Today was a better day than yesterday. It was easier to stay sober today until after my appointment with A, but that feeling only lasted for about an hour. She had just given me a high five for not drinking too, so I was extra motivated.
Before she goes on vacation I’m always thinking a wide variety of things. I am always dealing with thoughts from a side of me that is younger and still believes the abandonment narrative. So I wrote this:
These thoughts keep running rampant, which they do when you leave:
– I not going to try to connect if she’s just leaving
– how DARE she leave me
– if she leaves she doesn’t care about me
– her offer to connect wasn’t real, it was just to placate me
– I must be doing something wrong If I’m on my best behaviour she won’t leave
– if I express any of this her care will go away.
Feels like it’s definitely coming from a really young and vulnerable place.”
I showed up intending to discuss these things with her. Usually I do the fifth one and ‘behave’, occasionally I’m snarky and passive aggressive.
But I also had an extra copy of The Emotionally Absent Mother which I brought for her to read on vacation. I had tested the waters the week prior and she said she would love to read it, so first I gave it to her. I didn’t want to forget. She seemed really excited to read it, we share a love for studying psychology and we talked about it a bit, she asked what I liked about it, I told her there were some parts I wanted to address with her, to talk about together. She told me she is probably going to start it while she’s on holiday. I told her I liked that, made me feel connected.
I then brought up the feelings and thought I’d been having around her vacation. I read it to her, and she asked which I was most feeling, and where I felt it. Part of me was still on my best behaviour so I actually tried to feel into things today.
She was very happy with me showing up with the intention to talk about my feelings around her vacation. She said it was very skillful. At one point I kept saying things like “it’s not fair that I’m upset about your vacation when adult me knows how much it matters” and she was like “true, but the adult part of you doesn’t need me right now – you don’t need to worry about disclaiming your feelings. I know you know I deserve a vacation and I know you appreciate my boundaries, you don’t need to tell me that. It’s the younger parts of you who need me right now, who see me as a safe harbor and that safe harbor is leaving and the story of that has never gone well for them so they’re assuming the same of me.” And I nodded, and talked a little about what being left feels like. She continued, very gently, her tone was so gentle today (as if she was talking to a child) “my guess is whenever an adult left you split yourself off so you didn’t have to feel what was probably incredible pain. Our goal is to not do that here, but over time convince all of you it’s safe to share those feelings, that you’re cared for and loved simply for who you are. We don’t want to overwhelm your system, but we slowly need to learn how to experience that hurt and pain instead of disassociating. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt but it will hurt less over time and we will be better able to soothe these parts that get mad when I leave.”
I kept lamenting that I just expect her to leave, and it was a bit of me talking myself in circles. And then she was like “but that makes me feel unseen, and I don’t say that to make you feel guilty, it makes sense you see it that way, but that is not the story here.”
And I was like “ya but if I see the real story, the one where you are coming back, and the one where you are here, I feel like I’m betraying my mom, and it brings up that grief.” She asked me what it felt like and I said “an icky pool of black stickiness, like I’m covered in black sticky goo that is going to suffocate me.” Which she was relatively impressed at, because my usual answer is “I don’t know. I hate feelings.”
And then I told her that the picture in my head of my relationship with my mom, the picture of the cover on my children’s book of traumatic instances (and I can’t see it from within myself, only from the third person) is one where my brother has attempted suicide and I’m standing all alone in the kitchen and they’ve all left me there by myself to go to the hospital.
And then she said “what if I were to put myself in that picture.” She has suggested this before with other traumatic memories, and I have previously been very resistant. I wonder if my openness at sharing and my attempts at describing my feelings (as opposed to the normal resistance) sent her a signal it was ok to try again (and damn, she knows JUST how far to push me, its really impressive). “Just try..” she said at my protests. “Where would I be.” And I was like “I don’t know.” And she was like “sitting at the table?” And I was like “no, that’s wrong. You’re standing.” And she said, “so you can picture me. That’s good. Am I close to you?” And I said yes. And she said, “you’re there, feeling shock? Sadness?” and I said “I’m numb. I don’t have feelings about this, at least that I can access.” And she said “okay, thats okay, so you and I are in the kitchen and we exchange a glance of ‘what the fuck just happened’ – can you see that?” She made a face – and I was like, “yeah.” And she was like, “and then I envelope you in the biggest hug. The biggest hug. And I don’t let go until you’re ready.” And I opened my mouth to say that I would be getting blood on her and she said (before I said anything) “I don’t care that there’s blood on me. That’s not what matters right now.” And I closed my mouth. “And I tell you you’re safe, and I’m there, and my job is to make sure you’re okay, and to love you. And I am staying the whole night, and we will debrief as much as you want, or not talk about it at all.” I could picture it. It was very confusing for my brain, but I could picture it.
I started to cry and literally cried out “that’s what I needed!” And she’s like “I know, I know.” And I kept crying, and her voice was even lower and even more soothing and she was like “its so hard I know but sit with these feelings, I’m here, the goal is to stay present” and so then I cried and eventually kind of grounded myself (which, like, what? I honestly thought we would have to stop there). She let me do it on my own, carefully watching me, but realized I was ok and gently continued with “so what would we do next, you and I. We’d get some clean clothes, and then what?” And I said we would go to the park. And swing, cause I always liked to do that. And she asked “would we talk or be silent, what would you need.” And I said “I don’t know” and she said “what time of year is it? Is it snowing?” And I said “no, we wouldn’t be at the park if it was snowing! I hate snow!” Which made her chuckle. “Okay, so we are talking but also silent. And how are you feeling” and I had to think. I had to think really hard. I don’t think it has ever felt safe to ask myself that before. I said, tentatively, when it popped into my head, “worried, but not about my brother. I’m worried it’s my fault.” And she said “ok. So you are worried about getting in trouble. I would sit there and tell you that it’s absolutely not your fault, and that a lot has happened tonight, and that my job is to look after you, and your feelings.”
And then I cried again, and looked at her, she was leaning towards me. And I said “I have cried three sessions in a row now.” And she said with a smile “I am getting good at this! I am very proud of you for staying so connected.”
I then asked – like a little kid – “you’re coming back right?” And she said “yes“. And I said “and I can reach out?” And she said “yes, and it doesn’t have to be an emergency.” And I said “I could ask you those questions 1000x and still not believe them.” And she said “I’m coming home. And you can reach out if you need connection.” And I said “promise?” And she, without any sense of irritation, said “promise.”
And then she said “will you be here when I get home?” And I said “yes, I will.” Which I really liked. I liked that she showed she cared if I was around too. Made me feel less needy.
And that was that.
I really am glad I have A.
Day four, done.