Here we are on day 7 of my Covid adventure. I started off the new year with quite a bunch of fun living in isolation for six days before re-entering the world masked yesterday and returning to work tomorrow. This is the first time I’ve ever had Covid and it surely was a picture perfect experience of fatigue, chills, fever, congestion, and coughing. What fun I’d been missing out on.
Since I do have to return to work tomorrow, I am battling all sorts of anxiety. Maybe that could be for a post for another day, but in brief my job is just brimming with all sorts of challenging situations. I’m struggling with the unpredictability of it, of not knowing what shitstorm I’ll be walking into next. I was given a four-day reprieve from that after break because I was too sick to return, but now there’s no excuse to keep me from those doors. I’m dreading it.
I’m also super fatigued so I have no clue how I’m going to keep up and catch up. Alas, it will get done, but it may be a nightmare in between.
In the meantime, let’s talk therapy, shall we?
Ever since L kicked me to the curb back in the middle of September, I’ve been on the hunt for a new therapist. I saw one therapist virtually once, but didn’t feel it would be the best fit. Then I saw another four times but just could not find any inclination to continue. I paid $200 to see someone once who I did not like at all. So for a month and a half I went without therapy with exception of Dr. N, my trusty psychiatrist. She kept me sane, cared for, and focused on whoever would come next.
Dr. N is on maternity leave now until April. I miss her. As I said in my most recent email to J, it’s funny how someone who I didn’t even like at first could become such a steady and sturdy piece of my support system. Her absence is keenly felt and I’m counting down the days until early April, when she’ll return.
Speaking of J, I miss her too. I can’t believe it’s been over three years since I’ve last seen her in person and 2.5 years since our last virtual session. We email once every 2-3 months. I’m always the one to initiate and she still keeps things coolly professional, with a tinge of information about her (now 2) kids. I expect as much of her.
This time I emailed her, I got up the courage to ask if she thought she’d ever come back to practicing, even if it’s years and years down the line. I’m still holding out that small bit of hope, as you might imagine, and I told her I’d jump ship from anyone in a heartbeat if it meant I could see her again. When she wrote back, she told me she has no plans right now as she hopes to continue expanding her family.
This doesn’t come as a total shock, but it’s gutting to me when I feel so strongly attached to her. The work we did together was groundbreaking for me and she was so, so safe. Just because she doesn’t have plans right this moment doesn’t mean she never will, but since it’s nowhere on her radar I’m sure it very well could be years before the interest occurred for her. That’s hard. I still feel abandoned by her at times, angry that she could have left. But mostly, I just feel gratitude that she’s still in my life at all, even if it’s completely virtually.
All that aside, I would like to be able to tell Dr. N when she returns that I have made some progress. I’d hate to have her disappointed in me, feeling like I’m not progressing enough. I want her to be proud, on one hand, and on another I’m personally invested in that growth for my own sanity. She maintained that even if I’d just developed something of a working relationship with a new therapist, that would be enough.
And so I guess that’s really the crux of what I’m going through right now, isn’t it? Trying relentlessly to settle into a new relationship with a therapist where I can feel safe, supported, and willing to challenge myself a little.
Right now, I’m meeting with two different therapists. Both of them were read the letter that Dr. N encouraged me to write upon our first meeting and both of them reacted appropriately to it. No one was scared off, which was a real fear of mine at first. They did their intakes, asked questions, and off we went into the world of psychology. We’ve met each week since, talking and feeling each other out, while I try to figure out how I feel about them.
I’ll tell you this, it’s very hard to start over with someone new. I may have said this before, but I used to think I’d attach to literally anyone with half a compassionate look and a license to practice and that is just so not true. J was certainly an exception to the rule with the way that I immediately clicked with her, developing that intense bond and trust. I don’t know if that’s just because she was the “first” or if it really truly was because of her personality and genuine warmth.
Either way, everyone that’s come after has been different. Even with L, I liked her after our first meeting, but I definitely was slow-to-warm on that front. I remember not being able to cry in front of her. I liked D too, but perhaps because I knew I wasn’t going to have to depend on her, I didn’t put a lot of pressure on that one.
I’m not used to not being attached to the idea of therapy. For so long it was my place of safety and the desire to be there and feel all snug in my bubble of validation and reassurance was strong. But it’s been four months (as of today) from the two-hour session from hell, and after that nothing was ever the same. Now, though I sometimes look forward therapy through a veil of optimism, there’s no real draw to be there and sometimes I’m not interested in going at all.
Is this how normal people feel?
I feel that I need that craving for therapy though, because without it I’m not super interested in being vulnerable. And what I’ve really noticed is that I dissect every little thing the therapists say or do. I hate the word ‘dissect’ because it calls back what L used to accuse me of sometimes, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something terribly awful. But in all fairness, that is what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s not even about the words, even just a minor adjustment in tone will make my ears perk up in such a way that I physically or emotionally back away from the conversation.
I think the real problem is that this therapy trauma has ruined me from trusting providers. Dr. N is grandfathered in, but besides her I now expect that the relationship will go to shit at some point. Maybe if Dr. N was here to remind me how irrational that is and to instill some sort of reason in me I might be able to see beyond that expectation, but she isn’t!
So yeah, since I expect everything to blow up and since I’m still dealing with the mental toll that being called “emotionally entitled” would take on anyone, I’m laser-focused on everything that’s said and done. I jump on the slightest comment and take it as a personal affront, assuming that I’m being judged. Of course I’m being judged, I think, therapists can’t be trusted. And even if they can, you’ll make quick work of ruining this one just like you ruined L.
I assume that neither of them really like me. They’ll hear what happened with L (and they both have now) and they’ll take her side without even knowing. They’ll assume I have to be at fault. Maybe I am at fault. And from there, the questioning starts. The self-blame. If it’s not her fault, it has to be mine. Am I really remembering everything correctly? Have I forgotten a key piece of information that would turn the finger on me? And like I said, Dr. N, the only one who truly knows what happened, isn’t here to reassure me.
Both of the therapists seem to be nice people. Both of them listened to my therapy trauma, although it was received differently. One of them was a lot more offended for my sake, while the other didn’t offer as much comment on the whole situation altogether. The one who has held back a lot of her opinion is the one who works in the same practice as L, so I wonder if that plays into it, although she has proclaimed they do not know each other well if at all. I admitted to her last week that I wondered if her reluctance to give me the validation I feel I need was because she didn’t want to speak out against her colleague.
Like I said, I’m seeing both of them. They (sort of) know about each other, in the way that I’ve let them know I’m trying to make a decision but I don’t talk about either one to the other and they don’t ask. Both women are young, both are blonde, and both say they have the experience and are interested in working with me. That’s about where the similarities end.
B is from a new agency I’ve never worked with before and I meet with her virtually. She does do in-office visits, but her office is a half hour from me in a direction I don’t often drive, so I’d be making the trip solely for only a 45-minute appointment. That is a huge sticking point for me, since I’ve always had hour-long appointments and feel there’s not enough work to be done in only 45.
M is from the same practice as L, although they are not in the same location, which was a big ask I had for D when she set me up with M. I work in the same area, so it’s easier for me to meet with her in person even though she’s a little over twenty minutes away.
Between the two of them, B seems a bit more likable to me. Our personalities mesh a little better. I also met her first, about two weeks before M who was coming back from a maternity leave, so I’ve gotten to know her a little bit better thus far. That may be contributing.
There’s the family thing to consider, especially as a person who has been plagued by her providers having kids. M has told me that this last baby is it for her, while I’m not even sure if B is married and I’m pretty positive she doesn’t have kids yet. I don’t know if she wants them or not, but if she did that could be multiple maternity leaves standing in my way. I’m not really interested in building a new relationship with someone just to have to deal with a break.
B is the one who felt appropriately angry for me when I told her about the L situation, while M was the one who was more reserved in her opinion. I think that definitely played into my opinion of both of them, as I know about myself that I need someone who truly knows what happened to me wasn’t okay. When B assured me that the accountability was on L, I felt vindicated. M doesn’t seem to want to comment much because she wasn’t there, but I feel like I’ve told her exactly what happened and if she won’t take my side, it’s because she doesn’t believe me.
I’ve probably let this seeing two therapists thing go on entirely too long, but I know part of the reason I’m allowing myself to do it is because that while part of me wants to continue with B, I know that M practically is the better choice. So what if I don’t like her as much? I tell myself. Feelings change. They certainly did about Dr. N. So perhaps they will about M with time. And maybe they will, but I’ve been holding out with B anyway.
Of course, then this week I admitted to B that I felt like hurting myself and her response to it wasn’t helpful for me, so I start to question that relationship too. I feel like she missed the mark, but then I just turn it back on myself and wonder if maybe I didn’t come prepared enough to share things in a way that would get my needs met. If I didn’t know my needs, how could she?
One thing is very clear to me: the kind of relationship I had with L will likely not be a relationship I’ll ever have again. It’s hard to accept that that’s probably for the better in some ways. Sometimes I honestly think that while the texting and the self-disclosure and other forms of closeness that were offered to me felt special and valuable in the moment, they were ultimately not productive or worthwhile to the relationship. In fact, it’s probably what damaged us, because it made our relationship too personal for her, removed some of the safety, and created a bias for her.
It’s hard to be mad at her for something that I cherished deeply when I had it (the texting) because I was so grateful at the time and it did form a bridge between us, but I feel that her giving that to me also hurt me. So while I know it was offered with good intentions, the texting and other form of unstable boundaries are what led to our implosion, and I am mad about that because of what it took from me. The consequences of her not being sure of her boundaries and offering too much affected me way more than her because I was the one that became super dependent on the relationship.
And I was, I was so dependent. I needed her in a way that wasn’t healthy. That’s why it’s so hard now for me to wrestle with my conflicted feelings about not feeling attached in therapy with B or M. I need the connection because it’s what will allow me to get vulnerable enough not just to share, but to accept their attempts to help me. However, I can’t get too close or it will just recreate the situation with L. Now I’m interpreting their attempts to create an appropriate amount of space as dislike.
It’s so, so challenging.
I still think of L often even though I’ve erased all reminders of her except for what exists in this blog, which I have no interest in reading right now. I don’t think I hate her anymore, but thinking about her makes me angry as much as it makes me hurt. I still don’t know how she could do to me what she did. It feels like she had to have hated me to be able to make the choices she did.
Even though she said she “loved me as a person” more than once in our last session, and even though she asked me to take her at her word, her words and her actions were so in contrast in the end that I don’t know if she was just saying that because she wanted it to be true. But the truth is, I loved her in that weird way you can love a therapist because they are your rock. Whether or not she cared for me in the end, I did for her, all the way up until I walked out of her office for that last time.
I wonder if she ever thinks about me. I wonder if she knows or believes that she misstepped. I wonder if she regrets anything. It still doesn’t sit right with me that she was able to make those decisions, to irreparably hurt me, and come away without any repercussions. B says I don’t now what happened, if she faced any reprisals. I doubt she received anything from D, but I truly don’t know. I don’t know if L ever turned inward and came to realize the things she said and did that weren’t appropriate. I’ll never know and that’s probably the hardest part.
If anyone is still reading, good for you. Thanks for coming with me this far. I’m hoping that as we continue into the new year, good things await you. And perhaps this therapy journey will get easier for me. I tell myself I have to make a decision by April when Dr. N returns. I’m hoping that the answer will be clear to me very soon and that I will feel some benefit from therapy again. I so miss that.