Last Tuesday I met with my replacement Mental Health Recovery Worker ‘H’ at Rethink for the second time. It was my 3-monthly review so we had paperwork to fill out. I have to admit my second impression of her was a massive improvement on my first impression. She asked me some really good basic questions about my mental health and felt far more approachable. Her body language was still closed on a few occasions but I left the session thinking and feeling that I feel in time that I’ll be able to build trust and rapport with her and be able to work with her. I had hoped I’d leave the meeting more positive and that is what happened. I couldn’t have been more negative about her after the first meeting. I’m happy to be feeling more comfortable with the idea of working with her. It was really odd going in to Rethink on Tuesday and ‘D’ not being there and seeing the desk ‘D’ once occupied sitting empty. It gave me a funny feeling seeing that. I still can’t get used to the idea that I won’t see ‘D’ again, it still feels very raw and painful.
Yesterday I got to meet my new sexual abuse psychotherapist ‘M’. She has been allocated to me because of the pending change to my CPN’s job which means ‘K’ will no longer be able to work with me and there is no guarantee that her replacement will be able to do sexual abuse work with me. ‘M’ works for SAGE – Sexual Abuse Groups Exeter. It is specialist group work therapy for women who were sexually abused in childhood. They do one-to-one therapy to prepare people for the group work when the abuse has been complex and severe, as in my case. I was contracted to do that work with my CPN ‘K’ and am on the waiting list for the SAGE group work. When ‘K’ was made aware of the change to her job she contacted SAGE to alert them to the problem and SAGE allocated ‘M’ to work one-to-one with me.
I was absolutely terrified when it came time for the appointment yesterday afternoon. I was actually shaking as I went in. As I went in I read the room and took note of my gut intuition which was telling me it was ok and safe. I think that gut intuition is what enabled me to talk so easily with ‘M’.
‘M’ is approaching retirement age. She has five years to go till she retires. She’s been working in the area of childhood trauma and childhood sexual abuse for over 30 years, so she’s highly trained and highly experienced. I’d already checked her out on the internet and found her website before the meeting which helped me feel positive about meeting her. She does a lot of work around training up younger workers and passing on her knowledge and experience to them ensuring that the support of women abused in childhood is able to continue.
I have to admit I was astounded at myself for how I coped with the meeting and at how openly I talked about the effects of the abuse upon my life as well as my hopes for healing.
‘M’ explained to me how the different parts of the brain are affected by childhood trauma and how memories are formed and fragmented. She also explained why it is that flashbacks are so powerful and that events that took place so long ago are still very much in the present as far as our brains are concerned. It was really interesting and helpful to have all that explained to me.
It was an amazing hour during which we covered a lot of ground. ‘M’ explained to me that she works weekly with clients. I was delighted to hear that. My progress slowed significantly when I was moved from weekly to fortnightly appointments with ‘K’. I’m absolutely thrilled at the prospect of weekly appointments again! I feel very positive about that and I also feel very optimistic about working with ‘M’. She put me at my ease very quickly. She told me that as far as she is concerned “you am the expert - she is going to walk alongside, accompanying me, supporting, encouraging, holding, in effect, creating a safe space for me to do the work, but it’s me who will do the hard work.” I felt really validated when she said that and I totally agreed with her. The professionals are there to provide support and input but the work is mine to do. It’s something I understand as a youth worker. I fully embrace the fact that only I can do the work of healing with the input of others along the way. That is the case spiritually as well as psychologically and emotionally.
At the end of the meeting ‘K’ told me there is no named replacement for her as yet and she will continue working with me for at least another four weeks which means we have at least another couple of sessions together. So that gives time for the dust to settle regarding the change of Rethink worker before I have to say ‘goodbye’ to ‘K’. I was mightily relieved to hear that and said “phew, that’s a weight off my shoulders.” ‘M’ commented that hopefully the overlap between ‘K’ and herself will gently ‘shoe-horn’ me through the change.
So after a very uncertain and wobbly few weeks I’m beginning to see a way forward, beginning to adjust and to feel it’s going to pan out ok eventually.
In some ways getting a separate sexual abuse therapist is really good because when I was working with ‘K’ it was extremely hard to balance talking about the abuse and talking about other stuff that was going on. When all you have is one hour once a fortnight it’s a hard balance and I continually found I talked about one at the expense of the other. That caused a lot of tension and frustration for me.
So what it does mean is that when I have a replacement for ‘K’ I will be able to work with her on other issues in my life which have been neglected up until now. And that can only be a good thing!