my experience but be authentic with it, a la Rachel (you inspire me). And try my best to work with A and not against her. And I will give her full permission to remind me of this when I am resistant. Because his email triggered me into a very emotional place where I believe that she doesn’t care and that I’m not worthy. I am carrying so much emotional intensity from a time that is not this one… and that is really painful, and difficult to manage. It’s hard to rationalize feeling this way despite nothing being wrong in this moment.

So I need to remember that despite the pain being with A causes right now, that she cares about me because I’m me, not because of what I do or say or the severity of what I’ve been through. And I need to remember that this is safe, that the present day is safe. That she is safe and even though I may not feel safe that I am. And that even though it hurts, and what we talk about hurts, that it’s a healing kind of hurt. There is no doubt I need to work through the crazy amount of emotions this has brought up for me. And I am going to try my best to lean into all of that. But it’s hard, and it’s painful, and even though I don’t want to do this work, that’s usually a sign I need to do it the most. 

So I am going to try to make it to Wednesday as open as possible. And then I’m going to really work at showing up despite the intense resistance and the fact that I’m afraid. I know A cares. I know this is the right thing to be doing for myself right now. Even though I am in pain – I am grounded enough today to know that there is no way around that – this process involves opening up to pain that is excruciating and exceptionally difficult to bear but worth going through. And it can’t be hurried. 

We have come back around to a place where I have to be vulnerable and open and allow A to do her job. I have to work with her. And it can’t be rushed. And it’s terrifying, because it’s going to hurt. It hurts when someone probes at your innermost emotions and it’s worse that your job is to let them witness your pain. That frustrating session I remember her saying “you’re allowed to be mad at me for this. You’re allowed to be mad at me for the fact that this hurts right now. And I’m so sorry that healing hurts like this. If I had a magic pill I would give it to you.”

A has led me through this before, and she will again, and I will be okay. It’s going to be long, and it’s going to be painful, but I also have to believe that it’s going to be worth it. And each time, I will get stronger. And eventually I will heal as much as one can. 


14 thoughts on “This Will Be Long & Painful

  1. I have a question PD. And please, please know that this is not me being critical. or at least its not me trying to be, I want to understand. If I had been in your position, I would’ve just deleted the email. Can you help me understand why you couldn’t do that?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did smile and I laughed a bit. You have so much determination to work through this. I have no doubts that you can do it. Everything you wrote resonated with me after yesterday’s mess, a lot of it’s sticking even though I’m firmly planted in this resistance.
    One thing that stood out to me was how A said you needing to ground before moving through this. That was like exactly what my counselor said about doing the body work stuff and having to create that place of inner calm. So now I’m like… huh… interesting…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like to be like “hmm, my shoes are sticking to the ground here. That’s okay. Well, I can stand here and do nothing or I can take my shoes off and get into the muck.”

      I think I’m standing in my shoes and being unwilling to get dirty right now and I’m just going to accept that. And sit here. And eventually I’ll get tired of standing. But for now, until Wednesday, I’m going to honor the fact that this sucks. And allow myself to have resistance.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You will get there PD. Can I ask how you make yourself actively vulnerable? How do you give yourself permission to express those emotions?
    I guess that everything happens for a reason. I have had various family dramas (never anything major like the email from your brother) and they have been good material for therapy. Things to talk about, compartmentalise and learn from. This will make you fall apart but you will be stronger and learn from it. The pain is something you will have to go through first but A can hold that for you.
    H once said to me when I told her that I am scared to cry and face the emotions – ‘if a house was falling down what would you do? Would you try to put it back together or tear it down and rebuild it?’
    You have progressed a lot in what I consider to be a short amount of time. Keep going because you can do it x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course you can ask. I’m not sure my answer will be satisfying! I set an intention to be as present as possible and as active in the session as I can. Knowing, of course, that I can’t control all my defence mechanisms and coping strategies. And I usually ask A to point them out, and I tell her I want to do some difficult work (this usually translates to her probing more knowing that I want to be in the mess) and I resolve to not judge myself or my feelings in the session. I usually take three or four days before to set this intention and work at not closing off from my emotions. Does that make sense?

      Thank you for reminding me that A can hold that pain for me. Sometimes I worry about her and how she does it. Because taking on clients with attachment issues has to be so draining. But I know she takes care of herself and sets amazing boundaries.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is useful thanks! Although my next session won’t involve much talking. But if you’re pushing yourself so will I! I am the master of keeping it together and distracting from my emotions.
        She can. H told me last time that it’s a safe space to be totally honest. I think her husband was upstairs but that doesn’t bother me. It’s about us as the client. A will have dealt with her own issues and have professional supervision and personal self care all sorted.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes we need to distract from our emotions. Sometimes intense resistance is a sign that we need to stay safe and play it safe. So it’s a balance :). In the therapy room I find is the best place to push ourselves – and I’m so proud of you for really working at this. Our masterful strategies to not feel do serve a purpose and have served a purpose, but in healing they can feel restricting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t mind the resistance outside of therapy, but inside it needs to go! But it’s a protection thing preventing us from being overwhelmed.
        I could push myself alone but there would be no comfort in that. I need someone who can take care of me. Someone who won’t cry like my mum would and that’s not in an empathetic way. I don’t have to take care of H.
        Thanks PD. It’s just something that I have to do!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Therapy isn’t linear, sucks but so true. I’m amazed at how I think I’ll be done with a painful memory and then oops, surprise, it’s popped up and I’m a mess about it all over again. But maybe this newest time I am only a mess for two days instead of for a week. Progress… right?

    It does hurt, and it’s frustrating, and it’s discouraging sometimes. But being able to sit with it, to tolerate the emotions that arise, to be open to the experience instead of running for it, I do absolutely believe that is what transforms us. That and lovingly caring for ourselves.

    I’m here with you PD, and I’ll be reading and cheering for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, progress! I truly believe our brains are incredible things because they won’t emotions in we can’t handle. It’s why my experience is so fragmented and why I feel worse right now. Brain protects you from trauma, then reveals it to you when you can handle it. That’s what I hang on to in times like this.

      I absolutely agree that that is the transformative work that needs to happen – sitting there with them, letting emotions pass. And having them witnessed. I don’t think we can experience the same growth and in my case what feels like re-programming around my experience, without the intense witnessing of experiences that were so long dismissed.

      Thank you for being here Q, truly.


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