Surviving Therapy: “Life Goes On”.

*Mentions self-harm*

 

Four weeks ago was the last session of my twelve week CBT course. That night was hard, and I didn’t feel I would make it through. I had to phone the Samaritans for the first time in my life in the middle of the night. Somehow I’m still here fighting.

I won’t lie and say things feel better now. They don’t. I am awfully depressed and don’t see a future right now. I try not to think about the things that are hurting my heart, because I know if I really let the feelings in they will drown me, and each day I care less about keeping afloat. But I’ve got some new friends out of doing my course. They understand me more now, and are always there to remind me to use my skills, and look at my crisis box. I’ve mentioned this crisis box before and had questions about it, so I’ll do a post to illustrate this in a little while.

The course was intense, from start to finish. Before the first session I was so anxious, about going to a new place, knowing absolutely nobody there. I had identified the building, but wasn’t sure how to get in. There was a buzzer system, and I had no clue what to do. So I lurked around outside, observing. I saw someone who looked like they were doing the same. I had a guess they were there for the same reason as me, so I waited until they went in and then went to join them.

The first session was difficult. Everyone felt on edge, keeping to ourselves. I felt quite positive about it, and really wanted to give it my best shot, and get on well with the facilitators. It was all going relatively okay, until at the end we did a mindfulness exercise, and this led me down a path of thinking about my granddad who I had lost five months beforehand. I talked about how the exercise went and burst into tears, in a room full of strangers! I felt really embarrassed by this, and I think after that little outburst I tried to keep my emotions locked up. This may have been what led me down a path of self-harm as the course progressed.

The second session was better – I knew where to go, how to get in and what to expect. That was probably the better of the sessions. But after going away from that session I realised my feelings for one of the facilitators.

The third session I turned up early, wanting a word… I wanted to quickly admit to this transference issue, to nip it in the bud and refocus my energies. But the buzzer didn’t work. I phoned them to be let in and they didn’t answer. Others turned up and some of us went through the door when others came out, and went up to the floor the group was held on. We waited outside the door, and one of the others phoned this time, and her call was answered. Needless to say I took that personally…. Anyway I decided to have a word at the end… I got through the first half of the session, but as time went on I couldn’t focus on what was being said. I conveyed this to the facilitator in the break and asked if I could have a word at the end. He said they don’t have a lot of time at the end. So I had to have a chat with him in the break. I had to rush through what I’d planned to say. He asked questions which skirted around the issue and didn’t allow me to say it. He said I should talk to my individual therapist if there’s something troubling me. He didn’t let me unburden myself, I had to go back into the group feeling even worse and unheard. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus, so last second instead of following him back into the group, I went the other way and broke down in the toilets before harming myself, the worst I ever have.

That was the beginning of a downhill slope for me. After that night I would struggle to stop harming myself. It became a weekly thing, which it hasn’t been for many years. One of the facilitators had to come and check on me, and had to treat me, before telling me I ought to go to the hospital to get it stitched. I was phoned by the facilitator who treated me the next day.

From that point on every single Wednesday I would have intense anxiety which left me feeling physically ill and unable to breathe. I didn’t know if it was anxiety about going back into the place where I harmed myself, or if it was anxiety about seeing him again. I gave them something to read to explain what happened and apologise for it, as well as apologising in person to them both for how it may have affected them. Whilst it felt they understood me better after that there was still a distance, and I felt a burden asking for support. There would be weeks where I’d ask for help and not be given it, or I’d be told it had to be quick. Eventually I stopped reaching out. I’d go away, go home and harm myself on a few occasions. I even did it at the session another time, though managed to hide it this time round.

After another session I sent a text to one of them to say I hadn’t felt able to approach them at the end, but I didn’t feel safe going away, and that I felt like quitting the group. This went ignored, as apparently it appeared as a multimedia message on his old style work phone, and didn’t have a subject, so he thought it was spam. That was also the week the other one refused to help me, and made me push myself instead. I had a lot of anger that week.

Four weeks before the end I got there early to have a chat with the facilitator I was transferring on. I wanted to know how to detach from someone, and if I’d receive any help for transference afterwards or not. I got a ‘politician answer’ in that I’m not sure I got an answer! I felt unheard and misunderstood. I told him I didn’t feel safe about the course ending… I meant losing him. He asked if I could stay safe that night, I said it would be difficult. He asked if I had the means on me to do anything, I said no – I didn’t, but that wasn’t the issue… I knew it could and likely would happen when I went home. I shut down for that session… didn’t say a single word. Nobody interacted with me – the facilitator I’d spoken to didn’t even look at me. I hid in the toilets during the break and decided I’d harm myself when I got home. At the end of the session I dashed out of there – I ran down the stairs and out of the building. I got in the car and said to the person driving ‘Don’t ask’. Went home, did what I did and ended up at the hospital again.

That was the point I decided to quit the group. But over the next few days I changed my mind and decided to see it through to the end; to apologise to the group for how I’d been and try to build better bonds with them. So when I said this at the next session, and had every single face looking at me and listening to me it was overwhelming. It turned out to be the best decision I made, as these people are supportive friends to me now. I joined in more and tried to get back to the more positive way of the beginning….

But lurking underneath it all I was still dreading the loss in the next three weeks. The end of the course was mentioned at this session, at the end, and put me in an unsafe headspace. So I spoke to one of the facilitators to say how I felt about it. And during that week I wrote something for the facilitator (the one I was dreading to lose) to read, to explain how misunderstood and unheard I felt by him in our discussion, and explaining the pain I was experiencing. He seemed to understand more after reading that at the next session. It felt better that he understood how hard losing him would be for me. But nothing could prepare me for the last session.

It was a nightmare blur, and didn’t go as I thought it would. We did one last mindfulness exercise at the end, where the facilitator I was transferring on spoke us through it. I closed my eyes and listened, and realised it would be the last time I’d hear his voice. I broke down in tears. I still can’t get over that feeling. There were lots of hugs, and a bunch of us went to the pub next door to celebrate getting through the course. On the way out I said a brief ‘See you, bye’ to him… but it was so fleeting it was as though it was nothing… when inside it was killing me a million times over, in a thousand different ways. I didn’t have the closure I needed. The conversation I needed. The chance to say goodbye. It was over. I’d never see him again.

Four weeks since I last saw and heard him. Four weeks is nothing compared to the rest of my life having to do the same. This is harder than anyone will ever understand. I know I have to use ‘radical acceptance’ and accept the way things are. I do know that. But it’s hard. I don’t want things to be this way. I’m resisting reality. I think I’m in the denial and bargaining stages of grief about losing him. I’ll be writing about grief soon. I want someone to hold me and tell me they understand how I feel. But I honestly don’t think anyone out there can understand it, not really. I’m alone with this. And it’s breaking my heart every day. The darkness I feel is overpowering. I don’t know how to overcome it.

But I’ll have to try. I may be very depressed, verging on suicidal right now, but all I can say is one good thing is I no longer have to face overwhelming anxiety on a Wednesday. Can’t say I’ve missed that!

I know I have to carry on, and get through each day, moving forward… there’s no other choice. ‘Life goes on’ after all…. but for me that’s the worst part. I don’t want it to go on….

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