I need to figure out what is going on. I am not in placement today. I ended up staying up all night, partly sorting through things in my head (or attempting to – this involves crazy writing on paper), partly procrastinating through fear (is dissociative procrastination a Thing? Because it feels like one) and partly just feeling very anxious. I tried the breathing exercises that my mentor recommended to me but they didn’t really help. I felt too jittery, like one of those weird ball things that were popular in the early 90s (*Googles* – ah, a Bumble Ball, that’s it). Only internally, though. It has to hit new levels of anxiety for me to shake outwardly. Which it did on Tuesday, actually – in my exams and afterwards when I was explaining about the meeting anxiety to my mentor.
I feel like a failure. The worst thing is that I feel like I’ve totally fucked up. AGAIN. Part of my new ‘plan’ is that I’m to have a phased return back to placement, only working one shift a week, unless I feel able to do more. Last week I really enjoyed placement and decided to go back for two sessions this week. This was before I had the email asking to meet with me about the complaint I am making. The weekend was spent feeling hugely anxious about that alongside everything else that was already going on in the Kitchenaid of emotions (feeling abandoned by parents, loss of childhood, feeling disconnected from therapist but starting to establish that again, being a general Life Failure) and so I guess I am just completely overwhelmed with everything right now. So I was supposed to go in on Monday for a short shift, but I rang up and said I couldn’t come in. I had two clinical exams on Tuesday plus a meeting with my mentor and what with all this brain stuff, it felt like something had to go, and placement it was, being only scheduled to do one shift a week. So despite feeling guilt about cancelling, it really was the right thing to do and I could feel my anxiety ebb away when I made the decision. PLUS: I had a need (needed to quell the anxiety somewhat, so had to drop something), and I met it! Even if I feel shit about it: yay!
So, Monday was spent panicking (unfortunately – just because I wasn’t in placement doesn’t mean it wasn’t there), then I had therapy. Which was actually a really good session – I love it when we can talk about serious things but not in a way that feels like she is opening me up without an anaesthetic to perform major heart surgery. I like it when there is understanding and compassion but laughter too. It feels like I am still working hard but getting more back – being more able to accept the warmth, I guess, rather than feeling like I am about to die so that’s all I can focus on. But still, it’s therapy, so it brings up yet more stuff for me to process and think about/torture myself with. Tuesday was like Panic Central – I had two exams, one of which I failed (but am genuinely ok with it because they were silly mistakes due to nerves, my technique is apparently good), plus meeting with my mentor. This was really helpful, we are discussing strategies to help me – hah – try to overcome anxiety and try to deal with the overwhelm that is constantly threatening to devour my life. We had a long talk about which bits we need to deal with the most and she showed me some exercises to calm me down and ground me. Except, and I don’t know much about this, but I don’t know if you need to be in a certain place for them to work? I feel SO wound up right now that nothing is really helping. I feel like I need constant soothing and that is not happening and cannot happen, I can get sporadic bursts of connection with other people but I guess the key thing is I really need connection to remain constant right now and it is not. I cannot connect to myself, the world or other people on a deep enough level at the moment for it to stay and that is so scary and horrible. Wednesday was yesterday. Yesterday was awful, man. I wrote about it a bit…but yeah. I felt shaken and upset and like I couldn’t function. And yet I was so determined to go in today, so sure that it was the right decision. I love placement, and I love my course, I am good at what I do and it is interesting.
And this is where it gets so confusing, because on the one hand I think – dude, give yourself a BREAK. Even if I was not completely in bits about having to recount my horrible experience (which I still feel sick about and stupid, like I blame myself and it shouldn’t have happened, oscillating from NOT MY FAULT to OMG WHY DIDN’T I STOP IT), I still had two exams, I am still in the process of sorting through some really deep shit and I am coping with a LOT. But there are so many emotions. We have, in no particular order:
GUILT – an emotion I used to almost define myself by, feeling as though it was a constant, in the background, like the noise of seagulls at the beach. Now it’s not so bad, but has been triggered massively by all this. Guilt at not going to placement, feeling guilty because am I just being lazy or am I looking after myself? Looking after my patients by not forcing myself to go in on two hours sleep and therefore not caring for them properly? Guilt at being a bad student, which sets off the guilt about being a bad daughter (the two often go together). Guilt because I cannot get hold of the manager to explain why I am not in (somehow, that is obviously my fault) and that I apparently got the fucking days I was supposed to be in messed up because my placement mentor isn’t even in today. Guilt about being a bad client because all I want to do is speak to my therapist to connect with her but I am already up to two sessions a week and I spoke to her yesterday and so I can’t ask her to call today too, can I? (Stupid question, I can, but it depends if the guilt will let me.) Too needy, too much.
SO…I just sent a text to her. Which leads me nicely on to:
SHAME. I don’t even think I am writing about guilt and shame right but they feel different to me (and are, but I don’t know if I am feeling them right). I am ashamed that I now have to speak to someone I don’t know and explain why I am not in, that I have to justify myself when part of me feels there is no justification for just – and I shouldn’t say this because it’s bad but it’s how I feel about myself – being a stupid fucking cunt. I feel so ashamed that I need so much. Ashamed that because I do need so much, and because I need to work on recognising that need, I have had to essentially cut off contact with my family, because as well meaning as they are, they are also damaging. Shame for being so fucking shit, such a complete fucking dickhead, that I cannot just DO THIS, cannot just do this on my own. That I need help, that I have to ask for it.
Which again, segues nicely into:
ANGER. Why the fuck is this happening to me? Why am I SO fucked up? It all fucking sucks, I hate it. I hate my therapist for not being there for me the way I want her to, I hate my friends for not having to go through this, I hate everyone who ever had a happy fucking childhood, or even just people who had “good enough” parents, or stable enough early childhoods to not be this fucking damaged, so slighted by the tiniest thing. I hate myself for feeling so petty and vindictive, like a hissing cat, ready to scratch at a moment’s notice. I hate the person who I am complaining about for not respecting my boundaries and making me feel so shit, making me feel like yet another person has abused me. And I am so angry that yet again, like practically all abuses carried out against me, that it was possibly ambiguous, that it wasn’t obvious, that it was insidious, that I felt like something was wrong but felt unable to challenge it. That my boundaries are so fucked up that even when I lay them out clearly and someone does disrespect them, I don’t protect myself. That I can’t protect myself, because I don’t know how, I don’t have that reflex that kicks in, that innate DO NOT GO THERE, I just have frozen child.
GRIEF. Which I am not feeling right this second, but is definitely part of this Cake of Doom that is being thoroughly mixed in the Kitchenaid (damn, do I want a Kitchenaid). Grief that I did not get what I should have had. What I deserved. What I needed. What I NEED. And then I think: nothing is ever going to be enough to fill this hole. I did not get what I need and I never will; what I am getting is helping me heal but as amazing as she is, as brilliant as she can be, she is not enough, and will never be able to bridge that gap. Now I am starting to think that there will always be a gap – maybe not a canyon, as it is right now, maybe it will just be like a crack in the pavement, or even like kintsukuroi – a gap that will be a constant reminder that I am broken. A gap that has already given me so many strengths and insights but something that I would swap in a heartbeat just to have experienced unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, from the people that I should have received it from. Sometimes I can see it as beautiful, or worthwhile, but now there is just pain and loss and the feeling of being so broken. So ugly. So ugly that no wonder I did not get that, no wonder I am this way. And then it somehow comes down to me, and then I start feeling shame again, for being so repulsive that of course I am not worthy of love, how dare I even think I could be? And I am shaking writing this because in these moments that is what I am, that is what makes me, that is who I am, a being so awful that nobody could love me, even acknowledge me. And then I snap out of it for a split second and think: fuck. To feel like that? That is so fucking sad, and has to be for a reason. It cannot be just because she (…yep) is so unloveable, it has to be because there were experiences that made her think like that.
And yet…those thoughts are the hardest to stay with. It is easier, much much easier, to stay with the thoughts that I am just fundamentally wrong, that I am a stupid fucking worthless piece of shit. Not just because they are more familiar (and these days I actually find those words fairly shocking when said about myself, whereas in the past they were just my own brain seagulls) but also because it gives me some level of control, maybe. To face up to the fact that bad stuff happened is the hardest thing of all and something that I feel as though I am still experimenting with. Dipping a toe into the waters and then running away again.
Because, of course, this always comes back to music, I now have Hounds of Love by Kate Bush in my head (one of the songs that I ended up ‘getting’ this year). There is a line where she sings, “Take my shoes off, and throw them in the lake, and I’ll be two steps on the water”. Kate, when asked about this lyric, replied: “Because two steps is a progression. One step could possibly mean you go forward and then you come back again. I think ‘two steps’ suggests that you intend to go forward.” I think that I am still only on one step despite having the intentions of going forward. Because going forward is so difficult, and once you have gone you can’t go back. I already feel like that, but this is so layered and so deep and so messy, that I am taking such baby steps. I am scared, and every time I think I am making progress something like this happens and I feel right back where I started.
And now I feel like I want to discuss the song, because it relates to this so well, and I have wanted to discuss it so much. It hit me back in April, for the first time. I’ve always loved it, just because it is an amazing song, but I was starting to feel a bit (ok, a LOT) crazy back then, because I was starting to feel really attached in therapy and it was freaking me out, because – SURPRISE! – these were new feelings. Being attached to someone consistent? Imagine. So anyway, I was on the bus and suddenly…ALL the lyrics are relevant, but these ones were the starting point for recognition:
I found a fox
Caught by dogs.
He let me take him in my hands.
His little heart,
It beats so fast,
And I’m ashamed of running away
From nothing real–
I just can’t deal with this,
But I’m still afraid to be there,
Among your hounds of love,
And feel your arms surround me.
I’ve always been a coward,
And never know what’s good for me.
(Which is interesting because I had a dream the other night where, for the first time ever, my therapist held me physically in a hug, and I was so uncomfortable at first but then just sort of relaxed into it and it was the best feeling ever. Now my feeling towards that feeling is back to good old SHAME!)
But ANYWAY, I do have a point, and I am getting to it. It feels like this is all brand new territory. That she is so scared of these hounds coming for her, that she plans throw her shoes off to get rid of her scent, and then take two steps on the water to confirm this, to let the water wash it away, just to be extra sure. And yet, towards the end of the song:
I don’t know what’s good for me.
I don’t know what’s good for me.
I need your love love love love love, yeah!
That ambivalence, and that recognition. I TOTES GET THAT OMG THAT IS ME! <— was my reaction. Plus “OMG how did I NOT get that, I have been listening to it for twelve years”.
A couple more quotes about the song, from here, in the comments:
KaTe says that when she was writing ‘Hounds of Love’ she came across a line about hounds and the whole idea of being chased by love as something terrifying. The imagery of being hunted by love made a marked impression on her.
KaTe: “When I was writing the song I sorta started coming across this line about hounds and I thought “hounds of love” and the whole idea of being chasing by this love that actually gonna… when it get you it just going to rip you to pieces, [raises voice] you know, and have your guts all over the floor! So this very sort of… being hunted by love, I liked the imagery, I thought it was really good.”
Radio 1, Classic Albums interview: Hounds Of Love, aired January 26, 1992
This is all about love, I think: not feeling worthy of it, not feeling as though I should need it, but absolutely needing it, and craving it, and then admonishing myself for it when I do. That Puritan denial. Every act of help is an act of love, of recognition that I am worthy of it, and when that happens, that challenges everything that I feel deep down about myself and makes me look at the reasons why that might be. Which, obviously I know in a cognitive way…but to feel it? That’s very difficult to stay with, and I’m not doing very well at it, either. How can you consistently bear such pain? I am finding that I can’t. And that is having such a massive impact on my life that I don’t know what to do, other than keep doing what I’m doing. I keep thinking of this quote by Søren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” I feel like I am doing so much understanding of life, of my life, of what happened, that there just isn’t any room to live. And I know that it shouldn’t be like that, but how do I make it any different? This is so big. It is overwhelming, and it is devouring me, and everything else in its path.