Checking In

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I apologize for vanishing off the face of WordPress. I have not been posting, commenting, or even really reading anything since right around Thanksgiving. The reasons for my absence are both that my schedule has really been that hectic with Christmas preparations and that some nights my depression knocks me so low that all I can do is crawl into bed.

There’s a lot that has been going on, things I’d ideally write my own posts about in a perfect world. But for right now, I’ll just stick to some basic updates.

My job has been taking up 90% of my time. We’re facing a big restructuring to part of our program, which will go into effect at the beginning of next year. My supervisor has had her mind on that, so she isn’t always around to answer questions I might have. As a newbie, that’s difficult because I’m making a lot of guesses and often I find that guessed wrong and then expend extra time to work to rectify my mistake.

My supervisor just keeps making changes that we can’t keep up with. There’s so much need and not enough staff, time, or energy to go around. Plus, she’s piling more on my colleague and I than we can handle.

I worry, because my colleague is pretty good at what she does, and she’s mentioned multiple times that she’s had job offers from other places. The more that’s asked of us, the more I worry that she’s going to take someone up on the offer. I’m just barely keeping my head above water there with her, I can’t imagine surviving if she leaves.

There’s just so much. So much to do. So much to know. So much to learn. I have a list a mile long of information that I’d like to read about more in-depth. I’d like to learn more about curriculum and the process of working with agencies and various disorders, but unfortunately there’s just not time for that. Not during the day at least, and then I get home too exhausted to do anything else.

So here I am getting thrown into situations that I don’t know how to handle and haven’t been properly trained in. I wonder if I’m picking up new skills fast enough.

Then there’s the fun part. Dealing with parents and teachers. It’s still anxiety-provoking for me and I’m working really hard right now on being comfortable in the discomfort of meetings, especially when I know we’re telling the parent something they don’t want to hear.

I’ve gotten through a number of different kinds of meetings and handled a few sticky situations with teachers, but it’s still a sensitive area for me. I have to actively remind myself a negative interaction isn’t indicative of negative self-worth on my part.

Imposter syndrome is a big issue. I’m still asking for reassurance that I’m doing an okay job (and then kicking myself for needing that validation). Mostly because I really feel like a little kid parading around in an adult’s job. I don’t know how these kids can ever look at me and expect that I know what I am doing.

News flash kids, I know about as much as you do.

My mental health has been all over the place. Right around, or maybe before, Thanksgiving, I was hurting myself at every opportunity I got. Then L and I decided I was only allowed to do that on Sundays (why did I agree to that?). So I’ve been trying to keep to this ritual, and I guess it’s worked pretty well because I am harm free for at least a couple weeks.

Still, the weeks can be difficult. I’ve had this recurrence of Tuesday and Wednesday being by far the most difficult days for a couple weeks now, where the shit seems to pile on until I’m just ready to give up. Usually by Thursday (therapy day), things begin to settle down. It’s a frustrating pattern honestly, one I don’t know how to break.

I still feel extremely empty and have periods of deep shame, but I’m mostly just pushing it all away when I can since talking about them with literally anybody just produces more shame. It’s to the point where I don’t want to share those vulnerable feelings with anyone, including J or L.

Speaking of therapy, , things have settled into a somewhat stable place. In what probably comes as no surprise,  at our first session back after Thanksgiving neither J nor I mentioned the ill-fated session that made me further question our relationship. I knew that she wouldn’t say a thing about it, because she never addresses any of our conflicts, and I certainly wasn’t going to propel myself back into perpetual misattunement and dysregulation. So…I guess we’re not returning to the letter at all. At least not right now.

The first week, I asked her to bring her DBT workbook.  I figured if we couldn’t solve our relationship stuff, maybe we could focus on solving some of the social issues I’m dealing with at work. There are sure enough of those to fill an hour.

It actually ended up going really well. I’d gone into session locked up tight, but as we dissected some of my interactions and I settled in, I let myself open up a bit more about what I’d been feeling during the week. We repeated this process again last week.

What I’ve noticed is that J seems more engaged with me and overall at ease than she’s been recently. I think that she’s relieved the focus is off of her for once.

It’s not a permanent solution, but right now I’m at least not dreading going to therapy. In fact, I’m actually feeling threads of a connection to her again. Maybe that’s because I’ve been us the space to let the relationship exist instead of harping on her? Like we can connect because she doesn’t feel under a microscope?

I don’t know, I’m not really questioning it too much.

However, while it’s nice that therapy has been helpful, it also makes me a little sad that for me to start feeling this way I had to essentially pack away the attachment stuff and all the feelings surrounding our last interaction before Thanksgiving (e.g. my anger about her breaking the eye-roll boundary again and my disappointment in how she handled the letter situation). To call that stuff into question would mean risking this sense of homeostasis.

Additionally, it makes me wonder what happens the next time all these issues float to the surface. Because they will. Right now, I’m able to compartmentalize because the feelings aren’t huge. But I don’t typically do middle of the road emotions for too long.

When that happens, will I be allowed to bring them up? Do I only get access to the kind, professional, and empathetic J when my problems don’t concern her?

I’ve considered that I may have to accept that the focus of therapy from here on out will have to strictly be skill-based and strength-based changes in my outside life, as J doesn’t appear comfortable or prepared to handle the relationship-centered work. I don’t know if that’s true, but it feels true, which isn’t necessarily fair to me.

I’m pretending not to care though.

I didn’t see L last week, but the week before my session with her wasn’t particularly great. I’m not sure it was anything specific that she did, but I know I felt myself retreating the more she talked.

She noticed it, and near the end of our time she asked me why I seemed to be withdrawn. I told her I felt disillusioned with therapy and questioned if anyone could help me. “I may not be able to help you, but I’m here for you,” she said.

She’s said stuff like that before. That we probably can’t make the cruel voices in my head go away, but we will try to turn the volume down dramatically. This statement felt differently though.

Perhaps her aim was to make me feel supported, but all I could think at the time was: J can’t help me and L doesn’t think she can help me either. She’s already admitted this, after only 5 weeks of knowing me. I’m hopeless. My disorder makes me hopeless. So really, what’s the point?

I’m supposed to let her know when she says something that hits me in a negative way, but it was the end of session, so I didn’t. I just kind of nodded and left. I guess we’ll see where that goes on Thursday.

I could keep writing, but I think I’ve rambled on enough for today. Plus, I’m ready for bed now. That’s my life, rearranging my schedule to maximize sleep.

I will try to get back into reading and writing, but for all of you who I normally comment on and have been neglecting, please know that I’m still rooting you on and celebrating your successes. WP is such an important place to me and I value all of you, especially those with whom I’ve interacted closely in my journey.

Advertisements

From Bad to Worse

I won’t sugarcoat it. Things are bad between J and I right now. They’ve been precarious for weeks, the dominating theme in my posts, but our relationship took a major hit Monday night. One I’m honestly not sure I even want to repair.

Monday night, I entered therapy in a rocky place. Although the school day had been okay, I had been marinating in shame all weekend, as evidenced by my last post. I knew we were to write the infamous letter that night. It’s been a longstanding issue for four months. I was nervous as hell about how it would go.

A brief summary if you are not familiar, as I don’t feel like linking to previous posts: In July, I asked J if she would be willing to write me a brief 1-2 paragraph letter, to be used as a transitional object when I am struggling to maintain our connection outside of session and battling thoughts like “She is judging me. Things are not okay. I should no go to session.” It was not an easy thing to ask for. J said she would consider it. She did not bring up the topic again until I asked her almost a month later, at which time she told me she would write it for me once she figured out what to say.

Another month and a half passed, and I waited patiently.  Towards the end of September, she told me near the end of session she had decided it would be better for us to write it in session together. I was caught off guard and reluctantly agreed. After our most recent rupture, I called her out on agreeing to it and then changing the parameters of what I was told I’d be getting. She stuck to her guns and said she felt it was best we do it together. At the time, her reasoning was that I would believe that her words were more true if we wrote them together. I took some time to think on it, but decided to give it a chance.

If you’d like to finish this long post right here, it was a disaster. Hooray! Now you are caught up.

The long version is this. She asked if I still wanted to write the letter, and I said yes. She asked me if I’d like to write it on a pad or on my phone.

If you didn’t catch on, she asked if I’d like to write it. As in, she assumed I was doing the writing? I’m not sure why she assumed this, as it was something I’d asked for from her. I immediately felt my heart drop and I knew this was not going to go in a positive direction. I told her I thought she would be writing it. She seemed surprised, but agreed, and asked me to hand her the pad.

I was feeling so uncomfortable, like a young child with too many needs, especially because we had not really mapped out how the letter-writing process would go. I made some sort of statement that I wasn’t sure what to do/say and needed her to start.

J very dramatically rolled her eyes. She smiled, but she still rolled her eyes.

This very much affected me. It’s been an issue in the past and I’ve told J, as recently as three weeks ago, that it is never helpful for her to roll her eyes. It’s a boundary I’ve clearly set and yet here we go again. I called her out on it. She said yes she rolled her eyes, but it wasn’t malicious.

Oh great. Well, it didn’t feel fun. It felt like I asked for some clarity and guidance and her response was to make me feel small and ashamed for that need by rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness of my request.

J asked me what the goal of the letter was. I feel like she should have known the answer to that by now, as I’ve told her multiple times. But fine, I repeated it. To maintain the connection, especially when things feel very dark.

She told me she would write a couple thoughts and then see what I thought. That was fine. She wrote for 10-15 seconds, stopped, and then said “How about I write a line and then you write a line?”

Uh…?

Mind you, I asked her for a letter. It was supposed to be her words. When I was concerned about us writing it together, because I thought it wouldn’t feel genuine if I had to tell her what to say, she assured me I wouldn’t be dictating. And while I suppose this wasn’t dictating, it was something else entirely!

I was confused and quickly growing frustrated. I told her it wasn’t what I wanted from her. She said something about how she wanted this to be in my voice too so I could be a part of my healing process and the letter could be more helpful. Which, now that I’m looking back, is very different from the reasoning she gave me a couple weeks ago (that she wanted me to believe her words were genuine)

I argued that I’ve written myself plenty of letters on this blog in my own words. I have that already. What I wanted was something from her. Something to help me cope when I’m really struggling to connect. She said that if she does that, then I’m relying on her.

Well then why the hell did she agree to doing it in the first place, months ago?!

And also, aren’t I allowed to rely on my therapist a little? Isn’t that why I freaking have one?

When I told my friend this, she balked. Isn’t she familiar with the concept of a transitional object? I don’t know why she’s so resistant to this.

Here’s the thing. If that had been J’s initial response from the very beginning, I could have accepted that. I might have been upset, but I would have understood this as a boundary. We have always been working towards me being able to independently regulate and support myself. I’m good with that.

Where I’m having trouble is that she’s been so inconsistent. First, she agreed to it. Then she changed her mind about how she was willing to participate. Now she’s even changing her reasoning about why it’s important to do it this way.

Additionally, she cannot seem for the life of her to remember why I want this letter. This letter was not meant to be used to regulate all emotions and pull me from every dark place. I was asking her to provide some physical evidence that I could refer to in times of need. I was asking her help me feel connected enough to come to therapy and share the emotions.

Case in point, when I asked her why she ever agreed to this, she told me that she was not really clear initially on why it was I wanted the letter.

However, there’s no way that’s true. I know that when I first asked for this damn letter, I explained to her that I use previous texts she’s sent me to bridge the connection when I’m faltering. If I am holding onto fears of judgement or getting stuck in this idea that I shouldn’t go to therapy because it’s not okay to share my pain, I read them as a reminder that we are okay and I can trust her.

I wasn’t asking her to solve all of my problems with this letter, to pull me out of every emotion.

If it’s really true that she didn’t understand this, then she’s extremely dense. Or she hasn’t been listening.

It really feels as though she isn’t listening at all to me, because she isn’t retaining what I feel to be fairly important things. At this point, I was so frustrated and beginning to shut down. I could literally feel my body tensing, as if it was turning to stone. J echoed that I was disappointed I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and I agreed. She asked me to list evidence that I knew she cared about me.

I did it, and she said something about using those instances as a reminder. I reminded her again (another conversation we just had) that when the connection is broken, it isn’t me forgetting she cares. I’ve told her this, I said. It’s me dealing with that stormcloud of thoughts like I can’t talk about how I feel, she’s judging what I’m saying, she’s annoyed by me. 

J looked at me as if she was hearing all of this for the first time. I said to her, it’s like you really don’t understand the difference. “Well maybe I don’t,” she said. I’m wondering if it was her realizing that for the first time that she’s not grasping the true nature of some of these issues, because I was certainly already aware.

Beyond this, I devolved. Completely and utterly. All the shame came flooding out of my body. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. I cried. I told her I hated myself, that everything feels like my fault, nothing is ever going to get better, and I’m so fucking tired of doing it. That was all I could keep saying, because it was what I believed.

When she tried to help me see a more positive side, I just felt defiant. She’s lying, I would tell myself. I know these things are true. If they weren’t true, I wouldn’t feel so empty. 

We talked about the shame I felt around our relationship, how I felt sad, angry, confused. That things are different between us and I don’t know how to get back the feelings of safety and comfort. J validated these feelings. She reassured.  She told me it was okay to be angry. It was okay to be sad. When talked about the difficult stuff, she validated “That is awful. That is overwhelming.”

I appreciated her attempt to do this. I’ve asked for validation, a lot. And I thought it would help. Yet, it felt lacking when repeated incessantly without almost any real emotion or follow-up.

Which just makes me sad. When did J stop feeling comforting at all?

At one point, as I was stuck in my self-hate spiral, she said. “Let’s go off track for a second” and then proceeded to remind me that she’d like me to see a psychiatrist. She thinks that me being on medication would reduce the intensity of my emotions.

When she said this, I felt rejected, like I was being passed off. Like I’m too much for her, so she’s trying to lighten her load. I know that isn’t rational, but it was what I thought and felt in the moment.

I have been back and forth about the psychiatrist, mostly because from what I’ve read BPD does not respond to meds. L said those exact words when I mentioned J’s psychiatrist suggestion, and scoffed. She said that while meds will sedate me, it won’t do anything to disrupt my mental processing.

So like I said, the session was an absolute disaster. By the end, I was completely dysregulated and had reverted back into my needy attachment state of apologizing (I don’t even know why? Because I was acting crazy?) and begging her not to abandon me.

Yet, as soon as I was a few hours removed from that room, I was considering not ever going back.

I am so, so, so extremely frustrated and disappointed and disillusioned right now. I am 100% open to admitting that there may be threads of self-sabotage that played into the downfall of our relationship. I can admit that the negative lens I have towards J right now is not helping things.

However.

The fact that L’s facial expressions mirrored mine when I explained this specific situation and the fact that she was troubled by J’s reactions (the eye roll!) tell me that my feelings have their validity. She told me that this is not simply me going full on BPD. I have a right to be upset.

To wit, when I said I have a right to an apology for 1. rolling her eyes again despite my boundary and 2. handling this whole letter situation poorly (changing it up and not communicating about it), L fully agreed.

I have been fighting the end of my relationship with J. Despite all of the strife, I really have come to have such an affection for her. I simultaneously dread going to my sessions and don’t want to let her go. I keep thinking if I can just say the right things, she will understand. If I can just act a certain way, broach a certain kind of acceptance, her response will remind me things are okay. I will feel safe. If I can find the right strategy to interact with her, we will get back on track.

But really, is that my job? Shouldn’t she be trying to reach me, instead of the other way around?

L said some things today that make me consider this more. A month ago, she was advocating for me to stick with J, figure things out and repair. Today, she told me that sometimes we outgrow relationships and it doesn’t have to viewed as a failure to let it come to a natural ending. She told me that if our interactions are consistently sending me down a bad path, it’s no longer helpful.

She’s not wrong about that last part. This relationship is tearing me apart emotionally.

Yet, I still know she cares. She is so very clearly trying. She wants desperately for me to recognize the positive, and is starting to voice her understanding that sometimes I really just can’t. I’m blocked from it, and no amount of encouraging me to list my strengths or apologize to myself is going to fix that.

I think that is the hardest part. To know that she really does care and want to help, but isn’t reaching me. That there’s a level of misattunement acting as a barrier between us, which neither of us seems to know how to overcome.

She does not mean to hurt me, and yet she keeps hurting me. Again and again.

As I type that, part of me fights back. I’m hurting me. This is all my fault. I’ve broken her. Turned her against me. I was too much. My BPD ruined another relationship. 

I told L that I’m beginning to wonder if J actually cares so much that it’s inhibiting her ability to see our relationship clearly. She’s not referring me out, she’s still promising to stay, and saying we will work on x, y, and z. L said it’s probably frustrating for J to watch me not improving but not know what to do.

And I do. I wonder, what does J really think? She’s admitted to feeling helpless, she’s admitting to desperately needing me to know that she means well and wants to help me.

Still, I feel helpless and don’t know what to do. J says it is a safe place, but she is not really showing me it is a safe place. The atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable, perhaps for both of us. But I am not the one with the burden of easing that discomfort. She is.

I feel that we are heading to our end. But still I fight it. I hope for change. I don’t know how I would gather the strength to walk away. It feels scary and heartbreaking.

L and I decided I could give it a little more time for now. See where things go. That’s if I don’t cancel my next session with J.

Then there’s the other small thing to consider.

When I first met with L about a month ago, I didn’t expect to like her as much as I did. I made the appointment with the firm intention that we would meet for 3-5 sessions and then go our separate ways. She was there to talk about J with me. That was her role.

Silly, silly me.

Before I met L, I thought about what seeing a second therapist might look like. I considered how I might structure our conversations and tried to tolerate the idea that talking to her would feel different than it would talking to J. I assumed different would mean bad.

In all of my imaginings of how things would go, I just imagined myself feeling neutral during the whole thing. Going in, talking, leaving. I seem to have conveniently forgotten that I am extremely emotion-prone individual, and that me interacting people with even a bit of vulnerability and getting validation leads to intense attachment.

I like L a lot so far. She said some really kind things about how I’m a “beautiful human” with so much insight. And I’ve said elsewhere that I love the way she phrases things. She so perfectly describes my different feelings and behaviors in a way that shows me she’s listened to me and genuinely comprehends what I’ve said.

I also like that she is a lot more direct. She’s unafraid to address things and is quite attuned to my body language. For example, today when she asked me about the self-harm, she then immediately wanted to know why I get “fidgety and stop looking at her” when she brings it up. She pushed me, and so we discussed it. It was helpful that she noticed and checked in.

She’s been trained in personality disorders. More than J. That much is very clear. She has a more intricate knowledge of my experience and asks good questions. I think that’s made me more comfortable in sharing some of my borderline side, the stuff I’m not being as open about with J.

So here we are.

I’ve had 4 sessions with her. The first two sessions, we followed the pattern I expected. We talked about J, with a little bit of the BPD stuff mixed in there. Then last week, we diverted off the topic of J fairly quickly and started talking about other things. Socialization, for one. She has already given me some good strategies to combat self-harm and self-punishment urges. L was saying that in the future, she wants to work on modify the words I say to myself in social interactions to break the paralyzing anxiety and increase my confidence.

I laughed. Because this was supposed to be short term. I verbalized that. “Well, I plan on riding this thing until the wheels fall off,” she said.

This felt like a relief, but also a potential concern. Shouldn’t I not see two therapists ethically? That was always my understanding. Obviously when it was short-term, I didn’t worry. But long-term? L hesitated and admitted that generally that can be true. Somehow, despite that we settled on me seeing her every 2 weeks for now and re-evaluating later.

I feel kind of weird about that, especially because J has no clue about L and I’m not feeling any type of desire to tell her right now. But I liked the idea of having at least one fulfilling therapy relationship while I kept working at a resolution with J.

Plus, to reiterate, I’m already becoming attached.

She has reminded me that she is flawed, and I am super aware of this. I know that part of my feelings towards her are coming from a honeymoon period of attachment and because, compared to J, it feels so wonderful to be heard. I know that sooner or later she’s going to piss me off.

Additionally, L has yet to witness any of the crazy. Unlike J, who has watched me fall apart and sob like a lunatic more than I can count, I keep myself composed with L. I don’t know how it would feel to show true emotion. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet, to be that vulnerable with her.

I am so torn. J knows me intricately and I know her, at least as a therapist. There’s a familiarity there that would take so much time to replicate with L.

I don’t want to give up J, I don’t want to exchange her for a new therapist, I’m not ready to give my newfound resource L up either. Which has created quite the quandary for me. I know if we continue this I have to tell J eventually, because the two could in theory coordinate care, but that’s only if I really plan to keep seeing J.

Ugh.

I hate this. I really fucking hate this.

For those of you reading who may want to comment, please be mindful of your choice of words. I am devastated at the idea of losing J, torn over this new relationship with L, and just generally feeling quite confused and overwhelmed. I know all of my communications with J are not the most effective, nor are all of my decisions here. But I am trying my best and could not have forseen a few months ago that this was where I would end up. 

Shame. So much shame.

I’m in that place right now. You know the one. The dark, cavernous depths of depression filled with sinister voices that remind me my life is useless and make me feel like nothing more than a hollowed out shell.  I post from that place every now and then.

It’s pretty grim here right now. My waist is covered with fresh cuts. I’ve been making poor eating choices and spending money in the wrong places.

Why am I here? Why? I don’t really know. Little things. One of them flipped the switch, sent my world from light to dark. Who knows which one. It doesn’t particularly matter.

I think back to Thursday morning. Before that, the week had been pretty okay. Then small things began to build.

One of the first things I do that morning is to officially assign an evaluation out to different service providers for a student who is due to be tested. About ten minutes later, I run into one of my colleagues, who immediately wants to know why she had to test the kid. I’d mentioned this to her a few weeks ago, and I thought she was on board, but I’d misunderstood her response. So now she is annoyed, and is telling me that he’s not going to be able to get the services anymore after this evaluation and his teacher will be upset.

You fucked up. She’s annoyed with you, again. She hates working with you. She thinks you are an imbecile. And maybe you are. It seems like every time you try to do something, you piss someone off. Then you can’t even manage to stand up for yourself! You stand there stuttering, like a moron.

I don’t have long to focus on this, because the little ones are coming in the door. Preschool starts early, but there’s a snafu with scheduling today because of the weather. I follow my colleague around like a lost little puppy, as we try to figure out what to do. Or as she figures it out. She’s stressed, and I don’t know how to be helpful.

I don’t know how she handles it. I never know what to do in these situations. I’m useless. Why am I so useless? 

The day after that is okay-ish. At one point, my friend comes looking for me because one of my preschoolers is throwing a fit and needs to be calmed. I go, because I case manage him. I’m having trouble controlling him, and eventually my colleague is called in too, which makes me feel terrible. Between the two of us, we try to help him regulate. I bring over something that I think will help and my colleague shakes her head, as if to tell me no. But here’s the thing, he responds to it. After a couple minutes, he stops fighting us and returns with the calming object to the table.

Why was my idea wrong? It worked, didn’t it? Is she mad at me now? Does everyone think I’m so worthless at this? This is why I can’t trust myself with any of my decisions. 

We are on early dismissal because of the weather, so I get to leave school early. Therapy is cancelled, both my sessions with L and J. So I go right home. I’m so, so grateful to just be at my house away from the world.

I’ve asked for an afternoon check-in with J in lieu of our session, because it’s been a hard morning. I call her and we chat for a bit. It’s fine, and she does give me something helpful to say, but I just feel off. I ask her if she read the post about shame I sent her, which felt risky to do after she interpreted the last post I let her read so poorly. She says she remembers us having a conversation about the shame shields, which is something I’ve completely forgotten.

I know she doesn’t mean it this way, but I hear that as why would you have me read this? That was a waste of my time considering we’ve talked about this before. Why would you act like this is such a big revelation? You’re so dramatic, always seeking my attention.

When we get off the phone, I feel sad. I check my email. Turns out I have one from my secretary, who has something to say about me assigning out the evaluations this morning. I guess I fucked up the process somehow, even though I was just trying to stay on top of things. She says we’ll chat tomorrow. I know she won’t be too mean, she’s just going to let me know what I was supposed to do.

But instead, all I feel is more shame. I am a mistake. Everything I do is a mistake. Even my best intentions end up wrong.

I am slowly descending into shame. I know at this point that I will definitely cut myself, but I have promised L that I will go through the actions of my safety plan before I do that now. So I do. I text a friend from work, because I’m upset about the day and I want to vent to her. She’s kind in response, but I feel more dismissed than heard.

You’re doing it again. You’re being to negative and attention-seeking with her. This is a new friendship, do you really want to push it away by showing too much of your true colors? Stop bothering her with your whining. She’s going to think you’re high maintenance if she doesn’t already and definitely pull away from you. 

So talking doesn’t help. I light a candle. I eat dinner. I crochet for awhile. But eventually, hours later, I find my way to my razor. Then I sleep.

Friday, school is cancelled because of the weather. I sleep in late and then awaken to find I’m still in the same piss poor mood I fell asleep with. I kind of float around my room lazily, without much energy to do anything. I’ve been given the option to either babysit or cancel, and I’m really leaning towards the latter. But I know me staying home will not end well, so I force myself up and out the door.

My dad has been kind enough to clean off my car for me, but for some reason this makes me angry. I tell him he doesn’t have to do it as I trudge outside to clean off the snow from the back deck. I can’t even look him in the eye, which is a fairly common thing that happens to me around my parents when I’m feeling upset. He shrugs and continues working on my car.

You can’t even say thank you to him? He’s trying to help and you’re being a jerk. What’s wrong with you that him doing something nice for you infuriates you? You’re such an ungrateful brat. 

After the deck is clean, I leave to babysit. By babysit, I mean that I keep them entertained, considering both parents are currently home. I feel a little bit better being around the girls, but it comes and goes in waves. Lately, being there fills me with mixed emotions, because as much as I enjoy them, I feel like I’ve almost gotten too involved. Like I’m using it to fill a void for all the other things in my life I’m missing.

There are a few moments while I’m there that I say something and their mother has a different opinion. I chastise the kids for something that their mother excuses or vice versa. Every time that happens, I wonder, was I wrong? Is she annoyed with me now?

Suffice it to say, I go home and continue to feel bad. This continues all night and into Saturday, when I push myself to go to my grandfather’s even though I’m feeling more like laying in bed all day.

This is the general course of my weekend. When I am home, I feel that emptiness. My friends all seem to have plans, and I have none. I see these happenings on instagram and fall deeper into the pit of depression. Why am I such a loser? Why do I have no one?

One of the things that really triggers me is seeing my ex-friends from college hanging out again in a post. I don’t know why, but that continues to really bother me so much. It sends me into such grief, because part of me is saying well, they weren’t really the greatest friends anyway and the other part is saying yeah well, you can’t seem to hold onto anyone in your life, so maybe you’re the problem here, not them. Notice how you have no one left in your life from high school or college? 

I threw myself into more crochet. I watched an entire season of This Is Us. I played games on my phone. None of it helped. More cutting. More shame.

All the way into today, where I now sit dreading going back to work tomorrow. Where I now sit feeling so tired and lazy, frozen for periods of five and ten minutes sometimes as I look around my room, unable to process everything I need to do.

I’m drowning in shame all the time. So much shame. I just want to hide away from the world. The world is a scary place. Trying too hard or not hard enough, I can never seem to get it right. Don’t know how to set boundaries. Don’t know how to be around people. And it’s left me with this intense emptiness.

The shame is so painful, and I know that being in it alone is not helpful, but I cannot think of a single person I want to talk to about this. No one that I think could make it better. I don’t think it can get better.

Right now, I’m severely doubting the utility of therapy. I’m supposed to see J tomorrow night, but I doubt if anything helpful will come of that. I’m still not feeling the connection with her, which is impacting my ability to let the emotions out in a healing way. Instead, I sit, constantly bracing myself to feel invalidated or misunderstood or like things are lacking. I know that’s no way to go into therapy, but it’s just the normal.

Things are resolving, I think, but very slow. I still very much feel like perhaps my therapist is over me, or at the very least out of things to say, and it’s putting me at a distance.

Tomorrow, we are supposed to write the letter I asked for together. I’m not feeling very confident about it. Vulnerability is frightening.

Plus, it’s the 4 year anniversary of my grandmother’s death tomorrow. I have three of those anniversaries in three months and they are particularly painful to me. I want to talk about it in therapy, because I don’t feel like I can talk about it elsewhere, but I feel like I’ve shared too much about it even there. Aren’t I supposed to be over these feelings by now? I never hear any of my friends still pining over their lost grandparents.

So many feelings and no where to put them. No one wants to hear it, and I don’t blame them. It’s annoying. I’m annoying.

Why won’t it ever stop?

Therapy feels pointless. Nothing seems to stop the voices in my head. I think that I am just expected to deal with them, but I don’t want to. I don’t want the voices or the intense emotions. I don’t want any of it. I want to not exist.

I don’t have a good place to end this, but I’ve run out of things to say, so I’m just going to stop here. I just want to sleep. The thought of waking up tomorrow and going back out into the real world just fills me with dread. And shame.

So much shame.

Wedding Season

I don’t know
I really don’t know
Why they call it a season 
The change of seasons is special and exciting
Each transition carrying with it something that sets it apart from the one before
Something to look forward to

Wedding season has not of that
For it’s not like fall, with the leaves of striking colors
Or summer, with crackling fireworks and a persistent smell of burgers
Or spring, everything blossoming, feeling fresh and new

But then
Perhaps I’m wrong
I guess you could say wedding season could compare to winter
For they both are associated with white
And they both feel like they will never end

I sound cynical
Maybe I am
No, I definitely am

But you’d be cynical too
If your feeds on Instagram and Facebook
Were painted with pictures of couple attendees
Lines of bridesmaids
The happy bride and groom
All the time, every weekend
So picturesque

So excruciating

It’s a reminder
As I look at the smiling tribes of people
Basking in the celebratory moment
Enjoying the space they are existing in
Within in the social world
Being together and feeling together
Then I look to my left and remember
I’m alone.

I do not have these relationships.
I will never have these relationships.

There is no man in my life
No one to take to a wedding
No one to marry
It’s a relationship I want desperately
But can’t figure out how to achieve

There are friends in my life
But I exist on the backburner
I am not the friend who becomes a bridesmaid
I am the one with whom you have lunch
Every few months
Until we drift apart

Yet all I see are pictures
Of couples and friends

It’s a trigger.
It triggers feelings of loneliness, of emptiness.
Feelings of defeat
Of frustration.
Frustration that’s directed at me of course.
It triggers shame.

I am not deserving of these relationships

So I plunge into a space of pain
And self-punishment
Sweltering in the heat of realization
That my life has little of the meaning I yearn for
Sitting on the outside
Looking at pictures
Instead of being in the pictures

I hate wedding season.
It’s not a season.
It’s a reminder.

 

I See Myself In Them

Last week at work, I was sitting in my office attempting to be productive when I heard the teacher from across the hall enter my colleagues side of the room. She came over to talk about one of our third grade students, who has been having a hard time behaviorally as of late and the teacher is concerned. Or rather, she’s frustrated.

I mean she’s in our behavior disability room, so one would think this ebb and flow in behavior would be expected, but whatever.

Our office is separated by a foldable wall, so unless I fire up my noise machine I can pretty much hear everything that’s being said. Which, on that morning, was a real shame for me, considering they were talking about borderline personality disorder.

My colleague made mention that this third grade student has borderline traits. She talked a little bit about what that meant, using lovely words like “manipulative”, and painting a grim picture of the student’s future. Her tone wasn’t malicious. She was just stating her beliefs based on experience of working with borderline parents in the past.

If they were even diagnosed. Maybe she just assumed they were borderline, since we were also happy to casually lob a very significant term that carries ample stigma in the direction of a 9 year old who can’t even be diagnosed with the disorder because she is in fact only 9.

I’m sure she didn’t intend her information to come across as stigmatizing as it did. I’m sure no one else even realized how stigmatizing what she said was. You know, since the disorder is just a term for them, and not a reality.

When I heard this, all I could think of was this teacher going home and looking up BPD. She’d read the diagnostic criteria maybe, but likely what she’d end up seeing would be the media-targeted misrepresentation and gruesome statistics associated with my disordered world.

Which of course wouldn’t help her perception of that third grade girl.

Before I could think better of it, I jumped to my feet and walked over to insert myself into the conversation. I explained what BPD can feel like using less pejorative language, talking about the emotions and the experience of the person.

I don’t know why I even bothered, honestly. But I was frustrated. My colleague was making it seem like this was a purely genetic disorder that would swallow our student whole and I wanted the teacher to understand 1. The lens our student is probably seeing these situations through and 2. BPD is also incredibly environmental and not necessarily prescriptive of a terrible future.

Again, if the student even has that. She is 9, after all. Have I mentioned that?

“It all sounds very selfish,” the teacher said and I could have facepalmed right then and there. (When I told this to L, she scoffed. “Yes, it’s very selfish to be living in angst all the time as you try not to upset other people.” Thank you, L.)

I also happen to think it’s selfish to frame your student as a manipulative and devious young girl as a way to fit the narrative you’re already telling yourself instead of actually trying to see her as a sweet and clever kid who is separate from her ineffective behaviors that are rooted pretty logically in a difficult upbringing, but whatever.

I could go on, but I think you see the point.

I ended up going back to my side of the office in defeat. For a little while, I sat there listening to the conversation go on, paralyzed from doing anything else. Knowing what they were saying, as painful as it was, was better than not knowing. Or at least this is what I told myself.

What would they think if they knew I had BPD too? Would they be surprised? Would they think differently of me? Would it shut their mouths about this girl?

Of course, I did not and would never share my diagnosis with them. That’s a recipe for disaster. The point is, the ignorance of people, especially those in the mental health field, astounds me. You may remember I had a similar experience like this last year. I thought I’d escaped from that in this district, but here we are.

It’s always from people that I feel like should know better. People, like my colleague, who are smart and caring and empathetic. This woman knows so much about how to help people, and she’s so good with the damn kids. Still, she’s got misperceptions of what it means to exist in my world. Her skewed belief and very stereotypic description of BPD reminds me why so many of us keep quiet. This is what they think of us.

I just don’t know how it was helpful to use the term at all. I really don’t. It saddens me. We are a school, we are not a mental health facility. Talk about the behaviors. Talk about her symptoms. Treat her by addressing those things. Don’t assign her a label of a disorder that fits her more like an oversized mitten than a glove, obscuring her unique strengths and situation.

Ugh.

They went on for awhile longer, while I stewed on the other side of the room, about ready to jump out of my own skin. In a frenzy, I texted J and asked for advice. I was desperate and alone in my pain, I just needed an ally in the battle.

She texted back awhile later. “That’s so hard. Though hearing those terms are hurtful, it may be helpful to remind yourself, first, that they are not talking about you, and second, that you have been growing your awareness of your own feelings, thoughts, and actions for a long time now. This wouldn’t bother you at all if you didn’t have the awareness you do! Advocate for your students and just take of yourself. Take plenty of breaks today.”

It was a completely well thought out response that made me feel heard, accepted, and cared for. For all my doubts about J, she can really come through when I need her.

I returned to that text repeatedly throughout the day and have discussed it with her since. Because as painful as that experience was in isolation, it also drove home another series of doubts I’ve been dealing with.

I work with kids that have various needs. I am not a trained counselor, but I have ended up in a role that involves service delivery through lunch groups and individual counseling sessions. It’s a role I take very seriously, as I try to build me repertoire of interventions so that I can be effective in helping them.

The issue I keep coming back to is that I see a lot of myself in my students. I have a young boy who struggles so deeply with high emotionality that impacts his ability to make friends. There’s a young girl with similar issues, who can leave a situation so confused as to how it went wrong. I have another student who has a harsh internal narrative that ranks up with mine in terms of cruelty. His work refusal and difficulty socially is rooted in a belief he has that he is not good enough.

Sound familiar?

These kids come to me unable to identify their emotions, unable to select tools to regulate to a calm emotional state. They struggle to see other people’s perspectives. They struggle to resolve conflicts with friends. Some of them struggle even to build those friendships.

When I see them, I remember the sensitive kid I was and the sullen teenager I became, and it’s a future I don’t wish for any of them. I want so badly to make the difference for them that an adult in school could have made for me if given the opportunity. I feel the pressure of being good enough for them.

Then I question, how can I help these kids if I can’t even help myself? Worse, I wonder if my continued struggles despite years of hard work with an actual trained professional signify that the situation is in fact hopeless for them, since I haven’t grown either. These are the thoughts that send me into a tailspin of defeatedness and darkness.

J and I delved into this during my last session. She reminded me that me helping them and me helping me are separated by an important thing: objectivity. The lens through which we view own situations is muddied by our personal biases, whereas with my students I can see their problems from a clearer viewpoint.

Plus, I have an advantage of time. Kids at their age view most things in a concrete, egocentric sense; it’s hard for them to pick apart their struggle with a friend and see the underlying intentions of a peer or how their environment intercedes. I am older, and I see the abstract pieces the way they might not be able to without a little support.

This whole time, I’ve assumed my diagnoses were working against my ability to help these kids. And in some ways, it is. The anxiety that makes me freeze up in the moment, forgetting where I should go next in the conversation. The self-doubt that makes me question whether my response to their problem is the right one. The trouble with boundary-setting, which can impact my group management. The shame that tells me bad counselor, you need to step from them and instead you are a failure.

But.

Yes, there’s another side to it too, and it’s coming into view.

My diagnoses make me empathetic. Whereas I’ve noticed others are so quick to dismiss another student’s problems, to call them manipulative or dramatic or stubborn, I have an easier time reading their pain. I see the anxiety, inability to communicate, the sadness, the frustration, that’s fueling their challenging behavior. I see it clearly, even if I don’t know what to do with it in the moment.

For that reason, I always validate their experience. I think that’s so important as someone who often felt my feelings were dismissed because they didn’t fit how they should be in the situation. I will always say something to the tune of I know that’s frustrating. I understand you don’t want to do this. I see why you’d like it to be another way.

We may then have to talk about the fact that things won’t be the way they want, that they may still be hard, but I always try to give them a moment to know that I’ve truly seen their perspective. Empathy. It’s helpful not to feel alone. I am their ally.

I also want to believe while I do see some of myself in the struggles of these kids, I also also see  myself in their persistence and their silliness. It helps give me hope for how they can grow.

And while obviously the interventions that I’m learning as an adult won’t mirror what I teach them, and our situations are identical, perhaps there’s value in examining some of my own experiences as I try to relate to them in a way that’s meaningful.

For example, for my young boy with the friendship troubles, I can consider what I might have found it most helpful to hear as I’ve strived to build my own relationships. What skills have I needed to learn? Perhaps I can begin there.

Or for that third grade girl. What does she need most? She needs to see that others withstand her storm. She needs to learn how to cultivate her own healthy sense of connection with others while also enhancing her ability to be there for herself. She needs a new way to categorize her experiences in the world beyond just black or white.

For me, this has meant learning to tolerate the things I don’t like. It’s about identifying my emotion emotions. It has included systematically deconstructing my negative beliefs and trying to replace it with an accumulation of positive thoughts and supportive measures. This has meant learning how to look at things from a bigger picture, to play the role of detective finding evidence to refute my beliefs that a situation was all good or all bad.

Maybe these are things that could help our girl? This could be the time to advocate. Despite my bias, my view my have it’s own type of clarity here.

If I am going to chide this teacher and my colleague for talking about my student in a way that just disadvantages her by focusing too much on the same, perhaps I should also chide me for doing the same with myself because of my own diagnosis.

BPD in the work world. It’s a challenge, every damn day, but maybe it instills me with a type of empathy and ability to connect that could end up being the foundation of a good counselor with some time and patience.

Maybe.

Shame and Vulnerability

At the beginning of the school year, a continuing education magazine ended up in my mailbox at work. In it was a coupon to view an hour long talk of Brené Brown’s online for free. I cut it out and let it sit in my desk for almost two months. But it was about to expire, so I decided (finally) that today was the day to watch it.

I’ve heard the name Brené Brown before, mostly from other bloggers who talk about her books. Her work had always intrigued me, but I hadn’t delved into any of it until today. After I watched this first course, I ended up watching her two TED talks.

Might I say, she’s quite the game changer.

I have written repeatedly about this distinct feeling I have that I am fundamentally flawed, destined for nothing beyond being alone and a failure. I call it a core belief, because it is. That feeling dominates me on my darkest days, and it has for some time. I’ve always thought this feelings was a figment of my BPD, which I guess is kind of circular logic.

Turns out, I have a different monster to blame.

According to Brené Brown, that feeling I have? It’s shame. Shame is the experience that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It calls into question our ability to make connections. Shame disconnects us from the world.

Shame, I learned, is different from guilt. Guilt is a focus on behavior. It’s the recognition that “I did something bad.” Shame is a focus on self. It’s what is for me a very common feeling that “I am bad.” In her words, it drives the tirade of “I am not good enough” that has played like a broken record in my head for over a decade.

When Brené Brown described shame, she used the word gremlin to describe it, which is as close of a description as I could ever imagine to something I’ve been describing in my blog for months.

I see it now very clearly. The minions.

The minions in my head are operated by shame.  Every time I take a risk, reach out for help, try to make a connection, the voices that come to the surface do so in a way that remind me I am undeserving. Undeserving of success. Undeserving of friendship. Undeserving of compassion.

By far my favorite part of Brené’s talk was when she described her own experience with this phenomenon. She’d been devastated when her husband didn’t make a big deal of her birthday, when he knew birthdays were important to her.

The outcome of that story was that when she went to couples therapy a few days later and relayed her pain to her therapist, the therapist asked her if she’d asked him to make a big deal?

No, she hadn’t. But he knew what it meant to her, she reasoned to the therapist. If she asked, it wouldn’t have been as special, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

As she told her story, I nodded along with it, fully on her side.

Her therapist’s response? “Maybe you don’t think you’re worth it if you can’t ask him”

Well, fuck.

I often believe if I have to ask for something from someone, it diminishes the value of what I’ve asked for. If I have to ask for reassurance, it doesn’t count. If I have to ask for someone to show they care, to validate, it’s not worth it. It’s pathetic. I’m pathetic. 

There I sit and wait for validation that’s been offered spontaneously without me manipulating it because I assume the other person being willing to volunteer it is an indicator of my worth. I’m trying to use other’s actions to manufacture something that’s supposed to be generated from within myself.

I don’t believe in my own worth enough, so I can’t ask for validation or care or reassurance without a hell of a lot of discomfort following.

I think on some level I knew this, but to hear it described that way was very enlightening.

For example, I’m literally sitting in therapy half the time thinking that I’m not even worth her time or mine. I shouldn’t bother her with my stuff. That’s shame talking. Shame is inhibiting my ability to participate in therapy, to improve my life, because I don’t even feel like I can ask for help from a person whose entire job centers on helping people. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of support or capable of growth.

Maybe this is part of the reason I’m feeling so stuck?

As a follow up thought, I’m now wondering if the circle of shame is also what causes my sense of connection to slip away so quickly in someone’s absence. We might connect in the moment, but I know deep down that I’m unlovable and that I’m not worthy of their sustained connection, so I don’t trust it. I can’t imagine a universe in which I would be continuously deserving of someone’s love or care.

I also think this is really important because we’ve discussed in therapy lately that socialization needs to be a big priority. We’ve discussed that I generally feel empty right now and want to make some more meaningful connections.

The title of the first talk I watched was called Shame Shields. Brené stated that we deal with shame by using one of three shields: We move away, hiding our shame with secrets and withdrawing. We move towards by trying to please others as a way to squash shame. Or we move against shame by using anger to spark more shame in others.

I’m partial to one of the first two. Either burying myself in my shame through self-punishing methods or trying to build the other person up in a manner of getting them to overlook my shameful self. To overlook that I’m a bad friend or bad colleague or bad client.

If I want to make connections, real connections, hiding behind those shields is not going to be particularly useful for the cause.

So what will?

Brené went on to state that the way to combat shame is with vulnerability. In her research, she found that people who felt worthiness were not only willing to embrace vulnerability, they felt it necessary. They told the stories of themselves to the world, warts and all.

Shit. I wanted to stop listening right there. I like guarantees. I like being prepared and knowing exactly how things are going to work out. I thrive on it. Vulnerability is the exactly opposite of that. It’s flinging yourself into relationships and situations not knowing how it’s going to end. That sounds terrible. It sounds excruciating.

So yeah, I wanted to just turn it off and pretend that what she had to say was a falsehood. Tell me how to make connections without having to feel so damn exposed all the time.

But then she said that we humans have a tendency to numb vulnerability. We numb those painful feelings by eating and spending and whatever other vices we have.

Wow. I feel called out.

Considering I feel everything at the maximum level of intensity, of course I’ve been suppressing the negative feelings. They fucking suck.

Plus, you wouldn’t think that the answer to how to get in control of your life would be to accept that feeling out of control is necessary sometimes.

Brown argues that we can’t numb the pain without numbing the joy. I can’t suppress the imperfect parts of me without suppressing the good parts too. Part of me learning to interact with and build strong relationships with people will be discovering this “authentic” self of mine and communicating it freely to others instead of hiding behind those shields, hoping that they don’t see my shame.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of worthiness, love, belonging. It’s the birthplace of creativity and change.”

I want to feel worthy. I want to have a sense of belonging and love in my life. I still have these fleeting hopes of a life with a husband and kids, a set of close friends and me being a functional part of my community.

Which means that…maybe I’m going to have to learn to start taking more risks and investing in relationships with people while simultaneously tolerating and even respecting my imperfections?

There was another quote of hers that really stuck with me.“It’s seductive to stand outside the arena and think, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and perfect.”

We’ve always been working for this, but it’s almost like I’ve still been using therapy as a method of completely eliminating my imperfections. It hasn’t worked, no surprise. She’s been telling me since day 1 that you can’t be perfect, but I’m only ever half entertaining that notion. Part of me is always still pushing, because if I’m perfect, I don’t have to be vulnerable.

But no, I have to start making these changes now and practicing vulnerability in relationships, learning to tolerate the unknown. I can’t keep putting it off, waiting until I reach a certain threshold of “good” or “healed” before I feel ready. Because I’ll never feel ready.

Vulnerability means maybe we need to talk more about my shame and it’s origins? Naming the feeling as it occurs, dissecting the thoughts, identifying their triggers. Talking about that in the context of social interactions and normalizing the feelings.

I’ve already asked for repeated encouragement and assurance from her in helping me be more vulnerable, which may not be the point, but it seems like lately the second I try to say anything vulnerable, I end up diverting to safer topics before I can stop myself. Brené Brown did say those who don’t about shame have the most of it, and that’s certainly true here.

I wonder if maybe using this language will help support that journey. I wonder if I can truly let go and let myself embrace vulnerability

I’m afraid of this because being honest about the same means letting out more of the crazy and she’s seen more than enough of that.

I’m afraid of this, because I’m afraid of shame consuming me. Brené spoke about these shame conversations being like an exploration into some great swamplands. The purpose isn’t to go there and set up camp, it’s to explore, become more familiar with the territory, and then return home. Talking about shame is like quicksand and I’ve found once I enter that territory it’s hard to escape. You’ll find on our exploration that I’ve got a whole freaking village set up with the time I’ve spent there.

Shame has had a place in my life for so long now, what would it mean to give in to vulnerability? To let it exist? Would I see that increased connection that Brené Brown promised? Or would it just be too painful to tolerate?

I’m not sure which one is more terrifying.

 

Confronting Anger

So to save you a lot of time and energy, let me just start off by saying that things are okay between J and I right now. Or at least, they are moving towards okay.

If you want to read the rest, here’s a recap of my two sessions from Thursday.

I met with L in the afternoon after I got off of work. We talked about what had occurred in my sessions with J over the last couple weeks. L was pretty awesome. When I explain my perspective of a situation, she does a very nice job of validating where I was coming from and re-explaining it in a way that both confirms her understanding of what I’m saying and also assures me I’ve been heard. She also can fit some of my actions into the frame of my disorder in a way that doesn’t make me feel pathologized, which is appreciated. L is very direct and the way she phrased some things just made me laugh.

Also, as an aside, she asked me immediately about the self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Literally it was the first thing out of her mouth after hello.

Anyway, L and I talked about what I wanted from J. For me, the biggest piece was that I needed J to understand my difficulty holding onto the security of our relationship and that she would be willing to give me that continued reassurance. L thought that was reasonable. She said that wherever J might think I should with trusting her and being able to reassure myself, I am where I am, and that’s where J needs to meet me. L told me that it was really important to see if J could do that. She gave me some advice about how to open my session and things that I could say to J if I felt like I was being invalidated/misunderstood.

I also gave L the artwork to see. She told me it was incredible. She said it really highlighted everything going on inside my head. Her reaction made me feel warm and validated.

It was a good session. L seems to be really attuned to me so far and that’s a nice thing to experience. We made another appointment for next week, to follow up on the situation with J.

I’m already feeling that attachment to L, which is worrisome, because this cannot be a long-term relationship if things pan out with J.

I left and went to my next session. When I went into J’s office, I was a bundle of nerves. L had told me the answer to J’s first question had to be honest. I couldn’t divert or minimize my feelings. So when J asked how I was, I told her I was very nervous about how the conversation would go.

She had a little bowl of candy on her side table, so I took one and started talking about Halloween. Then talking about the girls. She chatted with me. After a few minutes, I got quiet. “I’m stalling,” I admitted. “I know that,” she said.

Then I ventured into the scary part. I told her all the reasons I was angry. While I did, I stayed incredible calm and even managed to look her into the eye. I went through my list bit by bit, told her how each experience made me feel and what I was thinking. J sat quietly and listened. She never once tried to interrupt. I liked that.

Within this, I spoke a lot about the fact that it’s frustrating to me when it feels like she doesn’t understand my lack of emotional constancy. That she seems surprised that the relationship continues to be an issue. I told her I know that after almost 2.5 years, it might seem weird to her that I can still have doubts, but I do. I struggle to hold that connection between our sessions.

So when J finally went to ask a question, she wanted to know more about that.

I tried really hard to convey to J what it feels like to me in between sessions and how the trust can just slip away to be replaced by doubt. We talked about what the specific doubts were, how I may know that she cares and wants to help me, but I may doubt her ability to help, or think that she’s judging me.

She asked, those positive pieces of evidence that I care and want to help you aren’t enough to challenge those doubts? I told her no, and she accepted that.

At this point, I handed her the artwork. I told her that while she and I could have a good session, all of the negative thoughts will still be in my head. I told her that’s why I asked for the letter. She studied my artwork and told me it was very powerful. She told me it gave her a better idea of what I experience. “You’re trying to fight this all the time,” she said and I nodded.

I really emphasized the importance of the validation and reassurance. I explained to her that those little phrases that I’ve written down for her before (e.g. “I’m still here” or “It’s important to talk about these things”) helped me feel the encouragement to talk about the topics that feel shameful and require a certain amount of vulnerability.

J wanted to know if her saying these reassuring things would actually make me believe that they were true. I told her I wasn’t sure, but that they would keep me engaged enough to participate in therapy. She accepted that too.

At some point, J asked me to tell her about times where her responses to my issues or emotions had been helpful. I shared that when we had resolved our issues from the summer rupture, that was when I felt the most heard and understood. I had really felt things were taking a positive step.

Which was why when, during our resolution, she asked me to tell her how she could better show that she understood my severe pain and then turned around and questioned why I needed her to understood, I was confused and frustrated.

I shared this part too and J seemed to grasp what I was saying.

As we were talking about the feelings associated with her reaction to my post, I decided almost spontaneously that it would be better if I didn’t share posts with J that concerned our relationship via text. It seemed like I’ve done so a couple times now and there’s a lot of risk in how not being understood will impact me. J agreed. We agreed that if I’d like to send her occasional posts about other topics, this was still okay. Although I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable with that for awhile.

I told J that I felt stuck and I asked her if she did too. She admitted that she did a little bit, and seemed to agree that there was a lot of us saying the same things to each other. I suggested that I’d felt a lot of help from using the DBT book to break down specific situations and could we do that again?

J liked that idea. So we decided we could use it to help me find alternative ways to handle past interactions that I’m dwelling on or to prepare for future interactions that I’m anxious about. She reminded me that DBT is a lot so it would be good for us to keep practicing.

We decided that we are going to make the socialization piece a big priority. Which is funny, because when I was with L, that was something she wanted to talk about next week, even just briefly, if I was interested in doing that.

I told J that I appreciated her not immediately just telling me why she reacted the way she did in those situations that had angered me. But now I wanted to know what her opinion was. J reiterated that of course she has good intentions. She’s been trying to get me to see that, and that’s why she thinks she’s been so insistent and defensive. When I’m upset with her, she so badly wants me to know in that moment she hasn’t meant to hurt me.

“I was trying to help and I made it worse,” she told me, which was honestly what I’ve been waiting to hear this whole time. J told me she’d be more mindful of doing that in the future. I told her it’s okay to tell me her perspective, but I just can’t have it be the first type of thing I hear or I withdraw.

J told me it is really helpful for her when I’ve written things down like I had on Thursday, because then I can speak about my feelings with much more clarity. “It helps me understand where you’re coming from and see how our interactions have…”

She paused. “Impacted me?” I finished for her.

“Exactly,” she said. Thank you L, because I’d recycled that term from her.

At the end of our session, I asked her for a resolution with the letter situation. That was not an easy thing to do, but I did it. I couldn’t bare to let it get buried again. She said (and almost looked nervous) that she’d really like to do it together. She said that she knew it was different than what she’d initially agreed to, and she understood where my frustration came from, but that she had a lot of trouble coming up with the “right” words on her own. She wanted this letter to be helpful for me.

I tried to argue that if I had to give her the words to say, I wouldn’t be able to know that they were genuine. J responded by saying that I wouldn’t be giving her the words, it would be a collaborative process. I’m not dictating for her.

I don’t know what the hell that means. It was slightly frustrating and I said I wanted to think about if I could accept the terms she was offering. With some time, I’ve decided that I think I will try it. Because as uncomfortable as the thought of doing it together makes me feel, I’m willing to admit that perhaps it can be a connecting experience. Perhaps I could end up with something very helpful for me.

I owe it to myself to give it a chance, I think.

All things considered, I think this was a pretty solid session. There are so, so, so many ways things could have gone off the rails, but J was receptive to everything I had to say and didn’t dismiss my emotions. She listened. She validated. We made some plans. I didn’t leave a dysregulated mess, which is a huge win.

There are still doubts. I still don’t feel 100% ready to trust her. But I feel better about our relationship moving forward. I felt some semblance of safety in her office that hadn’t been present in weeks.

I think we have some renewed strength in our connection. I’ll take that for now.