On arrival for session I was anxious, it was the last session before the three week break and I was feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t have many words so I showed her a drawing that represented how I felt things were too much.
Ella asked if there was anything she could do to help and I said something like “wave a magic wand and make it go away”, and commented that things kept happening and so more boxes were being filled, and that no one would believe me. She asked who was it important that believed me and I said a couple of people including her. Ella asked if there was anything she could do differently or to reassure me, and then asked if I thought she believed me. I whispered I didn’t know. She replied “I promise I believe you. I know it’s only words but it’s importamt that I say it” and that she felt the struggles and behaviours I had were evidence for her to believe. She accepted that I might not believe her yet and that was OK.
Ella then asked what had happened that week to trigger this and I completely shut down. I can remember hearing her but just not being able to move or speak, like I was a ghost almost. Ella picked up on this, saying she felt like she’d lost me somewhere and I wasn’t in the room with her for a few minutes. She got me to open my eyes and come back into the room and asked me again to tell her what had happened and I shook my head. She asked if there was a reason I didn’t want to share it and I said it was too much.
I went ‘ghost’ like again and I remember Ella trying to coax me back. I said something about worrying about her not coming back from her break and she reassured me she would, and would I promise her I’d come back. She asked what I needed and I couldn’t speak, so she asked if she could sit next to me and see if that helped. I nodded and she moved next to me and said she was there for me and nothing I could say would change how she felt about me.
I whispered that I wished I could say it and Ella asked what was stopping me. I said fear. Ella asked what that fear was of and I said quietly you’ll go. Ella talked gently about how she wasn’t going to leave and she’d be back after her break, but she understood that I didn’t know her enough to trust her yet or have that faith in her. I said I wanted to (inside I was churning, I felt like this big insecurity was being exposed). She shared she was worried that she was going to be leaving me holding something massive and that she would be worried about me for three weeks and could I try telling her. I knew I wouldn’t be able to say the words but offered to try and write it.
Ella got me some paper and a pen and we sat in silence (Ella back across the room and me desperately wanting to tell her to come back but not daring to) as I tried to write the words to share what had happened. I was able to get one sentence out and handed it to Ella, she asked if I wanted to tell her a bit more, I was shaking and couldn’t speak, Ella handed back the paper and said to write it down. She reassured me it was OK and she wouldn’t judge me.
I wrote another sentence and Ella was quiet for a few minutes after reading it and then used that voice of hers promising she was there for me and didn’t feel badly of me. She asked some questions about the event I’d shared, responding really empatheticly and compassionately, and talked through things to keep me safe. She mentioned the police but I physically reacted to this and she didn’t push further. She said she was rooting for me and wanted to do everything she could to stop me being hurt again, and that I was dripping with self loathing. I asked “why don’t you hate me?” Ella asked why would she, I had done nothing to hate, that she hated the people who had hurt me but she could never hate me. Ella asked about self harm and suicide and we talked about the thoughts and if I could stay safe until I saw her again. I said I could try getting rid of the tools bit by bit. Ella said again she was rooting for me.
Ella repeated that she would be there in three weeks but asked would I. I nodded yes and Ella whispered promise. And I whispered back I promise.
I knew we were coming to the end of the session and the start of a three weeks break and in a now or never moment I asked for a hug, and I got one. I initially felt shocked, I’d asked but had expected a no with all the covid restrictions (we have only hugged once before and it was more a goodbye one when I wasn’t in a mess). She didn’t just say yes, she said it would be her pleasure. She then came over and said about taking her shoes off so she could climb into the settee and I kinda froze because I thought “she’s really going to hug me she doesn’t think I’m dirty” and she took me into her arms and held me to her. I was still hugging the cushion and didn’t really hug her back but put one around her arm and held her close. I remember stroking her arm with my hand and she was just squeezing me and whispering that I was worth so much more and she wanted me to feel her warmth and belief. Once I got over the shocked numbness of actually being hugged I just felt this soothing calmness. It’s hard to describe really, I guess it’s what safe feels like . The hug lasted about a minute and then when she pulled away she stroked my hair and arm. It was then time to leave. I wished her a nice holiday and slowly left the room.
The break was really tough. I was still trying to deal with everything that was going on, and because my focus in sessions had been on that we hadn’t actually discussed how I’d manage the break. Contact in the break had never been mentioned so I make the decision to not email at all. I felt all the feelings of abandonment and rejection and overwhelm. At the end of the first week I read about a crash and that someone had been killed and I was convinced it was her and was so distressed. I started writing letters everytime I wanted to reach out, and I took these to my next session.
On arrival at the session Ella asked how I’d been, and I gave her the letters to read. In them I’d shared some things I’d done to get through the break and things I’d thought about in terms of sessions and the relationship, and my worries about her not coming back, that I was the one making her tired. I also wrote a list of things and was it OK to ask for them, this including her sitting close to me, hand holds, blankets, a hug and that I was unsure what was OK and not and what the boundaries were. Ella responded to these points saying all were OK things to ask for and she was pleased I had been able to articulate them in writing. Ella said she’d expected an email from me and I said that we’d not agreed it and how horrible it had been, how disconnected I felt and that I had worried I had fucked up. We discussed my ongoing fears that she would end the relationship, Ella shared conversations she’d had with supervisor and that there wasn’t anything she could do to prove she was in it for the long haul apart from keeping turning up and proving herself and that one day I would believe.
I shared that one of the things I’d struggled with was a trigger from reading a book and that I had wrote the memory in my journal for Ella to read. Just acknowledging it made me start to feel sick and shaky, and I shared how scared I was of sharing it, because it would make it real and because I was told never to tell. Ella reminded me I was safe and that she wouldn’t judge. She tried turning her chair round as I said I wanted to hide. The feelings got too much and I started to feel like I was actually there in the memory and I managed to say this to Ella, I could hear Ella encouraging me to open my eyes and come back into the room, pointing out things in the room and asking me to say what I could see. I’d manage one then stop and she’d gently push me to say another, saying “good girl” after every couple. We then moved onto things I could feel but I was struggling, Ella telling me to stay in the room and open my eyes. She got me to move my body and this helped, so she gave me some things to hold and feel and describe the sensations of. As I was doing this Ella read the memory from my journal. Ella asked if we wanted to try a rewind which we did, but I couldn’t do it as I ended up back in the memory. Ella gave lots of reassurance and reminded me I was safe. I said I didn’t think I could do it and could we do it another week instead which Ella agreed, but said she didn’t want me to panic that I had failed and that she’d be thinking less of me.
We ended the session with Ella checking in that I wasn’t in the memory anymore and how I could stay present and safe. Ella encouraged me to reach out when I needed to.
It was so good to have her back.