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Last session was one of the few that didn’t leave me with a major therapy hangover. We spoke about the interview. I can’t remember what else we spoke about – something about staying adult I think. Ron said being an adult in conversations is being as authentic as you can…or something. I should have written this down, because he said something more complex. I commented that I’m just talking about staying adult as opposed to flipping into a child part.

I talked about the difficulty I have going to things. More than half the time, I don’t go to things I’ve had planned, because I feel too overwhelmed, and I feel in the wrong state to go out and interact with people. We talked about my 12 step group. Ron thought if I am able to be somewhat honest about what I’m going through, I’d feel better about being there. I said I didn’t think people would relate to being in parts, and then I’d feel more of a freak than I already do.

Ron thought if I can bring in some part of my honest experience it would be helpful. Which I agree with, and I do try to do.

There’s more to my difficulties than being in parts, though that’s a big piece of it. I’m getting inappropriate emotions in various situations, like a kind of loud mouthed irritation at a job interview, which is really really not serving me at all. It is very frustrating.

At the end of the session, Ron suggested tracking my mood and any parts that are forward hour by hour for a week, emailing him the tracked results at the end of each day. I’ve been doing that and it’s been interesting, because I forget pretty fast what state I’m in during the day. I tell him it seems like an unusual request from him – he never seems to want to track anything or be at all systematic. It’s always ‘tell me about your family’ or exploring feelings.

Another part of the session I remember. I keep bringing up my relationship with Ron, because I find when I talk about it a bit, it helps me feel connected to him. If I don’t talk about it, I feel as if I’m speaking, but no one is listening. Although I know he is listening, really, but I can’t feel it. I was speaking about some feelings, and then felt kind of ashamed. I mentioned that, and that I was wondering if he thought it was wrong to speak of these kinds of things. That I felt ashamed and like it was wrong. And that my mother would always have rejected any emotions being expressed, and shamed me. Ron said he felt the opposite of it being wrong to speak of feelings. And that my mother had absolutely no idea of how one should be in the world.

Which made me feel good. Always, my mother gets off the hook. She is the essential ‘good girl’, never angry, always providing cooking and cleaning services, and if not, reading. She never actively opposes or corrects anyone. She’s more like this absence. If you’re her child, it is quite agonizing to not be seen or responded to though. I don’t think I’ve literally ever heard anyone say a word against her. Oh, except my best friend in grade school one time. She said something like ‘your mother’ and rolled her eyes. I’ve always remembered that small exchange, as it’s the only actual time anyone made any kind of criticism of my mother, in my presence, ever. To the present day. Now Ron’s comment makes the second time.

Because this session was more focused on the present, a little more practical, I wonder if Ron did hear me, about wanting to improve my life. It needs improvement, believe me. It’s hard to fix my life if I need to spend several days in bed after each therapy session to recover. I miss a lot when that happens. Not being as triggered by therapy would be helpful, for a while anyhow.

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Today I went swimming. I’d almost missed the pool, the few hours it’s open, and then there was no parking, but in the end, I managed to get there for about half an hour. I love the water, though it’s pretty dirty in the middle of a summer weekend.

I have issues with exercise, but lately, I’ve been challenging that. Exercise puts me into dissociation, for some reason. I don’t mind it at the time, but about an hour later, I need to go to sleep, and when I wake up, I’m massively depressed. So I don’t want that pattern to keep repeating. Because of this, I decided just getting in the water and paddling about for a few minutes was enough of a challenge. Pleasant enough, and i got to sunbathe for a few minutes after. The shower/change areas are kind of gross, but I kept my sandals on, so it was OK.

Then went to buy some food for dinner, and I cooked. I didn’t fall asleep. I do feel a little strange – hard to describe. Kind of super calm and very tired maybe. From those few minutes of swimming.

Anyway, since we’ve been having this hot summer, it seems like a good idea to keep going for the month anyway, if I can handle the fatigue. I still have things to take care of, but I just want to go to bed.

I’ve been alone this weekend, so no progress on the social front. Yesterday I was massively anxious for some reason. I did go out to buy supplies, and was completely paranoid that I was acting bizarrely. I was so anxious, I probably was acting a bit odd.

Work is better. Go figure. Maybe my boss has slowly absorbed our ‘talk’ of two weeks ago. Her tone towards me has changed. She also complimented me on something I’d done. Not something I was particularly proud of, but she’s obviously trying to be positive. It’s a relief. At the moment, the stress at work is from the big boss, who is a super perfectionist when it comes to documents. My own view is that you can be picky to the point of insanity, and that is just not helpful. However I do understand some of her concerns.

Therapy was OK. Ron suggested reading aloud the angry email I’d sent him, so I did  that, and then he responded to some of it. I was no longer feeling angry by that point, and I read it as if it was a piece of theater written by someone else. I didn’t feel connected to what I read, for the most part.

Ron talked about his theories, since one of my complaints was that he didn’t have one. I actually know he does have theories, it’s just it’s hard to figure out what they are. I have no memory of what he said – it didn’t resonate with me at all. Something about feelings being linked to actions. Maybe I’ll ask him next time what he said.

I talked a bit about the family barbecue I’d been to on the weekend, how I’d enjoyed it though I’d thought I wouldn’t. About my brother’s new girlfriend, who was introduced as his ‘friend’, so I didn’t realize right away who she was. How I resented her somewhat – his long time girl friend had only moved out a few months before, and here he was, coupled up already. He didn’t seem to have any depression or sadness about his old GF either – I don’t understand that. I was basically incapacitated for a year when I left my ex.

So most of the session was very adult. All this time, I’m feeling more and more pressure from other parts who are desperate for time. In the last ten minutes, B got to talk, after I first asked Ron’s permission – I wasn’t too sure she was welcome for some reason. She spoke of the things concerning her, as a child relates her concerns to an adult – a list of what she’d done and what seemed important to her. Just before I left, Ron said it’s like a young child who wants their parents’ attention – dad, look at me, look at me….She’s kind of like that. Which I agree is true.

B spoke about things that weren’t sad, daily life things, but then kind of fell into this pit of sadness, kind of crying. There just wasn’t time to get into whatever it was. I had to shut it all away in order to get ready for work, but it was definitely something. At work I was very down for no other reason. Finally, I got some urgent things to take care of in the afternoon, at which point whatever it was was shut down completely.

Likely that’s why I was so very anxious Saturday and this morning. That sadness that I had to lock away, maybe knocking at the door, and I just didn’t have the key anymore to open that door.

Yesterday I spent the day traveling to a somewhat distant city and attended a memorial for an uncle by marriage – my mother’s sister’s husband. He was very old when he died and had been sick for a long time, and I hadn’t seen him for many years. When I was a child, it was a family ritual to spend every major holiday with all of my mother’s relatives, so I saw him a few times a year. He was kind to me when I was young. Things were rough for me – I was the scapegoat of the family, and although it made me angry, I also to some extent believed I deserved to be treated as less than everyone else. I was depressed and rarely said anything, but I would talk, if anyone bothered to engage me.

This uncle did. Maybe he was outside the scary strange dynamics on my mother’s side. He was good with people and interacted a lot with the public in his job. He’d ask me questions about school or what I thought about things. I remember him encouraging me to ‘express myself’. As a teenager, I didn’t even really know what expressing myself would entail, to tell the truth, but it felt OK for him to say that. It was like he didn’t agree that there was something dreadfully inferior and wrong about me. My family took that for granted, that I was defective, and mostly, other relatives seemed to agree, but he didn’t.

So I wanted to attend his memorial, although it was a little rough getting there and back. I have a car, and as my brother lives a few streets away from me, we decided to go together. My brother actually did the driving, which took some of the stress of the trip away. We had to leave early Saturday morning to arrive at the cemetery by eleven, which was a challenge. I am so tired from my work week usually, I am not out and about at that time.

My brother is, um, OK I guess. I’m going to explain about my family. I observed my mother’s side of the family at the meal after the service, and my brother has some of their traits. My whole family does, except for my father. The main one is a wish to not discuss anything personal. Discussions of the weather are welcomed, but they do not speak about anything that is not small talk.

I cannot bear to have this kind of non relationship with people, and am not that reserved, so I tend to speak a bit about what’s on my mind. I noticed if I say anything at all negative, no details, but just the fact, my brother would very quickly change the subject. My mother’s brother was the same. I simply mentioned that I was not liking my job, on being asked about it politely, and my uncle immediately stopped speaking with me and looked around for someone else to talk to. I wasn’t going to complain and moan. I just wanted to be a bit honest. But it’s just not OK.

My brother has softened a bit, but not much. I’d noticed in the last year or so, he seemed a bit more willing to engage with me. I had been wondering what had happened. He mentioned, not to me, but to a second cousin he barely knows, that he’d briefly gotten some therapy to help him ‘straighten out his thoughts’, but hadn’t gone long. Huh. So maybe that was the reason he was less rejecting, that tiny bit of probably otherwise fairly useless CBT therapy.

We spent two and a half hours together in the car each way, and on the way back, I became pretty angry with him. I didn’t say anything, because honestly, there is no point – he would simply reject me again. I just withdrew. I’d told him a bit about what was on my mind, while he’d shared almost nothing personal with me. He’s always the star – everyone wants to speak with him. He has self-confidence and calmness, and never says anything that people don’t like. He did grow up in my family, so has issues, but he was treated quite a bit better than I or my sister were. He got lots of compliments on a recent promotion – he has a fairly fancy career that people admire.

I got angry because he so consistently changed the subject anytime I brought up anything remotely personal. Or if I wouldn’t shut up entirely, he turned it on me. I’d said something about how a wedding happened which I was never even told about, and how that was so typical of W’s, that they do not talk about anything. Ah, he said. You’re just out of touch. That happened a while ago. Well, whatever the ins and outs of this particular situation, it’s just undeniable that the W’s are uncomfortable talking about most things. My mother is so remote, she said nothing at all to me all day. She never asked about my cancer scare, whether I’d taken her advice to see our GP. I did ask how she was feeling and she said just tired. My mother is like a child in a dream – she doesn’t engage much. Maybe my brother just doesn’t see it, being like that himself to some extent.

From my brother’s perspective, it is proper behaviour to not tell people things about yourself. I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree that talking about my life makes me less intelligent and worthy than him. It’s just the internal rules of my mother’s family. As if things go away if they are never mentioned – it’s the mentioning them that’s the problem.

This is so very ingrained in my mother’s family and in my family also, that I never clearly saw it until a few years ago. Now I see it, I see the deflection, the changing the subject so fast, the refusal to hear. Even the past – they never speak about the past, recent or more distant, unless prodded.  And then, only a sentence or two comes out. Even the benign, non-threatening past is never acknowledged.

Two of my mother’s sisters, although they themselves were reserved, married more social and self-confident men. And so their kids turned out more normal, less inclined to shut away. I kind of like my cousins, this dead uncles’ children. They do speak about their lives, and don’t change the subject if I speak about mine.

However, we do not talk long. We’re not close, living in different cities.

Where am I going with this? I felt it was another chance to examine where I’d come from I guess. Seeing them all brought up some uncomfortable memories for me of how depressed I’d been as a child, and the feelings of not really being accepted. But I’m glad I went. I’m glad I honoured this uncle’s memory, and braved the family dynamics once again. I can see why I was depressed as a child, apart from the actual abuse I suffered. Not being allowed to discuss any part of reality, not being allowed to express any feelings whatsoever, would depress the most cheerful disposition.

So my weekend has passed in a haze of worry about my potential illness and demise. I think I need to tell myself, I’m a long way from having an incurable illness. Whatever it is, I can likely be treated for it. So be cool. Easier said than done though.

I just spent a few hours with my family as I was invited to dinner with my siblings. I couldn’t keep my health news to myself. My family is very brisk. They were interested, and the discussion was very task based. I can call back and ask to speak to the secretary or surgeon Monday. Or I can make an appointment to see my family doctor, as she will likely have access to my tests, and likely I can see her earlier. I don’t know. My mother said absolutely nothing. No one expressed any feelings or allowed room for my own. They didn’t dwell – as soon as the practical aspects had been discussed, it was on to the next topic – the garden, or some such. Very cheerful.

I was depressed. I refused to be very cheerful and make endless chat. It’s actually kind of interesting to see how the dynamics all play out. My mother saying nothing at all was a blow though – I’d have thought she’d say something. Express some concern.

I didn’t want to worry them and drag everyone down. I don’t know. My reality just sucks at this moment, and I guess I want someone to just acknowledge that. Which of course my family will not do. Not sure why I would expect they would, after half a century of knowing them! It does seem that for them, being sad or down is a weakness of character. Instead of an emotionally healthy response to bad circumstances.

On the other hand, it did normalize the experience a bit for me, to have other people know about it, and see that they don’t think it’s the end of the world. Overall, I’m glad I went.

I wanted to talk about therapy. I’ve been struggling with shutting down. I’ll find on the weekend, I collapse, going back to bed and staying there. I’ll feel as if I cannot, literally cannot function at all. It’s like losing my mind – I’m swamped with sadness.

This happened last weekend, starting after Saturday’s therapy. We discussed what could have caused this in what we talked about. We didn’t think it was anything specific that was discussed – it just wasn’t that wrenching a session. However, at the end, I had switched into B, and she was upset and crying a bit. I remember being upset about the work situation. This happened fairly close to the end of the fifty minutes, so with five minutes left, I had to switch out so I could leave and drive home. I had a hard time switching back. Every time I said something in response to Ron, B would be talking, and I’d be struggling to come back. After a few minute’s struggle though, I was able to leave.

I think that kind of hard switching is bad for me. I’m very conscious of session time, and wanting to be a good client and leave on schedule. And this whole parts situation developed in the first place so that I could cope and present a good front after all. So it’s a natural inclination for me to want to switch out to conform to expectations as soon as possible.

So we wondered how we could switch back more gently. Ron said it’s like I try to push down parts so much, I end up shutting down. He wondered if we can take more time to do that, and allow whatever part it is space again when I get home.

Another thought he had was that I open the door a bit by expressing something or being open, which leads to a flood of emotions, which leads me to shut down entirely. Which makes sense also.

This weekend I was determined that would not happen. For the most part it didn’t, though I had a rough Sunday afternoon where I did nap. But overall, nothing like as bad as last weekend. I did email Ron about how I was feeling several times. He replied to one of my emails, when I’d asked for a response. That one, I limited myself to checking my mail once every half hour, by the clock – otherwise I’d be checking every five minutes. He got back to me the next day around mid-day. A lot of checking.

I also went to my twelve step group, and this morning off to church. And a family dinner tonight. And a lunch with a friend Saturday. So I’ve been more social, and a bit more open, and just determinedly chugging along and being in the world, and it’s helped.

I need to tolerate the emotions, and find ways to soothe. And keep trying to connect a bit with others. That’s all. That’s a lot.

Here’s a story I didn’t share in therapy yesterday, but it has been on my mind. We discussed how I was criticized a lot as a child.

My father is a very enthusiastic cross-country skier, and so as children, we spent many weekends off at various trails. One particularly cold Sunday, we had driven to a favorite resort and skied the trails all day, stopping only for lunch at the heated chalet. The chalet closed up around 4 pm, and we continued skiing until maybe five. When we got back to the parking lot and our car, most people had already left. We undid our skis, got into the car…my father turned the ignition, and nothing. The car battery was completely dead.

Somehow we must have phoned for help – this was before cell phones of course. Then we sat and sat in that freezing car, waiting for whoever it was to come. Cars all around left, we were the only car there, and dark was falling. It was a cold and kind of scary experience.

OK. Shit happens. Here’s what didn’t happen. There was absolutely no discussion about what had happened, that this was a crappy situation, or that help would come soon. The fact was, my father must have left the lights of the car on in the morning (cars didn’t used to beep helpfully when that happened, as they do now). That never really occurred to me. To me, this was a mysterious occurrence with no cause.

I just think in a normal family, the father might have said something like ‘I did this, how could I have been so stupid…’, or the wife would make some protest, like ‘you did this, this is really a pain in the butt now’. No. My father never did anything wrong, ever, that was acknowledged by him or by my mother or by anyone else. It was not OK to make mistakes, and so he officially never made any. Only other people made those.

Now this is not a huge deal. Shit happens. People forget things. Just – it’s an example that I can actually remember, of how things were covered up, even quite innocuous things, to the extent that at the time, I didn’t even have the thought that oh, my father made some kind of mistake.

We were sitting freezing our butts off through mysterious circumstances that had nothing to do with him, according to family wisdom.

It just strikes me that I didn’t draw the obvious conclusion at the time – it was like I couldn’t think bad things about him. Not even think and suppress. Just not see.

Today in therapy I talked about how ‘shutting down’ is a huge issue for me. This is more than numbed feelings – I end up basically immobile, lying in bed mostly. Therapy causes that effect many times, more often than not. Also other things – exercise, yoga class, holiday stress like Christmas….It’s by no means special to therapy, but because I restrict my life quite a bit to cope, therapy is my most consistent trigger. I’m not sure I’m actually processing the bad feelings when this happens – I think it may be too severe, and I just go into this numb state, and then finally make it out again, only to have the same thing happen next time.

I’ve been reading Besel Van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score. He describes PTSD so exactly, and it’s validating to see it written out like this. He writes about how trauma memories are encoded differently, how they are processed as these fragments that come back in that fragmented form. And how your central nervous system is hijacked, so to speak – it’s changed. Instead of a normal resting baseline of arousal, with PTSD, you never relax and feel safe. He says you can either be in a hyper aroused state, which is an anxious, speedy state, or a hypo state, which is a slowed down state of arousal, complete with lowered blood pressure and slower breathing.

I mostly get into this hypo type slowed down state – freeze, or shut down. Though I have anxiety at other times. But in response to triggers, I most often freeze.

Van der Kolk recommends various body therapies to help stabilize the nervous system, before trying to process memories.

In therapy today, I explained these theories to Ron. He was interested. I did admit that VDK doesn’t seem to address the relationship piece of trauma – how with early trauma, trust goes out the window, and relationships can be very disturbed. I feel that Ron is helping me with that part – learning to trust, learning about relationships, and how to be there for other people. My ideas about relationships now are so different from what they were. However, I don’t think the PTSD piece of this is getting better. I think maybe I’m just getting triggered by therapy, but it’s not helping.

Ron listened to all this very seriously, and then asked me if I want him to adjust what he’s doing in therapy. What can you do? I ask. He says he can intervene if I seem to be getting overwhelmed (which he has never ever done), he can do breathing and grounding with me.

I’m surprised he’s interested in trying this. I agree. Then, as the session is half over, I want to talk about some of my holidays.

I talk about the family dinner, and what my family is like. I tell Ron my family is like a cult – they aren’t even allowed to think differently from my father. They don’t just have to do what he wants, they have to not have separate desires. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but my family has that flavour, where no one speaks their own truth.

Then I talk about my ex and son coming over on the 25th. And I make a slip of the tongue – I call my ex ‘M’ apparently. I don’t remember doing that, even right away when Ron asks me why I said ‘M’. I don’t believe him when he says it actually. Then I just say that M is someone important in my life but I don’t want to talk about it.

I talk some more about my Christmas, and have entirely forgotten this ‘M’ situation, when Ron interrupts me and says he thinks it might be important – who was M?

M was the name of the relative who abused me, I say quickly. Then I talk about a movie I just watched, which featured a Paris apartment, furnished in that old European style.That was the style of this relative’s apartment, I tell Ron. And I loved being there. I loved the way it looked, and I felt loved by these relatives. They were kind, they paid me attention, they were lovely. I mean….shouldn’t I hate being reminded of that apartment, when the abuse that I seem to remember was so awful?

They were kind to  you….and M abused you, Ron says.

And at this point, I’m emotional, I want to cry….

It’s ten minutes to the end of session, so Ron says this might be a good time to do the breathing. Oh….I’m surprised. I’m really not feeling that bad….but OK.

So Ron has me feel my feet, breathe, feel my body. I actually feel more emotional doing this. He tells me the feelings are from the past, but I’m here, safe with him. He’s here too.

That makes a huge difference to me. In a way, I hadn’t been realizing that he’s here also, and it’s ‘the future’. I’m getting a bit more upset, so he has me look at him, instead of avoiding his gaze.

So I do feel grounded somewhat. I leave feeling quite together. I’m surprised I got so upset at just the mention of the abuse and thinking about the apartment. Maybe I hope it’s not true – that if I feel so positive about the apartment, maybe the abuse wasn’t that bad, or something.

At home, at first all is good. Then I end up needing to lie down for a while. I’m worried I’m going into shut down mode. But now I’ve gotten up, warmed up some dinner, and am watching a movie. I feel bad, but I’m moving around. That’s what I want. I need to process the abuse – make it real, so to speak, and to do that, I can’t shut down.

I’m hoping going really slowly in therapy is going to help me do that. I kind of think what happens in therapy is I panic. I don’t realize the feelings are from the past, and second, that Ron is there on my side. So I need to not panic, and I need to let him in, so I can feel his support.

Consider going to the church across the street this morning, decide against it at the last minute. First, I don’t like that no one speaks to me. Or almost no one. Second, I realize I am uncomfortable with the rigmarole and ritual around communion. It takes so long, and I just don’t want to stand there through it. I don’t get anything out of that. I do enjoy the sermons, and the music though. So, probably I should have forced myself to go. I’m like this shy horse, having to be very cautiously led to things that make me nervous, I suppose.

So I am home, and I will write about yesterday’s session. It was the first one in a while where there was no direct parts involvement.

I’ve been having really bad spells of anxiety at work, so I tell Ron about that. The problem is they’re so public. I don’t realize the anxiety is happening until later, and I keep talking, but very pressured and speeded up. Kind of like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, when his friend persuades him to have coffee to stay awake, and he starts talking non-stop at top speed. It was funny when I saw it, but also so painful, because that’s kind of what I get like.

I have one fellow worker there, also a contractor, and we are mostly doing the same projects. He’s an older man, and while I generally like him, I’m finding him quite condescending sometimes. He does have more knowledge about the business than  I do, but on the other hand, I know about communications and he doesn’t. Anyway, he keeps implying I’m there to make ‘things look pretty’, or to keep him organized….So a couple of times, this has really rattled me. At one point I actually said something about it to him. He was very concerned, because he’s basically a nice guy, but nothing changed really. Anyway. Maybe that’s one reason I get the anxiety, I’m not sure.

I tell Ron I went for a massage for my RSI, which was OK. First I was kind of high from it – I suppose the gentle touch. Then I plunged into severe anxiety so I couldn’t sleep. Ron asked what was the trigger for that, and I said I didn’t know. There didn’t seem to be a trigger. This is just what happens to me from anything physical. The next day at work I was super anxious again, and that was kind of humiliating.

Later in the week I went to the gym, spending just fourteen minutes on the treadmill, and the same thing happened. At first I felt a lift in mood, then I plunged into anxiety and couldn’t sleep, and had these problems at work.

Ron doesn’t say much about any of this. It’s a problem I’ve told him about from the start of therapy, and it really hasn’t shifted. I feel quite despairing about it. It makes no sense to Ron, I think, so he just leaves it alone.

I had this meeting with my boss and my co-worker. I’d set it up right after one of my anxiety incidents, which are very public, because there are no proper cubicle walls, so everyone hears / sees everything. He accepted right away, which he usually never does – he usually waits until right before a meeting, then decides if he has time to attend.

So we both get to the meeting room, and he carefully asks me how things are going, as if to settle in for a long discussion. He hasn’t looked at the subject of the meeting. My co-worker doesn’t come, because I didn’t remind him. So I realize, this boss is thinking this is some kind of HR meeting I’ve called to discuss some issue I’m having. Aack. It was to discuss a project plan for a project we’re working on.

I feel so humiliated by this. Why? asks Ron. And really, when I think about it, maybe it is nice of this boss to be willing to discuss my issues. I suppose. I never would. I don’t want to have issues that are visible to everyone, I tell Ron. That’s why it’s humiliating.

The nice thing about this is this boss seems to quite like me, and doesn’t go along with the idea that my co-worker is worth more than I am. It’s a very male environment, so it’s easy for men to stick together, but he seems to be making a point of not doing that.

I’m feeling parts in  the background of all this, but I am interested in discussing my life and feel talkative, so I just keep going.

The last part of the session was about my family. I’d gone to a family birthday party at my sister’s apartment. She was there, along with my parents.

This was the part of the session where I felt more emotional. I described the dynamics that were happening – how my mother and sister were virtually silent, and how my father was the only person who would engage. How much I preferred my father to my mother and sister that evening. My father will bat the ball back and forth, conversationally speaking. He even accepted when I said something negative about my ex, and about my son. If I did that with my mother, she would immediately reject me by turning away and pretending I wasn’t there. My father is able to accept that yes, sometimes we feel anger and irritation with other people.

I describe how I tried once or twice to draw my mother and sister out, but then gave up when they gave only one word answers to my questions. I complimented my mother on a leaf necklace she was wearing, and she said thanks, so I asked where she got it, and she said from her sister. Nothing else. Trying to talk to her was like pulling teeth.

I didn’t want to just keep asking her question after question, I tell Ron. He suggests making the situation more explicit, by for instance, saying something like it seems like you don’t feel like talking….

I consider what doing this would feel like. Hmm…..It would be tough. My mother has always been like this.

We talk some more about my mother – about how she does try to connect, by asking about activities I do. But because she never adds anything to the conversation, it just feels forced and uncomfortable. And I feel judged, because I don’t do a lot of activities.

Ron says it seems like she isn’t able to care about other people’s inner lives, or share her own inner life with others.

Yeah, that’s true, I say.

Ron says something about how we have little control about what happens in our inner lives, but it’s natural to share them with others.

I tried less hard with my sister. I think I simply said at one point, so you were out when I tried to phone? (she doesn’t work, but sometimes teaches a course). She just looked at me and said ‘yes’ in this remote voice, so I left it at that. Maybe it was something private she was doing, could be, but all I was doing was inviting her to say something, and she wouldn’t. OK. I gave up. She never asked me anything about myself, didn’t volunteer anything about herself, so I just mainly talked with my father.

I did talk about a few books I’d read, because a big preoccupation in my family is supposed to be literature, so I thought they would say something back. Nope. Just my father said something about a famous author he liked. They just won’t talk.

I didn’t think it was my fault this time. In the past, I’ve accepted responsibility for their not talking to me – I just don’t know the right topics that they want to talk about, or some such. This time, I just felt annoyed, but didn’t take it as personally.

I relate all this to Ron. He says something about being true to myself around my family, not in order to change them, but in order to not accept the way they want me to be.

I tell him how angry I feel with my mother at the moment, and not my father. How difficult this family is. Now I’m discussing it with him, I do feel upset and emotional about it all.

I mention how in group, two years ago, when people mostly wouldn’t participate, how triggering I’d found that, because that is exactly what my family does – they withhold, and judge in silence. Surprisingly, Ron agreed, that yes, that was a difficult situation. I’ve never felt he agreed with me about my experience with his group, so it was nice to get that bit of validation.

Silent withholding – the backdrop to my childhood. Neglect is hard to pin down, Ron says. That’s maybe why you struggle to articulate what was wrong.

So, I go home. At first I feel OK, as I didn’t go into parts with their extreme emotions. After an hour, I feel so blank I need to go lie down, and spend some hours in bed. I get up, read the paper. There’s a story about a woman who miscarried and got depressed. It’s such a well written article, and it’s basically about grief. I start sobbing away, reading it.

So I spent the rest of the day quite bummed. A self-destructive part also surfaces, and that’s always hard. But, I get through. So here I am.