I was only home for two days this week. On Monday night I returned from Frankfurt, and then on Thursday morning I left for a work trip to Paris. The German trip was a family thing, which was unsurprisingly exhausting. I was emotionally wrecked when I returned.
Anticipating that I might feel this way, I’d booked the day off work on Tuesday. I also arranged to have some reflexology in the morning. This is something I am trying to do on a weekly basis for a while, as the woman doing the treatment thinks my body could do with a course of it. Plus, I enjoy it. It’s a very nurturing experience and leaves me feeling really calm.
In my session this week, she worked on helping me shift stuff I am holding on to. There were several moments when whatever she was doing to my feet was bringing up enormous sadness for me. I get panicked about crying in front of people. She sensed that I was feeling this way and tried to get me to breathe into it so I could let it go. I did the breathing, but I couldn’t exhale the emotion. It’s appears that I am clinging to it at all costs.
Later in the session, I had the strangest experience. She was just lightly stroking the outer side of my left foot. It felt soothing and nurturing. What was odd, was that I had this overwhelming sense of being a tiny baby having my back stroked. I really felt as though that’s where I was in that moment. It was a beautiful, comforting feeling.
After that session I had my usual therapy appointment with J. I arrived full of sadness. It was difficult to know where to begin explaining to her about my time away with my mum and sister. I guess the summary was that the trip left me feeling sad. Sad that I couldn’t enjoy the company of people I love. Sad that they don’t want to know what’s going on for me. Sad that my inability to connect with them probably spoiled their time together. Sad because I want to be close to them but I just don’t know how.
Talking to J about all of this didn’t make it feel any better. I left my session formulating suicide plans. Discussing what happened led me to the conclusion that I was just in the way of everyone else’s happiness. I decided now would be a good time to end my life, before my niece is born. So they can all focus on the joy in their lives without me dragging them down.
In response, J asked me to sit with the sadness. She asked me to be patient with how it feels, and reminded me that it would pass if I gave it the chance. I hate it when she says that kind of thing. It seems like such an easy thing to say when you’re not the one who has to live and breathe that misery. It feels unsympathetic.
On Wednesday I didn’t feel a lot better. And early in my session, J asked for my weekly weigh in and whether I’d been eating any better. She knew this would annoy me, but it’s something I’ve agreed to, so I complied. I told her I put on a pound while I was in Germany. I hated knowing that she would be happy about this, when I am really not.
J asked more questions about food; what my plan is, when I’ll stop, what I’m trying to achieve, etc. The same stuff I couldn’t really answer last time she asked it. All I could tell her is that I want my outside to match my inside. Which wasn’t a very eloquent explanation.
She then said she wanted to share her thoughts on it, and how it feels to her. She suggested that it’s coming from a punitive part of me. For a moment, I could agree, because I know I punish myself all the time. But she went on to explain that it feels like I am punishing her. She said she thinks that part of me wants her to feel helpless and powerless, just like I did when I was small. She told me she thinks I need her to really see what I am doing to myself.
Continuing the hypothesis, J told me she believes this is because I want my mum to feel those things. I want my mum to notice my suffering. I want her to feel punished for ignoring me. And to experience the incredible helplessness I felt and she ignored when I was a little girl. She talked about how furious I must be with my mum; for not protecting me, not seeing my suffering, not reaching out to help.
I didn’t enjoy hearing this. I felt defensive. I felt as though J was accusing me of being manipulative. And I don’t want to see myself as someone who punishes people. I said that I don’t feel like I am punishing anyone but myself. J replied with that tired thing us self-loathers always hate to hear – about how punishing yourself also punishes the people who love you.
What she’d said made me angry. And defensive. So clearly something in it resonated. After that, I suddenly dropped into a horrible dissociated place. Talking about my mum letting me down seemed to suck me into the painful memory of the day she walked into my room and witnessed my brother abusing me. That’s the worst memory of them all. It’s agony. I see how she looked at me and abandoned me there, and I feel what it felt like to be left alone. I still feel that wrench of knowing nothing would ever be the same.
I can’t articulate that feeling at all. I can’t describe the scene in any coherent way. I wrote a poem about it to try and shift some of what I was left with when I got home from my session. It helped a little. But I had a serious emotional hangover.
This morning I felt terrible because I knew I wouldn’t be able to process that stuff any further until next week. Usually I have a session with J on a Thursday, but today I had to travel to France so it wasn’t possible. That means being stuck with the feelings about the memory, and about what J said, for five more days.
I feel totally disconnected from J, and it’s left me craving contact with her. I thought about sending a text or an email earlier, but I don’t want to bother her when it isn’t anything important. I just wish I could shake this desperate need for reassurance.
The last thing I wanted to do today was spend time out in the world on my own. I didn’t even want to leave the house. So the prospect of airports and trains and hotels filled me with dread. And it was gruelling. The trip from home to the hotel in Paris took 7 hours.
This post is getting long and rambly now. I feel like I have hardly scratched the surface of what I need to say. There seems to be far too much going on right now. And I should go to sleep. I have a very long day of adulting ahead.
Photo: Emily, Creative Commons.
5 Comments Add yours
I’m not convinced that you current ED behaviour is even unconsciously a way to punish other people or show them your pain as J suggests. I can see how it might have been when it first started when you were younger, but these things take on a life of their own and I think over time it becomes more of a personal thing which doesn’t seek to involve other people. I’m speaking from the perspective of slightly different behaviours that I have, not ED, but I know that far from wanting other people to see so they will feel sympathetic or guilty, I feel an intense desire to conceal it from them. I want to not do it, to be more normal but I don’t know how.
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I think that being punitive comes into it, but it isn’t the sole reason. And it’s not really a conscious thing. I do think I have a strong desire to be understood, for certain people to really see the reality of my suffering. But at the same time, I don’t want them to see me physically. I find it so embarassing when they notice and comment on my body or what I am eating. But I can recognise that a part of me uses my body to communicate what I am not capable of verbalising for whatever reason. Like you, I am not looking for sympathy or guilt in people, and for the most part I work hard to hide my self harming behaviours. I really identify with the not wanting to keep doing it, but not knowing another way. It’s a constant struggle that results in yet more shame and less self-esteem. And obviously none of that contributes to getting any closer to changing it.
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I wish I could enfold you in a great big, nurturing, healing hug, and tell you that it is all okay. You are not in the way of anyone elses happiness.
Do you think you could benefit from seeing a different therapist? Do you believe that J is good for you, or do you mostly feel as though she is not truly seeing you?
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Thanks for the hug related sentiment, it’s nice to know that.
I don’t know if seeing a new therapist would be useful. I hate the thought of having to build a new relationship. I feel like J is very competent and is in this with me. I think I have just reached a difficult place in my relationship with her. I am massively attached to her, and I have a huge amount of love for her. But then there’s an ambivalence in that I often feel angry or frustrated with her too. I don’t think any of this would be a problem if I were able to take it to her and work through it. It’s just really hard to push myself and take those risks.
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I understand those sentiments. I struggle very much too to keep the right amount of distance with my therapist too. It’s hard not to become connected to someone you share such deep feelings with.
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