Adventures in Psychiatry

Earlier in the month, I saw a new psychiatrist. It was my most recent foray into the medication world after a very disappointing experience early in 2017 (before my BPD diagnosis). J has been pushing me for awhile to try the meds, but I’ve been resistant. It took awhile to come around to it.

The appointment with the psychiatrist was all right. She was fairly kind, not quite as condescending as the last one. J had prepared me not to expect the same warm demeanor that I was afforded in therapy. She warned me it would be a different kind of experience.

She was right, too. Dr. N listened, she smiled and said the right things, but it was different than being in therapy. More concrete and clinical.

Two things came out of that appointment.

  1. A diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  2. A prescription for Zoloft.

The OCD diagnosis came as a surprise. The way she explained it, OCD can be more than just rituals like hand-washing. For me, the obsession is that people are angry with me or upset with me or going to leave me. The compulsion is asking for reassurance or saying I am sorry.

I had never considered this perspective before, but in a way it made sense. I don’t know how much stock I put in the diagnosis, but J and I later agreed there would be some value in helping me realize when I am acting out my compulsions (e.g. asking for reassurance) and then breaking that pattern. This is not a simple thing, because sometimes needing reassurance is okay, so we need to work on parsing out which times those are.

We haven’t had much of a chance to do that though, because I’ve been too busy dealing with the fallout of the second thing to come from that appointment: the meds.

Like I said, I was prescribed Zoloft. Dr. N said there was a range of antidepressants, and it was fairly a crapshoot which I would tolerate best, but she was picking this one for a specific reason I can’t remember. My assignment was to take half a dose (25mg) for 6-8 days and then up it to a full dose (50mg).

As much as I resisted this, I was cautiously hopeful. J had been encouraging it for so long, and seemed to believe so much that this would help me. I trusted her, so I decided I’d trust this process and give it a shot. I took the first pill that night.

All was fine the first few days. I didn’t feel significantly better. In fact, I was struggling a bit with socialization problems and feeling isolated.

Then Sunday night, the side effects began kicking in. I woke up at 4am and could not fall back asleep no matter how much I tried. This was something I’ve almost never experienced. Sleep is literally my favorite thing ever and if anything I will oversleep because I am always tired.

I chalked it up to stress. Or at least I did until the exact same thing happened the next day. That’s when I realized it was probably the medication. A quick google search confirmed this was a common side effect of antidepressants. I hoped it might get better, but the third night, I was awake more than I slept. By Thursday, I was sleep deprived and absolutely exhausted. I called Dr. N and she thankfully got back to me pretty quickly. She told me to switch the medication to the morning.

At this point, I was already not doing well. I was having conflicting feelings about moving, I was (and am still) overwhelmed with work. Other things were probably going on too, I can’t even remember. It got to the point that I had a complete meltdown in therapy. I began to have a panic attack and was a hysterical sobbing mess for about fifteen minutes. All J could do was look on until I finally calmed down. That night, she told me to get some rest.

The change in time of day did help my ability to sleep and I woke up on Friday feeling marginally better. But it didn’t last. I thought that me getting sleep would signal an improvement and maybe the medication would begin to take effect. The switch occurred at the same time my dosage up though, which sent my body into a tailspin trying to adjust.

I’ve spent the last week a complete wreck. My suicidal thoughts and feelings have been amped up to the highest volume. My anxiety is also high. It’s difficult to make decisions.  It got to the point Wednesday morning where I needed to take a half day in the morning because I was just unable to get out of bed. Once I did, even doing my hair or makeup seemed like the most overwhelming tasks. I’ve had trouble getting ready before, but never to the point that I’ve missed work.

Out of desperation, I texted J that morning asking for support. She was kind, but didn’t have much to offer (I mean, I don’t blame her, what could she do?). She advised me to call Dr. N. I called her that afternoon and she was completely unhelpful. She said that if I felt like I could do it, I should try to hold out a couple more days. Relief was likely coming soon. She said I could go back to a half dose or she could prescribe something else, but anything else would come with side effects.

So I went to therapy feeling completely hopeless on Thursday. It didn’t help at all. J is clearly at a loss. And now she’s on vacation. Her second time away in two months. Granted, the last time wasn’t a vacation, but still. I feel so frustrated to have been left on my own. Even my stupid psychiatrist is away this week, not that I put much stock in her right now.

Worse, I let these emotions slip in front of two of my friends at work last week, and now it’s come back to bite me in the worst way. My honesty of how I was feeling only pushed them away, despite their assertions of being there to support me. I wish that I’d never trusted them with that vulnerability. It only confirms my previous thinking that people can’t handle me and I’m the problem.

That’s about it. As we gear up to head into a new week, I feel more alone than ever. I can’t unload my feelings on my friends anymore, because it’s now been shown they can’t or don’t want to handle it. I won’t even have my therapist this week.

So far, this has all been a bust. It makes me continue to wonder whether I’m beyond help.

 

 

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Embracing Vulnerability

“These are the words I say before my feet hit the floor every day: today I’ll choose courage over comfort. I can’t make commitments for tomorrow, but today, I’m going to choose to be brave and I know what that means.” – Brené Brown, The Call to Courage

I watched Brown’s special “The Call to Courage” on Netflix this morning. It was the second time I’ve seen it, but I was filled with so many feelings the first time I watched it that everything in me pushed relive that experience again. And if I had to guess, it won’t be the last time I do.

I love Brené Brown. I’ve posted about her before. I’ve seen others post about her. I think that the topics she talks about and the way she in which she delivers her message is very powerful. It’s a very simple idea. Vulnerability is a necessary part of life. At times, you will fall and get dusty, dirty, bloody, battered by your risky choices. But there is no payout without those courageous choices either. You can’t sit in the cheap seats and enjoy your life, have deep lasting connections, without those vulnerable choices.

Like her, I want to fight that. Every cell in my body wants to fight the notion that to succeed, I will have to fail. To feel joy, I will have to feel pain. It seems counterintuitive.

Regardless, I’ve been trying. Trying to have the tough conversations that make me want to run screaming in the other direction. I’ve been telling the story of myself, as Brown would say. Sharing my truths in an honest, authentic way with hope of furthering connections instead of letting my negative feelings break those connections.

And it’s…not been the worst experience ever.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s been uncomfortable as hell, but I’ve survived it. So I’m taking this as a win.

A few weeks ago, H (one of the kids I babysit) told me that her mother had been complaining about me after I left one night. Something about my not putting away some laundry. Granted, there was a reason I hadn’t put it away, but that’s not necessarily the point of the story.

H was worried, afraid she’d made the wrong choice by telling me. Afraid if she told me, her mother and I would get in a fight that ended our working relationship, and by extension, my relationship with H. My first reaction was an intense bout of shame, which morphed into worry, which morphed into feelings of anger. A succession of thoughts from Oh no! I’ve done something terribly wrong and messed things up to How will I fix this? How will I make things okay for H and for me? to How dare she not appreciate all the work I do for her family? I let my blood boil quietly as she told me, all the while calmly reassuring her things would be just fine.

Still, after I put them to bed that night I agonized over how to handle this information that I should not have had access to, advocating for myself while simultaneously protecting my source (H). There was no reason to involve her. I considered saying nothing at all, but I had too many feelings and not a good enough poker face to cover them. Other little slights from her had been building up, including her snapping at me pretty rudely in front of the girls days earlier.  I knew my anger would betray me eventually and end up making things worse if I tried to keep it in.

I slept on it. Part of me knew that she had been seriously stressed with work and this was likely a manifestation of that, but the other part of me didn’t think it was fair that I had to worry about her ragging on me in front of the girls when I give them so much of my timer and energy. I chose my words carefully, I practiced what I might say, and then I reviewed those words with J. She thought I’d come up with a great plan.

So one day after she got home from work, when H was out of the house, I sent S down to play and approached her gently. I mentioned that I’d noticed she appeared tense and frustrated and wanted to know how I could best be making use of my time while I was there, trying to make it clear that I was there to help but also that I was absorbing her stress in a negative way. I gave her a chance to cop to the laundry issue without every bringing it up. She did, indirectly, and we discussed it calmly.  She apologized for being short with me and I thanked her. At the same time, I could tell she felt taken aback by the conversation, maybe accused or maybe defensive. I tried to validate her busy work schedule and then I backed off, sitting with my own discomfort as she left the house to go for a run.

It was so, so, difficult to do. I felt every impulse to text her and apologize, to take back what I’d said. But I didn’t and our relationship survived it. It felt like a success.

On Monday, I had to get up the courage to have the difficult conversation with my friend A about our moving situation. I was extremely nervous about how it might go. Her relationship with her boyfriend is obviously an important one to her, so I knew she might have challenging feelings about me wanting more information on his involvement in our house search and talking about boundaries while living there. I didn’t know what it would mean for our friendship.

It was awkward.  I was honest, and I said what I’d practiced effectively, but in the moment I could see I’d hit a nerve. She wasn’t overly defensive, but I could hear the confusion and hesitancy in her words. Just like with the girls’ mom, I’d braced myself for the impact of my words on her. Had to prepare myself that she would have a reaction. Ugh, it’s not fun, but I’m seeing it’s a pattern in these difficult conversations.

This conversation happened at the very beginning of our work day, so after I’d expressed my feelings and told her to think it, we parted for awhile to go be productive in our day.

Later in the day, I had to speak with her about a student, so I brought up some lunch and we chatted. As that conversation reached it’s natural end, I took a deep breath and asked her if we were okay.

She admitted to feeling blindsided, which I understood. I explained again that it just really was so important to me that both of us got what we wanted out of our living situation before we made the decision to move forward. With some clarification on my concerns and needs, she seemed to settle and so did I. A validated that these conversations are tricky, but that our friendship is important to her too. We talked it through enough that by the time the conversation was over, I actually believed that things were okay for us.

Which, as J pointed out later, is extreme progress.

The housing concerns are not completely over. We still have a lot of talking to do and even this week, there have had to be times where I assert myself. But I feel stronger doing that now. It’s a start.

The vulnerable conversations continued this week on Thursday, when I went to see a new psychiatrist that J had recommended. My last experience with psychiatry had not gone well, which is why I dragged my feet for so long before agreeing to make an appointment for this one. That and doing so felt like I was failing.

There is more to report on this, but it will be saved for a separate post. Long story short, I went, She was kind and empathetic. In fact, she reminded me a bit of J. I felt more comfortable with her than I did with the last person. I was very honest with her about everything, even the tough stuff. In the end, I left with a prescription for a medication, which I agreed to try.

It’s been two nights now; I don’t know if there’s been any noticeable difference yet, but it feels courageous that I’m trying at all. And as J assured me, we will monitor it together.

Speaking of J…

Maybe most importantly, I took the first step in sharing the letter I wrote with J Thursday evening. This is the most important because it was the hardest one to do. After I wrote the letter, all I could think of was having the conversation. But of course, walking into the office walls of fear sprouted up around me. I sat for a bit feeling antsy and nervous while we discussed other things, and then she asked what else was on my mind.

I took a deep breath and pulled the letter out from my wallet. We decided I would read it to her in pieces, so I did, stealing glances at her when I could. It was so, so hard.

J handled this beautifully. I can’t even describe the relief I feel from her overall response. She thanked me first for sharing it with her. She validated that I’d been holding onto these feelings for a long time. She explained her intentions regarding letter situation to me in a way that I could understand and accept. She straight up apologized about the eye roll, acknowledged how it hurt me, and assured me she’s working hard on it.

There was more, but the specific words don’t even matter. All that matters was that she was open to listening to what I had to say. Even more, it mattered that she was willing to disclose some of her own feelings to answer my questions, despite that she admitted sometimes it can be difficult for her.

I appreciated that flexibility in her boundaries, because it helped me. I felt I understood her process better, which was one of the major goals for me. If I understand it, I can tolerate the discomfort because I know the intentions.

We didn’t get through the whole letter, so this will continue into next week. I’m not so nervous about it anymore, though.

Vulnerability has paid off. I know it won’t always, because it is an emotional risk. But I’m learning each day by having the tough conversations. I’m teaching myself it’s okay to have needs and it’s okay to share them.

 

 

The Courageous Choice

Last month, I wrote about the intense battle with attachment that I was dealing with and my fear about sharing that battle with J. I still have not found the courage to discuss it with her, and the feelings continue to wage a war in my head, both as I sit across from her and in the interim between sessions. In fact, these last few days since my session have been hell for me, as I’ve been desperate to speak with her while also agonizing over some difficult feelings towards her. I know this is something that I need to confront with her. It’s a conversation that can’t be ignored, but I’ve been so scared. 

Hence, I wrote this letter. My specialty. The easiest way to corral everything on my mind into one place so that maybe I can approach this topic with her in the most appropriate and effective way. 

The letter is long and somewhat repetitive of things I’d mentioned in my last post, so feel free to skip parts or not read at all. I still haven’t made the decision about how I will share it with her. I know that I cannot rely on asking her to read it in between sessions; I learned that reading posts about her in absence of me and then discussing them with her never ends well. I also know that it would not be in my best interest to hand it to her to read in session instead of hearing it in my own voice, although the thought is so tempting. So it is a question of whether I will read verbatim or summarize. And if I do read verbatim, will I go all the way through or stop and discuss along the way? I’m leaning towards the latter. 

Once I decide to stop chickening out of course.

Dear J,

I’m sitting here, staring at the computer screen, trying to figure out where to begin. I’m struggling with finding perfect blend of words to honestly describe the feelings I want to share. The feelings that have been lingering on my mind for a little while.

I am so grateful for our relationship. Can I start with that? I value you both as a person and as a professional.  You are the safest person I know.  I have said things like that before, sure, but I hope you know that all of that remains true.

It’s like a quote I read recently about the therapy relationship: “We exist in a separate universe where you see me in a way no one else does.” That’s maybe the most perfect way I know to characterize it.

We went through a difficult period, where it felt impossible to feel connected while I was in this room. A period where, I think, both of us felt helpless and unsure of what to do. We survived that challenging time, and I think it was for the better. It was the biggest relief to begin looking forward to coming here again.

I remember that during that period, our relationship was a big focus, and it became difficult for both of us. So for awhile, I made the topic of our relationship taboo. I said nothing about it and that felt like the safest choice. That was the path we took and it worked out well enough.

But here’s the thing. I knew sooner or later that the attachment pains were going to rear their ugly heads again. With the connection comes the sting of needing someone. It’s the nature of the beast that is BPD. And with that, the challenges with emotional constancy creep in too.

I have been afraid to admit when these feelings returned because I feared discussing them would be the impetus for another blow to our relationship. Instead, I have been going to great lengths to protect our relationship by not talking about it.  So I have struggled: to say anything but also to say nothing.

In doing that, all of it has been building, festering like an infection.

I’ve been projecting my shame and fear onto you, assuming what your reaction would be be based on our past, prescribing myself anger and frustration from a conversation that was never even had. I’ve done this without ever giving you the credit for how you’ve adjusted and grown from those past interactions and without giving you the chance to actually have an authentic response to whatever it is I decided to say.

If I am going to give any weight at all to the negative evidence that says she won’t or can’t understand and I am going to get hurt then I have to give weight to all of the positive evidence that tells me otherwise.

There’s a lot of it too. The fact that you have made the most noticeable effort to ask me about the self-harm and the suicidal thoughts, which makes me think this is okay to talk about and feel safe. The allowance of those fifteen minute check-ins, which make me think I am not alone and feel supported.  In fact, your repeated validation and reassurance to my questions like Is it really okay to call?  has helped me feel more understand and think that maybe you are better understanding my issues with constancy.  I have noticed a more consistent attempt at carrying topics across sessions, remembering things I’ve said previously, which makes me feel accepted and think that what I have to share is important enough to remember. You have been able to hear and honor my perspectives about things you’ve said which felt difficult for me in a validating way. And you are always calm no matter what I say to you, which I both respect and envy.

I have to recognize that while the things I need to say may be uncomfortable for both of us, we can both tolerate it. Maybe we even require it to keep growing together. Because that’s what vulnerability is and that’s what sustains a relationship. A stupid, but necessary evil.

My shame has engineered my smallness, as Brene Brown would say. It’s been the hostile environment trying to interrupt our connection and obliterate my feelings of worthiness. I don’t want to feel small or unworthy. I want to choose courage over comfort. I want to believe I deserve the courageous choice, believe it will be connecting for us.

I asked you, weeks ago, if it was okay to bring up things that had happened in the past that still bothered me. We were talking about someone else, but when I asked, the real reason I wanted to know was to gauge whether it was okay to talk about certain things with you.

As an aside, I wondered then and now: Is it clear for you when I’m upset about something but not talking about it? Did you know then the real reason for my questions?

I don’t want any of this take the tune of an accusation or a personal attack that you’re wrong or have wronged me. This isn’t me trying to burn the bridge and run. This isn’t me throwing anger in your general direction. You told me that it is okay to bring up things from the past as long as it isn’t done in full assault mode to hurt someone. And I promise, it isn’t. The anger I had then isn’t present now. Honestly, it is a way to bring a sense of closure to the things of the past that I never directly addressed.

Talking about those relationship feelings, for me, starts addressing that dreadful session from November. The topic we’ve danced around but never spoken directly about, at least not that I can remember. It starts with the point in which I started making the conscious choice not to talk about us.

Perhaps it seems silly that I have still think of these two things that happened months ago. I told myself to let it go. I felt that I should let it go. That enough time had past. But to me, it matters. After that night, I shut my mouth and focused on other things.  I pretended everything was fine. You know how I like to say it doesn’t matter when I’m uncomfortable. The truth is, everything that happened never got resolved, just locked in a box and left behind. It wasn’t fine then, it mattered, and if I keep pretending otherwise, that infection is going to spread.

I don’t even know if we need to talk about it, unless you wanted to, or if I just need to be able to say the words that I wouldn’t let myself say at the time. Share my truths. Say them and know you heard them.

To say: J, the way you handled the letter situation hurt me. Things kept changing: Not just way the letter would be written, but even the reasoning for why you wanted to do it differently changed across sessions. It felt so confusing for me, to the point that I still don’t really even truly understand what your intentions were. It felt frustrating when you could not remember, over time, why I wanted the letter.  While I know you didn’t mean for it to hurt me, it did. I need you to know that. We have talked about your intentions broadly, but never about that specific thing.

To say: J, I didn’t like it on that night when you rolled your eyes at me in response to something I said and then told me it wasn’t malicious when I raised concern about it. When you said that, I felt like the boundary I was trying to assert was being trivialized. I felt insignificant, like my needs were not being recognized appropriately. You have not done it since, and I’m so glad. But please know that it remains a boundary for me.

I’m hoping by finally just saying these things, I’m treating the infection and finding the relief to talk about all the other stuff too. I’m hoping it will bring me a sense of safety in discussing the stuff surrounding our relationship that has been challenging for me, but also to gain a deeper understanding of your process so that maybe I can trust in it more implicitly. To shut the minions in my head down each time they pipe up with things to say.

Therapy is weird and my feelings surrounding us and our relationship are weird. Sometimes it’s so incredibly shameful to be seen by you. To have my pain and mistakes be so visible. Other times it’s the most profound sense of comfort and support I’ve ever felt.

Your importance to me scares me. It scares me how much I want to talk to you and how much I really do trust you. Then the incessant nagging exists in my head that you will believe me to be “too much” or a burden to you causes me to simultaneously beg for reassurance and withdraw from you at the same time.

I oscillate between all of these feelings, sometimes multiple times during session. But this, talking about our relationship and the attachment, almost always feels shameful. Like the biggest emotional risk. Like it will hurt that much more when or if something goes wrong.

There is this ebb and flow for me between being sure of our relationship and questioning the solidness of it, between knowing that you believe my pain and fearing that you are judging it.  Some of that is completely independent of anything you do; it’s a manifestation of other things – life experiences. Things we’ve discussed and probably other things I don’t even understand yet.

These feelings I have about our relationship and my attachment to you as my safe person go in and out. Sometimes they are more tolerable. Sometimes they are stronger, which I think it what started this whole letter to begin with. A need to talk about them. I want to be able to talk about them.

The first instinct in me is to tell myself that you don’t want me to talk about it, even though you’ve literally said otherwise. It’s a nagging fear I can’t erase. But it’s also an assumption of discomfort on your part, something that we’ve discussed before. Maybe it’s even an unfair judgment of you.

So a question comes to me instead. What does it feel like for you when I want to talk about our relationship? Do you feel repelled or disgusted? Frustrated? Curious?

Does it confuse you when I can’t hold onto the positive feelings or trust between sessions? Do you feel as an attack against you or your character as a therapist? It’s not, just so you know.

And in fact, I wonder other things too.

We had a conversation by phone recently where I called and immediately asked you to reassure me that it was okay to do so. You rebuffed me, refused to give me that reassurance directly. For me, the conversation became painful and I felt myself withdraw. It affected me negatively for reasons I could not even pinpoint. I just knew I wasn’t getting what I wanted and it hurt.

As we hung up the familiar thoughts started to ring in my head, urging me to cancel and shut you out. Fear saying one thing: Oh you’ve pissed her off. Why did you say what you said? Can’t you just deal with it? She’s got to be sick of this by now. You shouldn’t go on Thursday. Anger saying another: Why doesn’t she understand that this is how I feel sometimes? Why does she have to be so weird about it? She doesn’t get it, I should cancel on Thursday.

For so long, I think I have looked at moments like this through an accusatory and judgmental lens. Why does she do this to me? Is it because I’ve been too needy? This hurt isn’t fair. Sometimes, for me, it feels like I’m allowed reassurance or validation when I make an effort to be stronger, but kept at arms length when I ask directly. And then, sometimes it’s not like that at all. Sometimes I’m afforded the assurance just because I’ve asked for it. For me, this is confusing.

But I am also trying look at these moments with curiosity, a chance to really understand. What does it feel like when I ask for reassurance? Does it always feel the same? Moreover, how do you decide when to offer the reassurance and when to withhold? I so desperately want to better understand so that perhaps I can accept what I’m given each moment with more grace and tolerance.

I want us to be able to talk more about the here and now of therapy. To address things like this as they come up. I remember that discussion of our relationship consumed things for awhile, and maybe that was too much, because when I backed off I found the ability to connect in new ways.

But I also think that not talking about it at all can be destructive in its own way. Maybe I’m working the same shit out on you that I do on other people. So in us talking about this it can serve as a model for how to solve issues with others. Or maybe it just helps me continue to be vulnerable and participate in therapy. I don’t know.

So I wonder. Can we do that? Can we examine our own relationship in the context of how my experience with you echoes my experience with others? Can this be something we integrate into our work together?

I am also fighting this constant feeling of simultaneous frustration with you for not being able to take away my pain (just fix it, I yell at you internally) and frustration with myself for recognizing that I am the only one accountable for getting better, but not being able to take or maintain the right actions to get there.

It reminds me of another quote from the book I am reading: “I want empathy, but if you give it to me, I’ll feel angry and hopeless, because empathy won’t solve my very real problem. So what good are you?” 

I am so angry and sad empty and hopeless. This is not your fault, you didn’t create this, yet you get saddled with my frustration at it’s persistence anyway.

You say that it’s difficult to see me in pain. What do you mean when you say that?  Have you ever, or do you now, feel helpless in helping me? Like I was truly beyond your ability to support? I fear this constantly. Lately, I wonder if that’s why you keep bringing up your hope that the psychiatrist will be helpful every time I mention the deep dark places my mind has wandered. Is it way of trying to instill hope in both of us?

In this book, the author talks about a cartoon of a prisoner shaking the bars desperate to get out, but to the right and left, there are no bars. All the prisoner has to do is walk around, but still he frantically shakes the bars. The author goes on to make the point that we feel stuck in our emotional cells, but there’s a way out if we are willing to see it.

Is there a way out of this? Do you see one? Or are we just blindly stumbling around this cell together?

I wonder what your perspective is, and if it might replace this story that I’m telling myself in my head.

And I wonder this. How do you decide when to push and when not to? How do you decide when to address something that’s been said in a previous session? Moving forward, can you push me harder? Can we delve deeper into this process of self-understanding? Can we talk about what that might look like?

Push me to be vulnerable. Push me to the discomfort, if it is going to evoke something different and better for me. Help me get out of this jail cell in which I feel trapped and have sentenced myself to death. It might feel like hell but you are the one person in the world I’m willing to sit through the discomfort with.

I know I have just bombarded you with so much information. I imagine that for us to process it will not be a one-and-done deal. It will be something that takes time. I hope that this is okay for you. I hope that we can have the space to truly examine all these feelings in the safety of the therapy room. Because holding onto my shame and fear is only serving me in self-destructive ways.

Please help me work through this. Please be in it with me. All of it.

 

 

The Moving Conundrum: A Sequel

Awhile back, I posted about my feeling torn between moving in with a friend from work or staying at home with my parents for a little longer. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision and had a lot of emotional resistance set in.

After I saw the room, which was unbearably small, it was very easy for me to turn that offer down. What made it even easier was that my close friend from work, A, said she’d be interested in looking for a place together at the end of the year. A and I get along really well, and she was willing to move into an area that was most convenient for me. I was thrilled.

When we agreed to this, A was single. In fact, she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend. Then, about a month later, they got back together. We talked about it later and decided we’d still like to live together because his religion excluded him from being able to live with her unless they were married. That was fine.

Well, I thought it was.

We recently began getting more serious about looking for a place to live. A’s boyfriend is sort of (newly?) into real estate, so she mentioned that he could help us look. Again, I thought that would be fine. I guess I didn’t realize what that would look like. I thought maybe he could help us identify a few places and maybe narrow it down, but I guess I assumed that we would be looking at the places just me and her. I felt like it would be an equal relationship in this.

But of course, that isn’t what has happened. Recently, in every conversation we have about moving, A inserts Boy’s name into the conversation each time I try to guide the discussion to be between her and I.

An example:

Me: I really like X apartments that you sent.

A: Okay! Boy and I have been  checking out the house list he sent.

Me: Okay, well maybe sometime you and I can sit down and look at them together?

A: Yeah absolutely. Boy wants to bring us to see them also.

I might also need to mention that I don’t really like this guy. There were things he did and said while A and he were apart that really fueled my dislike. I assumed he’d be around wherever we lived and I’d just get used to that. However, the realization is coming upon me slowly that maybe, given his level of involvement already, that he’d be around more than I thought.

Which I don’t know if I’m okay with. Maybe this isn’t going to be the best living situation for me.

This is a hard thing for me to have to confront, mostly because I really have been excited at the possibility of moving out on my own with a good friend. It makes sense that A would want Boy around a lot, but I don’t think it really occurred to me just how much he might really be there until these text conversations about housing. I literally can’t think of a single time I haven’t discussed it and she hasn’t brought his name into it. Is that him being controlling or her just wanting her guy to have a big role? Either way, it’s becoming uncomfortable and isolating for me.

That’s not necessarily something I blame her for either. It just is the way it is. Even though it is incredibly frustrating for me.

I want to move out so badly, but I don’t want to get stuck in an even worse situation for my mental health where I don’t even feel comfortable in my own home because they’ll be coupling all over the place all the time.

I’ve been meaning to sit and talk about boundaries with A regarding Boy anyway. To get an idea of how present she thinks he will be. I thought I had more time, but the last week they’ve both been talking nonstop about it. To the point that even Boy texted me (I didn’t give him my number). So I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure.

Now I know I have no choice. We can’t continue this process until I talk this out with A and determine if the situation she’s dreamed up in her head is synonymous with the one in mine. Do we align? If not, can we compromise?

I’m terrified to do this. I’m terrified of the outcome being an affirmation that this isn’t the best choice for me. Either way, I think the conversation may blindside A. I don’t want to back out on her. I don’t want her to be angry or feel accused of something and have it affect our friendship. I don’t want to have to sit with the discomfort of not being able to control her reaction. It’s so hard to be honest about my needs and feelings. Confrontation, in any form, sucks.

It’s a huge emotional risk to have this conversation, but it’s also a risk to not have it.

J and I spoke about this at length on Thursday. She helped me come up with some of the words. I need to type them out here so that I can get a handle on them.

A,

I want you to know that I’ve been so excited at the idea of living with you. We have so much fun together at work and I was really happy that we were both going to be able to get out on our own. I’ve really been looking forward to it for the last couple months.

I wanted to talk to you though, because I feel like it’s really important that we’re on the same page about some things. I know that you’ve said before that you and Boy can’t live together, and that it will be a place for you and I to live. But I’ve noticed that he’s been really involved in the process so far, more than I was expecting. You guys are a couple, so it makes sense that you’d want to be together a lot, like you have been lately. Which leads me to wonder what you think that might look like when we were living together? How often do you think he might be around or staying there? 

I want to talk about this now because our friendship is really important to me. I’m happy that you’re happy and I want you to be able to live in an environment where you are able to feel like you are able to be free to have your relationship. At the same time, I also need to make sure that I’m going to be living somewhere that meets all of my needs and is comfortable for me. Obviously, I know it would not be your intention, but I’m a little nervous about feeling like a third wheel there. In fact, I’m already feeling a little bit isolated when you want to bring Boy into so many of the conversations we have about moving. So before we move forward, I wanted to see if we could talk about this so we can make sure this situation, both looking for somewhere to live and living there, will fit both of our needs. 

Ugh. Wish me luck.

It Rained and Rained

For a couple months, one of the hallways in my building was lined with artwork that the kiddos had completed in art class. They were watercolors of a rainstorm grouped by class and underneath them the teacher had also added text so that as you walked down the hallways, it read “It rained and rained….and rained…it kept raining…it seemed as if the rain would never stop.” 

I looked at this crop of paintings every morning until the art teacher replaced it with something else. And every morning, I felt a pang of sadness at the recognition that these storybook words echo exactly how I feel about my life.

Things are bad for me. They have been for weeks, for months. I can’t actually remember the last time I felt a stable feeling of satisfaction or even just contentment for more than a day or two.

I find it very difficult to concentrate on anything. Writing. Work. Reading. Conversations with people. Everything to me is exhausting and requires all of the energy I have. Often, the thought of doing just one thing is enough to break the damn and I end up holed up in bed, paralyzed by my responsibilities and more frustrated at myself than I was at the start.

There’s a meme I often come across that says: I’ve been so stressed about getting my shit together that I haven’t gotten any of my shit together. It’s about the epitome of how I’m feeling right now.

The truth of it is that I’m not okay. Not at all. I can’t think of a single aspect of my life right now that I’m happy with.

I don’t know which words to use to describe what work has become for me. Dread is the first that comes into my head. It’s the feeling I’m consumed with as I wake up in the morning, try to get myself into some semblance of an outfit, and drive myself to the school. Often, I’m not sure if I’m dreading the things that I know will be taking place that day or the unexpected things that will come my way.

I don’t feel competent there. I don’t feel safe either. It feels all the time like people are running point around me. There’s a clear way things are supposed to happen, an established system. Everyone has an agenda, so I feel very limited in my decision-making power. Each time I try to strike out and make a decision, each time I try to assert an opinion, I feel the pushback if it doesn’t fit the exact structure of what everyone else wants. My boss will consult with my principal, the principal will consult with my colleague, my colleague will consult with one of the therapists. Then somehow, I get taken out of the equation and a decision gets made without me.

I understand that I’m new, both to the building and to the field. If these things were being done with the intention to help me learn, I might feel differently. But it’s clear to me that it’s more about preserving the status quo and keeping with the order. In fact, I haven’t gotten much supervision at all since beginning there, which just makes me feel more ostracized and alone. Like they are waiting for me to make mistakes.

It’s funny, because my colleague will complain to me how she feels like administration is against her, and that she doesn’t feel like she can win no matter what she does. I know this feeling well. Yet she continues to make statements and choices that put distance between us and make working as a team very challenging.

For example, a couple weeks ago I was extremely stressed and not hiding it well. She stopped to ask me about it, stating that I’m wearing it on my face like a badge of honor.

I’m not sure what that was supposed to mean, but it came across as very rude. I can think of many many ways that could have been stated instead. I’d love to have her back, but she certainly does not have mine.

I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be there.

I know that I am supposed to be a leader. I am supposed to be the one with ideas and opinions. I am supposed to analyze and make decisions supported by data. But I do not feel confident in my ability to do that. I feel like the only reason I was rehired was less because of my ability and more because I’m young and moldable to their whims.

For a little while, I thought seriously about looking elsewhere for a job. But the politics are everywhere. At least I know the kids, the teachers, and the system here. At least it’s an evil I can predict, even if it’s physically and emotionally exhausting.

I’ve also thought about going into another career, because I feel so limited in how my role in the school is helpful. If you read online, Child Study Teams take so much of the blame for everything. Parents hate us. Teachers hate us. We are perceived by parents as those denying the help and support their kids need when we choose not to evaluate. The teachers get all the credit because they are doing the teaching. Which is not a knock at teachers, who I know do their best. Even if we have other recommendations to help, they get dismissed by parents as not enough and by teachers as because it won’t work or has already been tried. 

Or, on the flip side, even if we want to make a service decision or type of placement that a parent requests, sometimes we are limited by the resources of the school or an administrative decision. We are the ones that have to communicate that to the parent or teacher, whether we like it or agree with it. It’s so frustrating.

The point is, it does feel like a no-win situation more often than not, when all I want is to help the kids. I like the testing and I wouldn’t mind the report-writing so much if I had more time for it. I enjoy the social skills groups even though they are challenging. But I don’t feel like I’m making a difference. At all. I feel like my ability to help is restricted by so many other factors.

But what am I going to do? Go back to school? That’s not cheap. And I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself that would make me a fraction of the salary I’m making now.

As much as I’ve been trying to set better boundaries around work, and I have been, this still is in my head all the time. I told J how trapped I felt and she shrugged before telling me that usually the second year is a lot easier.

There’s so much more I could discuss. Babysitting. Therapy. The moving situation. My parents. All of it challenging. All of is breaking me. I don’t have energy for any more right now, so maybe more posts will follow.

I am so deep in this flood of feelings. Will the rain ever stop?

Unsent Letters

Over the last week, every time I have an intense urge to text J, I have written out a letter to her instead. It’s helping, sort of. At the very least, it’s holding the boundary. Here they are.

Dear J,

I don’t know how I can miss you the most right after I’ve seen you. Should I even call it “missing you?” That doesn’t seem right. That makes it sound like you’ve gone away. But you haven’t. I’m the one who has gone from your office and back into my normal life. The life I live independently for 6.90 days of the week.

So why do I always feel a stab of loneliness on Thursday evenings?

I think I’m most acutely aware of your absence, most affected by it, in the period of time right after I’ve been in your presence. It’s so very difficult to have an hour of feeling so solidly connected and then be left alone with my thoughts. It’s like each week I have that connection, the feeling of being in this with someone, reignited within me and then have to deal with the bitter coldness left behind as the flame slowly burns out. I hate leaving.

Thursday nights are hard and they’re not getting easier.

Dear J,

I’m anxious and uncomfortable right now. It seems that this is a constant surrounding being at work. On Thursday, you will ask me how my week went. I’ll tell you that these feelings are there, but I won’t be able to accurately depict them. Not the breathlessness, the electricity in my arms and hands, not the constant surge of worry that I’m doing it all wrong. The insecurity, a minion in my head telling me again and again that I am incompetent, useless. Broken.

I want to text you but I won’t. I want you to tell me it’s okay and that I can push through this. Even though hearing that won’t take this anxiety away or change the circumstance. I want the support, badly. but it’s not a necessity. I can survive without it. I don’t need you to give me the strength, as much as feel I desperately need it. I have it in me, somewhere.

But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I don’t.

Dear J,

It’s Wednesday morning. I’m nauseous and uncomfortable and anxious. I don’t know if one is feeding the other or if these are two completely different beasts. It doesn’t matter. All I can think is that I want to go home. I can’t do this. I can’t do today. My mental pain is coming out as physical aches. Or maybe I’m just sick too.

It’s hard to focus. I feel like I’m drowning. Drowning in work. Drowning in my thoughts. I keep wanting to ask you to fix it, but I know that I can’t. You can’t. This is the storm. The battle. Whatever you what to call it. I just feel alone in this, even when I reach out to others.

Dear J,

It’s hard to have a session knowing I won’t get one next week. Especially knowing that I chickened out and couldn’t talk about the relationship stuff tonight. Too little too late. Now I’m stuck waiting. Even though by the end of session I was maybe ready to finally talk about it. What else is new?

You told me to sit with these feelings, not judge them. It sucks. I just want to talk to you. I wish you weren’t going away. I wish it didn’t bother me what you were.

The Battle with Attachment

Back in November, things were really bad between my therapist J and I. So bad that I took a voluntary three week break from her when I used to balk at being away for a mere two. So bad in that I sought out another therapist to help me work through our challenges. So bad that I seriously considered not going back.

But I did go back. After things exploded right around Thanksgiving, I made a conscious choice not to talk about anything regarding our relationship. I refocused from my big, dominant feelings of helplessness to instead talking and looking for strategies to resolve specific situations that were bothering me.

This was successful, maybe the best thing I could of done. Slowly, I began to reconnect with J, to feel trust in her again. Her room gradually became my the safe space it had been previously.

With time, I found the courage to tell her about L. I admitted to concealing my feelings about our relationship. She listened and validated my need to protect myself. She encouraged my resilience. She assuaged my guilt over seeing another therapist.

I thought often about the progress in our relationship, proud of my ability to recognize that she could be both incredibly supportive and helpful, but still flawed. Struggling with but managing the war between my knowledge that she cared about me and my fears that she was judging me for my neediness.  Things between us were stable. Comfortable. It filled me with deep relief.

The thing is, I knew sooner or later that the attachment pains were going to rear their ugly heads again. With the connection comes the sting of needing someone. It’s the nature of the beast. At first, it wasn’t too bad. Tolerable. Therapy night would come to a close and I would be disappointed to leave, but adjust quickly back into the real world. Between sessions, there would be a dull longing to speak to her, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve noticed it growing, creeping back in. I’m openly struggling with walking out the door at the end of the night. I’m more anxious to talk to her, to be in her presence and feel that safety.

And the attachment, the challenges with emotional constancy are sneaking back too. The ebb and flow between being sure of our relationship and questioning the solidness of it, between knowing she believes my pain and fearing that she is judging it. Incessant nagging in my head that she thinks I am too much, a burden, and annoying cause me to simultaneously beg for reassurance and withdraw from her at the same time. To go back to talking only about the specific situations and conceal the broad negative feelings I’ve spoken about so much.

It’s the same old game and it’s getting old, but I can’t seem to stop playing.

Thankfully, while I’ve drastically cut down on my sessions with L, I haven’t let go of her altogether. We meet once a month now. While sometimes I wonder if its weird that I need a second therapist to manage my relationship with the primary one, I am honestly grateful to her for helping me navigate my feelings and see them from perhaps a clearer and less biased light.

For instance, when I was frustrated with the way J was broaching the topic of medication, L is the one who helped shift my plan of action from ignoring the problem and pretending it didn’t exist to finding a way to calmly and rationally share my feelings with J. When I followed through on that plan, J responded really well.

Last week, I had a session with L and she again encouraged me to take a deeper look at some of the issues that have been rising to the surface. Because they are bothering me, wanting desperately to be heard. L said that if I take the time to outline everything first, I’ll go into the therapy room much more rational and articulate. I agree.

She told me to consider all the really wonderful things first.  This, to me, is easy. There are many things about J which are really great. They include:

  • She has noticeably made a much greater effort to check in about my suicidal thoughts and self-harm, which has made it easier for me to talk about and even admit to on my own some weeks.
  • I’ve also noticed a greater effort on her part to carry things that we’ve discussed across sessions. To make a note of a topic that might be cut off by time and to revisit it later. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the anniversary of my grandmother’s death was coming up the following week. On that day, we didn’t discuss it. But the week later, she ended up checking in with me about it. It was so kind that she remembered at all.
  • The fifteen minute phone check-ins that I advocated and was generously given by her have honestly been a wonderful support for me. I don’t use them every single week, but the knowledge that I can hear her voice and feel less alone for even fifteen more minutes in a week has made a big difference.
  • J has been able to hear some concerns that I’ve voiced about comments she’s made. Like the situation with the medication. And a few weeks ago, when I told her that while I understood her perspective that someone might not be angry with me, I also wanted her to acknowledge my perspective about the reasons they might be angry. She listened, we honored both points of view, and it helped guide our conversation in a positive way.
  • She really genuinely cares about me. I’ve wavered on that in the past, but now I say this without a single doubt. And I’ve been pretty consistent in that belief for months, even when things were hard.  She tries so hard to be there for me however she can, even if it means occasional outside texts and phone calls. There have been more times than I can count where I’ve had a difficult moment or a difficult day, and she gave me the extra time, the extra support. I continue to be careful about how I ask for it, but I’m so grateful for it.
  • She refuses to let one session go by without injecting in at least one silver lining or encouraging me to recognize something positive about myself. It bugs me, sometimes, but its also comforting.
  • She has been reassuring me a lot. Offering more validation and the reminders that it’s okay to repeat the same things over and over. Reassuring each time I ask (because I really can’t help it) if it is really okay that I call her for the check-ins. I know it has to be a pain for her, repetitive, but she’s been accepting and patient. It’s a positive thing that helps me feel like maybe she understands the issues with constancy that I have maybe a little bit better.
  • She is calm. Always calm. Even when she’s clearly frustrated, she’s never let me have the brunt of those feelings. I don’t know how the hell she does that.

These things, they are what keep me going to therapy. J is safe. Her office is safe. I know that.

The problem I’ve having is this: The attachment and emotional constancy issues are, on some level, always going to be the elephant in the room. They will be there, present. Sometimes they are quiet and still, easy enough to ignore. Sometimes they are so loud and blaring that they need to be acknowledged. The ebb and the flow.

Right now, like I said, the feelings stronger and more intense for me.

I think I realized it was becoming a problem when, last week, I chose to use my 15 minute check-in on Monday even though I didn’t need it that badly. I’d had an okay day, but I still really wanted to talk to her. I couldn’t resolve the torn feelings surrounding it on my own. So I called and immediately told her how guilty I felt for doing so and asked for the reassurance it was okay.

She wouldn’t give it to me, not directly. It became somewhat awkward and then as the conversation continue I just felt myself withdrawing. I felt like maybe she was annoyed with me, and as we hung up the familiar thoughts started to ring in my head. Fear saying one thing: Oh you’ve pissed her off. Why did you say what you said? Can’t you just deal with it? She’s got to be sick of this by now. You shouldn’t go on Thursday. Anger saying another: Why doesn’t she understand that this is how I feel sometimes? Why does she have to be so weird about it? She doesn’t get it, I should cancel on Thursday.

I’m confused by the way she sometimes offers validation and sometimes doesn’t. For me, it feels like when I make an effort to be stronger and , J is more generous with her support and reassurance. But when I ask for the reassurance, like I did that day, it feels like sometimes I’m put at arms length and maybe even greeted with annoyance at times if I’m asking too much. Maybe I’m just reading into it, I honestly can’t tell.

I have a natural inclination to reach out and talk about this. I understand clearly why she’s trying to help me be my own source of support. It’s just the inconsistency that’s confusing. I would really love her to explain to me how she chooses her response in the moment because I think it would help me feel more secure when I don’t get the reassurance I want.

J has told me numerous times that I can talk about our relationship. However, based on past experience, I still don’t feel comfortable bringing it up.

Why? Partly because of these two unresolved issues from back in November. Two things we never talked directly about. Two things I tried desperately to forget and move on from, thinking as time passed that we were too far gone from ever discussing.

  1. The letter. It’s not so much the fact that I didn’t get it that hurts the most (although that does hurt too). If she’d said no from the beginning and held to that boundary, I could have understood it. It’s how the whole situation was handled. It’s in the way she said nothing about it for weeks after telling me she’d do it, only to change her mind. It’s how the reasoning for why I wasn’t getting what I was initially told she would write changed, from being about helping me believe her words to being about helping me believe in myself, which was confusing and frustrating to the point that I still don’t understand really why she changed her mind. It’s that she didn’t seem to understand why I even wanted the letter after I told her multiple times. I don’t even want the letter anymore. I just want her to acknowledge that she could have handled this differently and that the way she did handle it was painful for me. We’ve talked about how some of the things J did and said during these months was hurtful when it was meant to be helpful, but we’ve never directly talked this session specifically and how badly it affected me.
  2.  The eye roll. It took me over a year to talk about this one little thing J had done and the feelings of shame and rejection that followed. After I brought it up, J did it again. Then again. J told me it “wasn’t malicious.” However, it was a boundary that she continued to cross even after I asserted that it made me uncomfortable. She crossed the boundary that night, again, and I never had the courage in that moment to tell her how much it hurt me and made my feel like my feelings were insignificant to her.

The feelings lingered and I kept stuffing them back down. Then last week, I stumbled one of my old posts that discussed the events (it’s linked above) and the feelings came back into the light in a full blown way. Enough to make me realize they were never really gone. The anger is gone, almost completely, but there’s some hurt. A need for closure.

I’m wondering now if the only way to get the feelings to go away altogether is to finally address them. I want to be able to talk about this. I should be able to talk about this. If I don’t it’s going to build and explode again. I know it.

J is definitely getting better at recognizing that her good intentions haven’t come across as such for me and then being able to talk about it without a defensive edge.  It makes me think that maybe we can talk about this and move on from it, finally leave it to rest.

The two things are related. The issues from the past are stopping me from talking  about the returning attachment problems. There were a lot of times when talking about our relationship just let to anger, frustration and helplessness as misunderstandings and misperceptions piled up on both sides. She as much told me back in November that she didn’t understand the nature of my issues with emotional constancy. Will that have changed now? Or will it just make her feel weird and then make me feel weird as a byproduct?

I know it may sound like self-sabotage, like I read that post with intent blow our blossoming connection back into smithereens. But it’s not. Not intentionally. The difference is: Last time, I was wavering in whether or not I still even wanted J to be my therapist. Now I know without a shadow of a doubt that I don’t want anyone else. I want things to work and be successful with her.

Before, I had so much anger and disappointment that I couldn’t be reasonable or rational. I just wanted to yell and accuse and make sure she knew how pissed I was. It wasn’t a productive feeling. Now, I think I’m actually ready to really approach it in a healthy way.

If this was sabotage, I’d be trying to burn the bridge, to cut an run. But I’m not. I want to resolve this so that things for us can be even stronger. I want to put closure on some difficult feelings that have lingered behind.

I believe that we can, I’m just scared of taking the first step.