Poison

I’m really tempted to text L right now and ask if we’re okay and if she’s mad at me. Not for anything that she said or did. In fact, we laughed a lot through my session today. No, this is all about me. I’m projecting, because I know she’s not mad at me, but I think I want to be mad at her.

I wish I could understand where this feeling is coming from because it’s not entirely clear to me. I’m not even totally sure I’m angry, but that’s what seems to make the most sense. When I have trouble identifying a feeling, it’s usually anger driving it.

I’ve scoured my mind for different things she might have said or did that would upset me. I came up with a few, but none of them are particularly striking. Still, I suppose they’re worth exploring.

I feel angry, and perhaps a little scolded, by the way she responded when I admitted to her that I was feeling jealous of her little family. That wasn’t an easy truth to share because it feels shameful to have such feelings. I don’t want to have them. She told me that jealousy isn’t an emotion she can get behind, and that it’s better just to be happy for the other person or something like that. So quickly it shut the door on the topic and I was left feeling like I’d said something wrong. It made me feel like I couldn’t talk about those feelings anymore.

I’m angry, and confused, because I feel pressure not to send her texts outside of session. Granted, there has always been a boundary, which I have always been careful, I thought, not to overwhelm her. The Sunday before she left, I asked for and received a phone call because I was uncontrollably crying thinking I was about to lose my whole support system for insurance reasons. The next day, she made a comment about how that was the level of distressed she thought I should be to reach out like that. She briefly glossed over the idea of me becoming less reliant on her. It was the first inkling she’d given that maybe I was asking too much and then I didn’t get to talk to her for three months. It made me feel like, upon her return, I had to stop completely because otherwise I would be too bothersome.

I’m angry that when I told her how I was missing J after emailing her, she suggested cutting off that contact in the future, closing the door for good. I don’t think I even need to explain why that sent me spiraling. Imagining a life that doesn’t include J in a small way is not a thought I can tolerate.

I’m angry that I don’t have access to her instagram anymore. It’s honestly probably for the better, because it was fueling the jealousy, but I still feel like I’ve been rejected even though I’m not the reason for the change in settings.

Part of me knows that if I brought these topics to her, she’d happily dissect them with me. Part of me knows that that’s the right thing to do.

Yet whenever I’m in session, I can’t bring this up to her. It’s just blocked. Even when she provides me the perfect segue, I stall, I tangent, I try like hell to control my face not to tip her off that something’s wrong. Because I don’t feel like these are real reasons to feel anger.

Let’s be real. I’m really, above all else, angry that she left me. Though I’m over the moon that she’s back, though I feel tons of positive feelings towards her, it’s hard not to hold on to the latent anger.

It’s like I feel she shouldn’t get off so easy. Like she shouldn’t be allowed to just slip back into her role easy when those three months were as difficult as they were for me.

Oh, there’s that. I’m still angry that when she left me, she left me without stable help from a compatible therapist.

Whether it’s anger or not, something else I’ve noticed is that I’m holding back from allowing a connection with her. There is one on the surface, but it’s fairly shallow. I’m so in my own head, oversensitive to every little thing she says and does, that I can’t relax into a session.

I’m spending so much of my energy concealing what I feel like are inappropriate feelings. L would probably disagree, she’d probably find some way to excuse them, but since that isn’t for sure I just continue to stuff them. I guess I feel like the parameters of our relationship changed with the instagram freeze out and the no-text-boundary and like I was censored for the first time ever with the jealousy comment.

Maybe (probably) I’m reading way too much into this. I mean, let’s think about this further. She never said a lot of the things that I’m inferring from more ambiguous statements. Maybe none of her statements meant what I perceived them to mean. It’s not like I don’t have a habit of assigning myself the most negative messages possible.

Do I talk about this? Do I see what time does?

It’s that situation where the holding on to the poison is killing me, and it will degrade our relationship if I’m not careful, but I refuse to let it go and just focus on healing.

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I’m Using My Providers for Social Interaction

I always have a hard time when the clock strikes the hour or the half and my therapy or my psychiatry session is up. It’s been more noticeable to me in the last couple weeks since L returned. There’s just an overwhelming feeling of…I don’t want to say loss, because that’s not what it is. I guess maybe the right word is emptiness. I feel a hollow in me as I shut the screen or walk out the door and realize I’m on my own again.

It’s easy to blame this on my attachment issues, to say that the reason it’s so hard to separate is because I have an insecure attachment style. L and Dr. N are the targets of that attachment. That part is true. I’m a classic anxious-preoccupied style of attachment and I seek frequent reassurance of our “closeness” or of the care evident in the relationship.

Sometimes I wonder why did I pick these specific people? What is it about them that created the attachment in the first place?

I used to think it was just anyone who would listen to me because of how quickly I attached myself to J. I know now after playing musical therapists that I won’t latch on to just anyone. Even people like L and Dr. N took a wealth of time. But there was something about them. Something that filled in all the gaps of my mental functioning and inspired trust.

I think about my relationships with my providers constantly, L especially now that she’s back. There’s been a lot of yearning for interaction and connection. I’m back to measuring time with the therapy clock – the one where I survive by calculating how much time until I see either of them again.

On the session days, it’s much easier to get up and get motivated. Because really, they are my favorite people to talk to. I used to tell J that all the time and it hasn’t changed. One might argue that’s because it’s all about me and not about them. I’ll never know our relationship any other way, so I can’t deny it. I’m sure that plays in to it.

But I think beyond that they are filling a very important position for me right now. They’re involved in the majority of my meaningful social interaction. In a pandemic, and for a socially anxious introvert, that’s a pretty big deal.

There has been a deep feeling of emptiness or loneliness in me that’s completely independent of my relationships with my providers. It ebbs and it flows, but I’d say it happens at least once a day. I don’t know when it’s coming and then when it does I to play chase, running after the feeling trying to seem threatening enough to make it go away or to simply bait it with a distraction.

The point is, when I’m in that place of feeling lonely, when I’m looking at my life like its an empty shell of relationships that involve true emotional connection, all I can think about is what’s missing. I ruminate on prior friendships lost, inconsistency of my current friendships, and the futility of picking up any new friends.

I see people at work, where my relationships are always precariously close to dropping off the ledge when I have to share some information they don’t want to hear. I talk to friends occasionally, usually responding to a text. Otherwise, I go home at the end of the day and I’m alone from the time I walk in the door until I lay my head down on the pillow.

The one social constant I have are my visits with L and my telehealth with Dr. N.

Like everyone knows, we’re in a pandemic. Social interaction isn’t exactly the top priority on the world’s list these days. It makes it that much harder for me to take any steps forward in the way of cultivating new relationships. People are hunkered away in their houses hiding from the virus and even if they aren’t, I am. Although, should I really use the virus as an excuse or should we just be honest and blame my anxiety?

Truly, anxiety is what stops me from putting myself out there, even with people already in my life. I constantly fear my friends will want nothing to do with me because I’m a faulty human not worth anyone’s time, so I don’t reach out or try to make plans.

L tells me to stop setting other people’s boundaries for them, but it’s challenging for me to see past my own fears and insecurities.

In fact, lately when I’m around anyone my anxiety is through the roof. I get so fixated on what to say next, which little detail I should expand on or a good question to ask that shows I’m not an idiot. I’m trying to engage, but usually I’m in my own head so far out of the present moment that words fail me. So I quickly wrap of the conversation and go back to hiding in my condo or my office or wherever I can get that I’m alone.

For example, I was talking to a teacher the other day who stopped me as I was walking in. She was making lots of different points, sharing her opinions, and I stood there mostly echoing back whatever she said because I couldn’t think of anything to contribute. I stood there, anxious and trying not to show it, until my first opportunity to flee.

When I’m around people, I have to constantly be on. It’s exhausting, donning my ‘happy’ or ‘confident’ mask and trying not to let what’s underneath be exposed.

With L and Dr. N, I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. I can drop the act and completely be myself. It’s because of that I am able to bypass the anxiety and let myself be vulnerable. It’s why I get to have real, honest conversations.

Yes, I pay them to listen, for the conversation, but I don’t pay them to care in the way they both obviously do. These are relationships where I’m accepted unconditionally. You might argue this is part of a therapeutic relationship, but from my experience not all therapists get the memo not to judge or look at with disdain.

My providers aren’t my friends, but they are currently my most consistent and valuable social interaction. They are my one chance to enter into a conversation without overwhelming anxiety and the constant mental nit-picking everything I say.

I deeply look forward to our sessions, for those conversations. With L especially, it gives me hope that maybe I do have hope for emotional connections with other people. So when that respite is over and done with for the day, the lonely nag returns. I’ve gotten a taste of what I desperately want in my real life, feeling comfortable around other people, and I’m reluctant to part with it.

I desperately want to be more social, I want those fulfilling relationships, but they seem so far away. It feels difficult to achieve when my social anxiety blocks me at every turn. I often feel like I’ll never get there.

So I’m leaning on L and Dr. N probably a little bit to much. Using them for all meaningful conversation at this point. I don’t know what to do about that. I’m not saying I want to lessen my relationships with them. To fix this social interaction bullshit swimming in my head I’m going to need them and obviously the fact that we have a strong rapport will help with reaching those goals. I wouldn’t feel comfortable enough to take social risks without having them as a safety net.

I just want to expand my circle of friends and other positive relationships and feel as settled talking to one of them as I do my providers. I want to be as excited (or at least content) to be in a social situation as I am with them.

I don’t even know if this post makes sense, but it was begging me to write it because it’s a thing that I’ve noticed. A thing I’ve pondered over. Something that at least makes sense of why I finished my very helpful session with Dr. N today and immediately was overcome with the emptiness.

My OCD Experience

Before D and I finished our work together, she advised me about a book she thought would be fruitful to my healing process. It’s called the OCD workbook and D really talked it up, she said it was one of her favorite resources.

So of course, being the suggestible and eager-to-please-all-therapists person I am, I bought the book. I’m still near to the beginning of the book right now but it’s asking me to write out what my experience with OCD has been thus far.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in May 2019 at my first psychiatrist appointment with Dr. N. She was going through literally what seemed like symptom checklists and apparently felt that the problems I was describing were similar enough to OCD to warrant the diagnosis.

I didn’t believe her at first because I’m not one of those people who needs to wash my hands 14 times a day or check 22 times to make sure the stove is off. I don’t worry about being contaminated or causing someone else harm. These are the most common examples of OCD in it’s primal form.

Although I still wonder sometimes if I really fit the bill for an OCD diagnosis, because my symptoms vary greatly from those above, I have come to accept it as part of my being. D really seemed to believe in OCD was my biggest enemy right now and that the borderline personality had faded into the background. Personally, I still feel a lot of the effects of BPD: the fears of abandonment, black and white thinking, racing emotions, and the unstable sense of self, so I don’t know if I quite agree, but let’s just go ahead and pretend she’s right.

My OCD manifests such that I have obsessions surrounding the need for perfection and my compulsions are things aimed at perfect order and structure. Keeping things orderly is one of the forms of OCD, with a need to have everything “just right.” That feeling is very familiar to me, so that is one reason I agree with my OCD diagnosis

I strive for the just right feeling all the time. I’ve talked about before how I’ll spend endless time cleaning my desk at work or going through my emails. It’s a compulsion that makes me feel more in control and sometimes I do it at home too, but with wanting to de-clutter. I’ll get this feeling that I need to go through my desk or my closet and organize it, only stopping when I feel that internal satisfaction.

It happens with these posts too, where I want every word to be just so and I can get my point across in the exact manner I wish. I know when a post feels “done” and when it doesn’t. It’s nothing I can explain, just this feeling that comes over me.

My perfectionism knows no bounds. It soars sky high whenever it damn well pleases. I’ve done things like rewritten an entire batch of notecards because the color-coding wasn’t matched up or refused to write in my planner until I have the purple pen because I don’t want to mix ink colors. It’s just this little need I have for everything to fall into it’s place, to look and be perceived as perfect.

I don’t know what I fear will happen if it’s not perfect. I don’t believe it will cause someone else harm. I don’t believe it’s going to ruin other people’s lives. I just get this lingering and bothersome feeling that things aren’t the way they are supposed to be.

The need for perfection extends into the social realm too. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing all the time. Just earlier today I was thinking about how I might respond to a student in a scenario that differs from how their teacher does and fretting over the differences. In my mind, there is a “right” and a “wrong” thing to say and if I don’t match the other person, my answer is automatically wrong. To me, perfection is responding to a situation exactly the way others would.

By the way, I know perfection is impossible. When I’m performing these compulsions, I know it’s not going to make things any better, but it’s what keeps the anxiety down and there’s where I see the OCD.

The compulsion I find with my obsession with social perfection is a need to be reassured. I’ll go about achieving it in various ways, such as the indirect “I’m sorry,”the self-deprecating comment that I hope they’ll refute, or straight up just asking whatever the question is. This morning I did it with a colleague after I ran one of our meetings, asking her if she thought I did a good job. It’s so hard to rely on my own inner standards, I’m too busy trying to perfectly meet everyone else’s, which means asking them to confirm I’m on the right track.

I did this with L for months with the are you okay, are you mad at me questions. No matter how much time passed, I needed that reassurance.

My symptoms tend to ebb and flow. In times where the demands are high, I feel the OCD in my trying to poke to the surface. That’s probably why I notice them more at work, where everything feels like anxiety, than I do at home.

OCD is a tireless fighter and it keeps me in the arena trying to kick butt. I’ve long had difficulty trusting people, which strays to fear of rejection or abandonment, which ultimately leads to me pushing them away with my behaviors. It’s probably as much to blame for the lost relationships as my BPD is. It’s almost like they team up together trying to destroy me.

My intrusive thoughts make it so that no conversation is just a dialogue between two people, there’s always the voice in my head contributing some anxiety-ridden statement that keeps me second guessing pretty much everything. Just once I’d like to be able to have a conversation with a colleague or any other person without going over and ruminating on every single thing I’ve said or will say.

I can’t imagine what my life would be without OCD. It’s tied so closely with my other diagnoses that it’s almost become like a part of me. An extra limb I carry around, not functional but very obviously there.

I wonder sometimes when my behaviors step over the boundary line and become dysfunctional. Certainly the fact that my clothes are lined up in color order isn’t detrimental to my mental health, but I would feel frustrated and uncomfortable if I was forced to switch that up. So does it count in the growing list of OCD traits? I’m not sure.

Either way, it would be nice not to be so wrapped up in the little details, to be able to see and exist within the big picture anxiety-free. I don’t know if that will ever happen to me, but I can surely hope. Maybe I’ll be less tired from trying so hard to win this never-ending game I play. Maybe I’ll have an easier time getting tasks accomplished. Maybe I’ll just feel more content without the anxiety weighing me down.

All I know is that this is my experience.

Setting a Boundary

This is going to be a short post. It’s mostly just practice to complete the homework I was assigned by Dr. N last week. There isn’t much I have to say, but I want the words to be right.

I work very closely with a colleague who has a lot of experience. We share an office, we collaborate on various cases, and we work together on various other tasks. Thankfully, we get along well. She generally looks out for me and she takes the difficult cases.

I go to her with a lot seeking advice or just to vent. What I’ve noticed though is that in the last couple weeks she’s been giving me unsolicited advice. Telling me what she thinks about my cases out of the blue.

Here’s the thing: While the advice is unsolicited, it can be helpful. But it’s difficult to receive because she’s often planted an idea in my head without me having the chance to mull over options by myself.

I’m torn. I’ll never improve at this job if I don’t have a chance to make my own decisions, but I don’t want to deny a child the right solution to a problem by being stubborn. So after talking with Dr. N, she suggested I find a way to have both things: my own space with the suggestions sprinkled in.

I’ve wanted to talk to you for the week or so. Lately, I feel like you’ve been telling me to do a lot of things related to my cases. I know I come to you for advice a lot and I really appreciate your insights and suggestions, because a lot of times you give me solutions I haven’t thought about. However, when you tell me what I should do with my cases without me asking , I feel inadequate and it undermines my confidence. Is there a way we could change things up? I don’t want you to never share your opinion, but I would like some room to make my own decisions too. Maybe we can find a time each week to chat about things like that?

To me, this seems completely reasonable. It gives me a chance to think things through a little bit more but still have that safety net.

Even that small bit I’m already nervous about saying. I don’t think she’ll take it in a negative way, but it’s not often people react to me setting boundaries with flowers and sunshine.

Wish me courage.

Getting Back on Track

I recently said something in a post, as I was confessing all my attachment woes to L, that I felt needed some more space for processing than just that one line. At the time, it was a tidbit just to get her up to speed, but there’s so many ways the statement can be broken down and dissected.

I’m sure this is exactly what L and I will do, so it would probably be helpful for me to be prepared.

So let’s talk about the fact that right now, I am really unhappy with the life that I’m living.

I don’t know how long I’ve felt this way, but I noticed it becoming more and more of an issue the longer L was gone. The two are only connected in the sense that I stopped pushing myself as much when she wasn’t around. I simply didn’t have the energy or the will power.

Case in point: I stopped meditating. I’d go days between logging things in my gratitude or spending logs. The rest of my routine fell apart too. I began sleeping all the time. I rarely put effort into my appearance. My eating habits dipped into the gluttony category and I subsequently gained back all the weight I’d proudly lost. I stopped reaching out to or spending time with pretty much any of my friends. I let work swallow too much of my attention as I obsessed over planning things down to the smallest detail, and then broke down with anxiety when that predictably became too overwhelming.

As you can see, I really let life take control of me instead of the other way around. I fell off the wagon, way off, and the wagon has since pulled away and left me laying in the dust.

I wasn’t stupid. I knew what was happening, but I simply didn’t care to do anything about it. TV, crocheting, books, and puzzles became my livelihood. I’d finish a school day and snuggle in my favorite chair for a new story or I’d spend countless hours hunched over my table trying to fit puzzle pieces together. While I guess you can call that adequate coping, it didn’t put me any closer to my big goals.

It was pure survival. That’s all I was prepared to do.

Now L is back and I have the support I was desperately missing. Not that I didn’t have any support without her, but it wasn’t the same caliber. There’s literally no longer an excuse to hide away from what I want because I’ve got the person I’ve been dying to have back and fighting for all this with me.

So it’s time to get moving.

Well it would be, I weren’t so physically exhausted all the time, that is. As I said above, I spend a lot of time sleeping. Going to bed early, sleeping in, napping. I’ve never felt this tired all the time. My psychiatrist and I are working on trying to use meds to reign that in. I think it’s a combination of the junk food, lack of exercise, and the fact that I have to work so hard to be “on” all day.

Honestly, I know I’m using the fatigue as an excuse. It’s really easy to just give in when the tired hits instead of combatting it with other activities. It’s definitely holding me back.

My main goals are to gain a romantic relationship, develop new friendships or expand the current ones, and take control of my eating (with a side goal of losing 35 pounds).

Overall, I want to be able to look at my life in 6 months and be able to see and feel that there’s a difference from right now.

L and I talked on Thursday about making life changes a little at a time. The first thing I picked to focus on is my daily routine. Last year when I regularly followed a routine I was much better for it. L encouraged me to re-tool it to a more updated version. This structure should hopefully work to combat the general feeling that my life is spiraling downward.

The biggest problem is the thing I want the most: a relationship. My achilles heel in a sense, because I am so poor at attaining such a thing. Especially lately, I hate being on dating websites because the rejection is just sky-high, but I don’t know how else to meet someone. Especially in a damn pandemic.

Friendships are an even more difficult one right now. At least there are websites for dating; there isn’t a way to sign online and find a new friend. The more I stay in, whether for safety or comfort, I feel my present friendships slipping away and the opportunities to meet new people diminishing. 

My homework for therapy was to reach out to one of my friends and make plans. I did the reaching out part, and mentioned getting together, but I didn’t want to be too pushy about it because what if she actually doesn’t want to hang out with me? I don’t even know what to do to combat this. 

And let’s look at the weight loss goal. Or to put it in a healthier format, having a better relationship with food and exercise. This goal could also be known as feeling more comfortable with my body.

I was down nearly 15 pounds back in October before L left, so it was disappointing to gain that back and more due to really poor choices on my part. Between the holidays and my sour moods, it was easy to order out and pick up junk at the store. I took the first step towards changing that today by chucking the half a package of Oreos that was left in the closet. I knew if I left them there they’d haunt me and now it’s on me to keep my cabinets free of the sugary goods.

Here are some things I can do: Aim to exercise in some form at least 4 days a week for 30 minutes. Whether that means walk, a workout video, or scraping together a smattering of different exercises off my pinterest page. Maybe go to the store with a list and do not deviate. It’d probably be better to make sure I’m not particularly hungry when I go there either. 

I’m really good at setting goals, but not the best at follow through. Perhaps as I flesh out more of this with L a better picture of the steps I can take will form. I know that I need to work hard to achieve this, but sometimes I feel like it’s out of my control regardless. Like no matter what I try it’s useless. I’m sure L would disagree.

I guess the only direction to move now is forward. Off I go, I’ll update as the time passes.

She’s Back

If you haven’t already read my last post, L officially returned from her maternity leave yesterday.

You would think I’d be over the moon with joy and excitement. Plus relief, that’s what I was really expecting to feel. And while those emotions have been part of the package, they are not the only ones working their way through my brain.

I had to wait through a whole school day to see L; it was torture, but I really tried to focus on the details of my job instead of the time remaining before my session. That was only somewhat useful. By the time I got to her office I had worked myself up so that I was an anxious wreck. I sat in my car waiting for the text to come up feeling my stomach drop.

Thankfully, unlike D, L is always on time so there wasn’t any staring at the clock willing that text to come. Right on schedule, I was told to come in and off we went.

From the beginning, L acted just like the same person and therapist she’s always been. There wasn’t a hint of anything in her presentation that wasn’t warmth, kindness, and curiosity. I still can’t identify exactly how I expected her to be different, but I know that part of me worried she just suddenly wouldn’t like me or feel compelled to help me. Like her care vanished with her.

That’s not how it was and I’m grateful. She started off with the same normal opening question, looking for updates, even though nothing to me felt normal. She asked if I had any questions for her.

I was supremely nervous and I told her so. I asked her if she was pregnant again and she balked at the idea, assuring me there was no way that was true. We talked about where things had gone wrong with L2; I was probably not the nicest, but was encouraged to say whatever I wanted. She’s not here, L reminded me. And we talked about the failed dating experience. About school. The recent snowstorm. Simple things.

There was a lot of attempted reassurance in the beginning. Reassurance that we were picking up where we left off and the relationship was still solid, even if it was bruised. Reassurance that whatever needed repair we would work on. All the same things D had tried to say previously but that I couldn’t accept until I heard them from L.

I know that I voiced my fear of everything being different between us, but when she probed for more, I almost felt threatened (like she was taking offense, which she wasn’t) and I clammed up. L continued to tread gently, collecting more information that maybe helped her make sense of what I was feeling, because I certainly wasn’t in control of my head.

Instead, I felt myself sitting there uncomfortably, torn between ten different emotions and wanting so badly to feel that relief I’d been craving. I wound a rubber band around my fingers, my eyes darting back and forth from that to her. It was difficult to concentrate on her face for too long or catch her looking at me without emotion creeping in.

I think it’s because I was such a basket case that I can’t describe the session sequentially like I normally would. Part of me went into survival mode and that made me numb to a lot of the experience. I was reliving the pain of her being gone and nurturing the hope of connection reforming and all I wanted to do was push it all away because it was just too much.

Finally, I allowed myself to approach my feelings directly instead of just talking about the events of the past couple months. “This was really hard without you,” I mumbled. Unsurprisingly, that’s all it took for the dam to break. Then I was crying, telling her how much I missed her, whining about how I didn’t get the chance to say a proper goodbye (because the baby came early).

I cried a lot on and off the session. It was the first time I’d freely cried about the pain since right after she had left. There was one session with L2 where my sadness won out, but otherwise I hadn’t been comfortable enough to shed tears. That part was a relief, because I could feel the grief leaking out of my body, finally starting to settle a little.

And all through this she was patient with me. Gentle. She said that she’d be asking a lot of questions and would take careful measures not to push me too much too fast. I think she had a good idea of just how complex my thoughts and feelings were.

Of course, she made sure to cheer me on too and tell me that I’ve been super resilient in dealing with her absent. While I never considered doing puzzles and reading to get by a great achievement, L saw it another way. She commended that I had kept myself afloat, knowing how hard that would be for me.

Even when I admitted to the anger I’m still feeling, it didn’t phase her. I bet that she expected as much, because I had been angry before she left too. And she showed appropriate frustration over some of the things D had said that didn’t properly honor that anger. She told me that if she, the person I was angry at, was telling me my emotions were valid, then there was no arguing that.

So the anger will come out, and when it does she’ll be ready for it. There’s no timeline. That was another big thing that she stressed, no rushing myself along. We will rebuild at the pace that works for us.

If you read the post before this, you know I’m already struggling with the patience suggestion.

Before I even knew what happened, it was 4:00 and time to be done with session. L commended me on the level of vulnerability I’d granted to her. She had expected needing to do more prodding to get me to talk, but I fessed up to quite a lot without much nudging required. I suppose even when my emotions are overflowing, I know when I’m safe and I felt safe enough to let it out with L. Plus, I’ve never been very good at lying to her.

Afterwards, I felt really off. I think being there and letting so many emotions out fried my brain a little bit. I just kept drifting around my house, unsure of what to do or why to do it. Even as I tried to write, the words wouldn’t come.

I’m hoping that when we meet again on Thursday, I feel a little more present and comfortable. Obviously L isn’t a stranger, but our interactions feel a little foreign now after not talking for some time. She seems confident that will ease quickly and I’m hoping for the same.

Maybe we can start down the path of repairing my life, because I’m certainly not in a place right now of feeling satisfied or fulfilled there.

Honored, Privileged, Blessed

Dear L,

I miss you. I miss you and I just saw you yesterday. I don’t know how it’s possible to feel this needy and clingy more now that you’re back than when you were gone. All I know is that I’m writing this because I refuse to fall back into bad texting habits from day one. I promised myself I would do better, that I would be less reliant on you, and I meant it.

So what’s wrong, you want to know? Well, nothing concrete. You didn’t say or do anything that upset me. You didn’t say or do anything particularly magnificent either. It’s just…you. I saw you after not seeing you for three and a half months and apparently that sent the attachment into high gear. As such, I really want to talk to you and it feels painful not to.

What would I even say if I talked to you right now? I got nothing. Nothing life-changing anyway. Just a lot of the same old patterns.

Are you still there? I know you are. You’re there. I saw you and talked to you 24 hours ago. Our relationship still exists.

Seriously, you’ll be back on Thursday? Yes. We have a scheduled appointment and it is going to happen.

Are you mad at me? You’re not. We’re okay. You told me as much six different ways yesterday when you were validating my feelings of anger, rejection, fear, hurt, and jealousy.

Am I annoying you with my attachment clinginess? No. This is part of what I struggle with, and you’re here to tame it with me as part of the healing process. Your feelings are checked at the door.

How long is it going to feel like this? You can’t tell me that, even if you feel sad for me that it it does feel this way. We have to take it one day, one session at a time.

See? I know all the right answers and still all I want right now is to talk to you. To be reassured of…something. Something that I can’t even articulate clearly.

Or maybe I just want to be in the same space as you. For what felt like a really long time, we couldn’t share that space. I had my temporary support system and she was fine and dandy; it didn’t feel overly obtrusive to talk to her. In fact it wasn’t even feeling as weird anymore by the end; I had adjusted enough.

Now all the sudden there you are. I get to see you and talk to you. I can say whatever I want.

But of course, only for an hour.

That’s a lot of transition that happened in that one hour and we both know I’ve always had trouble with transition. First there was the anticipation I felt – the block of anxiety in my stomach – as I waited for the text to come in that made you being back a real thing. Then it was real and we were burning through so much so fast I couldn’t keep up. Then the hour was up and I had to walk out like all my senses hadn’t just been flooded with all the feelings that come from our relationship.

Here’s what is hard: I remembered what it felt like to connect with you. Something that I had lost and couldn’t grasp while you were gone began to come back to me. I tried to limit it. The more you reached out, the more I felt the walls go up. I was viscerally aware that you were sending out signals to try to connect and I fought them sometimes, trying to protect myself because I don’t yet believe you won’t disappear again.

But I still felt it. You’d say something so on brand for you or give me a look or use that very “therapist-esque” tone you take with me when I really need to be regarded gently and I’d remember the solidness of what we shared and how comforting it was. I soaked some of that safety and refuge right back up and then left your office alone with the need still clinging tightly to me.

You say we have all the time in the world but you damn well know that I’m impatient as hell and that I really like things to be done now. Otherwise I have to confront anticipation and the recognition that it’s going to take up a huge portion of that time for things to get back to normal. Which I don’t like.

I want the normal now. I want the relationship we had in October before you left. You seem confident that we’ll reinvent and maybe it will be better but it’s so hard for me to just sit and wait for that time to transpire.

I know that in the past I would have texted you by now because this is eating at me. Maybe we can use this as evidence that my distress tolerance has improved. I don’t know, because right now I’m just feeling the distress looming as I think again and again that I want to talk to you.

Maybe some of that impatience stems from the fact that I’m so unhappy with my life right now. I boxed myself into a corner with the choices I made without you and I guess I see you as a the symbol of potential improvement. I see work that will be done together that could possibly reorient me towards success. And I want to get started on that right away, because this feeling of emptiness isn’t fun or desired. It’s old and tiresome at this point.

I know it’s going to take work to get back on track. Work I have to do alone. You won’t be by my side for all of it. It’s work I could start right now if I wanted to. Except for the fact that I need you to strike that match and set the spark that propels me in the right direction. Until then I’m standing in darkness, deeply uncomfortable with the location but too paralyzed to move any one way.

You might say I didn’t need you, but I did. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to accept that right now, at this point in my process, you were needed. And I realized just how much I needed you by having you not be there.

Things were always so easy with J from the get-go and then you and I built the incredible bond we have with time and patience, so I didn’t appreciate the fact that not every therapist-client relationship exists as solidly as we do. It took being put in positions where I was always holding back, even just a little, trying to avoid judgment or invalidation or just a complete lack of understanding for me to see how rare it is to find someone who really accepts you unconditionally.

Yesterday, you never even hesitated to let me have all of my feelings. You never told me I was wrong for them. You never tried to interfere with their existence. You just smiled and reiterated that I could be wherever I was and you’d meet me there. No question. No limits.

I didn’t have to apologize for stating my truths (I mean, I did apologize, but that’s to no one’s surprise). I didn’t have to make requests for you to understand what I needed from you, you just innately knew and you gave it to me. You always know. It’s one of the truly amazing things about you.

That’s when I knew for sure what I’d always asserted to you- you’re not replaceable, not simply a tool that can be switched out for some lesser material without me noticing. You are the essential part. Our relationship is special and it’s important and I don’t feel as strong without it. And that’s ultimately why I drifted back into survival phase while it was gone.

This isn’t me blaming you for leaving. The anger exists, we both know it does. It probably will for a little while. And I know that I’m going to have to feel some of that anger at some point because the stubborn part of me is holding on tight, not allowing it to dissipate. That scares me, but I try to remind myself that nothing else has scared you off yet.

Anyway, the whole point is, I’m much more multi-faceted than the anger. I can hold more than just anger and I know I don’t need to tell you that (two things can be true…). These feelings right now aren’t about anger. They are about care and connection. They are about yearning for a safety I’ve been missing without you.

I’m so glad you’re part of my support system. I’m so glad I know you. I’m so glad you see something in me worth saving. You tell me it’s an honor, privilege and blessing to be your client? Well, I feel that same way about you. You are literally a profound and vital force of good and healing in my life. You keep the minutes on the clock that is my life chugging forward. I feel with you as I did with J, that I would not be here without you.

I want to keep talking to you, to keep saying these things so you don’t forget them. I want to be able to finally let all my other feelings out in a way that’s unedited, after stuffing and modifying them for months. How grateful I am to have the opportunity to do that at all. So it’s hard that right now it’s not time for that.

It’s hard to wait.

But I waited 3.5 months, so I guess I can wait a couple days. Thursday really isn’t that far away when you think about it. (And since I plan for you to read this, Thursday is actually right now for you, so Happy Thursday!)

Maybe I haven’t mentioned it yet, but I’m so extremely thankful that you’re back. Thank you for jumping right back on board. Thank you for being you, still, even after your life has changed.

I don’t know what’s next for us, but I’m looking forward to exploring that path with you.

Maybe

I used to write all the time. Like, instead of having 2-3 posts a month sometimes I’d have 11-15. I suppose this isn’t a huge surprise, as I was at an entirely different place in my life, but I miss how easily blogging came to me. Or at least that’s how I’m remembering it.

Maybe in reality it was never easy, but I was more motivated. I know I’ve complained numerous times about my writer’s block and not knowing what I should say. But in truth, I think I had more patience with myself to sit with the half-baked thoughts and slowly flesh them out.

I used to do a lot of describing sessions, especially tackling any areas of strife between J and I. That was the nature of our relationship, it ebbed and flowed and sometimes I was really angry with her. It made recounting our hours together interesting and ripe for exploration into patterns and themes.

That’s never been my relationship with L; we simply just don’t have that push and pull, specifically I think it’s because she can keep her emotional distance from me while J was apt to take things personally. Everything I say to her just slides off. She’s always talked about checking her ego at the door and I truly believe she has the capability to do it because not once has she ever reacted poorly to my own attachment shit.

Anyway, the point of all that is that I don’t write too much about therapy anymore. Maybe I should, because that used to be how I processed sessions and furthered what I learned from them.

But where I think I need to give myself some more patience is in the rest of all of it. I’m always beating down on myself because these remarkable insights don’t appear and then come together as seamlessly as I feel they used to. It’s frustrating and it puts me off of writing because who wants to write when you know you’re going to fall short. By my own ridiculous standards of course.

However, if I really think about it then I start to remember that the posts I’m the most proud of, the ones that delve the deepest into some insight or coping plan, didn’t actually come easily. It took me sometimes an hour or two to get the words settled on paper just right so that I was satisfied.

So maybe what I’m lacking isn’t ability. Maybe what I’m lacking is patience.

I’ve been thinking of this as the last couple of sessions with D haven’t quite transpired helpfully. one on a long tangent let me get back to the whole point of what I was saying. She and I have one scheduled session left and then it’s up to me whether or not I want to have any more after L returns. At first when I was just bursting with the need to attach to something I might have said definitely to fitting that relationship in. Now I’m not really sure what I want.

She’s asking a variety of questions, trying to get under the surface, but I just haven’t known what to say. I often end up sitting there, mumbling “so…” and then going quiet. The more I’ve noticed it, the more I’ve done it which is supremely frustrating. And then I go quiet and I have to watch what I do with my face because she’ll infer I’m hiding something when what I’m really hiding is that I’m just so damn uncomfortable because I don’t know what to say!

Part of this is because we’ve only known each other a few months. I’ve barely gone into the dark stuff, mostly focused on pain management. There seemed no point in starting an excavation into my psyche when it would all just come to a halt when she left, plus she simply doesn’t know me in the intricate way L does.

Another part of it is because D is very different from L. They’re both direct, but D doesn’t seem to be aware of the impact of her words on me. Or she just doesn’t care. I’ve kind of always gotten the feeling she says what’s on her mind if she thinks I need to hear it, whether or not she knows it’s going to upset me. Not that L doesn’t say what she means, but her delivery is a lot…nicer?

But anyway, now that I’ve gotten way off topic let’s go back to the whole point of all that.

I’ve been thinking of my writer’s block and stunted creativity more lately during my sessions because they almost all pass by in a blur. We’re covering the same topics, going through updates, and nothing from session is really memorable. I’m not leaving feeling incredibly comforted or empowered like I used to when I was with J. I remember how invincible I used to feel on those drives home, how I could take on everything. Now it’s almost like a let-down.

Was all of that strength because extra writing on that side? Did it keep me more engaged in the process? Or was therapy just still new enough that I was more consistently learning, picking up skills?

I’d hate to think that there’s nothing more to be learned about myself, that therapy is all a wash at this point. With so much of my desired life still unreachable, there must be lots more to tackle.

I don’t want to be a part of the stagnancy anymore when L comes back. I want to go into session with my own insights to share. I don’t want to simply let therapy happen around me, I want to be an active participant. I need L to hold me to this. I need to hold myself to it. I think I’ve grown too complacent just being there and expecting things to change.

Maybe that means taking more time to write and read instead of just walking in the door expecting to be hit in the face with the perfect topic to discuss. Maybe it’s more of doing my homework. Maybe it’s being a bit more part of the solution.

I guess we’ll see where my brain goes next.

Feelings of Rejection

L will be back from her leave one week from tomorrow. It’s a strange feeling to anticipate her return, because I was robbed of this experience with J. So now any little bits of excitement are often squashed by worry that this won’t work out.

We’ve emailed back and forth twice. She tells me she is pumped for her return and that we’ll reinvent our relationship in the best way. D assures me that she’s heard L mention to colleagues how excited she is to be back at work. So it would seem like I should believe her. And I guess in a sense, I do.

What I’m now worried most about is that she’s going to disappear pretty much all over again. Oh, and I’m feeling super rejected over a choice that probably had nothing to do with me.

If you were reading then, you know that I found out about L’s pregnancy through her instagram. She had decided not to make it private at the time, for whatever reason. I hid my knowledge about that for over a month before the news about J leaving forced me to reveal the truth.

I thought she’d be angry or frustrated with me, I thought I’d broken a boundary, but L seemed hardly phased. I think this is one of the things I love about her, that she is not rattled by pretty much anything I throw at her. In fact, she barely seemed to mind and as her maternity leave crept towards us, she reminded me that I could creep on her instagram while she was gone to see pictures of the baby.

So that was fine and that’s how it went. L doesn’t update her page all the time, but usually once a week or so there would be a new picture. I found having this privilege to be such a relief. It was connecting, it made me feel like she wasn’t quite so far away.

And then all the sudden last week, I couldn’t see her page anymore. She’d made it private.

I was thrown off by this because I really didn’t see it coming. I think part of me thought that if she ever was going to do that, I’d get notice from her beforehand because she knew I was looking.

In the moment, I felt stung. I really absorbed that information as though I had been personally rejected, the weight of the boundary being placed nearly knocking me over. I’d had this thing available to me and now it was not.

It wasn’t that I felt like I needed to know every minute detail of her life, but she’s always been pretty open with self-disclosure. She’ll tell me a story about her husband or her pet, and she never really seemed to care that I could see her social media because she described it as showing that she’s human. It was a nice bonus. So what suddenly changed?

Of course, the most anxious piece of my brain supplied that she’s pregnant again. I had asked her a few months ago to make sure that when she announces it the second time, please let me know before she puts it on social media. So maybe this was her way of concealing the truth until she can tell me in person. Her daughter is so young, but it’s not impossible.

And holy crap, if that’s true I’m going to lose it.

She did say in her last email that we have “all the time in the world” now to recreate our relationship, but that was days before her page went dark, so who really knows.

The other part of me thinks that maybe she was trying to protect her daughter, which makes a lot of a sense but still hurts. D doesn’t get this. Not that I’ve told her about the whole instagram thing because she’s L’s boss and I don’t want to somehow get her in trouble, but she definitely always comes back to the fact that L is a mom now and the kids come first.

That is always painful to try to accept. Again, it’s not that I want to come first in L’s life, it’s not like I think I deserve to, but there is something to be said about the fact that her position in her practice was top priority to her and now it won’t be. It opens doors for cancelled sessions and other changes because life revolves around this new little human and it’s a hard truth for me to swallow.

When I mentioned the possibility of cancellations, D told me I could be right, and I think because she’s a mom and maybe because she doesn’t get the whole attachment thing, she didn’t realize how much that hurt to hear. She expects me to just accept it, whereas I have to remind her two things can be true: I can understand why but still feel how difficult it is to suddenly drop in the ranks.

I guess I feel it so strongly because when J had her son I was literally left behind when there wasn’t enough space for both of us in her life, and this recreates that feeling for me.

Maybe all of this will barely even matter once we start seeing each other again. Maybe L’s right and our dynamic will be different in the best possible way, but right now all I see are the question marks. All I know is that it WILL be different, despite that I don’t know how.

I’m so sick of these mixed feelings.

Repairing Tenuous Boundaries

Drama emerged at work today and yesterday. In retrospect, I can’t exactly understand why a minor thing blew up the way it did. But it did just that.

I’ll take a long story and simplify it. We had a preschool student who we couldn’t do evaluations on in the spring thanks to COVID. We kept him eligible for speech only and then did additional evaluations in the fall once we were in school again. Apparently, the paperwork never made it to my secretaries, so they were not in the know about this eval. So when I emailed them yesterday to set up a time to drop the new referral letter of with them, all hell broke loose.

What followed what a long string of emails, some very nasty and degrading. I stated and restated the protocol I thought I’d followed to the letter, but was consistently met with more confusion and frustration. I don’t like it when people are mad at me, so I was very uncomfortable.

I think my discomfort also stemmed from the fact that I thought I had done everything right only to have it thrown back at me forcefully. It felt truly like there was no winning no matter what I tried, which put me down the path of helplessness. They were mad they hadn’t been informed and aside from apologizing and taking the matter to our director, I didn’t know what else to do. They didn’t like her answers to the situation any better.

This morning, after reading through yet another email from one of my secretaries that basically said I was on my own and then meeting with my director, I felt like I was out of options but to try apologizing profusely again, even though I had no intention of this situation working out as it did.

Only one of them responded, but I could tell the anger had eased and what remained wasn’t so much about me but another ongoing problem.

So perhaps things are okay now. I suppose I don’t know for sure but have to trust what was told to me. Never my strongest skill.

This whole mess highlighted something important to me. First, I still have trouble setting boundaries, especially at work. Second, I still have a lot of anxiety surrounding conflict as a precursor to abandonment.

The emails that I received from one person particular were not very kind. I was accused of making them look stupid and purposely withholding the information. No matter how I tried to defend myself or what solution I offered, the message remained the same. There was no winning this battle.

Of course, I didn’t want it to be a battle. I played nice, as I always do, and tried to brandish my appreciation. Still, things were tense. It was like we were playing the blame game and I was honored as the scapegoat who takes all the responsibility for not just my mistakes, but others too.

I work hard at always trying to do things by the book as much as possible. I thought that was what I’d done and just kept getting a baseball to the face, the impact telling me “YOU DID IT WRONG.” No understanding or space for a conversation. Not a cordial one anyway.

Throughout this, I remained civil. I groveled and tried to explain my reasoning and earn some absolution. Now, I wonder if maybe I should have been a little bit more aggressive myself. Some of the accusations and the way words were shared was very confrontational. It pissed me off, to say the least.

I’m getting better at setting boundaries in my personal life, especially when it can be done so quietly or indirectly. At work though, I worry that me standing up from myself will earn me disciplinary action or a pink slip. Or, if you think that’s irrational thinking, I would at least walk away with the prize of more conflict to be settled.

I really don’t do well when people are mad at me. I ruminate on every single thing that was said to me, turning it over and over as though it might end differently. Then I start to internalize what’s been said and take it on like an extra appendage. I can’t separate myself from it.

In this circumstance, I knew I wasn’t deserving of the way I was being spoken to, problem or no problem, but the more I thought about it the more I slid away from my stance. I went from confident to unsure, going over the ways I’d screwed up.

And I did, I made a mistake, but the mistake I made was in line with how we’ve done things before. It wasn’t a devastating blow to anyone’s education. In fact, it was the opposite – me trying to help the kid.

I wish I could have spoken up for myself in that moment by saying “I feel equally frustrated as you when you speak to me the way you have. I’m asking if you could treat me with a little more respect than you are right now. I made a mistake, but that doesn’t mean that I deserve the tone you’re using.”

But no, I didn’t do that.

This is where I need to get comfortable doing the uncomfortable, that’s for sure. I need to be unwilling to compromise my integrity just because someone else has less than perfect views of me. However, it also doesn’t escape me that I don’t quite know how to do the whole assertive thing seamlessly or when in the timeline of events it would be best.

When do you play nice and when do you advocate for yourself? I still need help with that. Was it important that I said something at the time, or would it have made things much worse? My delivery isn’t always the strongest, so I could see my words being twisted into something that would put up their defenses.

In this case, I will never know for sure, because I’ve already apologized and I we’ve come to a solution about what to do. In the future, I’d like to feel a little bit more comfortable not being walked on like a doormat.

But then here’s the other part. I’m so afraid of setting those boundaries because I can’t predict the other person’s response. Usually if you’re setting a boundary it’s because someone else infringed on it, purposefully or accidentally. No one wants to hear that they did something “wrong,” so the reactions aren’t generally the greatest.

For the same reason I struggle to call my parents of kids on my caseload with bad news, I couldn’t make the call here. I was too afraid of what other assertions might be lobbed my way, too afraid of being assigned blame (even though in this case that already happened). Since I’m paralyzed by my anxiety with conflict, I knew there was little chance of refuting whatever would be said. It would be another loss and another knock at my confidence.

I’ve long considered what it means to “win” an argument, possibly because I don’t know that I ever have. This goes way beyond the situation with my secretaries. It seems like every time I stand up for myself or try to defend my own stance, the other person comes out on top. They have all the power in the conversation and I’m left kissing their feet and asking for forgiveness.

I know this because while someone might be feeding off my discomfort, I am there trying desperately not to break the relationship. It seems so fragile to me, like the slightest touch would cause it to shatter. I give them the power in this case by staying quiet.

Truth is, I’m too afraid if I stand up for myself because past experience has taught me that my feelings aren’t reasonable. I can remember so many times being in high school and being angry with a friend, and all of the others took that person’s side. No one looked deeper to see my perspective, or to at least acknowledge that maybe it had merit.

So somewhere I stopped sharing my feelings, because I knew it did no good. Friendships would dissolve under the weight of sharing my feelings. I’d rather lay down and take my lashes instead of risk that.

What that means for this situation is, I was terrified that if I made the choice to try setting a boundary, these work relationships might dissolve in the same way. And I can’t escape those relationships, because I work closely with them.

Either way, I felt like this was going to end up the same. I didn’t know how we’d make it through the drama to the other side where peace was waiting. I’m not so good at putting conflict to bed and moving on because all sorts of worry still lingers.

What’s funny is that I’ve been teaching conflict resolution to my third and fourth graders during group and as soon as this happened, all that knowledge went right out the window.

I think the problem is solved now, but I definitely felt so activated by the whole deal that getting it out on the page was the only thing that made sense to me. I guess it’s just about moving forward from here, and not secretly harboring these deep seated fears that they think poorly of me now.