Towards the end of my session with J today, someone walked right up her driveway and seemed to be heading toward the room she sees me in. I know this, because the room has a lot of windows. Which in the past I always liked, because I could look out at the trees and sky to calm myself.
J had her back to the door and didn’t notice. But I could see what was happening. To me it looked like this person was going to come straight through the door and into my session. I anticipated this, but said nothing and I don’t know why. I suppose some fear was triggered and I couldn’t think. I can’t even say whether this stranger was a man or a woman, because I was too anxious to look. I just wanted to disappear.
This has never happened before.
When J noticed she very quickly sent the intruder away and closed all the blinds, but it was too late. I was already spinning into panic; feeling my heart racing, and a sense of dread and humiliation and being exposed overwhelming me. All old feelings I am horribly familiar with. All feelings I didn’t think I would ever have to experience in the ‘here and now’ with J.
She tried to make it better for me. She apologised a lot. She told me she was angry that this intrusion had occurred. She assured me she would be reiterating the boundaries to her family. She said she would move the furniture again so that she could see in future if someone was coming up the drive (this was my main concern when she changed the room setup a while back). She asked me what would help me feel safe again. I couldn’t suggest anything. I was too shocked and upset.
In that moment, I wanted to run from the room, but I was too scared of being seen again. I could see that J was upset by the situation as well, and that felt really hard to manage. She was apologising to me and I didnt know what to say. I couldn’t say it was OK, because it really wasn’t. But not being able to say that was extremely uncomfortable for me. With other people, I would just lie to make them feel better – tell them it was fine. I couldn’t do that today, and not being able to added to my anxiety. My lungs felt crushed, like no air could get in. There was an intense level of distress in my body.
It’s hard not to feel worried that this is going to really destabilise therapy for me. It took me such a long time to feel safe with J. And even now, after almost three years of working with her, I get insecure and fearful. I guess that’s what chronic shame will do for you. That and having your trust broken and safety shattered as a young child. Especially by someone you loved and looked up to.
Sorry this isn’t making a lot of sense. My head is really full to bursting right now. My gut feels twisted. It’s not the whole of me, I know, but a significant part of me just feels like nowhere is safe anymore. That part is devastated that this sanctuary has been taken, this illusion of protection and safety has suddenly disappeared.
I know rationally that this stranger didn’t mean me any harm. I know also that despite being anxious and unsettled by it, I was still essentially safe when this happened. But knowing that doesn’t soothe the awful feeling of having been ‘seen’. Not seen in therapy per se, but seen in the state I am in during therapy. I didn’t expect that anyone other than J would ever witness me in that state. The only comparison I can make to illustrate my mortification is to how it might feel if a stranger saw you on the toilet. Naked. The sense of exposure and shame feels that extreme.
As well as that shame, this has triggered other feelings from my past. Emotions and a felt sense linked to the day my mum walked in on my brother abusing me. The shock, the humiliation, the feeling that something big had shifted in my world and nothing would be the same again – I am feeling it all again. To a lesser extent of course, but it’s brought it all up for me.
Of all weeks, I didn’t need this extra upset and stress right now. Tomorrow, I have my parents arriving and on Thursday we will travel to Germany for my sister’s wedding. I’ll be spending four days submerged in all the toxic emotional baggage that comes with my family. Away from my home comforts, my familiar routine, the anchor of a cuddle with my wife. I can’t afford a hotel, so I can’t get space and have a break. I’m absolutely dreading it.
And with today’s events added in, I am now really struggling to feel like I can get through the coming days at all. Sometimes it just feels like the universe is conspiring against me.