So, how am I doing?
Cat’s Meow (of Living while Healing. If you haven’t read her yet, do so. She writes with incredible honesty and insight.) asked how I was doing in a comment. I started to answer her but it got so long, I decided to turn it into a post. 🙂 Thanks for asking, Cat!
I’m hanging in. 🙂 It’s been a bit tough going lately, but I am essentially sound. The situation with my family has improved, but is ongoing, and some aspects are very triggering, feeding into the deep work on shame I have been doing with BN. It’s difficult to speak of, both because shame tends to make me want to isolate, and I do not feel free to speak about the situation because of other people’s privacy concerns.
My husband has been working OT almost constantly since Thanksgiving, so I am pretty much on my own with Christmas prep, which is also keeping me very busy. Just found out this morning, he has to work this weekend, poor man. I will be doing lots and lots of wrapping. 😀
I also just hit a couple of long breaks with BN (three weeks at Thanksgiving because of the holiday and then a cancellation because he had a new grandchild) followed by two weekly appointments and now I am in a two-week break. And it truly hit me at our last session how really difficult it is for me to be away from him at Christmas. He holds such a sense of home for me, and the painful truth of our relationship being therapeutic is brought painfully home to me (sorry for the pun!) by the holiday and how strongly it evokes a longing to be home. Not to discount how very significant and real the relationship is, that’s why he is so important to me. But Christmas is not something I get to share with him and the longing to runs deep.
I went to our last session, which was on Tuesday, in a pretty triggered state. The shame was free-floating to the point that I felt like I should apologize for breathing. At the beginning of our appointment, BN brought up the fact that he was going on a long break for Christmas and he wanted to make sure we had a secure base. This threw me, as he had told me at our previous appointment so I didn’t understand him bringing it up just as I was starting to speak of something else. I shut right down. I finally managed to tell BN that my reaction to his saying that was to feel like I shouldn’t speak, that it was too much to go into right before a break. He very gently corrected me and said that he brought it up in the beginning so it didn’t come up at the end of the session with no time to process. So I went on to speak of the shame, that I was once again feeling like I was too much, and not good enough, etc etc ad nauseum ad infinitum. BN told me for the 1,274th time that shame is an emotion that feels like a state of being (He coined a GREAT phrase which I shamelessly (ha!) told him I was going to steal: state of shithood. Tell me that doesn’t exactly describe it?). He talked about how shame interferes with the attachment mechanism, that our instinct is to turn away and how important it was that I continue to come and speak about it. I told BN shame is the opposite of the old saying “you can’t get there from here.” With shame it’s “I can get there from anywhere.” He did this phenomenal job of describing the thought process. So good, I told him it was like he has front row, orchestra seats to my stream of consciousness. It is a massive relief that he gets this, both in that I feel less crazy and it helps me to have a shred of hope it’s not actually true.
Later in the session, I told him that I had let myself become aware that as much as I love Christmas, it is also a difficult time of year. And I told him that one of the things that makes it difficult is being away from him. I think BN already knew this was going on, which was why he brought up the break at the beginning of the session, slightly odd behavior for him, actually. As we discussed him being gone and how I felt about it, this cry came wailing up from within me and I burst out (sounding like a four-year old) “I hate that you’re going away for Christmas.” BN very gently said, “good for you, AG. Good for you for saying you felt that way.” I told him that I didn’t think it was unreasonable for him to be with his family and he told me he knew that. But the feelings weren’t mutually exclusive. We talked about all of my strategies for hanging on to my sense of connection with him and in a wonderful moment, he said “I mean, AG, how long are our phone calls? 20 seconds?” I laughed and said “45 seconds.” It was a relief to be able to just say it out loud, and even more so, to be heard with such acceptance.
In thinking it over, I realized that I am feeling stressed and scared because of all the shame and BN leaving is evoking some very sad, painful memories of being abandoned to deal with overwhelming feelings. But once I connected, I was also able to recognize that this is not the same thing. He’s still there. In fact, I promised a friend who is struggling about contacting their therapist, that I would call on Monday (his last day in the office) if they would call their therapist. A mutual risk society so to speak. 🙂
As I said, I have been doing a lot of really deep work around shame, but am finding it very difficult to write about. I think because I am working so hard on processing it and understanding it, that I do not yet have words to speak about it. BN keeps telling me I’ll be able to write about it, I just need to give it time. He also keeps telling me that I am handling it better now. I am skeptical about both, but decided that not trusting him now really doesn’t make a lot of sense considering our history. 🙂
So that’s how I am doing. At this point, I am just focusing on finishing the Christmas preparations and looking forward to a lovely, traditional Christmas with my husband and children. My older daughter is living in NYC now, so we are very much looking forward to having her home for a few days and having the whole family together.
If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you and yours peace and to walk in the light that shone through the darkness. Come to think of it, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I also wish you that. 🙂
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