And in the end…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard Truths

Right now, I am sitting bundled up in sweats with a candle lit and calming music playing in the background. I haven’t spoken a word since I left L’s office almost an hour ago. I don’t know what I’d particularly say, as I live alone, but usually I’ll greet the cat or mumble to myself about one thing or another as I move from space to space in my house.

Today, none of that. I don’t want to hear the sound of my own voice. I don’t want to take up space. I don’t want to exist at all for the moment and I feel myself wanting to burrow in my bed with the covers over my head and not come out for awhile. I don’t want to be confronted with the hard truths, because they hurt. Being me and feeling all my many feelings hurts.

I probably sound quite dramatic. I suppose in actuality it really isn’t all that bad. Nobody’s hurt. Nobody’s dying. I simply have left my past two sessions feeling like I don’t ever want to go back to therapy again.

Which, for me, really feels like the end of the world. And that’s the problem.

We’ve come up against some heavy stuff in our past two meetings. The big trigger was that L told me she going away for 10 days at the end of the month. Or at least it’s 10 days between seeing her with me missing two sessions. Before all that came up though, I’d been carrying a lot of sadness in and out of session with me related to our relationship (or maybe just my attachment to L) that I hadn’t been directly addressing.

It looks like this. I spend the time in between our meetings wishing that I could talk to her or at least feel 1/10 of the safety and connection that I experience when I’m with her in that room. I also box up my feelings and try to keep them as small as possible, for feeling them is the same as being sucker punched right in the gut again and again. I spend so much time suppressing the words that want to come out, because there’s no one I feel I can bring that to, it’s up to me to handle. So I do. I handle it.

Then, when I finally get to her, it’s almost like I go into overload with all of that emotion crashing down on me. Often she’ll start by simply asking me how I am and I never know where to begin, because how does a person accurately sum up a few days worth of intense emotion? It doesn’t seem possible. And often, it seems redundant, because we’ve talked about so much of it the session before that and the one before that and so on.

Because I know there’s no way to shed myself all of that stuff I’ve been holding, to really lay it all out and actually have it stay outside my mind, I just start somewhere. Usually wherever she goes I’ll follow, because I’m not picky about which hole gets unplugged first when I know enough of the crap will eventually come flowing out regardless. So a lot of time I let L lead our little dance. She’ll drift from topic to topic and I’ll just tag along behind her, letting it slowly seep out as we hit on this and that. Drip, drip, drip.

L’s care for me is clearly evident. I know she wants the best for me and wants me to heal. She wants to explore my feelings, to help, to fix. But lately connecting with her is so, so painful. Each time I let out the vulnerable part of me and allow her to see it, it’s almost as if it grows in size, which makes it so challenging to stuff back in the box an hour later.

And when time is up, I tear myself away. I force myself to my feet and trudge back out into the world, where it’s just me and those big feelings again. All the time. So then I’m back in the stage of thinking about being with her, where it’s safe, and wishing I could share that pain with the person who does her absolute best to hold it with me, when no one else will.

I wasn’t particularly hiding these feelings before, we’ve touched on it here and there. It’s just when she’ll ask me if there’s anything else I want to say or what else is on my mind that I’ll stare at her and think well how do I even bring this up? Why should I even bring it up? It’s always there.

At this point, I just expect her to know it’s there. I think she does. She recognizes that the big feelings don’t go away just because we aren’t talking about them. I just don’t know how to acknowledge them briefly without them taking over. How to say well, that attachment is still pretty strong and it’s still stirring up intense feelings of need for comfort and safety. I feel it from the second I walk in the door. Which I do. I’m trying to be more mindful when I’m in the moment, but I always fixate on the time slipping by. Too many glances at the clock.

L has said that she doesn’t want to focus too hard on the relationship for that makes it implode. So why would I bring this up again and again? There’s no point. It would probably make things worse.

So there’s all that. And then there’s her impending vacation, which I’m certainly not looking forward to. I know I’ll be fine without her. I know I can handle myself. I know our relationship doesn’t cease to exist just because she isn’t around for a little while. I know she still cares. I know she deserves a break. I know I’ll get to see D in the interim, which is a generous gift, but I also know that the goal is emotional independence.

Which, ultimately, is a huge trigger for me.

L and I talked recently about my resentment that I have to handle my shit by myself sometimes when what I really want is to be taken care of.

Growing up, I never had that kind of relationship with my parents where I could talk to them about my problems, for I never felt they understood and often the conversation would take a turn in a direction that wasn’t helpful and maybe even escalated me. My big emotions weren’t understood, even though both of my parents suffered from their own. Maybe that’s why; there was no room for mine when their own anger suffocated them. Either way, I was largely left to fend for myself emotionally.

I remember once, when I really let out how hard things were, my mom yelling well, maybe you should see a therapist! But it wasn’t the kind, considerate offering it sounded. It was more a suggestion of how ridiculously she felt I was acting in the moment. And surprise, surprise, there was no follow up and no therapy.

This led to me confiding in friends who didn’t have the capacity to handle the intensity of my feelings, which pushed them away. I felt totally and utterly alone most of the time. I’m still working on not completely blaming my parents for this, as I know the good intentions were there.

So you see, when J entered my life, and then L, I’d never felt so much unconditional acceptance. I’d never been validated in that way. What was given to me through therapy was a level of support I hadn’t imagined. In a way, that is addicting to someone who has been starving for emotional connection her entire life. Once I’d experienced it, I no longer wanted to exist without it. That’s why therapy is so important to me.

When it isn’t there, when there is no L, I can do it of course. However, it’s so reminiscent of a time where I struggled so immensely, stumbling around on my own in the dark that I end up in tears even at the thought of it. Because I remember how much that young girl hurt all the time and I don’t want to keep living with those feelings. L’s words immediately meet the needs of that hurting child. Her encouragement and her belief in us restores me, restores that girl.

We’ve talked about me being the one who needs to be there for my inner child, how important that is. I know it’s true. I need to be the emotional support for myself. There’s no one else that can do it, but that just feels so so unfair sometimes.

I think I would feel more willing if there was someone outside of the therapy room that I could count on to have some real emotional intimacy with. But with my parents and current friends not being an option, and there being no romantic relationship to speak of, that leaves me quite alone. I can carry the pain for awhile, but I need to be able to unload it sometimes. I deserve to have someone who is willing to listen.

Hard truth time.

L has a life outside of work, one that doesn’t involve me. As such, I cannot have unlimited access to her. It is not her job to be there for me or take care of me. In fact, she needs that break from me, the time away, to live her own life, especially because I can be a lot for anyone to handle, her included. Her job is to model a healthy relationship, to provide strategies, to offer in-the-room support, but our relationship doesn’t exist beyond that. We are not friends. We are not family. She has other people she does this for. I am a client, part of a job. I am not special in any way. I need her, but she doesn’t need me.

And one day, our relationship will end. That will be that.

In the process of writing this post, I’ve taken pauses. At this point, I’m a few days removed now from that session and the pain I was feeling on Monday night. Now we’re on to Wednesday and I’m contemplating my session tomorrow.

We landed on this topic the other day purely by accident, because I wasn’t planning on rehashing it. We talked again about the delicate balance of her knowing I need support but trying to encourage emotional independence. As I stated some of these hard truths, she affirmed them, which heightened how I was feeling.

By the end of session, we were both frustrated. In a moment of pure angst, I wondered aloud why I was even going to therapy. I guess in my mind, I was thinking that if emotional independence is the goal, why am I fostering this relationship that’s all about vulnerability and reliance on another person? For me to be successful in therapy, as L even said, there has to be some level of that. Yet that’s so confusing for me. Because how does one get to emotional independence through so much leaning on someone else?

Things are so black and white to me. I want it to be all one way or all the other. This idea that there is going to be grey area, times where it’s okay to lean on her a little bit more and times where I need to work on making my own decisions or nurturing myself, is scary and puzzling. How will I know which time is which? I will simply spend every time obsessing over whether it is okay to reach out to her for support and then shaming myself for doing it.

So I guess really the biggest area that we’re talking about here is the outside contact because that’s where this issue arises. I miss when the texting seemed more straightforward to me. Ever since our rupture, I’ve been so nervous to reach out in between sessions, whether for reassurance or extra support. L says that the door is still open to do this, but when I think too much about it I end up telling myself that I’ve asked for too much even by just asking if we’re still okay.

I can hear her, as I write this, telling me to let her set her own boundaries.

I’ve also found that her responses to my pleas for support, where they used to help, now often sound recycled and trite. It makes me wonder whether she truly is annoyed or just feels obligated. Or whether I’ve just wrung her dry of things to say. Then I feel bad again, and I begin to question our relationship again.

I don’t want her to take the option for text away, but I feel like there needs to be a conversation about it. Maybe.

But then, I don’t know, because I don’t think I can handle it when she throws those hard truths back at me again. I said before we were both frustrated by the end of session. It really came to a head as she was restating some of those truths as if she was trying to justify her position. I kept telling her “I know” as my voice rose and eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t even let her speak. I knew whatever she wanted to say was just going to hurt.

So she paused. And I felt it, that irritation. I felt immediately guilty. When she did speak again, she said she didn’t know what I expected from her and she wasn’t sure she could meet my expectations.

Every thing in me went on high alert. She’s leaving, she’s leaving, she’s going to leave you. You’ve screwed up and ruined everything. But I tried to play that down, because I was afraid if I showed I was upset then that would worsen the situation.

Looking back, I don’t know what it was she thought I expected from her that was too much. I never said that I expected her to take care of me or be there beyond the therapist role; I just said that part of me wishes for it deeply. I think I got so frustrated because I felt misunderstood and like I was somehow being scolded about all the reasons these hard truths are necessary when really I just needed her to sit in that with me. She validated, but overall she was trying to fix it, and it’s just something that can’t be fixed.

I don’t want to talk about the hard truths anymore in therapy. All they do is cause pain. I think it’s time that I really do stand on my own two feet and deal with all the pain I have surrounding the reality of a therapy relationship by myself. Maybe that’s really just for the best.

Week 7: Healthy Eating

After a poor start to last week, I finally feel like I might be approaching a good place again related to my diet.

Last Monday, I felt super guilty after bingeing on macaroni and cheese and some sugar cookies that I had bought on a whim during my stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. I even texted L about it, and while she absolved me as she often does, I didn’t feel much better.

Throughout the week, I aimed to make some better choices. And looking back, I suppose I did. For the most part, I didn’t order out. I pulled from leftovers or frozen meals for dinner. And when I did indulge in sweets, I really only had a serving here or there. I certainly could have done better, as I often say, but I also could have done much worse.

This weekend, I decided that I was going to go all in on trying some healthier choices. I scoured pinterest and came up with a bunch of good options. Then I made a list and headed off to the store. I spent quite a bit of money, but I came home with healthy food I wouldn’t normally grab as well as better choices for sweets than I’d grabbed in the past.

I’ve spent a lot of today and yesterday following recipes and putting some of those ingredients together. I’ve made some healthy spinach dip, parmesan covered cauliflower, chunky monkeys (banana peanut butter sandwiches covered in chocolate), and I’m working on some delicious chicken that’s in the slow cooker as we speak.

I’ve tried to map out how I’d like to try (in general) to sustain myself throughout the day. It’s always easier when you can see it in black and white.

  1. Morning Start/All Day in my 64oz water bottle: Water infused with some type of fruit and a vegetable or herb. So far I’ve done lemon/cucumber and raspberry/mint. I’m excited for strawberry and basil (about 10 calories)
  2. 10am Breakfast: Belvita bar pack and a cheese stick (about 310 calories)
  3. Lunch: Assortment of fruit snacks (80), granola bar (130), salty food (150), vegetable (20) (about 400 calories)
  4. Snacks: Apple (90), Salty Food (140) (about 230 calories)
  5. Dinner: Some type of entree (400), Salad (150), Frozen Grapes (20) (570 calories)
  6. Sweet Treat: Ice Cream Bar (100 calories) or Smoothie (300 calories)

The total of that is anywhere between 1600-1900 calories. It’s not as low as I’d like to go, but I can’t seem to last on the 1,200 calories they recommend for when you’re trying to lose weight. That’s just not enough.

I’m going to keep trying to make healthy choices. It’s the big area of my goal list that I’m focusing on right now. I’m hopeful that I can keep on a positive track.

This post was pretty short, but I’m feeling kind of down tonight and not much in the mood for saying more than that. Guess it’s time to be nice to my inner child this evening. Cringe.

Self-Abandonment and the Inner Child

I’ve been thinking a lot since my therapy session earlier today, in which L proposed, again, that I start speaking to myself with more kindness than I would usually offer.

Typically when she does this, she’ll cite the fact that I’d never speak to a friend the way I speak to myself. She’s right, of course, but that never seems to make much of a difference in the special brand of cruelty with which I address myself.

Since Monday when I saw her last, I’d reached out to L twice via text for some reassurance. Or rather, it wasn’t quite reassurance. What I asked specifically for was for her to put a positive spin on a couple different situations, but was that really what I wanted? Today L said she thought it was more like I was asking permission; permission to have made a mistake, permission to feel unsure, permission to be human. And she’s right, that’s absolutely what it was.

I struggle so much to tell myself that it is okay when I have a setback. Instead, I will induce automatic shame upon myself. In my mind, I can’t trust myself to provide my own reassurance for my mistakes. Maybe it’s because I think I’m wrong as a person or that my instincts are usually opposite of how reality actually turns out. So if I spare myself for messing up, I’m expecting it to blow up in my face later and get in some type of trouble with someone.

And so I text L, because if there’s one person I’ll believe, it’s her. When she tells me to take a deep breath, stop dwelling in shame, and give myself grace, then it’s like I’ve been pardoned. Only then will I subscribe to this notion that maybe it’s okay to be human and not be perfect.

The universe must be trying to reinforce this point, because while surfing on Pinterest earlier this evening, I landed on a page that talks about the common denominator in failed relationships: self-abandonment. This article states that when our parents fail to consistently show us love in the way that we need and recognize who we are as people, we often adopt the theory that something is very wrong with us.

Now, I’ve already spent plenty of time dissecting how certain skills my parents lacked affected me in the long run. I’m not here to do that again. Certainly, there were times I didn’t feel that my feelings were acceptable and that was probably associated with how loved I felt in the moment. Maybe, maybe not.

Either way, we reached the same end point. I have said many many times my core belief of feeling like I have some fatal flaw that keeps me from being successful in life and that includes lovability. I don’t feel that I appeal to the world and that there’s anyone who would like me for who I really am.

This website posited that because we feel that way, we abandon ourselves. We seek to recreate the love we felt we missed through relationships with other people. The page is talking more specifically about romantic relationships, but in absence of that it’s no surprise I’ve projected this on to my therapist. I look to her to provide something I could very well provide myself: validation, encouragement, care, support, forgiveness, and grace.

I’ve probably come upon this realization before, but right now it’s become revitalized as it comes to light again.

Anyway, L is concerned about how much pressure I’m putting on myself. She says there’s no way I’m going to feel any sense of ease or fluidness in my life if I keep holding myself to the standard I am attempting to meet. It’s one of her favorite things to say: you can’t be all the things for all the people. And most importantly, I have to be someone for myself first.

I feel that this website goes so well with the lessons learned in therapy today. In effort to help me be there for myself, L encouraged me to start talking to the inner child and honoring her. “Baby M” as she called this entity.

And so now I have to consider Baby M whenever I am ready to blast myself for eating some cookies or spending money on something I shouldn’t. Even more, I need to approach Baby M gently when I’m at the point of distress when trying to prevent myself from making a poor decision. Her example was to validate how little me would feel when I really want that greasy food, and then redirect her. I know how badly you are wanting this pizza right now, but let’s try to get some food in us at home first and revisit the idea of that later when we might feel differently.

L’s argument was that I’d never speak to one of my students in a negative, blaming and judgmental way, so it makes no sense to speak to inner me with the same condemnation.

It’s a new strategy, and one I’m willing to try. Especially if it means increasing my self-worth in a way that I won’t be so dependent on L to confirm it for me.

Me vs. Food Demons

A letter to the girl who is about to make a poor choice regarding food:

You don’t want to do this.

No, I’m serious. You don’t. I don’t care how good it sounds. I don’t care if it’s the one thing you’ve been craving for the last however many days. I don’t care if someone is offering it to you for free. Do. not. indulge.

I know you have all these ways of justifying it for yourself. You’ll just have a regular serving’s worth (you won’t). You’ll stretch it so that it lasts the normal amount of time that particular food should last (you won’t). You’ll be satisfied afterwards (say it again louder for those in the back, you won’t).

You have the best of intentions, of course you do. That’s why you go into this making all those assurances to yourself. But right now, you can’t think about all those empty promises. You can’t let the pleasure center of your brain trick you into thinking this is a good idea just because there’s going to be that short-term burst of dopamine or whatever happy chemical will delight you for just long enough to consume the treat.

You’re not at a place right now where you have control once you’ve started. If you have one oreo, you’re going to have five. A handful of cheez-its? Try the whole bag. And don’t even get me started on pizza. Trust history when it tells you that if you could limit yourself to a few bites, a single serving, then you would have done that the numerous times before this and you wouldn’t be in this situation right now.

Once you make the decision, it’s done. You can’t unring that bell. And then the thinking will happen. Those dreadful moments when you pore over the decision you can’t take back but wish desperately you could.

We both know where the thinking is going to go. Immediate and overwhelming shame. Thoughts like I shouldn’t have done that. I ruined all my progress. I’m never going to get where I want to be with these habits. I’m ugly and I’m going to continue being ugly. On and on and on. You will look in the mirror and hate the face that’s staring back at you. And don’t even get me started on the awful, cruel things you’ll think about your own body.

Truly, you must not want to think this way? You must not want to feel the after-effects that come from all those dark thoughts?

I’m here to save you all that time and tell you no. Just, no. Don’t argue. Don’t begin to rationalize in your head how one setback wouldn’t be so bad. What seems small now will seem huge in a little while. Just move away from the temptation, I promise you’re better off.

What should you do instead? Anything. I mean, maybe not anything. Try to stay off the online shopping venues, because if you can’t fix whatever mood you’re in with food I promise that a new dress isn’t going to solve the problem either. What calories can’t cure will also not be resolved by throwing money at the problem.

If you’re in a place of deep emotional turmoil, I see you. I know that cave well, but there’s light at the end of it if you keep walking long enough to find it. Eating the way you want to just keeps you stuck there in a whole new kind of darkness. So instead, acknowledge the feeling. Name it and then sit with it for a little bit. Consider where you are in the wave. Consider where the feelings are stemming from. Then either distract or relax. You have a whole list of both categories. These skills have been taught to you for a reason.

If you’re considering this as a treat, whether for a good day’s work or just to brighten up an otherwise monotonous day, consider something else. How can you care for yourself in a way that nourishes you? How can you treat your body in a way that shows how you value it?

So no Dunkin Donuts. No pizza. No Burger King. If you’re at the store, don’t buy the cookies or the tastycakes. If you need something sweet that badly, you can buy something that comes in one singular serving. Or find the ingredients for a smoothie. Maybe some hot chocolate? None of those break the bank and they don’t overdo it on the calories either.

Of course, it’s not just about the calories. We both know focusing too narrowly on that isn’t helpful either. What really matters right now is trying to increase the healthiness of your food repertoire. Add in a new fruit. Try a new veggie. Find a recipe on pinterest that’s keto or low-carb or even just not fried or battered in fat.

I’m here as future you to bring you face to face with all the times in the past you’ve bypassed these reminders. It’s brought you nothing but shame. You are working so hard at offering yourself kindness and being gentle with your emotions. You are putting in every effort to withhold judgment and believe in yourself. This choice brings you further from that, not closer.

So make a healthier decision. Whether that means walking away, picking something else to eat, or just separating yourself from good for a little while, you have to be the one to make the right decision. Go ahead, do it. You are in control here, not your cravings.

You’ve got this.

Week 6: Justified Spending?

Let’s start the week off with this lovely quote:

I’m really hoping this guy is right, because not only would that make a lot of sense but it would make me feel a lot better about where I am in this moment of life.

I don’t even know if there’s anything that has to get done in this moment, but I do feel like there’s a lot riding on my ability to do whatever it is.

Another week is finished and behind me. Healthy eating and my weight continue to star front and center in the performance of my daily life. They loom large and yet I’m constantly pulling the curtain on them. The fruits and veggies are still in the fridge, calling for me and wondering if I ever plan to get my butt in gear and actually do something to increase the likelihood I’ll consume them.

Wednesday was apparently National Pizza Day and someone made the mistake of mentioning that to me. So then I made the mistake of going to the supermarket and purchasing one Digiorno pizza that I planned to indulge in half of but instead gobbled down the whole thing. Plus multiple tastycakes. Ugh. I felt real shame after that one. Still feeling it, really.

Since then, my diet has been moderately improved. I’m not staying under a good calorie count (not that I’m counting), but I’m trying to avoid the sweets and make better choices. Oh, and drink water!

I’ve had more moments of actually seeing my reflection this past week. Yesterday in a dressing room was probably the worst experience. I know that those lights are supposed to have some purpose in helping me decide I want the clothes, but mostly they just help me decide that I don’t ever want to go out in public again. Even seeing myself on camera for virtual meetings is a turn-off; all I seem to notice is my double-chin. It’s amazing I can actually get it together to lead a meeting when my focus is constantly being pulled to how much better I feel everyone else looks.

L and I talked about this on Thursday when we met for session and I dove into it again with Dr. N the following day. L wanted to know if there were small ways I could try to increase my confidence while I was working towards the weight loss goal. It seems so shallow, but I suggested actually doing my hair, makeup, and putting on some jewelry. L suggested I do my nails.

I know it shouldn’t matter what I look like, but to me it really does. I’m certainly not against the idea of making myself up a little bit more. Truth is, I’d do it every day if it weren’t so hard to get out of bed each morning. I just don’t leave myself enough time. Somehow I need to get myself up earlier and I really haven’t figured out what the magical answer to that question is yet. Doesn’t matter if I go to bed at 8pm, I’m still snoozing away well past 6:30am when I really need to get out of bed.

So this weekend I spent an inordinate money on clothing, makeup, and jewelry. I bought boots, dresses, rings, earring, jeans, and everything else that struck me as necessary to retool my look. I refuse to say how much I spent, because it’s more money than is currently in my checking account. Of course, I didn’t mean to do that, but my impulsive spending monster had to jump out of it’s hiding spot once I had caged the impulsive eating monster. Only one of them seems to be able to lay dormant at a time.

I’m looking at this costly mistake as an investment in my mental health and I’m actually not so ashamed of this as I am of the eating. I guess I feel like I can slowly pay off the debt and then I’ll be good to go. Probably not the smartest way to look at this endeavor, but maybe it’s healthier than beating myself up.

This week, I deleted the Fabulous app from my phone. After I talked about how stressful the streaks were becoming for me, I decided it just wasn’t in line with this “gentle” way I’m trying to treat myself. It’s so damn easy to feel internal shame and worthlessness at one missed day and there’s no room for imperfection there. Considering the dance I’m already doing with being human and balancing success with missed opportunity, this felt like the right option in place of having a breakdown because I didn’t water the plants one morning.

L asks me all the time lately how my routines are going and I’m rarely ever giving her a good report even though I might have some nights that I do most of the things on my list. It really does occur to me how hard I hang on to the fallacy that my life is only properly together if I managed to do a, b, c, d, and e every single morning and then pile on an addition 6 tasks every single night. When I do that, I feel like a real adult and if I don’t, if I miss even one thing, I discredit myself entirely.

She’s trying like hell to get me to offer myself more grace and also to recognize that not all nights have to look that same. That’s actually been my homework with Dr. N: to try to develop a more sensible schedule that accounts for my long work days instead of trying to force myself into the same box every night when I’m just too tired for it.

What’s really hard is that my back is still bothering me from my exercising injury, so I’m not able to properly work out even if I wanted to. Every time I think it’s on the mend, I find the next day that sitting in certain positions is very uncomfortable. I have another doctor’s appointment for that this week, so I hope to be able to give her some positive news. That means I need to do some stretching between then and now.

I know some of this is repetitive, but perhaps that’s just going to be how things go. It takes days and weeks to build habits and being able to talk about it here makes a little bit of a difference. So I’ll take that.

For now, I’m off to try to work on those habits. And watch the Super Bowl. Go Bengals!

Trauma or Just Plain Old Childhood Woes

“Did your mother ever withhold emotional support from you growing up when she assigned you the label of ‘bad’ or doing something wrong?”

These were L’s approximate words to me last week during our session when we were discussing why I feel such a need to hear her (and previously J) use positive terms of praise or endearment in our interactions. I had been telling her that she used to say things all the time like I’m a “rockstar” or a “warrior” when I would do things well, and after our rupture I had worried when those same terms weren’t used at the rate they previously had. She made the connection between that yearning and my childhood experience of having emotional connection removed when my parents (particularly my mother) perceived that I was at fault, bad, or wrong for whatever reason, true or not.

Since we’ve had this conversation, it’s gotten me thinking a lot about complex trauma, whether any of that applies to me, and how I would even begin to go about picking that apart to perhaps move past it.

I have long been unwilling to say that I experienced any form of trauma growing up. My parents very clearly loved me. I always had food, toys, shelter, anything I needed. I was allowed to enjoy hobbies and spend time with friends. They took an interest in my activities, always present for competitions and concerts. They cared when I was upset. They instilled in me good manners and values. They tried, they always did. All of that is true, I don’t doubt it.

And yet…

Back in the early days of blogging, I wrote about my relationship with my parents rather frequently. It was definitely more pertinent in my life back then. I’m an only child and back when I started this blog in 2017, I was still living at home. I had my room as my solitary space, but the rest of my world existed within their parameters.

I blamed my parents for a lot back then. As my awareness was opening up to my distorted thoughts, extremely intense feelings, and repetitive yet futile patterns of dysfunctional behavior, I was beginning to recognize the source of my battle with these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors came from them. It was painful to come to terms with.

Being under the same roof as two people who didn’t seem intent to change in the way I was desperately seeking change felt like it was adding fuel to the fire. The more I examined how they behaved in our interactions and just generally towards the world, I could so clearly see where I picked up so much of who I was. They had been my social models for emotional expression and self-regulation and I felt so strongly at the time they had failed me. I felt like the reason I was relegated to sitting in a therapist’s office was, in fact, them.

I blame them for not being who I needed them to be. I blame them for not giving me the coping skills to deal with my emotions as a kid, for not being able to tolerate and resolve anger or conflict in a constructive way. I blame them for my social anxiety. Truth is, I blame them for the BPD.

Additionally, I wrote in September 2017 about the pickle jar metaphor offered to me by J that reflected how I had tended to take on the toxic negativity that I viewed in my parents and didn’t have the space to outrun during that time in graduate school. The longer you sit in pickle juice, the more you become a pickle. And I was certainly allowing myself to pickle as I spent more and more time at home:

It’s the sneaky thought spiral a la the pickle jar. A lot more negativity and judgement: towards my parents, towards myself, towards others. Less satisfaction with who I am and where I am in my life. Easier anger and the impulse to explode…

…I learned anger as a coping mechanism, I learned strict perfectionism, I learned to expect the worst from people. I was extremely negative in view. And guess what? I had a lot of mental health problems that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to fix. There were flaws the size of Alaska in my thinking, but my parents and I, of the same mindset, weren’t going to catch them.

This is still a struggle, every day. Parents aren’t who I need them to be at any given moment. I feel resentment. Subtle tension escalates from both sides.

Nearly five years later, it’s still challenging to read that back. In reviewing these old posts, I’ve noticed that I’ve never been able to share feelings of frustration towards my parents without equally validating the good in them. They are, in fact, good people with good intentions. If you read those old posts you can tell that I do love them very much and I appreciate their strengths and valuable qualities. You can also tell that I was so afraid to say anything negative against them, because just doing so felt like a betrayal of them and an inability to recognize the positive.

I hurt for this girl who was so torn between her love and her anger, not understanding that both can be valid. Thankfully, L’s “two things can be true” motto shines here and I can finally see that I both am allowed to both be grateful for my parents while still feeling disappointment over the skills they could not give me and how that affected who I am today.

I’ve spent hours upon hours in therapy and at home grieving what will never be. Those skills that I lacked as a kid and an emerging adult created experiences I’ll never get back and I’ve worked hard at moving on from that very heavy piece of information. But sometimes I’m still reeling from the knowledge that the child in me missed out on some vital lessons.

I was never physically abused, unless you count getting spanked as a child for talking back or misbehaving. As for verbal or emotional abuse, I wasn’t called much beyond ‘nasty,’ a ‘brat,’ or once when my mother was really angry, told to ‘fuck off’. I wouldn’t necessarily call that abuse though. Maybe some of their actions could be labeled an abuse of parental power because of how those situations were handled. They certainly could have been handled better…but would I say it was cruelty or an act of malice? No.

So does that count as trauma? L thinks it does in some small way, because it was traumatic to me.

According to an article about complex trauma, these are some of the hallmarks of the traumatic experiences and events.

  •  (1) repetitive, prolonged, or cumulative
  • (2) most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploitation, and maltreatment including neglect, abandonment, or antipathy by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults
  • (3) often occur at developmentally vulnerable times in the victim’s life, especially in early childhood or adolescence, 

When I consider this, some of it applies. The experiences that I’m rehashing certainly occurred during my formative years when all of those sensitive and critical periods were coming and going. I’ve watched videos of myself at two or three years old where I’m being yelled at for one thing or another while I’m crying for something because whatever I’m doing is perceived as wrong. If you think about the typical developmental tasks at that stage – learning to take initiative and developing autonomy – these negative experiences could have definitely left me in the self-doubt and guilt categories. When I stepped up to do things for myself, there was sometimes yelling or reprimand, which then taught me not to explore the world as I was.

Then I think about the repetitive or cumulative piece. How many times was I spanked as a child? How many screaming matches did I engage in with my parents? I gave as good as I got, that’s for sure, but that stuff adds up. It taught me that any form of expressing anger or dissent would be met with loud resistance. The way L described it, I learned early that my emotions needed to be small because there was rarely room for them.

And that’s so true, because when I first entered therapy (and sometimes still now) I had no idea how to communicate feelings like anger or frustration. Expressing them just brought up more fear as I tripped over myself trying to be heard but apologizing for being loud enough to hear all at once. I didn’t feel like I had the right to share how I felt. Each time I did, I waited for the world to collapse in the therapy room right at my feet.

There’s the inner critic. The nasty little voice that I now try to ward off in my elementary school students, even as it continues to torment me. L consistently and frequently reminds me I need to be kind and gentle to myself, and then validates how cringeworthy that sounds to me. I just don’t have that natural instinct to protect myself or soothe my own pain. I’m much more likely to try to abandon it elsewhere in favor of just about anything else.

I wonder sometimes if this is how my parents would characterize their own experiences with emotion and their critic, but then I think they’ve probably never stopped to consider it, nor would they want to.

All of us possess this inner critic, but those of us who are traumatized may experience this “voice” as a deeply destructive and terrifying enemy whose attacks on us can feel crippling and constant and can lead to even life-threatening, self-destructive behavior. When a person feels hopeless or isolated in their suffering or finds it difficult to trust easily, he or she can become further victimized by their critical inner voice. In turn, they may fail to have compassion for themselves and may make choices that repeat destructive patterns of their past

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D

The last part is the interpersonal nature of the trauma and causing direct harm. This is where I stray from the definition there, because as I said, I never think my parents intended harm to me. I truly believe they were just doing what they had the skills to do at the time and coped with me however they could. There was no malice to how they acted, but sometimes I think that the way any positive was withheld during those tense moments of escalated anger may have felt like abandonment.

I think another place where I struggle is that if I were ever to voice any of the discontent I have about how I was raised, my parents might just tell me that they raised me the way they were brought up. I know for a fact my mom doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with spanking because it’s something she endured as a child. But is that just her childhood trauma manifesting into her later actions with me? Did she just carry on the trauma down a generation because it was all she knew?

That is where I know I’ll be different. Or at least I’ll try. I won’t spank my kids and I know I’ll try hard to avoid rising to the level of anger I was constantly confronted with. It’s so weird to think that the reason I would be so explosive is likely because they were modeling it for me, but then they couldn’t handle when I imitated the anger I’d seen in equally loud and abrasive ways. L says it was very much a ‘do as I say not as I do’ household. How confusing for me.

Whether or not I ever get that angry with my kids one day, I sure will allow them the space to express how they feel and teach them about the emotions they’re experiencing. It makes me sad to think I was never given that kind of social-emotional education, and how much that emotionally stunted me, but I wonder how little my parents were taught of that skillset. It’s not like SEL was promoted back during the time they were growing up.

So I choose to go on and be different. And maybe it doesn’t matter what I classify as trauma and what I don’t. It doesn’t change much in the way of what my childhood was, the magic and the warts. Regardless, I know that I want to put an end to certain cycles. I want to stop the blame. I want to morph the resentment as something akin to empathy for the two people who loved me so deeply and really didn’t know a better way than they offered. I love them and I don’t want my conflictual feelings towards how they raised me and the trauma it may or may not have created to play such a role anymore.

I’ve managed a life outside the pickle jar. I’m learning, very slowly, but all the same learning to deal with it when I come up against the wedge between us, whether that be setting a new boundary or expressing something I never would have had the courage to before and bracing for the impact it has.

Pickle jar or not, I hope that one day the residue of my time there won’t feel so slick and heavy.

Seems like L and I have more work to do.

All the same…this message below still has a lot of value.

Week 5: Reorganizing

Welcome back to a week in my life. It’s all very exciting, isn’t it?

Since last week’s meltdown over a google search, things rebounded in an altogether fine way. I say fine because it wasn’t spectacular and I didn’t completely fall apart either. Honestly, I stayed in maintenance mode and just survived the week.

I haven’t spoken in a few weeks about where I’m at related to my goals. It’s frustrating, but I’m back at my starting weight due to just a few too many indulgences. I’m really struggling with this healthier diet. Every morning I resolve to make better choices and by every evening I’ve given into a craving for something sweet or savory or just simply delicious but easily quite bad for you.

I was talking to my doctor the other day and she validated that the sugar addiction is really just that – an addiction. My body craves it and that temptation requires strict willpower in order to overcome. She said that if I could just go without sugar a couple weeks my system will stop desiring it so strongly. It all makes sense, but it also sounds so difficult.

Part of the problem is that I really don’t like very much healthy food. A lot of the things that are low-carb or keto friendly, as an example, just don’t resonate with me on the hunger scale. As I was searching last night that became remarkably clear. Hard-boiled eggs? Hard pass. Tuna? No thanks. Sunflower seeds? Nah. The list goes on without much success.

Even though I have some fruits and vegetables waiting patiently in my fridge to be eaten, when I’m hungry those grapes or peppers just don’t meet the mark for something I want. I want something crunchy or hot or cheesy. This is probably where that whole will power thing should be activated, yes?

I rarely buy myself sweets at the grocery store lately, I’ve gotten better at that. It’s not going out for fast food or to the convenience store that is oh so conveniently right around the corner where my favorites – fries or chocolate, for example – are available for the cheap cheap price of both my dignity and my short-term success. You think it would be easy to not go somewhere – just stay home! Or if I’m in the car then drive past it! Yeah, I tell myself that as I’m bucking my seatbelt, stopping at the light, turning into the parking lot, placing an order, or handing over cash. Look at all the time I put into not poor nutritional decisions when a healthier choice required so much less effort.

Yesterday I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it was all I could do not to look away in disgust. I’m so displeased with the way I’ve let my body go for nothing more than a few pieces of pizza or a reese’s peanut butter cup, all of which lasts just long enough for me to chew and swallow. It’s just not worth it.

I want to feel better about myself, I really do, and I need to figure out how to do that. With so much going on in terms of trying to get myself in a better place, I know that I need to reframe this all in a way that doesn’t force so much shame on me. It needs to be about how my choices can be rewarding and can build me up, moving away from the negative self-concept I feel without this focus.

I can’t say that’s going to revolutionize everything, but maybe I can take a little more control this week of my diet and pick some kinder options. So far today, it hasn’t been so bad.

My homework with Dr. N this week is to figure out what my new normal is going to look like. While the rush of being completely on track the first few weeks of the year was exciting, that faded fast as fatigue set in and I couldn’t maintain what I wanted for myself.

I hurt my back while exercising a few weeks ago, which means that I haven’t been exercising. Initially I tried to push through it, but I think that just made things worse and honestly I haven’t had a whole lot of motivation anyway. So now I’m ordered to be resting for a few days before starting up some stretching. No real exercise allowed for 1-2 weeks while I heal.

My doctor also recommended not sticking with my weight loss program because she feels using the weights might further exacerbate the injury. I’ve been so clinging to the idea of finishing this 100-workout series, but maybe I need to let that dream go for now. It’s worth at least looking at other workouts in the series that are more cardio-focused. Maybe I still with 100 Morning Meltdown, maybe I pick something else. I have time to consider this anyway.

I know that at least while considering this routine for myself, I need to stop expecting me to complete these 20-30 minute intense workouts on days that I’m not home until 6pm. It was fun to hope but I don’t see there being any follow through when I arrive at my apartment as wiped as I am. Maybe those nights just include some stretches or some weighted hula-hooping. Something that involves movement but isn’t too much for me.

I also know that I want to get back into meditating because I’m always better for that. You know why I struggle so hard with that? I can’t remember if I’ve posted. It’s those damn streaks! Streaks get in the way of everything, simply because they exist. If you aren’t aware, a lot of these apps that are there to support mental health goals do so by having you build streaks, otherwise known as a certain number of days doing something to create a new habit. In my case, Calm uses it. Fabulous uses it. When I was on Noom, they used it too.

In theory, this is a great idea. For some people, I’m sure it really works. If you can do it every day then you are building those new pathways in your brain that help you upgrade to doing those things habitually, which is a step in the right direction towards mental wellness. Except for when you’re a perfectionist who has OCD

I actually love the streaks, but I love them a little too much. I rely on them as my indicator of progress. When I’m on a streak high it’s AWESOME. Like once I went almost 400 days on Calm without forgetting to meditate. Until I did forget. You would have thought I wronged someone badly, I reacted so strongly and with such intense shame. That’s the problem. Streaks are great until you inevitably miss a day because of that thing known as being human.

Having the streak encourages you to push through minor discomfort or limited motivation to get the act done, but I can’t see the difference between when it’s minor discomfort/low motivation and when my body really actually needs the break. It’s all the same to me and is treated with the same level of self-guilting.

Somehow I need to work my way around this problem. I don’t think you can turn off the streak feature, as again it’s part of the program’s mode of support, so I have to learn to better accept or even schedule those needed breaks. Starting back at one does not actually mean starting back at one. That little number really means so little. Pick up and keep going.

Last week, therapy was interrupted again so L could attend a training. I had a hard time with no seeing her on Thursday after we had a very connecting session Monday afternoon.

We debriefed the situation with J, which led to discussion about what it might have looked like if she had been back and I’d been forced to make the decision I dreaded. I told her how I thought that maybe I might have chosen her over J, which surprised even me in a way; not because anything is wrong with L, but because I’ve always expected that if J came back the choice wouldn’t even exist.

It does though. L has made such a difference, such an impact, that I couldn’t imagine letting her go. We also talked about how when she said she was willing to bow out, even though she prefaced it by telling me it didn’t mean she didn’t want to work with me, I felt like she was saying she was willing to let me go.

I cried, of course I did, but it was okay. She got it. She was there. She’s always there. No matter what I throw at her.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear her say things that put the distance between us. That wedge that will always exist because she’s my therapist and not my friend. She’s got to take her emotions out of it, she has to do what’s right for my treatment. But I think what helped is that she told me whatever she was feeling would be something she dealt with, just not with me. That felt like her way of saying that without me in her life, there would be an impact, even if I wasn’t the one that got to see it.

I don’t know why I care so much, but I do. I think that after our little rupture back in November, the one I’m still working on a post for, a lot of hard truths have come forward. I want to write about those, because they really are the wall I keep coming up against. One of them has been that I can be too much for her and she can stop working with me at any point.

Granted, that second part is still true and she confirmed that. She has no obligation to “keep me.” She could refer me out at any time. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound comforting, and often it’s not. But in this context, L used that to remind me that everything we’ve been through hasn’t ended us and she has no plans to do so now. If she wanted to refer me out, that would have been done at any point when things were bad.

So as I was sitting there wondering if me falling apart over the dreaded choice that didn’t happen was me showing too much emotion, caring too much, being too dependent on her – anything that would cause her to end the relationship – L remained firm that none of that was true. She cares about me and she’s seen so much growth in my independence, my ability to regulate, and my willingness to take on each challenge outside the room. My fears of being too needy are unfounded.

For someone who constantly worries about being “too much” and has worried about it in excess since our rupture, somehow the words hit right this time and I was disarmed. I was able to absorb her words as truth for once. Hence why the session felt so secure; she offered me the connection and I took it.

L is happy where we’re at in our work together. She mentioned at the time of our rupture that it could be transformative for our work together if we retooled in the right way. And we did. It was scary when we didn’t know what it would look like, but we’ve diverted onto a path that is a balance of skills focus and still considers the effect of the relationship when needed. We’re comfortable in our boundaries and they aren’t awkward the way I imagined they might be when I felt like she was pulling back at the time. She protected herself, yes, but I think she protected us too. She cared enough to do that.

Hard truths aside, power differentials forgotten, I’m so grateful for that. So grateful she didn’t give up on me.

Of course, that’s why Thursday was hard. I wanted my safe person and she wasn’t there. Thankfully, she is tomorrow. I hope. I constantly feel like I have to add that last bit in there, just in case something does interrupt our sessions once again. I hope for some newfound stability with our schedule for sure.

I spent the day today planning for work. In fact, I spent the last week planning for work. Didn’t see any kids, just caught up on reports of all kinds, because I was way behind. I’m going into this week feeling fairly confident in my ability to see all my kids and do the job.

Let’s hope for a good one.

Week 4: Atom Bomb

I have a lesson for all you friends in therapy: don’t google your damn therapist. Especially if that therapist happens to no longer be your therapist because she’s off enjoying motherhood. Don’t do it. Just…don’t.

I’m sure you’re all brimming with anticipation to know just how did I learn this lesson for myself this week.

As I stated in my post last week, I’ve been really missing J. I’m not sure why she’s all the sudden on my mind so much, but as the case may be she’s occupying quite a bit of space. Maybe it’s because therapy has been so inconsistent with L in the last couple weeks. Maybe it’s just because no matter how much time passes, I’m never going to outrun the impact she has on me.

For example, on Friday when Dr. N and I were talking about the to-be-explained situation, she wondered aloud whether it might be time to accept that the era of my life with J is permanently over, instead of on a who-knows-how-long temporary hiatus. I immediately broke into tears, overcome by the possibility of something that I’ve never been able to admit to myself might be true. Talking about her is still the easiest way to make me cry.

But anyway, before I’m off on a tangent, let’s remember the real point of this. Don’t google your damn therapist. Why, you ask? Well, you never know what you might find. And if you aren’t prepared, it may knock you off your feet.

On Wednesday night, something struck me that made me decide to do the exact thing I’m cautioning against. I was thinking about her and every once in awhile when I do, I’ll look her up just as this reminder that she’s out there. I’m usually not looking for any more than that. Like I’m not trying to track her down or anything. It’s just seeing her name pop up, usually attached to her previous practice address, that comforts me.

In the past, maybe five or six sites would fall in line, all with that address, her name, credentials, etc. On Wednesday though, suddenly those sites had changed. One or two still had the old address, but a higher number boasted a new address that I’d never seen before in another town.

I didn’t want to think much of it, but a sickening fear snaked through my head. Maybe this wasn’t the same person? Doubtful; her name isn’t super common and the credentials matched. It just didn’t make sense.

Then I saw the page I’d visited often in the past. Mind you, I’m still talking maybe six links down. I wasn’t scrolling for pages. There had always been two reviews of her service on this site: a review from a disgruntled parent of one of her clients and one from me that I’d posted protectively after reading the first rude review. You know, because no one bashes my therapist! That day, there was a newer review from December 2021.

December 2021. As far as I knew, she hadn’t been practicing too far beyond July 2020. When had that changed?

The post was positive, praising her warmth, care, and skill, and it about broke me. She was practicing? Why hadn’t she told me? How could she?

I felt instantly betrayed and abandoned. I just couldn’t configure in my mind how she would have gone back into the field and left me out of the equation. It wasn’t like we hadn’t been in contact. We still email every 2-3 months and in every single email I always tell her that I miss her and our work and that as wonderful as L is, she isn’t J. If she had gone back, she had to know I’d want the opportunity to work with her again.

My mind was racing. Did she not want to work with me anymore? Did she not care for me the way I thought she did? Was everything I felt about our relationship being special a lie?

For most people, this type of knowledge would not send them reeling. But when you have BPD with co-occuring attachment issues and your therapist is the first person who unconditionally accepted you without any form of judgment, it matters. It matters a lot. She didn’t just change my life, she saved it, and when she left the field to be a mom it nearly killed me. So to think that there had been an opportunity to be provided care from her that was being denied? Well, that didn’t sit well with me at all.

Needless to say, I barely slept that night.

Thankfully, I had a session with L the next day. By some miracle, I’d avoided bringing her into it the night before through text. Part of me didn’t even want to bring it up in case she already knew or somehow she made it worse. But as always my complete inability to hide my emotions gave me away. When she asked me how my day had gone, despite describing myself as “good” moments earlier, I felt my face fall before I could think to save it.

We talked about the whole story I described and how I’d landed here. She agreed that the evidence did point in the direction that she might be practicing again, but warned me that I had absolutely no context. It would be cruel of me to assign myself shame by making the situation personal. Perhaps J didn’t want to be seen as poaching me from L when we were settled in our relationship? Perhaps she was practicing with a very different type of client? L didn’t know, but she didn’t want me making up worst case scenarios either.

Seeing how damaging this was to my mental status, she encouraged me to reach out to J.

The session further eroded as I realized if J was in fact back, and she did offer for me to work with her again, I’d have a choice to make. J or L. I asked L if she’d make me choose and she said that I couldn’t work with both of them. That just wasn’t how things went. More tears from me.

L said that if it came to it, she was willing to bow out. Then she added that she didn’t want us to stop working together and that she cared about me just as much…I think. I honestly don’t remember as I was mid panic attack. But I remember she tried to reassure me. It fell flat as all I could think was I’m going to lose one of them in this.

I’ve always known that I might end up in a spot where I do have to choose. At first, I would have picked J without question. But after L and I have worked so hard to build the solid foundation we have, would I make sense to leave that behind? As much as I loved J, we had our stuff too and she seemed more easily rattled by me than L, who doesn’t seem to be bothered by very much. Would I be choosing J based on feelings when the facts pointed to L as a better match at this point in my treatment?

Too many questions.

Another night and another day went by. I relayed all this to Dr. N, who agreed with L that it made the most sense to reach out directly. J was the only one who could answer my questions and without those answers, I’d be haunted by the unknown. So as soon as I clicked off of my weekly session with Dr. N, I pulled up my email. I wrote the least accusing and judgmental email I could come up with, one that just laid out where I was at and what information was I needed.

I pressed send. Then I sat in silence, in limbo.

I expected from our previous communication to have to wait days for a response and I didn’t know how I was going to manage it. God Bless J, because she must have gotten my email right away and known how much I was struggling. She answered me within twenty minutes.

So in case you’re curious, she is not currently practicing. Or at least, she’s not practicing to an extent that we could continue our work together. She didn’t address the review I found and I didn’t probe further, so I guess I won’t know about that any time soon. Perhaps one day. All I know are her words that nothing’s changed.

Oh, she’s also pregnant again, so even if she was practicing that would come to an end when she’s due in July.

I’m so grateful she didn’t leave me in limbo long. And she did tell me that if she were to go back in the field, she would tell me, so there’s that. I’m happy for her because I know she wants a big family. And I’m pleased for me that I don’t have to worry about choosing. L just means too much to me to think that I would upset the good thing we have going right now.

While I’m happy I got my answers, I know that I could have avoided all this by just not googling my damn therapist. Maybe I’ll learn my lesson and at least stay off the internet as related to L before I find out something I don’t want to or am not supposed to know.

Week 3: Exposure to Imperfect

I’m late again with my weekly update, which should in itself be an indicator of the last week. But I guess at least I’m writing at all, when I honestly don’t feel like it. This was my homework from Dr. N; I’m to simply right and not stress over how my litany of words projects onto others. I worry so much about getting my voice completely right and she wants me to dismiss that for now. Ha.

So, the storm hasn’t quite yet. It morphed from simple urges to full-on throwing my routines aside for a few days. Not altogether, but enough to set me off course.

I’m loving this meme and relating to it way too hard.

To start, I’m not even going to report on my weight. I’ve either been lucky enough to remain stable or have more likely gained. I find that this addiction to food, sweets especially, is a particularly difficult one to shake. When eating is a must in order to live, it becomes challenging to make the right food choices when the wrong ones are just about everywhere in society and also the only thing that’s appetizing. I desperately wish I was one of those people who got excited by a salad, but I much prefer pasta and cookies and anything covered in cheese. Sigh.

I don’t even have the stuff in the house anymore, but apparently that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to order it or head to the nearby convenience store in an impulsive burst. I really need to get a handle on my cravings and do a better job of distracting. Because with the binge eating also comes spending, which I simply do not have the funds to support! I guess if looking back I only dropped $150 approximately this month, that’s better than some others, but still. It could improve.

Maybe I’d be more willing to sit with that if everything else was in gear, but unfortunately that last homework assignment of messing up my routine instigated a flurry of missed sessions, both exercise and meditation. I haven’t abandoned it altogether, but I’m also not consistent and that needs to change. It doesn’t help that I seem to have tweaked my back when I was exercising, which doesn’t lend me much to wanting to aggravate it more.

When I talked to L last week, she encouraged me to forgive myself for stumbling on my routine. She reminded me that I’m human and this is to be expected. It’s about the recovery that counts, she reasoned. I’m trying to be better at acceptance and forgiveness, but damn it does not come naturally to me.

We agreed that if I’m going for a bare minimum, then I could focus on my morning and evening routines, forgoing the afternoon routine when I was tired, overwhelmed or just busy. The afternoon routine is the one with exercise, reading, and meditating, all wonderful would-be choices as long as I have the stamina to actually do them.

So none of that happened today, but tomorrow is a brand new day. I’d like to at least exercise tomorrow and maybe even read. If I don’t get back into my book soon I’m going to end up having to start it over.

Therapy continues to progress in fits and starts. L cancelled session today due to a stomach bug. Well, so she says. I have my suspicions she is pregnant and that “stomach bug” is actually morning sickness. I literally have zero evidence to support that. The point is, no therapy again today. Plus she has a training next week. So therapy has been interrupted in some way for at least three weeks. It’s so frustrating.

I think what’s even more frustrating is that it feels challenging for me to bring it to her. She’ll tell me my feelings are “understandable” (a word she uses a lot recently) and maybe try for a bit more validations, but I also feel she takes on a very noncommittal stance because my frustrations are directed towards her absence. If she tells me again that, “unfortunately, she can’t do anything about it” in reference to my fears about her absence, as she did awhile back when I expressed anxiety about the possibility of another maternity leave, I will scream.

I really need to finish that post I’ve started about our rupture from November. It’s begging to be written as I continue to process my feelings from each subsequent session. Plus, there are some readers whose advice or perspectives I’d value on the whole thing. I just know you all get how some of those hard truths about therapy just nag at us again and again and the rupture has brought it all front and center.

We’re fine now, we are, but I still try to play good anyway. I feel like she only likes me when I’m the well-behaved client and not the ugly, crazy one. She balked when I told her that and insisted she doesn’t see me as ugly or crazy, but the minions just ignored her. They’re good at that.

I’ve been missing J a lot lately. It’s not even near a good time for emailing her because it’s only been about a month and a half since our last email. I’ve brought this up with L, but there’s only so many times I can say it before I feel like “what’s the point” because there’s nothing that will fix that either.

I’m tired all the time lately. I spent most of yesterday asleep in my bed and I’m curled in bed right now as I type. I wish I knew the reason for that. My mind likes to make up lots of scary answers, but I think my last round of blood work would have highlighted if those reasons existed. I hope. Maybe it’s just me working hard at trying to stay on top of it all. That is exhausting in itself.

And with that, I’m off to sleep. Until next time, friends.