I’m not going to have everything wrapped up with a neat little bow for you. Because first of all, I don’t even know what to say.
You’re able to articulate everything you’re feeling and bring it into the room. I smile to acknowledge your experience, then go through my routine of looking at the cracks in the skirting boards by the white painted door.
I think I’ve found comfort in geometry since I was a kid. Analysing straight lines, isolating out imperfections in woodwork.
“I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.”
I have a clear memory of laying in bed one weekend morning. I was in the bottom bunk, so I could’ve been anywhere between the ages of 5 and 9. The sunlight was straining itself through our thin curtains, spilling boxes of light across the walls which glided along, then faded. It was a windy day. You could tell by the way the light phased in and out – illuminating my childhood bedroom then just as quickly filling it with gloom as the sun got trapped behind thick Shetland cloud.
I watched this dance for a long time. Whether it was fascination at my own visual experience or latent melancholy, I don’t know.
The room we’re in is brighter today because the blinds are parted. Like we’re seeing each other clearly for the first time. Or maybe that’s needlessly poetic. It’s not like we’ve seen each other for 50 minutes every week for 8 months or anything. 1800 minutes. Approximately.
I feel as if the sheer magnitude of what I could say about how I feel is so overwhelming that it’s easier, in fact, to say very little.
“I don’t fucking know,” is the most succinct thing I could come up with today. That sums up how I feel about how I feel, about what’s next, about what the best thing to say is, about if I’m going to sink or swim, about whether my work situation is truly going in the right direction, about if I’m “okay“.
I’m exhausted today. Getting less than 8 hours of sleep is one thing when you’re well, it’s another thing entirely when you’re ill. Part of me wished the chair was a sofa, so I could curl up and rest my eyes under the comfort of your gaze.
I suggested that the reason I got this viral thing that went straight to my throat is because I’ve been holding back on saying all that I truly want to say. Like a throat chakra blockage.
“And what is it that you’ve wanted to say?”
Maybe I should’ve read out my last blog post to him.
Should. Could. Would.
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When something happens that triggers you, you will move out of your window of tolerance. Your brain will see it as danger and you will move into survival mode. When this happens, you aren’t able to think logically. You can only react and feel. The body is in control. When people experience extreme stress, they often go into either hyper or hypo-arousal. * Hyper-arousal: may feel like anxiety, racing thoughts, or panic * Hypo-arousal: may feel like emotional numbness, emptiness, or even paralysis In either of these states, you won’t be able to process things effectively. The prefrontal cortex region of the brain shuts down and impacts your ability to think rationally. You may also start to feel dysregulated emotionally and that shows up in your behaviors. When you are behaving like this, it’s likely that you are outside of your window of tolerance. When a person is within their window of tolerance, the brain is functioning normally and can process things in the environment. You will be able to think rationally, reflect, and make decisions calmly without feeling totally overwhelmed. Each individual’s window of tolerance is different. People who have experienced trauma often have a more narrow window of tolerance. This may make them feel like their emotions are intense or all over the place. The window of tolerance is also impacted by your environment. People are more likely to remain in their window when they feel safe, supported, and understood. This is why it’s so important that we heal together and understand trauma. As you heal emotionally and physically, your window of tolerance will improve. It is possible for individuals who have experienced trauma or distress to use techniques to return to their window of tolerance. You can use tools like: – Mindfulness – Grounding techniques – Deep breathing to calm the nervous system – Recognizing your unique signs of dysregulation Many individuals are able to widen their window of tolerance through practice. I go into this concept in more detail in the Heal Together course that is launching on October 30th! (The window of tolerance was created by Dr. Dan Siegel).
This post that I saw yesterday has been on my mind. I relate to both ends of the spectrum. Today, I suppose I was dysregulated towards the hypoarousal side of things. I guess it was triggered by fatigue and feelings of abandonment. I just felt a bit disengaged, unable to truly connect with how I was feeling – a bit blank even though I knew there was a lot bubbling underneath the surface.
I wish I could’ve brought the bells and whistles. I wish I could’ve had a spiel about how much the therapeutic relationship has meant to me and sealed it all off with a cherry on top. But I guess that’s not real.
Even so, I was glad to be there with him. The things that he said summed it all up better than I felt like I was able to; and that was enough.
Something that was really wonderful is that I brought up the film “Call Me By Your Name” that I wrote a post about last week – and he’d seen it! He thought it was a brilliant film, too, and said that it had moved him a lot. When I said that I thought it was a really genuine depiction of love, he smiled in agreement.
That was a relief to me. I find it difficult to trust myself sometimes. Even though I explored in last week’s post that it was the male, intellectual part of my brain that was trying to rationalise my desire for passionate and vulnerable love; there’s still a part of me that worried that I was clouded by delusion. The fact that he validated my feelings about love and what the film brought up for me meant a lot.
I shouldn’t need to look to someone to do that for me. But I’m a messy and imperfect human being who’s still figuring things out. And that’s alright. So I thrive off of validation a bit. At least I don’t look to unsafe people for it or repeatedly land myself in toxic situations to get it.
I feel like there’s a lot of mystery in my life at the moment. A lot of unknown. Uncertainty. This time last year I was sinking into depression slowly but surely. He advised me that if he had any advice for me moving forward, it would be to maintain a level of curiosity about life. So rather than judging myself for not being 100% sure about everything, I’m going to try to remain curious about life and its mysteries. Ambivalence can be good, he told me last week, because there’s a lot of room for the grey. Not just black and white.
I spoke today about how I thought it was significant that there was a mere two month gap between my last two relationships, and that I commenced our therapeutic relationship a matter of weeks after my last breakup. And that maybe it was healthy that I was truly going to be alone again for once. A therapeutic relationship isn’t – or shouldn’t be – romantic. But yes, there’s intimacy and yes, there’s connection. And yes, it acts as a container for my feelings.
I also mentioned that during each of my romantic relationships, I’ve had a period of depression. He found this interesting. Then he asked if I felt as if I’d been depressed during our therapeutic relationship. I hadn’t. This had me thinking about which situations are healthy for me and what a healthy relationship looks like (as a disclaimer, I’m not suggesting that any of my ex-partners are to blame for my depressive episodes. I’m aware of my predisposition but I’m also inviting curiosity into the way I think about my relationships.) The realisation that I haven’t experienced depression throughout this relationship (albeit therapeutic) made me feel like I’d succeeded at something (not that depression should ever be counted as a failure). I’ve given myself the opportunity to have a more positive relational experience. And I suppose that was the point of therapy all along.
Attachment doesn’t always have to be permeated with a surge of melancholy. Showing up for someone else and simultaneously reaping the benefits of a shared, loving dynamic doesn’t have to be equated with self-betrayal. Melting into someone else by way of love can breed lethargy and a blurring of boundaries. The more we work on healing our parental complexes and making peace with the “internal parents” all of us carry, my therapist told me, the stronger we will be able to stand in relation to another.
One way of looking at the ending of this therapeutic relationship, and the closing of its emotional container, is that its gifting me the space to move onto another phase of healing. One which can only be completed alone.
Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts about therapy or endings, I’d love to hear them.
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx