I’ve been putting off writing this for awhile, just like I’ve been putting off talking about it, because I really didn’t believe that doing so would make any bit of difference.
You’d probably think differently, or at least you’d probably want the chance to try for a better outcome than I’ve dreamed up.
I wonder: do you think differently? Have you even noticed me putting up walls and purposely holding back from making any real connection?
It’s hard to imagine you haven’t noticed, because we both know that try as I might it’s pretty challenging for me to pretend nothing is wrong when I’m feeling otherwise. But if you’ve noticed, you haven’t said anything at all.
Maybe you really haven’t noticed though, because I find it hard to believe you’d recognize a blip on the radar of our relationship and not call any attention to it. It’s not in line with the person I know you to be or the experiences I’ve had in the past.
I don’t know and there’s only one way to find out, but I’m scared.
I guess I should start by saying that I’m angry with you. Not a white hot rage kind of anger, just the kind that’s been simmering just under the surface. The kind that slowly creeps up on you and then is just suddenly there.
First, let’s talk about the things that can’t be changed. The past-focused anger. You might be expecting it, but I don’t think I ever resolved the feelings I had around you missing session because of the baby and then going away on vacation. I know it’s within your right to do those things. I know I’m supposed to just accept that you being a mom means these things are going to happen sometimes.
Maybe I haven’t even accepted the idea of you as a mom. It reminds me of something J said once right before we terminated. She called her practice her “first baby.” In a way that didn’t seem right because why would you abandon your baby as she did. Still, I got the point she was trying to make. That was the first thing she put her heart and soul into nurturing, her first calling. And so now when I think about you, I apply the same line of thinking. Your career was your first calling too, but now you have another one that takes priority.
I know you didn’t make the same choices J did, I know you “want to have it all.” You’re doing your best to manage both, and sometimes it’s like nothing has changed, but overall it’s still hard for me because I know who you’d choose if it came down to it, and I know that’s not me. I’m not saying it should be either, but the constant remembering of that is truly a gut punch each time.
God, I hate that I sometimes resent your daughter for existing. For being more important. That makes me sound like a child.
So yeah, I’m still angry about that I guess. That’s not the only reason though, and it’s taken a lot of parsing out for me to really understand where the rest of this anger is coming from.
I need you to be really careful in how you respond to all this, because as much as I may be saying it, there’s still a huge part of me that’s fighting reality. A step in the wrong direction will likely lead to me feeling rejected, even for something as simple as you jumping on board and agreeing with me. I know that doesn’t leave you with many options, but this is the whole reason I’ve been keeping me mouth shut in the first place.
The truth is, I think the lines have blurred in our relationship. Where there was once an obvious line in the sand it’s smudged now and that’s making a lot of things unclear. We’re both to blame for this. We’re obviously comfortable with each other and we both let the boundaries loosen. I visited your instagram before it was private, I bought you that sign with a quote I knew you loved for no other reason than I thought you would like it, and then I bought the baby an outfit when I couldn’t figure out any other way to use my expiring reward points. Yes, I did all of that, but you let me. If you felt unsure about it, you never voiced it.
And now, I think I’m a little bit angry that you let me go so far. I think I’m angry at the fact that it’s coloring my perceptions of our relationship, that it let me feel closer to you than is typical.
I realize that things are muddier than they were when I was texting you on the regular for reassurance. Then, there was still the obvious power imbalance at play, still a concrete sense of what was okay and what would mean going too far.
Now? It’s not so simple and for that reason I’ve stopped texting you at all, feeling like any form of contact is asking for too much after overstepping the way I have.
I’ve also stopped letting myself connect in session, because it’s too confusing not to know where things stand. Rationally, I know my role and I know yours, but we went into unfamiliar territory to the point that now I’m not sure what’s okay and what’s not.
And I’m mad, because this doesn’t feel safe.
When I think about it, one huge difference between you and J is that she always very much limited her self-disclosure. It made it hard in some ways, but in others I knew it was important for the stability of our relationship. I never questioned where I stood.
I know you like to be human and let pieces of yourself out and I’m okay with that in small increments. I am. I just don’t think I’m okay with the level of sharing that we had progressed to.
I have to say it: We’re not friends. We can’t be, not if we want to maintain the sanctity of our actual therapist-client relationship. And it sucks, because I think you would be a pretty killer friend. But both fortunately and unfortunately for me, that won’t happen. Fortunately, because I wouldn’t change the therapist-client relationship we do have. Unfortunately, because you matter to me and it’s hard to admit the truth when it stings like this.
That’s a huge piece of this too, but again it’s not the only other contributing factor. Something else that’s related to me holding back is that lately, I don’t feel like you’ve really been hearing me.
I’m not sure when this started, but I think the most clear point for me is somewhere in the period of when I came back after the session where I cried to you about wanting to die and feeling so low.
You were excited, then, as you often are, for how quickly I turned things around. But you forgot, in your excitement, that me making good choices didn’t just eliminate all the dark feelings. The suicidal thoughts. They’re still there, just as intense, and right now I feel so alone in them.
You’ve asked about them here and there and I’ve been honest, even in a that nonchalant way I’ve been trying to pull off. I act like it’s just a fact of life and you go along with it. You don’t dig any deeper. Maybe that’s my fault, because I should put emphasis on what I want to talk about. I just don’t feel like it is even helpful to do that because all you focus on is the positive.
Lately, you say to me “this is great” about a lot of things and I don’t know how to tell you that it’s not great. I know you’re trying to appreciate my progress and yes sometimes that’s absolutely what I need. I know you see growth where I see dirt. But I feel like you’re clinging to the positive above all else and missing the fact that I’m still really in a lot of pain.
That makes me wonder: am I not supposed to talk about it anymore? If you’re just going to try to turn it around and make it positive, why would I bother?
I could go on, but I think I’ve reached my full point for this letter. I’ve said as much as I can bear to say right now and I’m trying to live with the fact that this isn’t a perfect recounting of all my troubles. It’s incomplete and that has to be okay.
We’ve always worked everything out and you’ve never given me a reason to believe that wouldn’t be the case here. I guess I’m just so unsure of what I even really want from you in some ways, that it feels like this will never get better.
I get scared you’ll think we’re no longer compatible to work together because of the things I said, the way I feel. It’s silly, but is it really?
Our relationship is so significant to me, I want to work through this. I want to go back to real laughing instead of the fake giggles I do to distract you from my discomfort. I want to stop having to control my face all the time and focus so hard on making good eye contact. I want to stop pretending.
Please help me do that, please help me alleviate this anger and whatever is hiding beneath it, because I don’t know any other way forward.