Blog Post: Relationship Independence

The biggest killer of my past relationships has been my fear of being alone.

I am nearly two years into my current relationship, and this is still something that I have to work on every day. My partner is independent, has his own interests, and is not afraid to trust himself and do the things he needs to do to be who he is. It seems to come easy to him, and yet it is something I struggle with.

When I was single, I got used to doing my own thing, it was a tough journey after two back to back long term relationships, but I got there and it finally felt like home. I was able to meet up with friends, do yoga, read, write, draw, travel and explore, and it felt really good after being codependent for so long.

I then met Joey, who is kind, giving, supportive, encouraging, steady and trustworthy, he makes me laugh and lifts me up and it comes with no effort from his side. I have to work very hard to not let him become the source of my happiness and self-worth, because that is something only I can give to myself. It is really hard work.

We do a great deal together, we windsurf, play tennis, swim, run and ski in the winter, and we have both acknowledged that it is important we do our own thing too. My higher self knows that this is both the right thing to do and is extremely healthy, but my inner child, or ego, whatever you want to call it, starts screaming, fighting and panicking.

“Where have you gone!”, it screams, “don’t abandon me! I am completely lost without you! I won’t survive! How can you choose yourself over me!”, and as I hear this voice, I realise that it is not about Joey at all. Somewhere deep down, my inner child is hurting, and is in need of some comfort.

It’s a wound from my childhood, but it’s so deep and early on that I can’t remember it at all, just the feeling it evokes. I now know that i don’t need to remember the exact moment and cause of the feeling, and that the important thing is that I give the feeling some space, and listen to whatever it has to say. Don’t push it away out of shame or fear, just let it speak and understand it.

Yes, it is unreasonable to expect Joey to come and rescue me, to heal a wound that he had no part in causing, and so it is important to identify when I am beginning to ask too much of him. This is the pivotal moment, the awareness and the realisation that the issue is mine, and not his or ours, and only I can address it.

When I am unaware, I act out and start clinging on to him, saying things like “oh I don’t know what I am going to do with myself” and “what time do you think you will be back”, I talk about when we are next spending time together, and I try to take some control back in a situation where I feel I have none.

He responds to these small cues and will begin to back away from me, which then makes me panic even more, and so I cling even tighter, and so on. Even when this happens, and when I have made a few snarky comments, my higher self taps me on the shoulder and tells me to stop and let him do his thing. Thankfully, I am just about self-assured enough to listen, and stop before I cause more harm.

I remind myself that I was once in his position in a relationship, and ultimately, it drove me away. I was the one who was out enjoying myself, seeing my friends and living an independent life, while he was sat at home stewing and waiting for me, rather than out doing the same as me for himself. I felt suffocated and paranoid, I didn’t feel I could move. I do not want to make another person feel like that.

This thought, and the realisation that of course I am ok on my own, helps me to get back to my centre. I am learning to trust that Joey will come back to me, and that it is important that I use that time to do the things I enjoy too, such as seeing friends, reading, drawing, and yoga. These individual things feed us as people, so that we can come back to each other refreshed and full of love, not empty and in need of replenishing.

My friend sent me this video by Will Smith, about this exact subject, which I feel sums up my point perfectly:

Blog Post: How Getting Active Helps Me Feel My Feelings


Not Feeling Anything Real

I’ve realized over the last six years that I have this ability to refuse to feel my feelings. I’d trained myself so well that I was convinced I was a completely different person; always right, in control, independent and confident. It wasn’t until I entered therapy, had a breakdown, and actually had no choice but to face my fears that I saw just how much stuff I had bottled up over the years.

I’d say that I’ve been through the worst of that transitional process, the realization that life simply was not and was never going to be the fantasy I had in my head, and worked hard with my therapist to change my perspective and rewire my brain.

I left London in May of last year to come and travel in New Zealand, possibly settle, and I remember this voice inside saying ‘you’re finally feeling good about yourself, do you really want to go and shake it all up again?’ and I nearly didn’t go. However, I trusted the even deeper gut feeling that whispered ‘go’, and so I did.

Reality Check

The year before, I had set off to Australia for a year, thinking that by going away, I could fix all my problems and prove to myself once and for all that I was a decent and capable person. I was running away, I had had enough of facing my fears and decided that I deserved to live my life. I told myself that I would meet the perfect man, find the perfect job, and that just by taking that leap of faith that things would work out; as if the world owed me a reward for all my hard work. This was another big wake up call for me.

I spent ten months in Sydney, frantically trying to find that perfect man and that perfect job, and, with the prospect of my visa coming to an end, I had another mini-meltdown. I was so afraid to return home and turn back into that person I once was, and lose the person I felt I had found out in Australia. Although this chapter of my life didn’t go the way I’d hoped, it was another experience that humbled me and reshaped my perspective.

Take A Chance

My whole perspective was different on coming to New Zealand, the fact that I was not as excited or as sure as I had been about Australia threw me a little. I got on that plane really hoping that I was doing the right thing, and not running away again, but that voice was whispering ‘just give it a go’ and I realized that I wasn’t running away anymore. I realized that I was just living life, trusting the future and seeing what happened, possibly for the first time ever.

One thing that I have truly come to understand is that if you do something hoping for a certain outcome, you are bound to be disappointed. I still have this realization every day, with my partner and with my job, and I constantly have to remind myself to be humble, grateful and stop expecting things to be a certain way. My respective trips to Australia and New Zealand are a stark reminder of this.

Since I was just living life, I was much more open to new experiences, and to take life as it came. I found a job and a partner within the first two months of my time here, and as much as I hated the phrase ‘it’ll happen when you least expect it’, it rings so true. That’s the thing though; it’s only when you stop expecting and start living in the moment that life brings you these gifts.

Staying Grounded

It’s not easy though, staying authentic and preventing yourself from getting carried away with “when” statements; ‘when I get that house/car/job/partner then things will be perfect’. In fact, when things are good, I cling on to those good feelings for dear life because I am so afraid to face the next hurdle, and find myself saying ‘I’ll feel better when’, and I’m back to square one. I’ve lost myself, I don’t know how I actually feel and I begin to self-sabotage.

I convince myself that I am worthless, unable to perform in my new job and doomed to push my partner away with all my neediness and irritability. It’s awful, and suddenly I am back in my therapists’ room trying to hide away in a dark corner and crying. It happens so easily and so suddenly, and it is so easy to forget how I got myself out of that corner.

I feel so ashamed because from the outside it looks like I finally have everything I want; my partner, job and visa to stay in New Zealand, but those external things can never make up for the inner pain of feeling truly worthless. I have spent a good chunk of my life hating myself; nothing I ever did was good enough, I was never good enough, and it is a dangerous and devastating message to hear. Shame and self-hatred are the most detrimental things a person can feel.

I always remember sitting at home with my family in our back garden, in the depths of despair, telling them that even though the sky was blue with a few clouds, all I could see was black. No one could help me, anything anyone said was like a stab in the chest or a blow to my body. I felt like I was not a part of this world, as if I was in a fish bowl and everyone was looking in wondering what was wrong with me. I felt completely alone, and a freak, and all I wanted to do was to not exist anymore, just so I didn’t have to feel the pain.

It’s not a nice memory, obviously, but it’s a useful one, and a memory that I go back to when I get a bit lost to remind me of how far I have come and what is possible when you put your mind to it. From the day I got to New Zealand, I have been active, exploring or doing an activity I enjoy. In winter, I have been skiing and hiking, and in summer I have been surfing and windsurfing.

Getting Active

I started skiing in December 2010, and have loved it ever since. The first time I went was a baptism of fire, where I had a lesson on the first day (I had been a couple of times before, but not properly) but then quickly became a tag along with the experienced skiers. They took me down what were apparently blue runs (slopes for beginners) but felt more like The Wall in the Swiss Alps, with moguls galore and snowboarders nearly lopping a limb off as they sped past.

I was terrified, but the main feeling that came up for me was anger, something that I hadn’t really felt for a long time. I felt stupid, pathetic, a loser; like everyone was better than me and what was the point of trying. I had a few tantrums with expletives and flying ski poles, but the next day, and every day that I have been since, I picked myself up, got my gear on, and tried again.

It sounds so simple, but for me it has been life changing, and I’ve only just realized it. Skiing brought up feelings that I simply had forgotten about or didn’t even know I had, and having something physical to focus on and observe has been so helpful for my anxiety and depression. These conditions are mental, and so of course cannot always be identified from the outside, by others or by the person suffering, and so mindfulness and reality can be a real anchor when you are struggling to find yourself again.

Those tantrums in the snow were not just frustration with my failings at skiing, they were with myself, and all the anger I had hidden from my family growing up. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I’ve taken up skiing and windsurfing out here in New Zealand, I’ve noticed the pattern when things aren’t going so well in my life.

…And Staying Active

I’ve just taken on my new job, which I have found extremely stressful, and have been feeling increasingly needy with my partner as a result. If I’m not feeling good about myself and insecure, I begin to self-sabotage and both push people away whilst also wanting them close for reassurance. These are classic symptoms of anxious-preoccupied attachment disorder, whereby “in order to get close to someone and have your needs met, you need to be with your partner all the time and get reassurance” – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201307/how-your-attachment-style-impacts-your-relationship

I went windsurfing last week and the week before, both times I felt like a complete beginner again, getting knocked off my board by the waves and constantly losing my balance. As a result, I lost all my confidence, and the second time I went I had a bit of a panic attack and just sat in the water for a while as I couldn’t stop crying.

My partner came over to me and I felt so ashamed of myself that I didn’t want him to see my face so I turned away. The second time he came over I let him gently encourage me to try again, he said, “this happened the last time but you got back on, you know you can do this”, and I listened. It took a few more tries, but I accepted that I was struggling due to the high winds and big waves, and just took myself back to the basics of staying on the board and steadying myself.

My pride was hurt and my ego bruised, but I was glad that I hadn’t given up and had listened to my partner to just keep going. The next time we went, which was this weekend, just two days after the second difficult session, I was nervous and afraid that I had forgotten everything I had learnt and was starting right back from scratch. However, as my therapist reminded me many times, two steps back does not mean all the way back to the very beginning, it means you will come back quicker and stronger than you did before.

I got back up, and with a few tips from my instructor, and a couple of falls, I felt myself getting my balance back, trusting the wind to push my sail, and remembered why I had enjoyed windsurfing in the first place. I suddenly felt elated, full of joy and so grateful at the fact that I was able to be out on the water in such a beautiful country with my loving and caring partner.

I realized that these activities, that I find both thoroughly enjoyable but very challenging, are so healthy for my soul. I didn’t realize quite how bad I had been feeling until my second difficult session of windsurfing when the frustration overwhelmed me. It was a healthy release of difficult emotions, something that I have struggled with my entire life, but have perhaps finally found a few outlets.

I wouldn’t say I’ve lost any weight, or look any slimmer, but I feel a lot fitter and mentally healthier, and those things are so much more important to me than how I look in my bikini. It would be nice for my body to follow suit, but as my mentor says, a healthy mind leads to a healthy body, and focusing on my mental health will lead to a healthier lifestyle and body.

 

Blog Post: Learn To Let Life Unfold

Meditating by the sea

Life seems to have this ability to give you exactly what you need at the right time, if you are able to stop trying to control things, and just let life unfold. I am learning this on a daily basis, and have been since I arrived in New Zealand nearly five months ago. It’s the reason I came out here; to experience life at it’s most raw, basic and invigorating.

I wanted to strip myself of all the comforts of my home life, such as my family, friends, job, home and culture, and whilst I haven’t quite had the courage to go to a country where I don’t speak the language, this has still been a test of my courage and will power.

Since I arrived, I have met people from all walks of life, and watched how I interacted with these people, trying to observe the feelings, thoughts and emotions that came up for me. The thing I noticed the most was my inability to hold on to myself when in the presence of certain people; I always knew that I was a chameleon, I just didn’t realise sometimes it can be to my detriment.

Having come to a new country, where I knew no one and only had my belongings with me, I had no choice but to get out of my introverted shell and talk to people. Unfortunately, my insecurity and need for connection overwhelmed my voice of sanity, and I wound up clinging on to people who were not the best for me, and fit in with my codependency patterns.

Old Habits Die Hard

I was pretty shocked and disappointed in myself that I allowed this to happen, and saddened that once again, I could not help these people find peace. I cut the ties and moved on, with more ease than I expected, and began to place the fear to one side while I cleared some space in my mind for my inner voice to be heard.

I physically had to remind myself why I came here by standing in front of the mirror and telling myself that I would be ok, that I came out here to explore the world and allow life to just take over for a change. I saw myself cling to people, situations and things, and each time I had to remind myself that I didn’t need any of them, that I had all I needed – me.

It’s upsetting to start fresh somewhere and realise that the things you thought were the faults of others are actually the result of your own self-sabotaging actions. It’s also the place where the most reflection and personal growth can occur, and the place where life can become the most breathtaking.

Change Starts With You

I am learning to take a long look in the mirror when I feel myself reacting to others, because really, if you are in a good and stable place in your own life, the actions and words of others can’t really affect you. That is something that I carry around with me every day, and ask myself constantly; “what is this bringing up for you?”.

There are a number of people at my job and in my social life that I really struggle to find a connection with, and yet these people are drawn to me and I to them for some unknown reason. I find myself wanting to understand them, to find a way into their world and to help them find the freedom and happiness that I am finding, but I can’t find a way.

I then come up against an internal wall, and that age-old message of ‘you’re no good’, which stems from the inability to help my mum while I was growing up, rears it’s ugly head. I feel like a failure, this innate belief that my sole purpose in life is to make this person reach their full potential…but I can’t do it, and this therefore means that I am no good.

It’s such a detrimental message, and one that I find creeps up on me like a ninja, sending me subliminal messages about my incompetency as a human being. Before I know it, I am the biggest pile of crap that walks the earth, and I hate the very people that I wanted to help because they have made me feel this way.

The hard truth is that I am just not that powerful or important, and their problems are not mine to fix. I need to put that abundance of energy into myself and cultivate the healthy and nourishing relationships in my life, rather than finding my worth in the success of ‘fixing’ the lives of others.

It seems silly that I have had to come halfway across the world to find this out about myself, but it’s been one of the most useful exercises I have experienced as it has shown me how deeply embedded these habits and beliefs are. I am seeing my pattern of behaviour in all it’s glory, but the amazing thing is that I have the choice to change it, which so many other people do not have.

Be Kind To Yourself

I therefore remind myself that this pattern is going to keep on recurring, and that I must not make things worse by judging myself for falling into it each time. Instead I must simply be aware, and just observe my corresponding thoughts and feelings when I do finally notice it. I have to stop trying to control everything and just allow life to unfold.

It’s tough catching those fleeting thoughts and feelings that arise during interactions with others, and it’s impossible to stay on top of them all at once, so I just have to be patient and trust that it will get easier as time goes on. These people with their problems are not mine to fix, and I know first hand how excruciatingly difficult it is to acknowledge ones own problems, let alone try to resolve them.

This leaves me with a constant conundrum of how I should fill my time, where I should focus my energy and whether or not I need to realign my direction in life. This should of course be an exciting venture, and it is when I feel good, but when I am in the place of anxious uncertainty, it looms over me like a demon telling me I am wasting my life.

Keeping myself on the path of authenticity is no easy feat, but it is without a doubt 100% worth it. While I have been out here, I have found a job which allows me the space to learn and create, a partner who cares deeply for me and our relationship, and have lived my dream of skiing nearly every weekend since I arrived.

My natural habit is one of high alert, constantly looking for the next problem to be fixed, because that is how I have grown up. However, I have been fortunate enough to realise that these behaviours are a product of my environment, and not necessarily who I am. I have sifted through the myriad of learned behaviours and found myself again, so much so that I am able to see when I am being unreasonable and creating a problem to be fixed where none existed in the first place.

Be In The Now

Self-sabotaging is extremely detrimental, and something that I was acutely aware of when I came out here. This is my daily battle to stop trying to control everything, to look for problems where none exist, and to remind myself that life is happening right now, so none of the things I fear are actually happening at all! Life is unfolding as I spend my entire time preoccupied with what could happen, rather than what is happening.

The sadness I feel when I realise how much of my life has been spent like this is overwhelming, but I also feel total and utter joy at the realisation that there is another way to live; fully, authentically and in the present moment. These moments of clarity are when I am able to stop focusing on my fears, preoccupied with the past and future, and enjoy the present moment as I allow life to unfold in front of me.

It’s a vulnerable place to reside, but I have discovered that once you allow yourself to be vulnerable, life provides you with everything that you need, just when you need it.

Blog Post: Starting Therapy


I had tried counselling several times over the years, each time at the bitter end of a failed relationship, and each time I never really felt I got anywhere. This isn’t to say that the counsellors were bad, but I realise now that we didn’t even scratch the surface in the few sessions we had together.

I first saw a counsellor when I was 19, after a guy I had been seeing went back to his ex-girlfriend, and I was absolutely heartbroken. I knew that the extent of my grief was disproportionate to the relationship, and so I sought counselling. I remember being on a bus on my way home and sending him a text after we had split, asking if he would see me and he replied saying that meeting up was not a good idea, but he would see me soon and told me I’d be ok.

I will never forget the pain I felt, the raw, overwhelming and crushing feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the situation. No matter what I did, I could not pull myself out of it. I went to my doctor and I asked to see a counsellor. The experience was positive overall, I felt heard and comforted, but realised that this was how love and life was, people fell in and out of love and I was going to have to learn to deal with it if I wanted to survive. A tough message, but one I needed to hear.

It took me a while, but eventually I weaned myself off of this ex-boyfriend (I still saw him regularly at my lectures) and forced myself to step away. We remained friends, and despite still having feelings for him, I did manage to survive the rest of that year. He’s married now, and apologised more times than I can remember for hurting me, something that really meant a lot to me and I value to this day.

The next time I spoke to a counsellor was after the huge mess left behind by my explosive relationship of 4 years at the age of 27. This relationship started out badly in the first place, because I was with my first real love when I met my second love, and the two crossed over, leaving both confused and consumed with guilt. I was in the worst state I had ever been in, and signed myself up to 5 sessions over the phone with a counsellor. It helped, but it was nowhere near enough to really delve into the problems I was having.

After telling the counsellor how everything was my ex-boyfriends fault, that he relied on me both emotionally and financially, and I was in shock that he had met someone else, he said to me ‘perhaps you need to be needed’. I could also not believe what this puffed up counsellor was saying to me. How dare he tell me this was partly my fault! How could my ex-boyfriend going off with someone else after me giving him everything I had be my fault! I was furious.

A year passed, and I was coming to the conclusion that I was still not feeling any better than I had been the previous year. I felt very alarmed at the thought that I was not getting better, and those words rang in my ears ‘perhaps you need to be needed‘, the horror I felt that perhaps somewhere amidst all this torture that part of it was my fault was unbearable. I started to fall apart at the seams.

I had become an enabled victim, I looked around for someone or something – anything – to blame, because surely this couldn’t be my fault. My work began to suffer as a result, my relationships with family, friends and colleagues deteriorated, and I became a shadow of my former self. I was barely eating, out all the time drinking and trying to numb whatever this was that was eating me alive from the inside. I lost around two stone, and became unrecognisable to those close to me, but I buried my head in the sand.

One day, I had had an argument with my mum, and I ran upstairs to grab my phone and google what I should do. I found myself searching for a therapist, and searched the different types until I found one that I felt suited the best – Cognitive Analytical Therapy (“CAT”), a form of therapy that combines Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (“CBT”) with an analytical approach, i.e. analysis of your existing patterns and behaviours to understand them and the causes before looking to change them.

I realise now that somewhere underneath all of that turmoil, I knew exactly what I needed; someone to hear me, tell me that my feelings were both justified and normal, and help me find a new way to think and behave. I just didn’t realise I knew it at the time. I feel that I have been extremely lucky, because I have heard horror stories of people being physically, emotionally and mentally abused by therapists, but I could not speak more highly of mine.

I booked my first session with him – a taster session – to see if we were the right fit and whether he could help me. It was a 50 minute session after work in August 2012, and despite the whole thing being a blur, I also remember it vividly. I went in thinking that I would only have the recommended 16-24 sessions with him and I would be cured, 4 and a half years later I look back fondly on my 2012 self and wish I could give her some words of comfort and a hug.

By this stage, I had had increasing bouts of suicidal thoughts, my anxiety was completely debilitating and I no longer knew who I was. I hated myself for cheating on my first love and punished myself for losing my second. I went in to my first session ashamed and embarrassed, feeling like the woman with the scarlet letter tattooed across her forehead, and told him what I had done.

I remember him asking me if I had felt suicidal, if I had ever done anything about it or if I had any plans to try in the near future. He asked me about my family and their history of mental health, of who they were and who I was as a part of that unit, and I cried and cried at simply having him pay attention to me. He asked me how I felt and I said relieved, and he told me that he thought he could help me. He asked if I would like to continue and I nodded through my tears and gave him a resounding YES.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I felt during that session, but the only way I can describe it was as if had become aligned with my inner self. I could feel in my gut that I had found someone who would be able to help me. I had no idea how long it would take nor how deep we would have to go, but it didn’t matter, I had found a moment of peace amidst the chaos inside my head. I held on to that, and those moments of peace grew longer and more frequent as he and I continued.

This was only the beginning of my journey, and I’m still processing the sessions and subsequent changes I have undergone over the last four years. It’s been a lot to take in, but it’s been 110% worthwhile.

To anyone curious about or considering undertaking therapy, in my opinion it is a process unique to each individual, and the relationship organic between therapist and patient. There is certainly no one size fits all and part of the beauty of it (excluding those instances of abuse of power and trust) is that you’re opening up and trusting another human being enough to let them help you.

Even from the patients’ perspective I can see what a privilege it is to be allowed into someone’s intimate affairs and to be able to help them. It is a form of support and personal development that I wholeheartedly believe in and I hope to be able to encourage others struggling with this decision by sharing my experience.

 

Blog Post: Staying Grounded

In my previous post ‘Success ≠ Happiness‘, I talked about how passing my ACCA papers and getting a new job were deemed as ‘successes’, and I thought they would make me happy, but they didn’t. I realised that happiness comes from within (sounds obvious) and funnily enough, all those cliches I heard over the years turned out to be true!

It’s been quite a shock to say the least to have this realisation, as for so long I thought all of these material and external things would make me happy. It was always ‘I’ll be happy when I get that job, when I have enough money, when I buy that car, when I get that house, when I meet Mr Right…’ and the list goes on. The trouble with this ‘I’ll be happy when’ mentality is what if ‘when’ never happens?

I found myself asking this question more and more as time went on, and I can safely say that I no longer find myself stuck in this unsatisfactory mindset, but if I do, I am able to recognise it and pull myself out of it. It is freedom at it’s most liberating. I began by asking ‘yes, but what about now? how can I be happy now?’, and I soon realised the most obvious answer to this question: choice. I could choose to be happy.

If someone had said that to me a few years ago, it’s likely that I would have punched their lights out, and told them how bad my life was, how everything was just falling apart and how dare they tell me I could choose to be happy. Understandably so really, because at the time I was mid-breakdown, and all I could see was grey; happiness was something only other people experienced and I had forgotten what it felt like.

However, after what has felt like years of trudging through mud with a sack of emotional bricks on my back, I have finally found dry land and left those bricks behind. I no longer need these external things to find my happiness, and I am shocked to hear myself say that right now, I am happy! I have no car, no flat, no job, no partner and no plans, and yet I am happier than I have ever been in my life.

Of course I am about to embark on an amazing adventure and fly off over to New Zealand, but even if I wasn’t, I think I would be just as happy. I would find something else to explore, somewhere else to go, new people to meet and challenges to overcome. All of a sudden, I see hope and potential where I saw emptiness and despair, and it is in the small things around me, as well as the things that have always been in my life. They have new meaning, and I find myself holding them with reverence and a clarity I have never had.

This has been a gradual process, one which has taken all of my strength and perseverance, and now that I am here, I can’t quite believe it. As a result of this disbelief, I am feeling a strong need to stay grounded during this period, and not to get carried away with ego trips or fantasies of how my life will now flourish. I want to remember that the whole point of this process has been to attain this feeling, right now, in this very moment; the peace and happiness of now.

It is so easy to feel as if you have achieved your goal, overcome your bad habits and dysfunctional patterns, and that all the hard work has finally paid off. The problem is solved and there’s no more work to be done. So many times I have fallen into this trap and reverted back to my old ways of being and thinking, of living in any moment other than right now, building up expectations of the future and denying my feelings about the past. It’s so easy.

Except it’s not easy, not in the long run, and it’s like learning how to swim with no arm bands but then thinking ‘oh why not, it’s easier with arm bands anyway‘ and not putting in that effort anymore. Your muscles become weak, your muscle memory disappears, and you get comfortable back where you started. Then the whole cycle starts again and you get mad at yourself for letting this happen.

This time, something does feel different. This time, it feels like something might just have stuck. I’ve been seeing my therapist for just under four years now, and a week ago we discussed what we were going to do about our sessions when I go away to New Zealand. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said that I would like to continue our sessions via Skype like I had while I was in Australia. I then asked him the same question, what did he recommend. His answer shocked me, despite knowing in my gut what he was going to say.

He deliberated for a few moments, and before continuing he reminded me that what he said was not gospel, and by no means did I have to do it, but went on to say that he thought we should stop. He said that I had made so much progress in the last few months that to continue with Skype would not benefit me, but more likely confuse the situation. I felt absolutely elated by this news, because for years, and pretty much since the beginning of our relationship, I have been dying for him to say those words to me.

After I left his office in a blur of excitement, I became ill, with a head cold and a horrendously sore throat. I had some personal issues crop up that took my attention for about two days and all of a sudden I had no time to think about my therapist and our impending end. I was caught up in the stress of my personal life and the debilitating virus that had taken me over, and I couldn’t bring myself to think of he and I.

I went back to see him after our 5 days apart, and all I could do was laden him with all the troubles I had had and avoid talking about our ‘ending’. I felt disconnected from him, as if I had shut myself off somehow, and I realised that I felt quite angry at the idea of him ‘pushing me off a cliff’ which is how the whole thing wound up feeling. Instead of feeling liberated and confident, I felt betrayed, and I wanted to give him something – a problem – that would show him I can’t cope without him, how could he do this to me.

He caught me out and highlighted this fact, and when he did I felt immense relief because I then realised how upset, angry and scared I really was. I also felt relief because it reminded me that he knows me, he understands how I must be feeling and he managed to coax it out of me as he has done for the last four years. He also said that the body has a funny way of expressing our feelings for us, that the timing of my illness was aligned with the shock of our conversation, and I agreed with him because that is exactly what if felt like.

I saw him again, and I felt much more connected to him, I was able to admit to how scared and sad I was, yet happy at the same time. I couldn’t stop crying during our 50 minutes, when I recounted the last four years, there was just so much to be thankful for. I have connected with this man like he is a third parent, and he knows all my secrets, but now it is time to say goodbye to him and I am beyond distraught.

Much like baby birds leaving the nest to fly, I am leaving the safety of his office to see what I can do on my own, and it is still both liberating and terrifying all at once. For the first time in my life, I know I am ok, I am worthy of happiness and love. At the same time, I do not know how to grieve for this relationship, nor how to trust that what he has helped me achieve will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I keep taking stock, pausing throughout my day and checking in with myself: are you ok? how are you feeling right now? are you sad, happy, angry or scared? what do you need? what is your gut saying? I do this because I have no choice, despite the scary and intense emotions that are flooding my brain right now, something has kicked in. There is a strong voice that overrides that horrible little gremlin telling me that I am no good, and says stop, you know it’s not true, and now is the time that you must stop listening to this.

Something happened when I heard my therapist say that he thinks I will be ok if we stop, and while physically I just felt panicked and ill, mentally my brain was processing this information and rewiring itself. My body just needed to be out of commission for a few days while my brain needed time to do this, or this is how it felt.

It took a while for my brain to compute what he had said, but slowly the message that he thinks I am there got through. Something inside of me started to take over from him, it said ‘he’s not going to be around to tell you to do this stuff anymore, you’re going to have to do it for yourself‘ and that is exactly how it feels. I can almost feel with every day that passes, that a part of me is letting him go.

Letting him go hurts like absolute hell, it’s as if something is being ripped from my insides when I imagine no longer talking to him, no longer being able to rely on him. I find myself replaying conversations with friends of mine who always asked if it was dangerous to rely on a therapist for this very reason – that there is no guarantee that it will either work nor that I will ever stop relying on him. What will I do if I rely on him too much and I am never able to stop seeing him? This was a question that has haunted me throughout the entire process.

That is the paradox; in order to no longer need someone you must rely on them completely, something he said to me time and time again. I could just never understand this, how the hell am I supposed to get better if I rely on you to do it for me?! But that’s just it, healing is a two person job, and in order to get better you must trust that someone wants to help and allow them to share your pain. There was nothing more validating than having him listen to my story and just feel that pain with me, no judgement, just being present.

Everyone is different, we all have different scars from our past, different patterns of behaviour and levels of dysfunction. For me, I knew I needed someone to tell my that my feelings were ok, that they were allowed and I was entitled to feel them. It’s been a slow process, but over the years I have learnt to accept my feelings, acknowledge them and feel them.

There was a time when I did not know how I felt, except pain, but now I can separate them out, identify them, allow myself to feel them and even identify the cause and release them. I ask myself if I am ready, and my intuition tells me that the answer is yes, despite everything else inside of me screaming no. I also know that I am never going to truly feel ready, as that is the point of going outside of your comfort zone.

When I booked my trip to New Zealand, I could not wait to go, to get away from London and my therapist, to bury my head in the sand and just forget about all the pain, but now that it is here I feel completely different. I am terrified to go to the other side of the world, completely on my own, with nothing sorted except two nights in a hostel, and yet my intuition tells me that it is the right thing to do.

I am as ready as I will ever be; to leave, to end therapy and to go to New Zealand. One moment I am completely bereft, the next I am like a little kid at Christmas, it is an emotional rollercoaster and one that I just have to ride out.

It is the moments in between – the calm, peaceful and centred moments when everything within me is in complete alignment – these are the moments that keep me going. I am listening to the voice within that has always known what to do, the one that told me to get out of a bad relationship, to go to therapy, to quit my job, to keep doing my professional exams, to stop seeing the bad boys, to curb my drinking, the destructive behaviour, go to Australia, and to go to New Zealand, the voice that told me to follow my dreams.

The voice has been that of my therapist, and now that voice is mine. I’m more scared than I have ever been in my entire life, but I have never felt more alive. I feel like I am eating life up like it is a never ending meal, and each day is a delicious bite, whether it is bitter or sweet. I am just about managing to get through these moments of agony as well as exhilaration, by standing still, breathing and making sure my feet stay firmly planted on the ground. These are the moments I find the happiness I never thought was possible.