Medium 9781782200918

The Knife and the Butterfly

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This book is a truly original account of a therapeutic journey. Its unique perspective is the result of recordings which the author's analyst allowed her to make during the last eight months of their work together. Thus the reader is invited into the previously sacrosanct confines of the analytic consulting room, and encounters the perspective of the patient in parallel with the vision of the analyst, who imparts psychological, theoretical and emotional meaning to the patient's presenting material.To the author's knowledge, no previously published account of a journey through analysis has been able to invite the reader in to the immediacy and intimacy of the analytic relationship which this memoir offers. Verbatim extracts from the recordings give accurate accounts of their shared dialogue, which is not possible in a one-sided account written in hindsight by either the patient or the analyst.The way in which the theoretical content emerges from this shared dialogue is another unique feature. As a practising psychotherapist herself by this final period in her analysis, both author and analyst can reflect back on the challenges they faced from a theoretical as well as an emotional perspective. The immediacy of these exchanges adds to the intimate quality of this memoir.

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CHAPTER ONE

PDF

CHAPTER ONE

Today, my eyes don’t want to open.

I don’t want to experience painful sunlight,

Only soothing darkness.

I don’t want today to happen,

Or

I don’t want anything to happen today.

Today, I want to hide myself away,

Stay behind a closed door,

Lock myself inside my head,

Take myself away from this time

And stop it from being.

That big, gaping wound

Has started to open up again,

Raw and bloody.

And all I can feel is aching pain

And rising panic.

What can I do

To make this passage of time disappear

And myself cease to exist in it?

I

n the autumn of 2000, with no grasp of what was happening, I found myself in the grip of a deep depression for the first time in my life.

The first and most terrifying sensation was the experience of disintegration. It was a profoundly physical sense of “splitting”: firstly, my mind splitting from my body; secondly, my mind itself gradually but unmistakeably “fragmenting”.

 

Chapter One

ePub

Today, my eyes don't want to open.

I don't want to experience painful sunlight,

Only soothing darkness.

I don't want today to happen,

Or

I don't want anything to happen today.

Today, I want to hide myself away,

Stay behind a closed door,

Lock myself inside my head,

Take myself away from this time

And stop it from being.

That big, gaping wound

Has started to open up again,

Raw and bloody.

And all I can feel is aching pain

And rising panic.

What can I do

To make this passage of time disappear

And myself cease to exist in it?

In the autumn of 2000, with no grasp of what was happening, I found myself in the grip of a deep depression for the first time in my life. The first and most terrifying sensation was the experience of disintegration. It was a profoundly physical sense of “splitting”: firstly, my mind splitting from my body; secondly, my mind itself gradually but unmistakeably “fragmenting”.

Though my inner and outer worlds were thrown into chaos, I could recall the precise moment when this process began, and the spoken words that were the catalyst. They embedded themselves deep into my psyche, and within the space of a few days I felt as though an almost total fracture had occurred. The most obvious effect of this, to those closest to me, was that my physical body ceased to matter. In fact, it became the object of my anger, with its inevitable demands for life to be sustained. In my attempt to extinguish these needs as important, the normal routines of life such as eating and sleeping were turned upside down, and became intrusive irrelevancies.

 

CHAPTER TWO

PDF

CHAPTER TWO

Don’t come too close—

Inside me it is reckless and damaging,

Full of danger and destruction.

All infectious and contaminated.

Stay

The other side of the fence,

Where at least if you don’t know,

You won’t be harmed.

This side is not safe,

For you or me.

Somewhere within these depths

I have the power to hurt and destroy.

On the surface all seems quiet.

But deep inside is a burning

Seething mass,

Constantly at war with itself.

Both a threat and a promise—

The power to devastate and demolish

Is only invisible for now.

It lies dormant, ready to burst out.

I

grappled courageously with Christmas that year, but it was an uphill battle. By the time it arrived, the whole family knew that I was struggling with depression. Patrick was communicating regularly with our son living in Spain and my sister in Australia. Behind the scenes, I also knew that Patrick turned to his sister for support.

 

Chapter Two

ePub

Don't come too close—

Inside me it is reckless and damaging,

Full of danger and destruction.

All infectious and contaminated.

Stay

The other side of the fence,

Where at least if you don't know,

You won't be harmed.

This side is not safe,

For you or me.

Somewhere within these depths

I have the power to hurt and destroy.

On the surface all seems quiet.

But deep inside is a burning

Seething mass,

Constantly at war with itself.

Both a threat and a promise—

The power to devastate and demolish

Is only invisible for now.

It lies dormant, ready to burst out.

I grappled courageously with Christmas that year, but it was an uphill battle. By the time it arrived, the whole family knew that I was struggling with depression. Patrick was communicating regularly with our son living in Spain and my sister in Australia. Behind the scenes, I also knew that Patrick turned to his sister for support. I was grateful for her sensitivity in providing this so unobtrusively. I had invited Patrick's family to spend Christmas Day at our house, together with our daughter and her husband. Finally, I confessed to Patrick that I couldn't face the prospect of so many people. Gallantly and without complaint he phoned his sister and cancelled their visit. “We've been invited to join them after lunch instead,” Patrick told me. “You don't have to go if you don't want to—but let's see how you feel.” My “secret” now glaringly exposed, I felt the merest twinge of embarrassment but couldn't afford to dwell on it. Embarrassment was low on my list of anxieties. I wanted our daughter and son-in-law to come for Christmas lunch, and somehow a meal was produced, with my daughter lovingly holding the fort while I disappeared erratically to control several panic attacks. I had refused to commit myself to joining the rest of the family, but finally agreed to go. My absence would cause further concern, and I knew Patrick would be anxious about leaving me alone for fear of what I might do to myself. Several glasses of wine provided enough Dutch courage to face the rest of the family. At one point during the evening, amidst the noisy laughter, Patrick found a moment to put his arm round me and whisper, “You're doing really well.” I wondered if he understood that this was the result of having numbed myself into a semi-stupor induced by alcohol and antidepressants.

 

Chapter Three

ePub

There's a space in between my hands.

On either side my tears are falling

In time to the music.

But in the middle I can breathe more easily

And see more clearly.

If I were an artist

I would draw the space between my hands.

In that tiny gap lies the power for release.

But I cannot draw,

Only record in words how powerful the tears and pain

On either side of that space.

That is where I want to be—

Inside that space

With just enough room to grow and change,

If I am brave enough to face the challenge.

But for tomorrow

I am full of fear.

Tomorrow, again,

I will be on either side,

Hiding the tears behind my hands,

Frightened away by the freedom

Which seems to be on offer

In the space between my hands.

Somehow I discovered the courage during that first fearful session to tell Anna my story, although the details unfolded gradually over time. In one of the many silences, a space emerged in which I rolled back the passage of years. I found myself describing all the agony and anguish of the young mother I had once been, whose love and trust had been betrayed during the pregnancy of my second child and in the year following his birth; a double betrayal, as “the other woman” was someone I believed to be a close friend. We had shared our first pregnancies and our children became regular playmates in the years following. Naïvely innocent, I offered her the safety of my home when she decided to end her unhappy marriage and had nowhere else to go. Gradually, and without understanding why, I watched my own marriage fall apart. Patrick withdrew from the children and me, or when not withdrawn, he would constantly find fault with me. Eventually, when I could no longer ignore the evidence, he acknowledged that they were having an affair.

 

CHAPTER THREE

PDF

CHAPTER THREE

There’s a space in between my hands.

On either side my tears are falling

In time to the music.

But in the middle I can breathe more easily

And see more clearly.

If I were an artist

I would draw the space between my hands.

In that tiny gap lies the power for release.

But I cannot draw,

Only record in words how powerful the tears and pain

On either side of that space.

That is where I want to be—

Inside that space

With just enough room to grow and change,

If I am brave enough to face the challenge.

But for tomorrow

I am full of fear.

Tomorrow, again,

I will be on either side,

Hiding the tears behind my hands,

Frightened away by the freedom

Which seems to be on offer

In the space between my hands.

S

omehow I discovered the courage during that first fearful session to tell Anna my story, although the details unfolded gradually over time. In one of the many silences, a space emerged in which

 

CHAPTER FOUR

PDF

CHAPTER FOUR

Today hurt, but it was good.

After it was over

I could feel your strength soaking into me,

Helping to mend and glue together so many broken bits

That hadn’t seemed to fit together before.

Something in me is feeling brave … .

Brave enough to let you take the first few steps

Across what was a broken bridge,

Onto my island.

Now the dangerous fractures have been strapped up,

It is safe—

Safe enough for you to cross.

And I will be there,

Hearing, listening, watching,

Welcoming you and taking strength from your strength.

Waiting for that day

When everything is repaired,

And the bridge is safe enough

To let some others cross.

W

hat Anna did in that first session was to free me to an acceptance of the repressed suffering which had made the deep wound of betrayal unable to heal. She had “given me permission” to acknowledge it as a traumatic experience. I felt strangely comforted. Though I could not have expressed it at the time, Anna was offering a safe space in which to probe the depths of my unconscious in a search for whatever lay buried in its darkest corners. In time, this

 

Chapter Four

ePub

Today hurt, but it was good.

After it was over

I could feel your strength soaking into me,

Helping to mend and glue together so many broken bits

That hadn't seemed to fit together before.

Something in me is feeling brave….

Brave enough to let you take the first few steps

Across what was a broken bridge,

Onto my island.

Now the dangerous fractures have been strapped up,

It is safe—

Safe enough for you to cross.

And I will be there,

Hearing, listening, watching,

Welcoming you and taking strength from your strength.

Waiting for that day

When everything is repaired,

And the bridge is safe enough

To let some others cross.

What Anna did in that first session was to free me to an acceptance of the repressed suffering which had made the deep wound of betrayal unable to heal. She had “given me permission” to acknowledge it as a traumatic experience. I felt strangely comforted. Though I could not have expressed it at the time, Anna was offering a safe space in which to probe the depths of my unconscious in a search for whatever lay buried in its darkest corners. In time, this “first story” would reveal roots reaching deep into the bedrock of my psychic structure.

 

Chapter Five

ePub

You might have something to say,

But me, I don't need to talk.

I've said it all on paper.

There's no more to add.

—Just let the written words speak for themselves.

What is important

Is for you to read and keep them for me.

Wherever I am—

Wherever you are—

There is protection

For all those injured bits

That have started to heal.

Where will all these words be,

Far into the future?

Wherever you are

It will be a safe place.

Despite my newly emerging trust in Anna, an extremely precarious period lay ahead. We were approaching summer and Anna had given me notice of her four-week summer break. It would be my first long separation from her, and in the weeks leading up to the break this trust was severely challenged by my inner daimons, who forced me to question whether this separation equalled “rejection and abandonment” in a disguised form.

By July the poems had begun to surface, seeming to emerge from nowhere and driven by a force for which I hardly felt able to claim ownership. I hadn't written any poetry since adolescence, but the depth of Anna's concern for my life had released something. A “hidden hand” appeared to control the pen from which the words simply flowed forth, almost without thought or effort, and suddenly the urge to write overwhelmed me like an addiction. Once I had started I could hardly stop, often completing several poems in one sitting. The power of this force scared me. It seemed to be beyond my control—and yet I was aware of an intense release, as all the terrors and anxieties found a medium through which they could be expressed. Now, the lonely night hours were spent in communicating my deepest fears in a written form, which gave substance to their existence. What I hadn't been able to say to Anna, I was now able to give to her—the concrete reality of my pain.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

PDF

CHAPTER FIVE

You might have something to say,

But me, I don’t need to talk.

I’ve said it all on paper.

There’s no more to add.

—Just let the written words speak for themselves.

What is important

Is for you to read and keep them for me.

Wherever I am—

Wherever you are—

There is protection

For all those injured bits

That have started to heal.

Where will all these words be,

Far into the future?

Wherever you are

It will be a safe place.

D

espite my newly emerging trust in Anna, an extremely precarious period lay ahead. We were approaching summer and Anna had given me notice of her four-week summer break.

It would be my first long separation from her, and in the weeks leading up to the break this trust was severely challenged by my inner daimons, who forced me to question whether this separation equalled “rejection and abandonment” in a disguised form.

By July the poems had begun to surface, seeming to emerge from nowhere and driven by a force for which I hardly felt able to claim ownership. I hadn’t written any poetry since adolescence, but the depth of

 

CHAPTER SIX

PDF

CHAPTER SIX

The birds are special and different.

They were the first to be born.

They fly together and touch together

For a few brief, exhilarating moments.

But the image is not reality …

Nothing is really forever,

And when they have attained their object

They, too, must fly separately

And survive.

Butterflies and birds,

Separate and together;

Learning that to need

Is not necessarily to be wanting.

Give me what I need.

Then I will be empowered to fly alone

And achieve. A whole world will be within my grasp.

A

n important aspect of this undertaking was that it should not be shrouded in shameful secrecy. I needed to have the courage to show my first tattoo to the world—most significantly to my family and those closest to me. Amongst that number I now included

Anna, and perhaps predictably, I needed her to be the first person to bear witness to it.

In the last few months of our work together, Anna allowed me to record her dramatic recollection of that session seven years earlier, in which I revealed my first tattoo to her. What intrigued me about her account was the marked difference between the emotional impact of this event on each of us at that time. Anna’s ability to contain my painful feelings could still mislead me into underestimating the intense impact it could have on her. I simply trusted in her strength to “manage everything”, with little concept of the heavy emotional demands I was making on her. Though I still didn’t understand where this strength came from, I now firmly believed that it originated from a compassionate concern for me. But conflicting feelings towards Anna continued to battle in my deeply troubled internal world.

 

Chapter Six

ePub

The birds are special and different.

They were the first to be born.

They fly together and touch together

For a few brief, exhilarating moments.

But the image is not reality…

Nothing is really forever,

And when they have attained their object

They, too, must fly separately

And survive.

Butterflies and birds,

Separate and together;

Learning that to need

Is not necessarily to be wanting.

Give me what I need.

Then I will be empowered to fly alone

And achieve. A whole world will be within my grasp.

An important aspect of this undertaking was that it should not be shrouded in shameful secrecy. I needed to have the courage to show my first tattoo to the world—most significantly to my family and those closest to me. Amongst that number I now included Anna, and perhaps predictably, I needed her to be the first person to bear witness to it.

In the last few months of our work together, Anna allowed me to record her dramatic recollection of that session seven years earlier, in which I revealed my first tattoo to her. What intrigued me about her account was the marked difference between the emotional impact of this event on each of us at that time. Anna's ability to contain my painful feelings could still mislead me into underestimating the intense impact it could have on her. I simply trusted in her strength to “manage everything”, with little concept of the heavy emotional demands I was making on her. Though I still didn't understand where this strength came from, I now firmly believed that it originated from a compassionate concern for me. But conflicting feelings towards Anna continued to battle in my deeply troubled internal world.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

PDF

CHAPTER SEVEN

“… . At this stage in therapy, when all the doors have been opened, it’s a bit like a very stormy love affair—it has that degree of intensity about it.”

—Anna, recorded in October 2008

W

hile my “adult” mind had resolved the difficult question surrounding my future, I was unprepared for the onslaught from my “inner child” that now surfaced. It took the form of a huge battle, which I increasingly perceived myself and Anna to be engaged in following her return from the summer break. My interpretation of her silence around my decision to begin training caused the first rumblings of suppressed anger. Then a series of events catapulted our

“battle” into the open, and contained the familiar internal conflict of trying to reconcile my feelings towards her.

In early October, Anna announced that she would shortly be going into hospital and would have to cancel my sessions that week. She gave no further explanation, though she did emphasise that she only expected to be in hospital overnight. This was insufficient to subdue my extreme anxiety at her news, but the unspoken message I implied

59

 

Chapter Seven

ePub

“…At this stage in therapy, when all the doors have been opened, it's a bit like a very stormy love affair—it has that degree of intensity about it.”

Anna, recorded in October 2008

While my “adult” mind had resolved the difficult question surrounding my future, I was unprepared for the onslaught from my “inner child” that now surfaced. It took the form of a huge battle, which I increasingly perceived myself and Anna to be engaged in following her return from the summer break. My interpretation of her silence around my decision to begin training caused the first rumblings of suppressed anger. Then a series of events catapulted our “battle” into the open, and contained the familiar internal conflict of trying to reconcile my feelings towards her.

In early October, Anna announced that she would shortly be going into hospital and would have to cancel my sessions that week. She gave no further explanation, though she did emphasise that she only expected to be in hospital overnight. This was insufficient to subdue my extreme anxiety at her news, but the unspoken message I implied from her words suggested that it was inappropriate for me to question her further. I began to fantasise that Anna was “hiding something too awful to reveal”. This anxiety stemmed from a family history of “protecting me from bad news”, and was a painful trigger to events surrounding my father's death. In order to save me from unnecessary worry, he had told me casually about his “brief stay in hospital” the day before it was scheduled. I was emotionally unprepared for the tragedy that followed—so if Anna was “protecting me”, I did not want to be shielded from the full story.

 

Chapter Eight

ePub

Christmas

I hope this will be

A special time for both of us.

A time to forget and to remember.

So many conflicting emotions

Race through my mind—

Pain and joy mixed

In a volatile cocktail.

I wish I knew what this time means for you.

My mind is full of imaginings—

None of them linked to reality.

But still, there is comfort

In the picture I have created.

Now my heart is full of love.

This time, I hope it will help

To raise me above the doubts and difficulties,

To build a new structure

On top of the dismal framework

Of last year.

Christmas 2001 was an unexpectedly happy time. The New Year felt like a “marker”. As I stood on the threshold of my second year in analysis, I recognised the importance to our therapeutic relationship of so many shared experiences. By now I was convinced that it was this relationship that was enabling me to survive, however fearfully, in the outside world.

Looking back over our first year together, some of these experiences had become important connections linking us closely together in my mind. Notable amongst these was the discovery that Anna and I were both to become grandmothers in the same month. In contrast to the previous Christmas, with its destructive thoughts of death, this Christmas held the promise of new life and hope. I desperately wanted to project this symbol of hopefulness into our continuing relationship. Knowing that Anna was also spending time with her family, I was able to maintain a fantasy about her activities which contained the quality of a shared experience. Unlike the summer break, this holiday appeared to be holding us together rather than tearing us apart. A poem written at the time conveys a mood of dreamlike unreality in which I “floated” through my own family Christmas that year. Nevertheless, in my memory it stands out as a time full of good things. To re-experience these feelings after so many months of bleak hopelessness was a relief in itself.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

PDF

CHAPTER EIGHT

Christmas

I hope this will be

A special time for both of us.

A time to forget and to remember.

So many conflicting emotions

Race through my mind—

Pain and joy mixed

In a volatile cocktail.

I wish I knew what this time means for you.

My mind is full of imaginings—

None of them linked to reality.

But still, there is comfort

In the picture I have created.

Now my heart is full of love.

This time, I hope it will help

To raise me above the doubts and difficulties,

To build a new structure

On top of the dismal framework

Of last year.

C

hristmas 2001 was an unexpectedly happy time. The New Year felt like a “marker”. As I stood on the threshold of my second year in analysis, I recognised the importance to our therapeutic relationship of so many shared experiences. By now I was convinced that it was this relationship that was enabling me to survive, however fearfully, in the outside world.

 

CHAPTER NINE

PDF

CHAPTER NINE

Now I am feeling very low.

Some sort of crisis seemed to hit me tonight.

Was I challenging you,

Or was it the other way around?

Did we have what you call ‘a tussle’?

Because now I feel completely drained,

And I have sunk to the bottom of a big, black hole.

I know you tried to hold me

Somewhere safe—to let me know

You understood how I was feeling.

But right now it isn’t working,

And I am crying tears of pain and regret—

Sorry for what I said,

But knowing I had to say it.

What will happen next time?

How will we begin?

Issues of ‘control’, you talked about …

That makes me very frightened.

Now I don’t want to win—only lose.

Control is a terrifying word for me.

But something reassures me that you will keep hold

Of what is happening, helping me to understand.

L

istening to recordings of what was happening between us during my second year of analysis, it is clear that Anna had begun to challenge me to open up my material in a number of ways. Firstly it concerned the poems; then it moved into a battle to get me to talk about my dreams. By Easter 2002, the focus of Anna’s challenge concerned my wanting her to start the sessions, rather than being willing to risk this for myself.

 

Chapter Nine

ePub

Now I am feeling very low.

Some sort of crisis seemed to hit me tonight.

Was I challenging you,

Or was it the other way around?

Did we have what you call ‘a tussle’?

Because now I feel completely drained,

And I have sunk to the bottom of a big, black hole.

I know you tried to hold me

Somewhere safe—to let me know

You understood how I was feeling.

But right now it isn't working,

And I am crying tears of pain and regret—

Sorry for what I said,

But knowing I had to say it.

What will happen next time?

How will we begin?

Issues of ‘control’, you talked about…

That makes me very frightened.

Now I don't want to win—only lose.

Control is a terrifying word for me.

But something reassures me that you will keep hold

Of what is happening, helping me to understand.

Listening to recordings of what was happening between us during my second year of analysis, it is clear that Anna had begun to challenge me to open up my material in a number of ways. Firstly it concerned the poems; then it moved into a battle to get me to talk about my dreams. By Easter 2002, the focus of Anna's challenge concerned my wanting her to start the sessions, rather than being willing to risk this for myself.

 

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