The Tale of Two Therapists

Here we are on day 7 of my Covid adventure. I started off the new year with quite a bunch of fun living in isolation for six days before re-entering the world masked yesterday and returning to work tomorrow. This is the first time I’ve ever had Covid and it surely was a picture perfect experience of fatigue, chills, fever, congestion, and coughing. What fun I’d been missing out on.

Since I do have to return to work tomorrow, I am battling all sorts of anxiety. Maybe that could be for a post for another day, but in brief my job is just brimming with all sorts of challenging situations. I’m struggling with the unpredictability of it, of not knowing what shitstorm I’ll be walking into next. I was given a four-day reprieve from that after break because I was too sick to return, but now there’s no excuse to keep me from those doors. I’m dreading it.

I’m also super fatigued so I have no clue how I’m going to keep up and catch up. Alas, it will get done, but it may be a nightmare in between.

In the meantime, let’s talk therapy, shall we?

Ever since L kicked me to the curb back in the middle of September, I’ve been on the hunt for a new therapist. I saw one therapist virtually once, but didn’t feel it would be the best fit. Then I saw another four times but just could not find any inclination to continue. I paid $200 to see someone once who I did not like at all. So for a month and a half I went without therapy with exception of Dr. N, my trusty psychiatrist. She kept me sane, cared for, and focused on whoever would come next.

Dr. N is on maternity leave now until April. I miss her. As I said in my most recent email to J, it’s funny how someone who I didn’t even like at first could become such a steady and sturdy piece of my support system. Her absence is keenly felt and I’m counting down the days until early April, when she’ll return.

Speaking of J, I miss her too. I can’t believe it’s been over three years since I’ve last seen her in person and 2.5 years since our last virtual session. We email once every 2-3 months. I’m always the one to initiate and she still keeps things coolly professional, with a tinge of information about her (now 2) kids. I expect as much of her.

This time I emailed her, I got up the courage to ask if she thought she’d ever come back to practicing, even if it’s years and years down the line. I’m still holding out that small bit of hope, as you might imagine, and I told her I’d jump ship from anyone in a heartbeat if it meant I could see her again. When she wrote back, she told me she has no plans right now as she hopes to continue expanding her family.

This doesn’t come as a total shock, but it’s gutting to me when I feel so strongly attached to her. The work we did together was groundbreaking for me and she was so, so safe. Just because she doesn’t have plans right this moment doesn’t mean she never will, but since it’s nowhere on her radar I’m sure it very well could be years before the interest occurred for her. That’s hard. I still feel abandoned by her at times, angry that she could have left. But mostly, I just feel gratitude that she’s still in my life at all, even if it’s completely virtually.

All that aside, I would like to be able to tell Dr. N when she returns that I have made some progress. I’d hate to have her disappointed in me, feeling like I’m not progressing enough. I want her to be proud, on one hand, and on another I’m personally invested in that growth for my own sanity. She maintained that even if I’d just developed something of a working relationship with a new therapist, that would be enough.

And so I guess that’s really the crux of what I’m going through right now, isn’t it? Trying relentlessly to settle into a new relationship with a therapist where I can feel safe, supported, and willing to challenge myself a little.

Right now, I’m meeting with two different therapists. Both of them were read the letter that Dr. N encouraged me to write upon our first meeting and both of them reacted appropriately to it. No one was scared off, which was a real fear of mine at first. They did their intakes, asked questions, and off we went into the world of psychology. We’ve met each week since, talking and feeling each other out, while I try to figure out how I feel about them.

I’ll tell you this, it’s very hard to start over with someone new. I may have said this before, but I used to think I’d attach to literally anyone with half a compassionate look and a license to practice and that is just so not true. J was certainly an exception to the rule with the way that I immediately clicked with her, developing that intense bond and trust. I don’t know if that’s just because she was the “first” or if it really truly was because of her personality and genuine warmth.

Either way, everyone that’s come after has been different. Even with L, I liked her after our first meeting, but I definitely was slow-to-warm on that front. I remember not being able to cry in front of her. I liked D too, but perhaps because I knew I wasn’t going to have to depend on her, I didn’t put a lot of pressure on that one.

I’m not used to not being attached to the idea of therapy. For so long it was my place of safety and the desire to be there and feel all snug in my bubble of validation and reassurance was strong. But it’s been four months (as of today) from the two-hour session from hell, and after that nothing was ever the same. Now, though I sometimes look forward therapy through a veil of optimism, there’s no real draw to be there and sometimes I’m not interested in going at all.

Is this how normal people feel?

I feel that I need that craving for therapy though, because without it I’m not super interested in being vulnerable. And what I’ve really noticed is that I dissect every little thing the therapists say or do. I hate the word ‘dissect’ because it calls back what L used to accuse me of sometimes, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something terribly awful. But in all fairness, that is what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s not even about the words, even just a minor adjustment in tone will make my ears perk up in such a way that I physically or emotionally back away from the conversation.

I think the real problem is that this therapy trauma has ruined me from trusting providers. Dr. N is grandfathered in, but besides her I now expect that the relationship will go to shit at some point. Maybe if Dr. N was here to remind me how irrational that is and to instill some sort of reason in me I might be able to see beyond that expectation, but she isn’t!

So yeah, since I expect everything to blow up and since I’m still dealing with the mental toll that being called “emotionally entitled” would take on anyone, I’m laser-focused on everything that’s said and done. I jump on the slightest comment and take it as a personal affront, assuming that I’m being judged. Of course I’m being judged, I think, therapists can’t be trusted. And even if they can, you’ll make quick work of ruining this one just like you ruined L.

I assume that neither of them really like me. They’ll hear what happened with L (and they both have now) and they’ll take her side without even knowing. They’ll assume I have to be at fault. Maybe I am at fault. And from there, the questioning starts. The self-blame. If it’s not her fault, it has to be mine. Am I really remembering everything correctly? Have I forgotten a key piece of information that would turn the finger on me? And like I said, Dr. N, the only one who truly knows what happened, isn’t here to reassure me.

Both of the therapists seem to be nice people. Both of them listened to my therapy trauma, although it was received differently. One of them was a lot more offended for my sake, while the other didn’t offer as much comment on the whole situation altogether. The one who has held back a lot of her opinion is the one who works in the same practice as L, so I wonder if that plays into it, although she has proclaimed they do not know each other well if at all. I admitted to her last week that I wondered if her reluctance to give me the validation I feel I need was because she didn’t want to speak out against her colleague.

Like I said, I’m seeing both of them. They (sort of) know about each other, in the way that I’ve let them know I’m trying to make a decision but I don’t talk about either one to the other and they don’t ask. Both women are young, both are blonde, and both say they have the experience and are interested in working with me. That’s about where the similarities end.

B is from a new agency I’ve never worked with before and I meet with her virtually. She does do in-office visits, but her office is a half hour from me in a direction I don’t often drive, so I’d be making the trip solely for only a 45-minute appointment. That is a huge sticking point for me, since I’ve always had hour-long appointments and feel there’s not enough work to be done in only 45.

M is from the same practice as L, although they are not in the same location, which was a big ask I had for D when she set me up with M. I work in the same area, so it’s easier for me to meet with her in person even though she’s a little over twenty minutes away.

Between the two of them, B seems a bit more likable to me. Our personalities mesh a little better. I also met her first, about two weeks before M who was coming back from a maternity leave, so I’ve gotten to know her a little bit better thus far. That may be contributing.

There’s the family thing to consider, especially as a person who has been plagued by her providers having kids. M has told me that this last baby is it for her, while I’m not even sure if B is married and I’m pretty positive she doesn’t have kids yet. I don’t know if she wants them or not, but if she did that could be multiple maternity leaves standing in my way. I’m not really interested in building a new relationship with someone just to have to deal with a break.

B is the one who felt appropriately angry for me when I told her about the L situation, while M was the one who was more reserved in her opinion. I think that definitely played into my opinion of both of them, as I know about myself that I need someone who truly knows what happened to me wasn’t okay. When B assured me that the accountability was on L, I felt vindicated. M doesn’t seem to want to comment much because she wasn’t there, but I feel like I’ve told her exactly what happened and if she won’t take my side, it’s because she doesn’t believe me.

I’ve probably let this seeing two therapists thing go on entirely too long, but I know part of the reason I’m allowing myself to do it is because that while part of me wants to continue with B, I know that M practically is the better choice. So what if I don’t like her as much? I tell myself. Feelings change. They certainly did about Dr. N. So perhaps they will about M with time. And maybe they will, but I’ve been holding out with B anyway.

Of course, then this week I admitted to B that I felt like hurting myself and her response to it wasn’t helpful for me, so I start to question that relationship too. I feel like she missed the mark, but then I just turn it back on myself and wonder if maybe I didn’t come prepared enough to share things in a way that would get my needs met. If I didn’t know my needs, how could she?

One thing is very clear to me: the kind of relationship I had with L will likely not be a relationship I’ll ever have again. It’s hard to accept that that’s probably for the better in some ways. Sometimes I honestly think that while the texting and the self-disclosure and other forms of closeness that were offered to me felt special and valuable in the moment, they were ultimately not productive or worthwhile to the relationship. In fact, it’s probably what damaged us, because it made our relationship too personal for her, removed some of the safety, and created a bias for her.

It’s hard to be mad at her for something that I cherished deeply when I had it (the texting) because I was so grateful at the time and it did form a bridge between us, but I feel that her giving that to me also hurt me. So while I know it was offered with good intentions, the texting and other form of unstable boundaries are what led to our implosion, and I am mad about that because of what it took from me. The consequences of her not being sure of her boundaries and offering too much affected me way more than her because I was the one that became super dependent on the relationship.

And I was, I was so dependent. I needed her in a way that wasn’t healthy. That’s why it’s so hard now for me to wrestle with my conflicted feelings about not feeling attached in therapy with B or M. I need the connection because it’s what will allow me to get vulnerable enough not just to share, but to accept their attempts to help me. However, I can’t get too close or it will just recreate the situation with L. Now I’m interpreting their attempts to create an appropriate amount of space as dislike.

It’s so, so challenging.

I still think of L often even though I’ve erased all reminders of her except for what exists in this blog, which I have no interest in reading right now. I don’t think I hate her anymore, but thinking about her makes me angry as much as it makes me hurt. I still don’t know how she could do to me what she did. It feels like she had to have hated me to be able to make the choices she did.

Even though she said she “loved me as a person” more than once in our last session, and even though she asked me to take her at her word, her words and her actions were so in contrast in the end that I don’t know if she was just saying that because she wanted it to be true. But the truth is, I loved her in that weird way you can love a therapist because they are your rock. Whether or not she cared for me in the end, I did for her, all the way up until I walked out of her office for that last time.

I wonder if she ever thinks about me. I wonder if she knows or believes that she misstepped. I wonder if she regrets anything. It still doesn’t sit right with me that she was able to make those decisions, to irreparably hurt me, and come away without any repercussions. B says I don’t now what happened, if she faced any reprisals. I doubt she received anything from D, but I truly don’t know. I don’t know if L ever turned inward and came to realize the things she said and did that weren’t appropriate. I’ll never know and that’s probably the hardest part.

If anyone is still reading, good for you. Thanks for coming with me this far. I’m hoping that as we continue into the new year, good things await you. And perhaps this therapy journey will get easier for me. I tell myself I have to make a decision by April when Dr. N returns. I’m hoping that the answer will be clear to me very soon and that I will feel some benefit from therapy again. I so miss that.

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Dear New Therapist

Dear New Therapist,

As I enter this brand new relationship, seeking what I hope will be something refreshing, something healing, I find myself perched precariously on the precipice of emotion. There is so much of it. I imagine myself staring over the edge into an abyss of feelings, and I know that at any moment my feet could give way and I could topple over, falling swiftly into the sadness, the fear, the frustration, and the fury.

None of those feelings are about you particularly, because I don’t even know you. They’re about a wealth of emotional baggage that I’ll carry into any new therapy relationship with me moving forward. They’re about the embers of my past still glowing away in my brain, waiting to either be stamped out or reignited into flames.

It could go either way, really.

That sounds heavy, I’m sure. It’s not meant to. However, it is meant to signify the weight of what I’m entrusting to you with this letter. I’ve always expressed myself better through written word and always been encouraged to use that tool. So here I am, doing that now. Choosing vulnerability.

It’s scary though. You see, I’ve trusted people before you. People whose jobs were to help me wander through my subconscious, collecting trash and mining the gems from what remained. People who were supposed to be there, who said they would be. People who were ultimately not.

From that truth comes the start of my story.

I have been in therapy for over six years. In that time, therapy has always been a safe space for me. It’s been my refuge from the big bad feelings that often overtake me like tsunami waves. It’s been the home of an attachment figure with whom I established close rapport. It’s been a place that I’ve been able to be completely myself without fear of reprisal.

As I’m sure you’re coming to realize, there have been events that transpired to make those things no longer my reality. Something, somewhere went wrong.

But let’s take a step back.

So why am I in therapy to begin with? Well, by diagnosis alone, I am someone who struggles with borderline personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s not the totality of who I am, even though I sometimes believe it to be. My psychiatrist (more about her later) reminds me frequently that I am more that some textbook case of BPD. She reassures me that I have strengths.

On the good days, I can see and truly live my strengths. I am intelligent and organized. I am honest to a fault, loyal beyond measure, and I care deeply about people and things. As my friend says, I would give my right hand for people I care about. I am driven to do well, to do right. I take accountability for my actions.

My BPD manifests such that I wear my emotions on my face and man, am I not great at hiding how I feel. Overjoyed, depressed, or anywhere in between, you’re going to know it about me. Some people think that’s good, others not so much. It’s just a part of me that I have little control over. I feel my feelings, I feel them big, and I feel them frequently .

Like most things, the ambition that I have to meet a certain standard is good in small increments, but often surpasses appropriate limits to the point that my drive becomes perfectionism and my goals become unattainable. The intrusive thoughts take over and start berating me for not being good enough. That’s the OCD and it’s quite loud. I’ve long called it the little ‘minions’ in my head who voice those cruel, disparaging insults.

I’ve grown a lot since I first entered therapy. I no longer think only in black and white, but have instead learned about grey areas and that multiple truths can exist. I have better learned to assert myself and set better boundaries instead of punishing myself for having needs at all. Despite many urges otherwise, I have not engaged in self-harm in over 3.5 years.

Still, in many ways I struggle. My impulsivity has led to unhealthy associations with food and money. I deal with this core belief that I am unlikable, unattractive, and just overall wrong as a person, to the point that I am destined for failure no matter what I do or try. I battle with daily suicidal ideation that waxes and wanes with time, always lingering passively in the background until I look away for long enough that it can get the jump on me. And while I’ve made many steps towards improving the quantity and quality of my relationships, I still regularly feel lonely and like I will never have the things I want in life such as marriage, kids, and a close social circle.

Hence, therapy.

Therapy started with J. I like to think of my time with her as my first real therapy experience even though it actually wasn’t. There was a therapist before her, someone kind and who I probably might have made progress with if I’d been any bit invested in the process at the time. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t, not until J entered my life.

I met J in June 2016, back when I was wary about therapy but really needed the help. In the 3.5 years we worked together, J saved my life in every way possible. She was (is) the kindest, warmest, and most genuine human being I’ve ever known. She knew me intricately and could extract any information from me with a simple look. It didn’t matter what I was struggling with, emotion and words just poured from me by simply being in her presence. She taught me so much, but what I take most from her was the unconditional acceptance. She proved to me that I could be at my worst and still be worthy of care. I am, and always will be, grateful to her.

When J went on maternity leave in November 2019, part of me knew she wouldn’t come back even as she assured me she planned to. In the end, I was right. She wanted to focus on her family, and even though I understood it, enduring that loss felt initially like it would break me. My attachment to her was massive and I didn’t feel I could survive being without my support person for an indeterminate amount of time.

But there was another person in my life at the time too: L. L and I met the year before, in October 2018, when I had sought someone out to help me repair the fraying ends of my relationship with J. We had been experiencing conflict and I wasn’t sure what the next steps were, but I knew I needed and unbiased opinion. Our relationship was only ever supposed to be temporary, but when J announced her pregnancy, L was my fallback person.

When all was said and done, L and I did a lot of work together in the almost four years we knew each other. When J didn’t come back, L stepped up. She tried her hardest to be there for me. For a long time, it worked well. It’s hard, now, to give her credit for any of that. In my eyes, to admit the positive is almost to absolve her of the ultimately traumatizing way in which we ended. Because I truly believe that I did not deserve to be dumped in the way that I was. I truly believe what she did and said was unprofessional.

As a therapist, I wonder what hearing that another therapist chose to terminate me does to you. I wonder if it makes you apt to immediately judge that something must be terribly wrong with me. I know I certainly have wrestled with that thought. But my desperate hope is that maybe you can choose to hear my perspective and understand that there are two sides to every story. This just happens to be mine.

I think the truth of what happened is that she let me get too close. L had boundaries, but they were loose, and while I always took great care to stay behind my line in the sand I was allowed what was probably too much leeway. Boundaries are important. I understand them and I appreciate when they can be appropriately flexible. All along, I thought that’s what I was getting: flexible.

But honestly, what really happened was that her attempt to provide me what she thought I needed backfired. It blurred the lines in our relationship. I was the first one to voice it and we tried to adjust. Then conflict happened and she tried to walk those boundaries back, but it felt like discipline. Like I’d done something horrible and was being punished. We never came back from that.

She let herself care too much and so she took my feelings about her personally. She never admitted that, but I’m not alone in that estimate. Because we’d become almost enmeshed, she perceived my feelings of transference or my experiences in playing out what I do in relationships as an attack against her. She stopped being able to accept those feelings and I started trying to hide them, which if you remember, I’m not able to do. So I’d end up sharing them with her, every time, because that’s what I was supposed to do. In the end, that left her labeling me as “emotionally entitled,” which I don’t know how I’ll ever move past.

My psychiatrist tells me often that the label was not fair or accurate. She tells me that the ending of my relationship with L was not a reflection of me being “too sick”, as it ended up being framed to me, but one of L not being able to manage her own boundaries in a way that was ultimately poison for both of us.

I’m not perfect, I know that, and I know there’s things I could have done differently. Things I wish I wouldn’t have said or done. But my intentions were never malicious. I never aimed to be damaging to our relationship. What I know is that I always tried hard to be the client I was supposed to be. Perfect client syndrome, I call it. I wanted her to never be mad at me, I wanted to follow all the rules perfectly and never misstep. Somehow, that happened anyway.

Attachment is a big factor for me in therapy. The relationship and the rapport speak a lot to how much I’m willing to be vulnerable. My attachment was J was huge and so was the attachment with J. And so being without them on breaks has always been challenging. Just like with J, I struggled to accept time away from L. In the last week before we ended our relationship, I struggled greatly with her vacation. I didn’t think I was strong enough to do it alone. But essentially, I’ve been without much therapy for the last three months now. It’s taught me that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. It’s taught me that even in an unideal situation, I can handle myself. I haven’t thrived, but I’ve survived.

I haven’t been completely alone. I’ve had my psychiatrist, Dr. N, who has been the central figure of my support system. In our short sessions, she has been the person to keep things rational. She’s reminded me, in my quest to find the real truth of this whole therapy thing, that it’s not fair to lay all the blame on myself. I wish that you could talk to her now to hear her perspective on things, because the way she believes in me has made all the difference.

There’s still so much about me that cannot be covered in this letter, so much you need to know. About the job that has dominated my life and pushed me to burnout. About the grandfather I cherished and lost this year. About my delicate family relationships. About my sweet cat who means everything to me. There are pieces of me that will take time.

But most importantly, I need you to understand how big a piece this therapy trauma is. Because the way the situation with L was handled, the way it words were thrown haphazardly in my direction without thought and then I was terminated without so much as a conversation, the rug ripped out from my feet, it wasn’t right. I need you to know it wasn’t right. I need you to know that it reinforced every fear I’ve ever had about abandonment and not being good enough or worthy enough.

I need you to hear me when I say that L has made it so I’m afraid to trust any therapist again. She has tainted the experience for me, sopped up my safe space. I am angry with her for that. I am hurt by it. I feel betrayed that the person I put so much trust in would turn on me.

But I don’t want to give up on therapy because of the gifts that it has previously given me. So I am turning to you and asking, can you help me repair this faltering trust? Can you see me as not just someone with BPD and OCD, but as a real person who is willing to keep trying with support? Can you accept that the work may include discussions about the relationship that are not personal, but necessary? Can you feel confident in your boundaries?

Can you be there?

I hope the answer is yes. I truly do. It would give me a hope I haven’t experienced in awhile. It would give me a fresh slate, a new starting point.

And maybe, it would give me the opportunity to have the wonderful, supportive, caring provider I’ve been told I deserve.

I’m…okay?

I came upon an interesting realization yesterday.

Dr. N and I were having our usual virtual session. She’s the only provider I’m seeing right now. I didn’t return to the temporary therapist, the other potential woman is still on maternity leave, and I haven’t found anyone else that seems appealing. I even emailed J for a referral at Dr. N’s suggestion, but J felt she had been out of the game for so long she no longer had a network of people to suggest.

On the plus side, J was horrified by L’s comments and the nature of our ending. She called that “emotional entitlement” comment incredibly offensive and I felt a touch more validated. She also told me it wasn’t my fault and that I deserve a “wonderful, supportive provider.” So thanks, J. Always nice that she’s still in my corner.

So there’s no one right now. And if M (the maternity leave therapist) happens to have room on her caseload for me (let’s hope!!), the transition will happen right at Thanksgiving when I lose Dr. N for four months. I won’t have her to process the transition with should it occur.

Anyway, back to my realization. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’m coping incredibly well for someone who essentially has had very little therapy in almost two months. The last session I had with L that was ever normal was August 25 and we’re now at October 22. Everything in between that time was explosions and rifts and endings and new, unfamiliar therapists. Plus, of course, Dr. N sprinkled in for 20-30 minute bursts.

I told her yesterday that maybe I can see how I was too attached to L in an unhealthy way, such that the twice weekly sessions felt like a lifeline to me. Without them, I faltered, and I couldn’t imagine a world where they didn’t exist altogether. But with them ripped away from me, I’ve adjusted okay. It hasn’t completely upended my world.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like I’m surviving in place of thriving. There hasn’t been a lot of forward momentum. However, I do get up and to go work, I feed myself (even if it’s with poor food choices), I shower, I get adequate sleep. I’ve been out with friends once or twice. I even had a job interview yesterday.

If I’m lucky enough that M has room in her schedule for me, I know I probably won’t strike gold as to get those two sessions. But amazingly, that’s not bothering me as much as I thought it would, at least not in this moment. I’ve proven to myself that I can survive with less, that I’ve learned enough tools in my 6.5 years in therapy and that I can apply them if even in minimal ways.

I’ve considered delving back into the BPD workbook that I began with L. I’m conflicted on that, much because that work was done with her and getting into it again will definitely bring up memories of her. With that, I know I’ll feel pain. It was also helpful though, and I could use the skills.

I think about L in dribs and drabs. The thoughts come to me most in the middle of the night, when I’ll rehash all of those awful words exchanged. When it happens in the dark hours of night, that’s when I’m liable to turning my memories inward and finding fault for myself.

Other times though, I’m able to properly channel the anger back at her. Dr. N encourages me to do this. She reminds me that it’s very likely L didn’t hold the right boundaries, she got too close, and she couldn’t handle the associated feelings. But instead of owning up to that and admitting she’d made a mistake, she deflected onto me. She equated it to a failure on my part, a being of too much. How she could do that when she knew how much I feared being “too much” for anyone really just astonishes me. I wonder often whether this was a conscious choice or if she truly believed she was in the right.

The more time passes, the more I know she was in the wrong. She handled herself unprofessionally in more ways that one. Maybe she recognized after the two hour session from hell that she was being unprofessional, and that’s what ultimately made her decide to end the relationship. But then, if that’s the case, why not be upfront? And maybe she realized after I walked out on her that she’d been wrong. I’ll never really know.

What I do know is that I continue to have trouble giving her any credit for the years of work we did together. I know I felt lucky to have her and she helped me, but it’s hard to reconcile that with the way she turned on me. Even trying to apply her age old saying “two things can be true” hurts.

It’s funny to me how the person I liked the least initially, Dr. N, has become the most trustworthy and steady. I still believe she was different when she came back from having her son; there was a warmth in her I’d never noticed before. But all that aside, she’s proved to me how much she cares about my progress. About me. She holds appropriate boundaries, not too rigid but not too loose.

I don’t even feel this upcoming maternity leave will be a test of our relationship. I just think it will be hard after I’ve come to lean on her in the way I have. But even that is not the same as the way I relied on L.

I’ve survived this before with her, although it was very different then. Still, I can survive it again.

Perhaps I’ve discovered the strength that L always told me I had. It bothers me that she could ever have the satisfaction of being right. Of course, she’ll never know, and that’s on her.

Work Stress

I am so unhappy with my job right now.

The world of education is really falling apart, and I’m seeing it firsthand every day when I go to work.

We are six or so weeks into a new school year and I’ve already taken 2 mental health days. That’s really saying something, I think.

So what’s the issue? Oh, there are so, so many. Where does one even begin? I guess it really starts with feeling completely undervalued, underappreciated, and altogether disrespected.

You see, I work in the field of special education. It’s my job to case manage my elementary school students. That includes deciding who we evaluate, if they are eligible for services, what their placement is, and what services they would even receive. Except I don’t get to do any of that anymore because I am so micromanaged by my supervisors that the control has been completely zapped away.

Case and point, the other day I went to my principal about something completely unrelated and my principal, after answering my question, then proceeds to talk about the “bullshit” referrals to our team that have been received. We talked about whether or not the student is eligible for our intervention services, which is a general education support Without asking for my opinion (which I may have uselessly voiced anyway), he reminded me that the student is not eligible for special education in any way shape or form because he is either not eligible for intervention or hasn’t received it long enough. No respect for the teacher’s advice or opinion. No respect for mine. Just made sure to remind me to invite him to the meeting and then sent me on my way.

Later I learned that the second referral he spoke of was turned away from even writing a letter to our team. My director got the parent to rescind, which I’m pretty sure is bordering on illegal. That student’s teacher was called out via email in an unprofessional manner, which had her understandably livid.

Earlier that same day, I had a conversation with my director about another student. That student has a diagnosis from a doctor that requires a specific type of instruction and her mother had been asking valid questions about how we would be intervening. My director balked at that since her teacher is not trained in the form of instruction needed and will not be trained (she is a long-term sub). She offered some sub-par solutions that don’t really meet what the parent is asking for and then accused me of always trying to add extra things into the child’s program.

You’d think that would be a compliment, like I’m trying to get the child what they need, but it was not meant as one. Since when am I not supposed to be an advocate for the children? That’s pretty much my whole job, but apparently it’s wrong of me for doing it.

I know I sound sarcastic and cynical, but it’s hard to keep a positive attitude when it seems everything you do or say is subject to being told you’re wrong or in the wrong.

I’m not alone in feeling this way. My colleague, who is also on my team, feels similarly. Another big bone of contention with us is that we’ve been asked to move our office in the middle of the school year so that our secretaries, who are currently located elsewhere, can move into the building. Really, we have no choice. We’re being kicked out and that’s just another thing that’s beyond our control. Our secretaries haven’t been particularly validating to our feelings on the matter either.

Maybe I wouldn’t care as much if my boss didn’t act like us having space was such a “luxury” (her words…many times), but it bothers me. My friend and I share the office, but she’s at another school a lot of the time too, so often it’s just me, and apparently that makes me undeserving of space when I’m not the only person who sees groups/individuals in a small space in our school. Why am I inherently less worthy? I think if she’d been understanding and validating to how I felt, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so scornful about the whole thing.

So we’re moving…and I have no control over many things…and that’s just how it is right now. Every day I go into work wondering what’s going to happen next and how I’m going to get screwed over in the process. I certainly don’t feel support from those above me and I’m always trying to find ways to express myself, knowing that it will likely fall on deaf ears and they’ll probably think worse of me in the process. My director will talk down to me. My principal will look at me like I’m an idiot. It’s just hard to want to get up and put in any effort when I feel like I’m rewarded with more anger and defeat for my troubles.

The anxiety around being at work isn’t helping with actually fulfilling my duties. I didn’t see a single kid last week and that’s unsustainable when I’m required to see them by law. Wanting to see the kids isn’t the problem, it’s that I don’t feel particularly confident in my abilities to counsel. Sometimes I can trudge through, others are harder.

Hard. Things, in general, are just hard. I wish that I enjoyed going to this place that takes up so much of my life. Maybe it would be easier then. But it’s not.

Nothing is easy right now.

At A Standstill

Earlier this week , I walked out of a session with the new therapist I’ve been seeing and immediately left a message for Dr. N to call me. I was quite dysregulated, not the way you’d hope to be after a session. In fact, I spent most of the time looking at the clock thinking about how I was going to call Dr. N because nothing this new therapist was saying was making any difference.

I’m not even going to bother talking much about the new therapist, because I can tell you now I’m probably not going back. I gave her four weeks, but really I could tell the second I sat down in the first session that the vibe wasn’t going to be right. I know myself like that and I know when something has a chance of clicking and when it doesn’t.

Maybe that’s not a good way to look at things. Maybe I created a self-fulfilling prophecy; I decided straight up this would not work so I created my own destiny there. But I was hopeful going into that session until I was in the room, and then my guard went up and I knew nothing would be accomplished.

In the four weeks I’ve been there, we haven’t talked about a lot. Most of the first two weeks was spent on rehashing the shit with L and my anger about it. I know that I’ve felt repeatedly frustrated that the new therapist wouldn’t give me the satisfaction of telling me that what L did was wrong. I haven’t told her that though and I don’t think I could. She validated how I felt, but she never straight out said that L handled the whole situation terribly, and I think I needed her to do that of her own volition because anything else would felt like I’d coerced her which isn’t genuine. I don’t know, but despite my fishing expedition and multiple chances to align with me, she never did.

The third week we spoke about my grandfather, whose birthday was over the previous weekend. I miss him deeply and that was maybe the only way I could be vulnerable, but I still didn’t let myself go too deep. I refused to cry. She was moved by my recollections of him, apparently, and that maybe felt a little good. It was enough to bring me back on Monday, but I think the writing has been on the wall anyway. I’m just not feeling any connection to her and I’m not in a place where I can be open and really raw. Something about her style doesn’t work for me. It’s the pity face she makes that may well just be her resting face, but still makes me angry. It’s that she really doesn’t say very much.

I’m so used to L and her fire, her directness, that I can’t handle the gentleness. It just doesn’t work right now. And so while she reminds me she wants to be there for me, I think I’ve already written her off and maybe it’s not a good idea to go back.

So I called Dr. N because she is my safety right now. She is the one I will listen to. Dr. N said that maybe it’s okay if I’m done with this new therapist. She said it’s good that I’m trying again with someone else tomorrow while I wait for this other therapist in L’s practice to return from maternity leave. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to get in with her, but I am going to try.

She told me to write, since I’m not getting very much out of therapy right now. Here I am, trying to do that.

Yesterday I saw a different therapist who I also did not like very much. I wish I could put into words exactly what it was that is standing in the way of me going back. Well, partly, this therapist was out of network and it was not a very cheap endeavor to spend the time talking to her. So I think if I were going to be putting out more than I’ve ever paid for therapy, I’d want to feel that I could connect with that person.

Her boundaries were also super restrictive. Don’t get me wrong, I think L’s were too loose. She really gave me free access and that ended up being not a good idea down the line. But there’s a middle ground there, like I had when I was with J all those years ago. J and I didn’t have free texting whenever I wanted, but I was allowed to text in crisis and ask for a phone call. Or I sent her blog posts. It wasn’t frequent, but it was there. To be told that I need to use a crisis hotline instead of having my safe person available wasn’t very mind-easing for me. It left me feeling like I’d be pretty much on my own anyway.

So I’m not going back to that one either.

Pretty much that means I’m not going to have therapy for a little while. At least probably. I will still keep looking to see if I can find anyone, but I’m not particularly hopeful. The only hope I have is that D will be able to find me a spot with this other therapist in the practice that’s currently on maternity leave. They’re all always on maternity leave aren’t they?

I guess I’m not totally right, I will have Dr. N for another month. That’s only a half hour a week but it’s still something and right now she’s the only one that I feel comfortable with anyway so at least I know it will be effective.

So WP is probably going to act as my therapy for a little while. If I can find the energy to post, then I will, because I need to get my feelings out somehow. I am so unwell and I know it. I am not functioning. People are trying to support me but there’s limited support to be offered. No one can change the therapy situation.

The temporary therapist I’ve been seeing told me on Monday one thing that I did determine to be helpful: I need to take my power back. Dr. N agreed that I’m letting L have all the power right now from her words and actions. She said it’s okay to use some anger to channel it outward instead of reflecting it internally. That’s hard for me because I’m always the one to try to figure out what I did wrong and how I could be different. I’m always trying to find fault with myself. L certainly was unafraid to do that. But maybe it’s okay to find the fault with her. Many of you have certainly been angry with her on my behalf and that’s somewhat comforting to know that I’m not crazy in this situation.

I still wonder how I ended up here and if there’s ever going to be a time that I’m comfortable with a therapist again. Dr. N says that this can be an opportunity to find someone that gives me the type of help I deserve, but I truly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to settle enough with someone to feel safe with vulnerability. And I’m learning I can be 100% honest in therapy without that vulnerability. I’ll answer questions, but with no emotion, and that isn’t helpful either.

I know I’m being picky with therapists. I wish I wasn’t. But I feel like I need to be careful now. After what I’ve experienced and knowing that I need a very specific type of person who can handle me, I feel like I can’t be too cautious. Who knows, though? I don’t know what the truth is.

Follow along for more fun adventures in the world of therapy.

What You’ve Done

Dear L,

This is the last letter I will ever write to you and it is one you will likely never read. Despite that, I know that the words need to come out as badly as I wish I would have had the capacity to say them while we were still in the same space. But I didn’t, and now chances are strong we will never be in the same space again, so…

Well, here we go.

Two weeks ago, you made a decision that you once told me would never be made without a conversation. You had always assured me termination wouldn’t be just one-sided, but that it would be a dialogue between us. That, clearly, was a boldfaced lie.

I want to choose to believe that that lie, like others, was not an intentional one. You always told me to take what you said at face value. You always wanted me to know that your intentions were good. But you know what L, I’m just not so sure about anything that ever came out of your mouth anymore.

And so, since you abandoned me (because that’s what happened, you dumped me without a real plan in place for continuation of care, which you didn’t seem to particularly care about), I’ve been angrier with you than I thought I could be with a person. In fact, I’m pretty sure I hate you. I didn’t ever see a world where those feelings towards you would be a reality, but we’ve arrived there and I don’t really know what to do with it.

I’ve spoken to so many people since you haphazardly lobbed those final words at me and then left me to pick up the pieces. What almost each one of them has told me is that the way you handled this whole ending was muddy and wrong. I agree. In my opinion, it was horrific. I may have been the one to walk out of session without a proper goodbye, but you certainly didn’t give me any reason to stay.

Do you know what would have been the right thing to do? Well, first of all, you could have prepared yourself better so that you weren’t just spitting out your feelings in a less than clinical way left and right the session before. That excuse you used about my “bullshit radar being strong” is just that, an excuse. Whether or not I might have suspected something was off, you owed me the professionalism that is expected of someone in a position of power, and I didn’t get that. I got your frustration, your “franticness,” and your half-chewed on words that were arbitrarily hurled at me in an incomplete way. You hadn’t thought it through and you certainly didn’t think about how to phrase your words in a way that wouldn’t hurt me.

You always claimed to check your ego at the door, but I think we both know that stopped happening long ago. You were so clearly triggered by me, taking the things I said personally that were rarely even about you. You couldn’t handle a word that came out of my mouth if it had anything to do with you. So you turned it on me and made it seem like I was the one with the problem; like I was the one in the wrong for sharing my feeling. “Emotionally entitled.” You asked me if I realized how inappropriate it was for me to say what I said, but do you realize the level of your inappropriateness? To say to a client that their feelings were wrong after you’ve spent nearly four years telling that same client to tell on their minions, to be honest and open about everything.

Entitlement isn’t a thing in therapy. Or at least, it isn’t supposed to be. Somewhere along the lines you changed the rules about what was okay and then punished me for not being able to read your mind.

As Dr. N says, you framed it as all about my being “too sick” for you when really, you were the one that couldn’t manage how you felt because of me. Maybe you let me get too close. Maybe you let my words have too much impact. Is that my fault? No. And it certainly doesn’t make me “emotionally entitled” because you didn’t have the skills to navigate the feelings that I had a right to have.

I’m haunted by your words. I’m haunted by so, so many of the things you said, but especially that entitlement comment. You said that likely without even thinking it through, but I will remember those words for the rest of my life.

You’ve effectively ruined therapy for me. Even if I manage to find another therapist with whom I can manage to build a rapport, I know that I’ll hesitate before sharing my feelings, especially those about them. I’ll wonder if they will see me as entitled too. I’ll wonder whether or not I will be confronted as wrong and told to squash how I feel., I’ll wonder if being honest will lead to the demise of that relationship too.

There’s so much I could be focusing on in therapy, but I haven’t had a real session in almost three weeks. Even when I met with the two different people that I was considering seeing, it was all about you and the lingering feelings your poor execution of our ending has left me with. It is all I can focus on.

So I haven’t spoken about work, or dating, or anything really. Even if I wasn’t overwhelmed by my feelings and thoughts about you, I’d still be in this position where I have to spend time explaining things that you already knew. I’d still be starting over.

Because you gave up on us. You gave up on me. You decided that I wasn’t worth your time, not even worth the time of finding someone else before you kicked me off your caseload. If it were really about me and helping me “thrive”, you would have waited to help me with the transition. But no, you immediately cut me off with only a less-than-helpful list of two places I could look into.

You can rationalize it however you want, but the truth is you’ve not just ruined therapy, you’ve ruined me. You have solidified in my mind that all roads lead to abandonment. You have proved to me that people can’t be trusted. And you have confirmed my core belief that I am ultimately not worth anyones times, that I am beyond being fixed, and that I am just innately wrong.

So while I’d love to be grateful for the four years of work we did, while I’d love to feel like our ending didn’t erase all of that growth, I can’t feel any of that now. All I can feel is betrayal, and sadness, and anger. Who knows how long that will take to heal.

But you got what you wanted, didn’t you? So good luck with the rest of your life. I hope you’re happy.

Time to Start Over

I’ve debated coming on and posting. It’s been awhile, yet again. Over halfway through September now and I haven’t posted since the very end of July. This blog isn’t home the way it used to be and I’m hardly familiar with any bloggers the way I once was. I think there’s been a massive drop-off in posting from all of us who once cherished this space. When I do pop on here, I certainly don’t see the familiar flurry of names I’m used to.

I’ve thought about starting over with a new blog and a new name. A bit of rebranding, where maybe I could focus more on healing and less on pain. There’s a lot of growth in this blog, but it would also be an opportunity to distance myself from some of the painful past that is documented here.

It’s tempting for sure, especially now.

I don’t know how to go about beginning this. I could do it in a longwinded way or I could cut right to the chase. Either way would have the same outcome: a relaying of some really difficult information to share.

L and I are no longer working together. I’ve been dumped by my therapist.

How did we get here? Well, I’m not even entirely sure and I’ll probably never understand completely. But I guess I’m able to at least explain what ultimately did us in.

When I last posted (I had to go back and read that post to have any idea where I left off), I was harboring feelings of frustration towards L for a number of reasons. A big piece of that was because of the way the rules and boundaries had changed over time, which felt like a huge punishment to me. I was nervous to bring any of it up, because I just knew she would be defensive about it.

I had gotten sick right after my post, so we had a virtual session where I remember her telling me that she felt like she was being super consistent and I was the one trying to leave while she kept calling me back. Then, maybe the very next session or maybe the one after, nearby everything from that post came out and she was quite defensive.

Things were very tense between us for almost the full hour. A big point of contention came about over her instagram, which I thought I should have never had access to in the first place. She maintained that I was the one who had looked it up and found it, she didn’t offer it out to me, but I felt that the onus was on her to keep it private the same way I’m expected to keep my social media private from my students.

What I also remember about that session was having to pause in the middle, because we had clearly reached a stalemate. We couldn’t agree. It feels strange looking back that I had to be the one to make that call because she was so frustrated. By the end of session, she had come around in some way, apologizing about the whole instagram thing and how it made me feel. She was able to communicate her feelings of care in a way that I was able to hear, and I left feeling better about our relationship than in awhile.

For a few weeks, everything was fine. We met twice weekly as normal. L even said that first session after that she felt I had really shown up for the first time in a long time and let her see me. I was very relieved, if only nervous about her impending vacation, which came quickly.

I was supposed to see D over the break for one session, but she got sick and cancelled two hours before we were supposed to meet. It was the week before school started and I was intensely anxious, with my depressive symptoms increasing every hour. I texted L at one point to ask if I could send her an email that I was fine if she never even read, but even when she answered a day later to say I could I didn’t have the energy to do so. I was really strongly dysregulated, but struggling to do anything about it.

Monday came and she was back. I went into session guarded, feeling frustrated that my support system had been gone; not like she shouldn’t have gone of course, just that I’d been alone during a very stressful time. Session wasn’t easy by any means, and I did cop to feeling angry at everyone being gone at once (Dr. N was also away while L was, and D had cancelled like I said).

I don’t remember very much about any of that session anymore, but I know we made a plan for how I’d handle the dysregulation so I wouldn’t hurt myself. I admitted that I could have done more to regulate myself while she was gone, because when she asked what I did do, I kind of shrugged and came to the realization that it wasn’t much. L then made a comment about how me saving all my feelings up for therapy wasn’t sustainable. This comment and my response to it were likely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After therapy, I wasn’t feeling much better. A few hours later, the comment was still swimming in my head. I had read her frustration. I probably shouldn’t have, but I texted her. I’d taken the comment and the context she’d used it in (something about how I had 2.5 hours of therapy a week), and was wondering whether or not she was trying to say she didn’t want me to come for the second session anymore.

I don’t know why this is where my mind went, but that is what I asked. I think I was looking for some sort of clarification on what she meant and reassurance otherwise. In the past, she’d always been willing to give that to me. Looking back, I know that I was trying to do what I’d been told: tell on the minions when they tried to drive a wedge between us and ask directly for what I wanted to know instead of stewing with it.

Well, she did not clarify. I don’t have the texts anymore (I deleted her number), but what I do remember was that she told me “please do not dissect what was said in session. I do not feel you are in a headspace to do so appropriately.” She then responded to a second text where I said my mind was on fire and I didn’t know what was true by saying to “Please follow the plan” to do x, y, and z (whatever those things were).

I was confused and honestly upset by her response. For someone who always was willing to reassure when I needed it, her sudden change of tone was bewildering. I felt like I’d been scolded or admonished. That turned to anger quickly and I remember texting a friend to say I might as well not go on Thursday because she probably didn’t care if I did anyway.

Well, I went, and it was the hardest session of my life.

I’d just completed my first three days of school and we talked about that briefly, but the conversation circled to a recap of Monday and the texts before I knew it. I hesitated to bring up how the texts made me feel and she asked why. I shrugged, “I just don’t want to talk about it.” She paused. “Okay…”

So with that I admitted to feeling scolded and admonished. L thought “admonished” was a very strong term. She looked back at the texts and was confused. And then she became very frustrated.

Our session essentially fell to pieces from there.

L was extremely frustrated with me and it was evident in every word she said. I don’t remember our whole conversation, but it was laced with tension. She didn’t yell, but she may as well have. Nothing I said to her was acceptable and it further pissed her off.

For example, at one point she was pointing out that my behaviors were cyclical and I got very defensive myself and asked that I not be completely pathologized. She responded by saying that all I ever did when she tried to confront my behaviors was shut down and this deflection proved that. It continued like this for some time. She’d ask a question and I’d try to explain myself but the answer was never good enough. Even me telling her I was seeing colored spots and felt like I was fighting dissociation was bad, because it furthered her point on me shutting down.

She took things I’d said to her in previous sessions and threw them back at me like weapons. Everything seemed to be an example of why things were so wrong and it all seemed to be my fault. At one point, I did lose it and explode, asking her what she wanted from me. She maintained that she had no ideal client and there were no perfect words to say, but it was clear that she wanted something I wasn’t giving her.

One of the worst points of the conversation occurred when she called me “emotionally entitled.” She threw back in my face the time 1.5 years ago when I told her I resented her daughter and asked me if I knew how inappropriate that was. It didn’t seem to matter to her why I said it and my intentions in trying to be honest about my feelings so we could talk about it. Just like everything else, she had an agenda for what she wanted to say and I was really just there for her to throw words at.

Even just the fact that I’d been angry she was gone on vacation was wrong of me, according to her. It was a matter of “personal respect” and further showed my emotional entitlement. She proceeded to tell me that none of her other clients felt this way and it wasn’t normal.

Eventually, we came to the point where she said she was “at the end of her clinical rope,” that she didn’t know what else to do, and that she felt I’d outgrown her.

She also kept repeating to me that she wasn’t “a therapy vending machine.” This because I told her I guess I hadn’t gotten what I needed from the texts. Well, that made her mad because apparently that isn’t how therapy works. Which, fine, but it always had been in the past. The sudden change in rules was so confusing. Just like I was so confused and stung by the entitlement comment because I always thought I was supposed to share how I felt, even when the feelings were about her.

By the time the dust settled, it was 5 minutes into the next hour. I was defeated and in a panic. She offered to cancel on her next client (who was virtual) so I could stay. I probably shouldn’t have, but I was afraid to leave as much as I was afraid to stay, and I took her up on it.

At this point, I was thoroughly terrified we’d reached the end. Some of the things she’d said, like that I could take more accountability for my self-regulation, I was willing to accept as reasonable. I assured her I could do better. I assured her that I felt we could work through this and there was no way we could really be done.

L felt she had an open mind. She also said that more than once. Her mind was open that we could work through this. However, she was also repeating things like “I don’t know what else to do” and “I do think you’ve outgrown me.” She kept saying “I love you as a person…” and I could hear that there was more to that she wasn’t saying. When I called her out on the conflicting tone of her words, she told me that it was just how she felt. She did have an open mind, but she did feel like she’d reached the end of her rope.

I didn’t know how both could be true, but I clung to the notion that we weren’t over. I kept promising I could work on things, even though I wasn’t totally sure I could. I told her she was wrong and I was going to prove her wrong that I’d outgrown her. I told her I couldn’t handle losing her, although she told me I could.

Before I left, she told me to write down everything that didn’t sit right with me and we’d talk about it Monday. She said things would be messy for awhile, but we’d work on it. She offered me the pillow in her office that I used as a transitional object, but I didn’t take it. We made a plan, and I left, two hours after session had started.

All weekend, I worked on trying to show her I could do better. I worked on the BPD workbook we’d been going through together. I painstakingly wrote down every feeling I had and tried to frame it in just a way that I thought expressed how I was feeling but also wouldn’t lead her to be defensive.

I never got the chance to say any of it.

Monday, after an anxiety-filled day at work, I went into session. I could tell immediately when I walked in the door she wasn’t right. She didn’t greet me as I came up the stairs, although she asked if I was wearing a new dress. Even her little thing she says when I walk in the door to her office was muted. She closed the door, sat down, and without even a hello began telling me I was right and knew it before she did: she didn’t have an open mind. Our relationship would be coming to a close.

So just like that, after four years, we are no longer working together.

That was on Monday, and I would have been allowed to come in for my session on Thursday if I wanted, but what was the point? She was clearly checked out. As I told her, it felt like she wanted to get me off of her caseload as quickly as possible. She didn’t deny it.

I was handed a sheet of resources I could contact. All it said was that I could go through my insurance to find someone, do an internal referral through the practice, or go to one of these two other practices. When I called the one, they weren’t even in my insurance.

I stayed for 15 minutes, said some things in anger, and then I did something I’ve never done before and I walked out of session. That will be the last time I ever saw her.

After I left, I immediately called D, who is one of the two directors of the practice. L must have called her too, and unsurprisingly D called L back before me. I also called Dr. N. And I emailed J.

Dr. N called me back first. She was amazingly understanding. She’d mentioned when we met after the two-hour hell session that she wondered if maybe L wasn’t the right person to be my therapist anymore, but she’d also (probably for my benefit) said there was still hope. I could tell she was feeling badly for me with how many times she said she was sorry. She reminded me that for a lot of the last year L was not the person I needed her to be. She also said a lot of the things L did were not handled well or very fair to me. I was grateful that she was able to talk me off the ledge a little bit. It got me through the night.

The next day D did call me back. I know she spoke to L, but I have no idea what was said. I was hoping to be able to see D, but due to life circumstances with her, she’s scaling back on clients right now. She felt badly, I could tell, but she offered to do some kind things for me, including getting back my DBT notecards that L still had, cancel my Thursday session so I didn’t have to, hand select a new therapist for me until I found someone I clicked with, and make my file confidential so I could start clean slate without L filling the new therapist’s head with unfair statements.

I did see a therapist yesterday virtually from a different practice, but I didn’t feel that would be a good fit anyway. So on Monday, with D’s help, I will be seeing E. D feels E will be a very good match for me and she had an open place in her schedule. So I am going to try and hope for the best.

I can’t believe I ended up here, and in some ways I can. The more I go back and read old posts, the more I see the writing was on the wall. And I know, because many have told me, that L didn’t handle this completely right. There were ways to be more fair to me. There were ways to be more appropriate.

Dr. N believes that the way this all ended up speaks more about L than it does me. I try to believe her. I have more feelings about this, but nearly 3,000 words in I wonder if maybe it’s time to stop here and come back to it soon.

I don’t know what will happen next, but I hope for some time of new beginning. Something good on the horizon would be greatly appreciated.

Here We Go Again

Last week, Dr. N informed me that she is pregnant and will be taking her maternity leave in December.

It’s been about a year and a half since L returned from her maternity leave and in the last few months, I’ve wondered whether I’d be confronted with this experience of temporary losing one of my cherished mental health providers. L’s daughter is nearly two now and Dr. N’s son is almost three, so it was never out of the realm of possibility.

Dr. N never said one way or another if she wanted another child and I never had the courage to broach the topic. Perhaps thats because boundaries state that I’m not allowed to ask L if she is pregnant and I didn’t want to descend into treacherous waters a second time if Dr. N had the same boundary. Plus, how does one even bring that up?

When Dr. N told me, I think I covered the immediate stomach plunge very well. Even though I’d pondered it, her admission still caught me by surprise as it was in the middle of our session, seemingly out of nowhere. She asked me if I had any response and I just smiled painfully. “Not yet.” That was accepted, but I was reminded I’m allowed to bring it up whenever I want to talk about it.

I sat on the information over the weekend, turning it over in my mind. I didn’t really want to bring that to L for our Monday session. The main reason for this is probably because the last time Dr. N told me she was pregnant, J told me she was also pregnant the very next session. I know L wants another child and my timing never seems stellar, so it could very well happen again.

Either way, I sat in the parking lot on Monday with such anxiety in the pit of my stomach I thought I might throw up. Upon entering session, L then informed me super casually at the outset of an upcoming vacation. I withdrew, pretended that didn’t bother me, and off we went. I was able to distract from the dreaded conversation for awhile by pinning focus on the workbook we’ve been combing through, but my body language gave me away.

As an aside, I wish I wasn’t so readable all the time.

I kept trying to avoid the topic by talking about some work stress, but L asked what else was up. So I told her. She was admittedly sympathetic and she did not then drop her own pregnancy bomb. However, she didn’t tell me she wasn’t pregnant either.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected she would because of the boundary that exists, but I think I hoped she might see how much I was struggling and give me that small piece of relief, especially after I told her about the connection between Dr N’s news and J’s the last time around.

Anyway, we spent the whole session doing a dance I’m so familiar with lately. She encouraged me to feel my feelings and I backed away, trying to dissociate from them. This happened for a number of reasons. Part of me was angry at L for not explicitly giving me the comforting knowledge that I wouldn’t be losing my whole support system at once. Part of me felt that no matter what she said, it wasn’t okay to have my feelings out loud and should have instead been dealt with privately. Part of me straight up couldn’t handle the anguish.

L kept trying to problem-solve and I shut down further. Then the session was over. We talked about it maybe a little more on Thursday, but I didn’t feel like engaging much there either since it was clear the information I needed most would not be coming. Other topics came up anyway, so we focused on those.

I didn’t plan on being upfront with Dr. N about my feelings in our session that followed, but in the silence I did give her an honest account of how I’ve struggled with the news. It’s mostly fear; the last time she left we’d just started working together and I had little to no attachment to her. Now, I care deeply. Even though I didn’t want to, I cried, which I don’t do very often in front of her. Dr. N was very empathetic and allowed me the space. I was still in tears when we signed off.

So now we’re at this space where I have to just deal with the news in my own way. I don’t see any real reason to bring it up during therapy anymore because why beat a dead horse? It is now my load to carry.

I think what I’ll miss most about Dr. N while she’s away (she has promised to return and I mostly believe her) is her calm and rational demeanor. Whereas L is loud and brash at times, Dr. N has a very reasonable and soothing tone when she speaks. She has helped me handle challenging feelings towards L a number a times when I think I otherwise might have sabotaged the relationship and I don’t know what I’ll do while she’s not there to be my sounding board.

Three months feels like such a long time.

And what else is going on? Well, therapy with L continues to ebb and flow. I think it’s clear in how I spoke about our sessions that I still harbor some feelings of frustration towards her.

That’s not consistent though, honestly. After my last post, we talked about my feelings of pressure to be the perfect client. She worked with what I brought her and encouraged me to tell on my minions a little bit more when they start trying to draw a line between her and I. She reminded me again that her working with me is a choice that she continues to make, she doesn’t feel obligated. That should comfort me but for some reason it just makes things feel more tenuous even though she’s never stopped making the choice to work with me in my craziest of moments.

For every moment of connection, there are three more of me quietly tossing around her words in my head, trying not to swallow them the wrong way. Minions jump on board and start the process of twisting those words against her, trying to persuade me that she is in fact very tired of my nonsense. I wonder if I should bring something up, to “tell on them,” but then I feel so ashamed of myself for having these thoughts that I squash that notion.

A lot of times now I can move on from the ‘she doesn’t like me,’ ‘she’s mad at me,’ and the ‘our relationship isn’t special’ thoughts in the moment. Yet they’re like boomerangs in that they keep coming back.

I think the real problem is that while I know certain thoughts are distortions, when I attempt to reframe them I’m hit again with the hard truths of therapy. Yes, she likes me, but there’s a limit. She’s not mad at me, but there are certain boundaries that exist now that didn’t before. Our relationship might have rings of specialness to it, but it’s just like so many others she has. I am a client, she is my therapist. There is nothing more.

This piece from the last post still rings so true:

I’ve spent so much of my time in therapy trying to accept the limits of L’s role. I’ve tried to be okay with what it means to be connected while not allowing the connection to get too intense, too meaningful. But that hurts in its own way.

So where does that leave me? Confused, most of the time. I’ll be sitting there and she’s saying and doing all the right things, yet I want to cry. To run. To get up and walk out of there and never come back because how can this be so painful even when it’s all going according to plan?

I just cannot bear to bring this up because I positively cannot emotionally tolerate it when she confirms those things as true.

On top of that, I think I’m still holding onto some residual anger that the rules did change. The boundaries have shifted. L would likely argue that these changes were necessary when the lines blurred and maybe they were. However, the fact that she let it get to the point where these changes had to be made makes me feel pinches of hurt.

It hurts, it does. There was once a level of casualness that probably never should have been there, but it was anyway. It’s what blurred the lines to begin with, I think. At one point, I advocated for some of that to change. At another, our rupture forced even more change. Still, the way she acted towards me in our earlier days, whether helpful or not, made me feel like I was special to her in a way that I don’t feel exists anymore. When those boundaries went up, I feel like it evaporated.

If that casualness had never been there, if the boundaries had been more concrete from the start, maybe I wouldn’t be harboring this anger now. But maybe we wouldn’t have developed the rapport we had for awhile. I’m really not sure.

This begs to be talked about at times, but I just don’t think I could ever say any of this to her, just like I could never tell her how painful it was to not get the relief I needed when I told her about Dr. N. I feel like in the past she would have given that to me and now she won’t. The stark change hurts, it’s confusing to the emotional part of me.

Either way, when she stepped up to defend herself, I know I would just shut down and it would distance us more. At least right now, with all of that laying concealed, I can safely talk about other things. I still know her room is safe in many ways, there’s just the nagging of those insecurities or doubts that gets in the way sometimes.

The last week and a half or so, I’ve left feeling awful. It starts at any point during session and builds the closer we get to the end. My suicidal thoughts/self-harm urges have been through the roof and it’s taken the ride home to decompress and come back down to tolerable distress level. I don’t want that to keep happening. So something has to change, but I just don’t know how to go about it.

Dr. N suggested that maybe some of this is obsessive thinking, my OCD flaring. She posited that maybe putting a reminder in my phone reminding me that my thoughts post-session are biased and not grounded in complete reality. She encouraged me to disregard them as much as possible, since they don’t always seem to be a reflection of what actually happened in session.

I’ll try that, of course. I appreciate her perspective. I also know that while a lot of it might be OCD-thinking, there are bits that have to do with everything I discussed.

I wish it were simpler. I wish I could just go to session, feel connected, do the hard work, and leave without it completely dismantling me each time.

I mentioned something like this to L and she said it’s the goal for me not to lean so heavily on therapy, and to instead use it as a tool. I took and twisted that too. It bothered me because I’ve worked so hard not to lean on her, I haven’t even texted her outside of therapy in 2 months! But alas, my attachment still creates problems for me. Maybe that’s what she meant.

I’m about 2,000 words in now and still things don’t feel any clearer. I think the ultimate feeling I have right now is sadness that my relationship with L feels so precarious lately despite all the work we’ve put into it. If you ask her, we’re solid, but I struggle to internalize that.

There was a time I probably idealized her too much, but at least then our connection felt really safe and comforting to me. I miss the part of that which was helpful to my growth.

I don’t know where we go next, but I guess I’ll find out on Monday.

Under Pressure

It sure has been a long time since I’ve updated or read or done anything remotely blog-related. I suppose I could point to numerous reasons for that, none of them particularly happy.

For one, my job has kept me in a state of constant whirlwind for months and months now. The school year ended in mid-June and I was afforded a few weeks of break before the summer program began last week. I was experiencing full-on burnout by the time we reached our last days. Doubts about my job, limited motivation, fatigue. You name the symptom and I had it. Most days I was just surviving on fumes. I’d make it home, eat something, maybe take a shower, and then I was asleep to do it all again. No time for living, much less writing.

Also, in May, my grandfather died. He was 89 years old and a huge fixture in my life. I knew it was coming, and had the opportunity to say my goodbyes in various ways. We built up to it slowly as he deteriorated, but when it did happen it completely rocked my world. I’m still grieving, probably will be for a long time, even though I’m learning to live a life that doesn’t include him. We are in the process of cleaning out his house and man, what an undertaking. I can’t be present for a lot of it, it’s too painful. But when I am there it knocks me down all over again.

There wasn’t room for much else in my life besides work and his loss. My social life is in the drain aside from a smattering of dinners and one wedding, which honestly inflamed my self-harm urges more than it helped me. I’ve been on a date or two and besides that? Nothing.

Sleep has been the cornerstone of living for me. I can clear 12 hours in a clip without any bit of difficulty. I find it’s easier to just let my body have the rest it seems to constantly be craving than to fight it for maybe a few pages of a book or a few rows of a crochet project. So that’s where I spend the other majority of my time.

And then there’s therapy, which is the real reason I sat down to write at all. It was my homework from Dr. N this week to write about the feelings I feel surrounding my therapy with L before I see her on Monday, because good ol’ attachment is playing its famous role again, trying to draw a wedge between L and I.

Back months ago, I talked about the hard truths of therapy. Namely, the fact that I have to deal with my own shit outside of the room and it’s not L’s responsibility to be there for me. There are limits to our relationship.

We talked about that post back then, and I don’t entirely remember what came of the conversation. Connection, I’m sure, followed by a few weeks of reprieve before the attachment woes sank their teeth back into our relationship and left me perched precariously on the edge of the fence, leaning back and forth between sharing my pain and fears or complete disengagement.

God, we’ve spent so much time talking about the feelings that arise from my attachment. It pervades so much of our relationship. Too much if you ask me.

And so while things are fine right now, they’re not at the same time. I’ve spent so much of my time in therapy trying to accept the limits of L’s role. I’ve tried to be okay with what it means to be connected while not allowing the connection to get too intense, too meaningful. But that hurts in its own way.

So where does that leave me? Confused, most of the time. I’ll be sitting there and she’s saying and doing all the right things, yet I want to cry. To run. To get up and walk out of there and never come back because how can this be so painful even when it’s all going according to plan?

I’m free to bring this up, I think, but I’m always always hesitant to. There might have been a time where I felt comfortable talking about stuff having to do with us, but that’s certainly not the case now.

I always go back to our last real rupture, when things were particularly poor due to a string of emails, and she withdrew in a sense, fortifying the boundaries. I really feel our relationship has never been the same after that because she started looking at me in a different way. I’m not sure she’d agree. In fact, I’m pretty positive she’d say that wasn’t true. But I’ve never been able to move past it, even as we’ve talked about it.

Bringing up anything relationship-related makes me super uncomfortable. It’s unclear territory. Will I receive a level of reassurance or will her words just reaffirm the things I’m struggling with as a reality I must face? Who knows.

The reason any of this is coming up right now is because of pressure I’ve felt. Pressure to be the perfect client. L and I talk all the time about how I try to mold myself to be the version of me that other people want me to be. I didn’t always try to do this with her, I used to believe I could just be myself. But as I’ve shown more and more pieces of my crazy, as she’s witnessed me really struggle with various things in our relationship, I’m realizing more and more that I’m trying to fit into this box of what I think a good client should be.

The biggest thing about this perfect client? No attachment or relationship concerns. Ever. I can’t say exactly why, but I’ve taught myself that having any problems related to ‘us’ and our relationship is wrong and shameful. I truly believe I should be past any of these problems. They’ve been addressed enough. And no matter what L says, I can’t seem to believe that it’s okay to approach the topic. She might be fine with talking about it, it may not bother her at all, but I find myself feeling that I’m annoying and always verging on the likelihood of it going too far like it did back in October/November.

So when, the other day, there was nothing for me to talk about in session (or at least nothing I could think of), it dredged up these attachment concerns because I was sitting there desperately afraid that she was going to tell me I couldn’t come twice a week anymore. There’s no evidence this was true, but I was convinced. I didn’t say anything though, because it would violate this principle of not bringing up the relationship. Instead, I apologized profusely, which I felt like was annoying her too.

I really can’t win in my own mind. I’m not sure the minions ever let her win either, and I’m frustrated with myself for that. How much can she put up with before she’s not going to want to even try anymore?

Tomorrow I’m back in that room and I’m not sure what it’s going to look like. There is not a shred of evidence that she’s angry, that anything is any different than it’s ever been. But I know I will be anxious all day about it. She wants to talk about the little bit I admitted about feeling pressure. I gave her enough to feel like it was important to hear more. I don’t want to, though. Why bother? I honestly don’t know what good could come of it.

Dr. N reminds me that this is the work. It’s part of my process. And maybe L would say that too, but there are voices in my head feeding me lines that she just wants me to keep my mouth shut about the damn attachment because we’ve dealt with it enough.

What else is there to say?

And in the end…

I lost my grandfather today. I am beyond devastated. The man was a huge piece of my life, and I hope these words honor him in some way, if that’s possible at all.

In his high school yearbook from 1950, the passage that is written beneath my grandfather’s picture reads: “Cute, carefree, and comical – meet [grandpa], our incorrigible mischief maker. He plays pranks on everyone, and rarely takes anything seriously. With his warm, friendly smile [grandpa] can always give your spirits a lift. More fun than a barrel of monkeys, he has a vibrant personality that has gained him many friends. “

The caption is pretty perfect, even 72 years later. And as I sit struggling to find a way to sum up my amazing grandfather and the relationship I’ve been lucky enough to have with him, it occurs to me how difficult the task really is. How do you fit the entire personality of a man who loomed so large into just a few words?

I’m not really sure, but I’m going to try.

Papa always told me he had a good life. In fact, one of my favorite things to talk about with him were memories that he had of his childhood. Whether it was fishing with his father, hunting with his uncles, being the King in the school play, or playing in the river, Papa was always doing something. Always. From an early age, he also adored music and consumed it the way the rest of us consume air. He’d laugh as he told me about the times he’d fall asleep as a boy with headphones on and wake up to have his ears gone completely numb.  

These were the first years of his life and they were everything you’d want from a childhood. Then, at a carnival when he was 15 or 16, he was introduced to my grandmother. He’d pull on her hair and she’d say “Stop it [grandpa]” and he’d just be excited she knew his name. They’d go to see movies together and he would ride her home on his bike, with her on the handlebars. Their relationship blossomed into 63 years of marriage that we kids, grandkids, and great grand-kids had the privilege to see growing up. Yes, there are a lot of us, but all the better for Papa. If he forgot who he was talking to, he would just call us by another name anyway. I don’t know one of us that wasn’t “George” or “Maryanne” at one time or another.

Papa was a man of his time. I remember my Aunt K telling me “they don’t make ‘em” like that anymore” and she was surely right. He wasn’t someone who called upon someone else to do a job he could easily figure it out himself. Whatever the problem, he had a solution, and it usually involved some crazy fix that is still part of the house all these years later. Among his handiwork was a swing in the basement that was pretty much a rite of passage in the Young household. How many times did we jump from the swing to hang from the piping? Who knows, but that, along with so many things, was all Papa’s doing.

Part of being born when he was meant that Papa was not someone who liked to see anything go to waste. Everything could be repurposed and food was never to be thrown away, not when the famous backyard “critter” could use it for a late night meal. I know the skunks and possums and whatever else feasted on his leftovers will all be as equally sad at the loss of their favorite restaurant as we are at the loss of it’s owner.

For as different as each of the members of my family are, there is one thing that we could always agree on, and that’s how profoundly vital Papa was in each of our lives. He was the helm of our crazy family, the center of a wheel in which we were all spokes.  Life spun around him. And we, each one of us, were loved in a fierce, all-encompassing way. If Papa got so much of a whiff that you might be not well, he was the first to call to check in. Once, twice, and maybe even a third time if you didn’t get back to him quickly enough. He worried for all of us for different reasons and even when he got too involved, we knew it was coming from a place of love.

There was even love for his precious cat, Mr. Kitty, the stray that turned him into a cat person. Even though he swore he didn’t love the cat, I distinctly remember Papa calling the house to leave Mr. Kitty a message when he was in the hospital one time, just in case he didn’t come home. They spent many an hour sitting in his chair, two peas in a pod.

When I think of the time I had with Papa, I am flooded with beautiful memories. I will remember our weekly grilled cheese and tomato soup lunches, which he never seemed to tire of. I will remember the sounds of Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson in the house that never ceased. I will remember forcing him to take selfies with me. I will remember our afternoon phone calls on my drive home from work. I will remember sitting out on the swing on the nice days and talking about life. I will remember how he would say words like a character from Popeye – like “chimley” or “aminal” or “ormanent”. Yes, he was certainly unique in that way – or uni-Q as he would otherwise call it.

I don’t know now how we’ll possibly stumble along without him, but this is what I know for sure. I know that I was lucky to be his granddaughter. I know that the time I spent with him I will forever cherish. Saturdays with Papa have been a part of my routine for so long I know it that time is going to be tough to fill.

And I know, more than anything, that the world just won’t make sense without him in it.

A few weeks ago, Papa and I talked about what he’d like his epitaph to say, as he was never afraid to broach the subject. His exact words: “he died bitching.” My cousin J told me not long after Papa passed that he’d heard word that Papa had been yelling at the nurses at the facility and I have no doubt. He was determined to live up to the title of Cranky that my parents and I bestowed upon him, one day at a time. But I’d have it no other way.

Be at rest now, Papa. We’d have kept you here forever if we could, but Nana has been waiting for you.