therapy woes–feeling as though T has stopped existing

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I had read a quote somewhere that said ‘I was never sure whether you were the lighthouse or the storm’. Then one day I drew this. Immediately, I thought of my mother. Those 12 words summed up beautifully the way I’ve always felt about her. Was she safe? Was she dangerous? I never knew…I still don’t know. I think it’s how I feel about a lot of relationships in my life, really.

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I’ve found myself exhausted with life and the thought of writing any of it down just brought me to my knees. Up until last week, I haven’t even done a lot of writing to T. I don’t know why, I just haven’t. Most of our communication has been in drawings and doodles and metaphors.

Things feel different in therapy lately. I don’t know if it’s good feelings, or not so good feelings. I know there’s been a lot of tears and hard discussions (mostly about my mother). There have even been a couple of sessions where I’ve felt completely and utterly overwhelmed and ran out before T had a chance to make anything feel better. I feel like I’m sharing more but at the same time it feels like there is a lot of the story that’s missing. I also feel like I’m repeating myself….A LOT….but it’s just so incredibly hard to make sense of how it feels.

To top it off, T also started mentioning summer vacation a few weeks ago. :/ Cue the panic! I hate summer vacations–not mine of course–just his. To be honest, I absolutely hate any time T is away–even if it’s just once during the week. I really wanted this summer to be different and I feel bad that it isn’t going to be. I didn’t want to dread his vacations and time away. I didn’t want to panic at the thought of T being away and my needing him and not wanting to bother him because he was on vacation. He wants to know what goes through my mind when he’s away (what do I think he’s doing, where do I think he is, how do I feel about him not being in the office). I’m thinking about what to say without sounding completely pathetic.

I’ve always struggled with keeping people in my mind. It’s very uncomfortable. I don’t like the way it feels and I feel like I need to cope better but I don’t know how to cope better because I just don’t understand why it happens. Sometimes, when people who are important to me, or people I count on leave, it is like they end. I don’t get the feeling that they leave and will return but rather, it feels like they cease to exist at all. They are like a story told to me where I can’t feel or see them. I try to believe I am not alone but eventually others become only shadows in the distance and it’s hard to believe there is anyone else left in the world. Sometimes they will come back, but I’m never certain if it’s real or not or if it will last.

The one good thing that’s happened, is that I think T finally understands what I’ve meant all this time when I tell him people don’t stay. I think he always thought I meant literally but that’s not what I meant at all. I mean in my mind. And I often sit and think that if millions of other people are able to remember, why can’t I? It’s like the linking between what’s actually happening and how it feels is broken or missing somehow. I begged T to help me fix it. I don’t care if other things don’t get better, but to just be able to fix this link feels like it would change so many things for me.

T thinks not being able to remember that people still exist is caused by something from a long time ago, that I don’t or can’t remember. There are things I do remember–my grandfather dying suddenly, my mother leaving me with other people who weren’t safe because I was ‘too much’ for her and long periods of time where I have no memory of my mother at all but T thinks that’s only part of it. He says that sometimes people just can’t remember things because it happened when we were too young and sometimes because it’s around a period of time that was so horrific our minds won’t let us remember. T says maybe if we can talk about how it feels now, it will help figure out what happened and why it feels the way it feels today.

For now, we’re working on things that can help me remind myself that T still exists. He said I could take a picture of him but that seemed really weird to me. He said he would give me a stuffed dog but that isn’t something I could carry around without looking strange. He mentioned a recording of his voice or anything I could think of. I thought about it and texted him some ideas. I told him I liked rocks–small smooth ones I could carry in my pocket or maybe a voicemail on my phone. He wrote me back and said he believes he has just the thing. I hope it helps, and if not we’ll try something else.

6 thoughts on “therapy woes–feeling as though T has stopped existing

  1. Oh I so get all of this. I’ve never thought of it that way, but when I say ‘everyone leaves’ it is because they don’t stay in my mind, as well as physically in my life. This isn’t long as my comments mdon’t seem to be appearing – fingers crossed for this one! But I am sending love and hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is kind of him to help find ways to ease your stress surrounding his absence. It sounds like you are doing healthy things to work through your problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a boy who lives with me from a traumatic background. He also cannot remember that I am there if I am physically out of view. He assumes he disappears from people if he is out of their view. (He is 13.) He has a hard time sleeping, because then people disappear and if he’s gone for too long he kind of doesn’t remember to come home. It’s lack of object permanence. We learn object permanence through many, many repetitions of relocating a person who disappeared from view. Once infants start to catch onto this, they experience separation distress and cry when their attachment figures leave. If you cried, and your attachment figure did not come or was angry at you for crying or felt frightening to you when she came back instead of comforting, you are conditioned to stop trying to get that person to come back. We are trained out of learning. I don’t think it’s unusual for people with traumatic backgrounds, but we don’t know how to talk about it. I have no idea what to do about it.


    • Oh Ashana, that absolutely breaks my heart. As an adult, I don’t have the words to explain what happens and how I feel. I can’t even imagine trying to explain it at such a young age. It must be absolutely awful for him and you as well.
      One minute I think it’s happening, but then it all slips away so quickly. Thankfully, I have a really good therapist who sticks with me through all of it. It hurts and it’s awful and one day I hope it changes.
      Life can be so unfair sometimes, but I’m glad you are with him to help him through it. I hope it gets easier for him soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think some things may be easier to talk about in childhood. I am not sure he knows yet that he shouldn’t talk about it. He adaptively dissociates, so yesterday he told me his small people were scared of the dogs and then he talked about the time his pet dog accidentally ripped off the end of his finger when they were playing. A few days ago, he called me and when I came he seemed to have nothing to say, so I asked what he wanted and he said, “I didn’t call that was __” (his own name.) I said, can you ask, ___what he wanted? and he did. It was something I had gotten angry about, but in a different context where it wasn’t okay. When it’s safe to feel these things, then it will be hard for him.


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