What I’ve Learned…

I’ve completed nearly two months of my job now. It’s hard having a borderline personality, a disorder built of its fluctuating emotions, a harsh inner critic, and difficulty managing relationships in a job that’s full of stress and talking to people! Here’s what I’ve learned about life in this position so far.

It’s hard. Like really fucking hard. I knew it was going to be, because I’m new to the position, but I was not prepared for how really intensely difficult this job was going to be. There are a lot of different things I’m expected to manage. Case management. Testing. Social lunch groups. Consultation with teachers. Phone calls to parents. Documentation of everything: reports, phone logs, progress monitoring, education programs.

It doesn’t matter how on top of things I feel at the end of one day. The unexpected is coming, whether it be a concern about a student or a new referral. I’ve learned I need to get used to the fact that it’s never all going to get done in a day, my to-do list is just going to be a revolving door.

Closing my door is a boundary. It lets people know that I’m busy. Boundaries are important. You don’t always have to answer the phone when it rings. You don’t have to answer an email right away. You can wait a few hours, regroup, and call back.

I’ve learned that you can ask a question four different times and get four different answers, depending on who you ask. Administration isn’t always cohesive, and everyone has a different agenda. You need to be careful of what you say to who, and avoid throwing someone under the bus.

The nature of my job and the nature of my age puts me on my own little island. Sometimes what I need to do for a student goes in line with what a teacher wants or perceives the student needs. Our values do not always align. I’m not there to make friends, I’m there to do a job.

I’ve learned that the rumor is true: high school never ends. Especially when you work in a school. There are cliques, there are loners, there are politics to navigate. It’s confusing as hell.

I’m really bad at this, by the way. Put me in my office writing reports all day and I’m fine. Put me in classrooms and offices asking for missing surveys or making a suggestion for a kid and I’d like a hole to appear in the ground and swallow me up.

The minions constantly want me to believe that other people think badly of me. For example, I’ll stop in during a teacher’s lunch to ask for something and walk away feeling insecure and anxious. They’re talking about me. They’re annoyed at me.  They hate me for asking for that. I might be right and I might not be, but it doesn’t really matter.

When I’m there during the day, it’s about everyone else. It’s about my students. It’s not about me. My problems get put on a shelf and will be returned to later. However, it does need to be about me during lunch. I need to eat, need to drink water, need to take bathroom breaks. Otherwise I’m of no use to my students. This is not always easy to remember, and days have gone by where I have forgotten to eat lunch and then wonder why I’m cranky come 2:00.

I’ve learned you can go down to the cafeteria and ask for pizza at 1:00 on a Friday and they’ll give you leftovers. And if you bribe the technology guys with candy, they install programs on your laptop when you can’t figure it out yourself.

It’s really easy to compare myself to the girl who came before me, the one others thought highly of. She had five years experience on her way out the door and I have two months experience. I want to be as good as her, and I find myself inserting myself into situations and trying to make comments just to show that I know things, to try to justify why I was hired.

It’s okay not to know everything. It’s okay to sit back and watch, to examine the dynamics and absorb more information. These things do not make me worthless in the position, they show that I’m interested in learning.

I don’t always believe this, but other people say it, so it’s probably true.

I’ve learned that work follows me home each day, even if I don’t take any physical reports to write or try to update my calendar. The kids come to me in my dreams. I find myself thinking about them in the shower. I’m so obsessed with the notion of being effective and making a difference that their needs bleed into my world and overshadow my needs to get a break.

For this reason, I’m working on setting timers to limit work outside the walls of my office. I’m working on affirmations to share with myself when I feel like thoughts of my students crowd my brain.

I’ve learned that 6:00 is really early, but that I can survive being among the conscious world at that time.

And, as it turns out, 9:00 feels quite later than it ever used to.

I’ve learned that when all eyes are on me, I panic. When we are sitting in a referral meeting, my brain refuses to concoct questions or make connections between what’s being spoken and the things I’ve learned. I may as well be useless.

I try to make lists to compensate, so I have something to refer to and can develop enough information to make a decision. This helps in some ways, but doesn’t in others.

Without a doubt, I love my students. I am 100% positive of that part. They have their unique challenges, but I am learning them. Their histories, their mannerisms, their needs. I want so desperately to help them grow. I celebrate them as often as I can.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to adopt the mantra of one day at a time. When I want to stress about everything coming my way, the multitudes of spring evaluations on top of referrals, and our program’s growing number of needs, I immediately feel panic rising.

But then I remember, that’s not today. Today, I have X number of things on my list to tackle. The rest is coming, but it’s not here yet. I’ll focus on what’s in front of me.

I’ve learned that this job is stressful. Not just hard, but stressful. I was afraid from the beginning that it would tear me apart. Sometimes I still fear that, like the nights where I break down crying because there’s so much to do or because I’m so tired.

When people ask how my job is going, especially my friends working  the same job, it’s easier to just say “It’s fine” or “It’s a lot, but I’m getting through.” Sometimes I just call it a challenge. No one knows the true extent of it, except my one friend C, who I told just the other night in the middle of a panic episode.

The truth is, I wish I loved my job with the same passion that my friends do.

I’ve learned that I don’t know if I want to do this forever, but it’s what I’m going to have to do right now. It’s a job and it’s a salary, and that’s what I’ve worked for. Acceptance is still iffy on this front, but I get up and go in each day.

One day at a time.

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What Comes Next

Therapy has been a real pile of shit lately, in case you couldn’t tell. I’ve had a lot of anger, a lot of doubts, a lot of fear, and a lot of sadness. This has been expressed as me sitting on that couch, avoiding eye contact, talking about non-important things, or just avoiding therapy altogether?

J knows we’ve hit a rough patch. She feels my frustration with her. I’ve let it slip out in part. But she doesn’t know the extent. I haven’t let her hear or see it. Instead, I yell to myself on my morning drives, saying all the things I’d want to say to her face if maybe I could just harness a little more courage.

Last week though, things started to really come out the way they do when you’ve spent weeks stuffing them down out of sight. Jumbled and piping hot with emotion. We made no headway and when I left, I was so angry with her that I slapped the hood of my car in frustration.

Which is maybe better than the time I slammed the door to the waiting room office?

Anyway, on Thursday I’m going to walk into my session and I’m going to be tasked with the objective of being honest. I need to tell her the reasons I’m angry with her and see if she can accept those feelings constructively. I need to tell her what I want from her and see if she feels like she can meet those needs.

I need things to be okay, although I don’t know if I’ll get that.

Specifically, this is where my anger is coming from right now:

  • Her completely off-brand response to this post. She asked me to write about how she could better receive my pain in a way that let me know the intensity of it was believed and understood. When I wrote it and shared it with her, she then asked me why I needed her to believe me. I felt embarrassed, invalidated, and extremely frustrated. We talked a little bit about that after it happened, but I’m still angry about it, because it feels like ever since then she’s been completely misattuned.
  •  The stupid letter. The one I asked her to write back in…July?…to help me feel more connected in session. The one she didn’t mention for awhile, until I brought it up again, and then admitted she should have followed up on. The one she promised me she’d write and then didn’t mention it again until about a month ago when she decided she wouldn’t write it as stated but actually wanted to write with me. I felt deceived, disappointed, and most of all angry. Because that was not an easy thing to ask for and she changed the agreement. Then I felt ashamed and childish that it bothered me so much.
  • The phone call. I asked for phone check-ins and therapist agreed. The first planned Monday, she didn’t call. Later, I found out it was because she assumed I was going to call, while I thought I had to wait for a cue from her. By the time I realized she wasn’t calling, it was too late. I’d had a shit day and had been hinging on the opportunity to talk to her, but I never got it. I felt forgotten and unimportant. This was a miscommunication, but I was annoyed by her blase attitude about it and frustrated I didn’t get an opportunity to make it up. And perhaps the fact that this happened right after the thing with the letter exacerbated it, to the point that I assumed if she wouldn’t write the letter then maybe she didn’t want to meet this need either.
  • The fucking eye roll. Over a year ago, she rolled her eyes at me when I asked for a hug. I didn’t mention how much it bothered me, but I held onto it. We talked about it recently, resolved it. Then a few weeks ago,I  asked her if she was fed up with me, because that’s a thing I need reassurance on sometimes. She tilted her head and side-eyed me, as if to say “Oh come on” (her words). I’m angry that she thought this type of sarcasm in response to my vulnerability was okay after we’d literally just had this conversation a little while before.
  • Finally, I’m angry that I didn’t feel like I could express any of this towards her. Even though she tells me that I can, her actions don’t support that. I feel like when I do, the first thing she does is defends herself, instead of helping me see where my anger comes from.

I want her to really listen. I want her to admit that maybe she could have handled some of those situations differently, or at the very least show some understanding of how I was affected, even if it wasn’t her intention.

Right now I’m feeling stuck. I wonder, is J feeling stuck too? There seems to be a lot of repetition, both from me and from her. I repeat the same feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, anxiety, frustration. J’s counterattack is in positive affirmations and silver linings, a favorite tool of hers. I see that she is trying to validate, sometimes. And while validation is absolutely something I’ve asked for, validation alone is not enough.

I feel like lately, I haven’t gotten a lot of actual strategies for improving my life. Just a lot of vague mentions of setting boundaries, giving myself credit, and being kind to myself. I want more from her, I want to make plans and set timelines and such. I want to come up with specific ideas together to tackle specific goals that I have set for myself.

I really liked when we were working in the DBT book because that felt a little more concrete and we were making progress. A couple of times, we used those exercises to dissect specific situations and it was very useful. More of that would be great.

I know that J is trying her best. I know that she cares about me in whatever capacity she can as my therapist. I know that she has good intentions. I know that she wants me to get better. These aren’t things that I really question, and I told her as much on Monday when we checked in by phone.

But what we’re doing right now it’s working. We’re out of sync. We’re not making progress. It feels like I’ve made very little in especially the last 6 months.

J and I spoke by phone on Monday for our check-in. I did decide to call, although I was wary. Mostly, I just wanted to connect with her. She didn’t pick up right away, and called me back later. Some of the conversation was okay. I wasn’t angry when we were talking; honestly, I felt sad. She encouraged me to talk more about my anger on Thursday. I told her all that stuff I said above about how I recognize her good intentions, but that when we talk about the why I’m angry, I don’t want her to just tell me why she did the things that upset me. I want to explore where the anger comes from and how to resolve it.

She was amenable to that, which is a good sign, although we’ll see what happens in person. I asked her if us hitting a rough patch was hard for her too, and she said of course. Then I asked her if she still thought we could survive difficult times, and she said she absolutely did believe that. That part was nice.

My biggest problem with that conversation was that she honestly seemed distracted. She told me she wasn’t feeling well and had just walked in the office. Sometimes I wasn’t sure she was listening, like when I told her I felt like we were out of sync and she was quiet for a good 10 seconds before just saying “Okay.”

So who knows.

The most important thing I want to get across to her or at least discuss with her is this idea that the relationship stuff is going to keep coming up. I’m going to keep doubting our relationship, I’m going to have trouble holding onto the connection. I’m going to need reassurance. Are we working on that being different? Sure. But that’s a hard habit to kill, and those doubts are extremely resistant to logic or reason. Those specific doubts are usually not about her personally, and I want her to recognize it. I don’t know if she doubts herself when I doubt her, or she feels like it’s an attack on her skills.

Right now, I can tell that my continued issues with the relationship bewilder her and I feel like it shouldn’t be that way. It’s confusing and scary for me when I sense that from her, and I find myself withdrawing, reluctant to talk about our relationship at all. That’s where the lack of safety perception comes from.

This is the part I’m most fearful about discussing with her, because I feel like if she doesn’t find some way to show me that she truly understands, this cycle is just going to keep repeating itself. Which may be the nail in the coffin. That’s why I feel so much pressure for how I bring it up.

Thankfully, I will see L tomorrow afternoon and will have the chance to go over all of this with her first. I’m hoping maybe she can give me some of the right words to say, a most effective way to get my point across while still communicating the emotion.

And perhaps some coping strategies if it all goes awry.

So if you read this before tomorrow, send some good thoughts my way. J has meant so much to me for so long, and I feel like a lot rides on how she responds to the emotions and thoughts I’m going to bring in that room tomorrow. I hope that she will really listen. I hope she will be on her game. I hope that she will be able to modulate whatever feelings I stir up in her and stay focused on me.

I want to believe that my therapist can contain me and that I won’t leave overly dysregulated and defeated. I want to believe that we are still a good match.

Wish me luck.

The BPD in Me

How often do those of you with Borderline Personality Disorder (or any other disorder!) use the actual phrase in conversation with real people in your lives?

As often as I tackle the topic of BPD on my blog, I am generally not very open about it with those I interact with face-to-face. I’ve used the actual diagnosis in conversation with my parents and a few friends, but I discuss it seldom. As it passes my lips, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, the bitterness of words that are so stigmatized in our society. I often cringe immediately once I’ve said it, because I know what other people believe about BPD and I fear judgment.

On the rare occasion I have discussed it, it was often because I was trying to explain its meaning in my life. I was trying to take that demonized diagnosis and paint a picture of how it has colored my thoughts, my feelings, my actions. I was trying to put it in perspective for another person who was bewildered by my extreme mood, trying to educate a friend, or trying to quell someone’s anger after a regretful action on my part.

The problem is, I struggle to articulate further what it means beyond reading the DSM criteria verbatim. When I first started blogging, I published a number of posts that reflected upon how each of the nine borderline personality disorder criteria applied to me. I did this during a time where I was still learning about which parts of my identity were mine alone and which parts perhaps that of my disorder. It was useful, but those posts were expansive, and I haven’t looked at them in many months.

I’m very much in a phase of making everything “comprehensive” right now. Organizing the information in a way that communicates it most effectively. This is what I want to do with my disorder. I want to to highlight where the BPD exists within me, so that the next time I try to explain it someone maybe I can do it in a way that really gives justice to my experience.

The BPD in me comes out through intense emotions that cycle up and down at the drop of a hat, from the highest of high to the lowest of low. I feel my feelings at the extreme, even the positive ones. When I feel well, I am excitable, motivated, and have hope for my future. I feel productive and proud of myself for the work that I am doing. I can look back at the past and feel empathy for myself and the mistakes I’ve made, and even begin towards acceptance.

Unfortunately, I am triggered easily, by very trivial matters that wouldn’t upset other people: a small mistake at work, a perceived slight from a friend, or anything that might disrupt my routine. When that happens, my world plummets. I’ve seen the feelings described this way “grief instead of sadness, humiliation instead of embarrassment, rage instead of annoyance and panic instead of nervousness.” That is the truth. I don’t get just a dose of the feeling, I get it all, turned up to full volume.

The BPD in me takes those emotions and projects them into my perceptions of myself and others. The same way my feelings are extreme, so are my thoughts. If I’m not careful, I will paint my whole world into black and white, a series of all or nothing.

Usually, I’m at the negative end of the extreme, because the voice in my head is so harsh and so cruel. It calls me names and refuses to give me any credit for my success. I’m unlovable. I’m a loser. I’m “less than” everyone else. I’m a failure. I deserve to be punished. The good things are external, specific, and unstable; I see them, but I assume they are a short-lived manifestation of luck. The negative is internal, global, and stable. That is, it’s my fault, it will be my fault for every situation, and this will never change. I treat myself worse than anyone could ever treat me.

Because of of the BPD in me, sometimes I’m not sure what is the truth and what is not. So I tend to stick to the negative assumptions, so that if they end up being true, I’m not disappointed.

I know this is a fallacy, but it feels safer.

My BPD causes me to have trouble trusting anyone. In truth, the only people I trust not to leave are my parents. Everyone else? I assume you are going to leave and I assume it’s because of me. My flaws. My wrongdoings. My insecurities. You need to remember that I’ve had many friendships end before you, and I played a large role in it. So when you’re trying to tell me things are fine, I’m remembering the pain of those losses instead of listening to you. I’m not hearing your reassurance, especially not at first. You may need to reassure me, over and over, that you aren’t going anywhere. Eventually, maybe it will stick.

Of course, I hate to ask you directly for your reassurance. If I have to ask, then how do I know you really wanted to give it and didn’t just do so out of obligation? No, the BPD in me can’t accept your validation of our relationship unless you offer it freely, so that I can be sure it’s genuine. The BPD in me expects you to be attuned to that need at all times, to magically know when I need your reassurance. The voice is there, telling me that if you cared, you’d know and you’d ask.

Even when you do reassure me, even when you do so wonderfully, I’ll think I’m a burden for needing your support. In general, the BPD in me makes me hate myself for having needs at all. I don’t know how to prioritize myself and set appropriate boundaries because I’m so busy worrying about everyone else liking me.

The thought of someone not liking me feels personal. It feels like a strike against me as a person. Nevermind the fact that no one in the world is universally liked, I’ll still push to break that barrier. I’ll eviscerate the emotional and physical boundaries I’ve set for myself to please as many as I can. No one has asked me to do this. It’s a choice I’ve made for myself to try to maintain my own sanity.

When people do overstep a boundary, I let them right on in. Even though I should kindly lock the door, tell them to come back later, I’m too worried about appearing selfish and instigating feelings of anger.

The BPD in me shines through my recurrent thoughts that I am a burden to others and doomed to ruin every relationship, platonic or romantic, that I enter. Because of this, I struggle to maintain a connection with others when we are not together. We could have a fabulous time one day, laughing and forming a tight connection, but the second you are out of my sight I will begin to doubt the relationship. I may fear you are upset or angry with me based on the way you respond to a text message.

This is more about me than it is about you. It’s not about negative opinions I have of you; it’s about the negative tirade that’s happening in my head. I’m trying to hold onto the sense of trust and connection between us, but sometimes it slips right through my fingers and gets lost in the chaos.

You might notice that I shy away from disagreement, and will say things like “it’s fine” or “it doesn’t matter” the second I start to feel opposition from you or any sort of tension and anger on your part. I will invalidate my own needs and values, stomp them into dust myself, if I think that’s what you want to hear.

Or, more likely, I’ll just stay quiet and say nothing at all. Because if I speak in opposition of what you believe, I’m worried you will think I’m criticizing your opinions. I’m worried you will be upset with me. I assume if we disagree, it will lead to conflict, and that conflict will be the end of our relationship.

The world is full of disagreements and that’s scary to me. Remember that thing I said about not knowing what’s the truth? Well, how can I fight for something if I’m not sure my truth is the real truth? Or worse, if there’s no right opinion? Navigating all of that is fiercely confusing. Being around groups of people exacerbates these fears, because there’s a greater chance of differing opinions. The BPD in me makes me want to hide away from it all. When you see me withdrawing, it’s usually because nothing feels like the right thing to say, everything too risky.

You might notice that I apologize, repeatedly, for very small infractions. It might be something small that barely even bothered you, and here I am holding onto it with numerous apologies even once you’ve told me it’s fine. I know it’s probably annoying but I literally cannot help myself. Even the smallest of mistakes feels fatal to me, so I do everything I can to compensate for it. Everything I can to keep you with me.

The BPD in me makes me a perfectionist. I want to do everything right, to say everything right, be everything right for everyone. If I do all that, then I am in control, and I need to feel in control of my life. The expectations I’ve set for myself are beyond what anyone could ever reach, and yet I tell myself I need to aim for it anyway. I tell myself if I just try hard enough, be good enough, I can do it.

I know that it makes me look a little frazzled sometimes, when I’m obsessing about getting it all right. I’m aware that it’s frustrating for others when I’m going on and on about everything on my plate. This is why. That voice in my head, telling me I have to handle it all perfectly. That voice in my head, telling me I’m a failure each time I don’t. I get stuck in that space, trying desperately to find ways to feel like I’ve fulfilled my expectations for myself .

The BPD in me makes me impulsive. My intense emotions can feel overwhelming and I’m not always so good at sitting with them, Usually, it’s because I feel wronged and am putting pressure on myself to communicate my pain with others.  I may make assumptions about what others are thinking. I may say or do something in a flurry of feelings based purely off of my misguided belief. In those moments, I’ve forgotten to lay situations out and look at the evidence against the emotions and assumptions. I’ve forgotten to consider the consequences of my actions.

BPD has told me to act now and get it all out before it’s too late, so I do. Unfortunately, that usually hurts someone. Afterwards,  I see all that much more clearly, and I regret it immensely. It’s a pattern I’m still digging my way out of. When I’m impulsive, it may hurt you. I’m sorry for that.

My impulsivity takes other forms. I’m notorious for eating more calories than one person needs and asking you not to judge me for it. Mozzarella sticks, pizza, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, candy. These are my weaknesses, because they are a comfort, at least in the moment, and I’m often looking to soothe sad feelings.

Then there’s the financial impulsively. I will buy something frivolous: new clothes, a figurine from Amazon, Packer’s tickets. I’ll tell myself I deserve it. I’ll tell myself I need it. These are rationales used to cover the unhealthiness of my decision. The truth is, I’m trying to fill a void, because the BPD in me makes me feel empty too.

I’m grieving over absences, things I wish I’d had that were never there and never will be. Accepting that loss feels dismissive. I yearn to find ways to compensate for the things I was missing, but how can I ever make up for what was lost? Living with that knowledge just spurs resentment at others.

I resent my parents for not teaching me the skills I needed to identify, verbalize, and regulate my emotions or to build and maintain appropriate relationships that include disagreement; for instead teaching me how to get angry, to yell, and to bury everything else. I resent my friends for having the skills that I don’t, for knowing how to cultivate friendships and not missing out on those positive experiences in high school and college. I resent people with confidence, people know who know who they are. I resent people who have the life experiences I want to have: travel, weddings, families.

I feel ashamed of my resentment, a difficulty tolerating that my parents could have tried their best but still didn’t give me enough of what I needed. I feel ashamed at the way I compare myself to others. Still, the feelings continue.

At the core of me, I feel like my life has no meaning, like I’m not connected intricately enough to anyone to make a difference. In a way, I lift right out. I wish that my relationship with my parents was more solid. I wish I had siblings. I wish I had a boyfriend. I wish I had a friendship group where I was the first pick to go out on holidays, birthdays, and other occasions, instead of being the afterthought or backup. I don’t have these things.

I know that it is on me to overcome the emptiness. It’s on me to take the steps to overcoming all of this. I’m trying to fight the BPD in me, I really am. I’m no longer sure if it’s part of me or another entity, but I know that is causes distress. So I’m trying. I have to repeat that as an attempt to convince myself because I don’t believe that I’m trying hard enough.

Again, I need the reassurance.

Taking care of myself requires herculean effort sometimes. The depression makes me dread waking up in the morning. It breeds hopelessness. The anxiety has me fretting over every interaction in my path. Sometimes, the most I can manage is to light a candle, take a shower, or read a book. Usually, I just sleep.

I feel all the negative feelings and it culminates in self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Sometimes even suicidal plans. I can’t remember that last time I went longer than a day or two without at least considering suicide. I truly believe this will be how I meet my end one day, even if it’s not today.

Then perfectionism swoops in and blasts me for not being better, working harder. The BPD in me reminds me I’ve learned the skills and should be able to use them more effectively by now. I should have some of the things I so desperately want, and I’m not making progress quickly enough. Then I’m back in the space of feeling fundamentally flawed again.

This is how I’ve been for a long time. I ask myself again and again why I’m like this, and this is what the research has told me: The emotions may be out of my control, but I cling to the negative judgements and the poor coping responses because it’s what I know. It seemingly serves me to protect me from being hurt, even though it really doesn’t. It’s seemingly comfortable because it’s familiar, even though it’s also miserable.

As soon as things start to get better, the BPD in me has a tendency to jump in and self-sabotage. The truth is, I never feel at ease. I am always on guard, ready for things to implode. I am expecting that they will, because they always have.

I wrote this elsewhere before:  My mind refuses to accept that the other shoe won’t drop, refuses to acknowledge that things might just maybe be verging on okay. It’s like driving around with my check engine light on constantly. I keep checking the engine only to discover that nothing is wrong. The car is running fine. But the light stays on just in case. Just in case something really is wrong with the engine and it’s about to blow.

This is the BPD in me. It’s something I work hard against daily. It’s something that sometimes gets the best of me. It’s something I hate and wish would go away, because it makes everything more difficult.

I wish that people could understand better the totality of my experience, but I can recognize why putting yourself in my shoes wouldn’t be easy or desirable. Maybe this piece at least did a fair job of explaining the unique combination of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are common to the borderline world.

I hope I can break free of the BPD in me, but for now, I’m just working on getting through.

Help me. See me.

A lot of people say that no news is good news. So if you don’t hear from someone, it must be because they have nothing bad to report.

My posts have dwindled down to about nothing since I’ve started my new job. It’s been almost two months now, and I’ve written only a handful. I somewhat saw this coming, despite my greatest hopes that things would unfold differently.  Unfortunately though, although my period of absence has been long, it is not a no news is good news situation. No, it’s quite the opposite of that.

The last I posted here, I was taking a break from therapy and feeling pretty good about it. I did follow through with it, for a total period of 21 days in between sessions. It was the longest I’d ever been apart from J. While we were away from each other, I mindlessly counted the passing of the days.  I didn’t feel an intense longing to be with her. I thought about her, missed her a bit, but mostly I just dove into my work and kept busy.

A few days before we resumed therapy, I had a really awful day at work. I slipped and texted her, because I really needed some support. I asked for a phone call. She answered hours later, saying I could call her after work, but I’d calmed at that point and didn’t feel it was necessary to stir up the emotions again. So we didn’t speak.

October 18 came around and suddenly it was time for us to be in the same room again. But hours before that, I had an appointment scheduled with a different therapist. We will call her L.

L is young. She’s even younger than J, and I honestly wondered if she was older than me. When I first met her, her age and the fact that she was wearing jeans felt extremely off-putting, but I figured I was already there and I needed to talk to someone about J before I went to see J. So I stayed.

The session was fine, maybe even good. If nothing else, it felt wonderful to be able to say the things that I’d been holding back from J without fear of her reaction. L validated a lot of the experiences I’d had, with her words and her facial expressions. When I talked about J not calling me like I expected, her eyes widened. “Wow.”  It was nice to feel like I wasn’t crazy, like I wasn’t being pathologized and maybe some of my feelings had some validity to them.

After I’d shared my whole story, L had a couple of concerns about J. She was concerned that J’s defensive reactions to my feelings (namely, the anger) weren’t exactly helpful. She was also concerned that J doesn’t seem truly recognize my issues with emotional constancy appropriately, as she tends to trigger more than reassure.  L’s understanding and accurate description of the way my trust pretty much evaporates between sessions almost made me feel vindicated.

L said a couple things in session that I’ve been holding on to. First, she said that part of the reason J and I are having problems is probably because we have such a connection, because you really only have feelings like this with people you care about. She thought that it was good that I wanted to keep working with her, that I was fighting for it.

“I know the BPD part of your brain is telling you to burn the bridge,” she told me, and I felt a flutter of giddiness at being understood, “but it’s good that you’re looking at this from multiple perspectives.”

We made a list of goals to work on together and then I left for my session with J.

The first session back was okay. I had wondered if J was going to address our time apart and she didn’t, not at first. We talked a little bit about how my job was going, and the impetus behind the phone call that didn’t happen. I sat and squirmed uncomfortably. She asked me “what I had learned about myself over the break” and I rolled my eyes internally (hopefully not externally!) at what a therapist crap question that was.

I think the answer she wanted was that I could survive being away from her, but I’m not sure. I don’t remember exactly what I even told her.

She eventually asked me if I wanted to discuss what he hadn’t talked about because of the phone call that didn’t happen. We talked again about the miscommunication; meaning she repeated her side and I repeated mine. I didn’t feel like I could tell her how abandoned and unimportant I felt at the oversight, because she sounded so matter-of-fact about her understanding of the situation that it almost felt condescending. Like, it’s not my fault that you didn’t know you were supposed to call, so too bad on you.  I’m over this, you should be over this by now too. 

I did tell her that I had needed to talk to her and that it was really difficult not to be able to do that. I voiced that disappointment, but when I came up against the wall of “this is my understanding of it, this is how I’ve always done things” I quickly dismissed my own feelings before I could feel any more dismissed by her.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. Not convincing in the slightest.

“Is that true?” she countered.

“Well, it is what it is.” Because really, wasn’t that the truth? She didn’t really seem interested in hearing my pain. And we moved on.

For awhile after that, we talked about my suicidal thoughts. This is like one of the few things that I can actually say she’s made a noticeable attempt at following through with – checking in. I recognize and appreciate that. And because she asked, I was able to be honest about it.

Of course, she didn’t really seem to get what I was saying to her. I was trying to tell her how I felt like if I killed myself, it wouldn’t really affect anyone that much. Like, aside from my parents, I just lift out of their lives. Maybe they’d be sad for a little while, but most people would adjust and move on.

She made me make a list of everyone whose life would be affected, even a little bit, if I died. I really fought that, because she was missing the point, and I told her so. It wasn’t about the number of people, it was about the quality of the relationship. She said something to the tune of “So your life isn’t living because people wouldn’t be destroyed with grief if you died?”

Wow, thank you for painting me as completely narcissistic. No, it’s not as simple as that. It’s about the fact that I don’t feel like I have any truly meaningful relationships. My relationship with my parents is complicated and I often feel so different from them. I love my friends, but they all have their own “groups” of people that they’re closer with.I’m everyone’s backup plan, no one’s first choice. I’m not in a relationship. I’m not a central figure at my job, or even someone whose work is really valued because I’m not changing anyone’s life.

Do I think my friends would miss me? Sure. Do I think it would affect their lives that much since we don’t even talk a lot? Not so much. They’d replace me at work. It would be hard for the girls at first, but they’d find someone else eventually. And at therapy, J would fill my slot.

I told her all that. “You’re more than a 6:30 timeslot,” she said, which was sweet. I heard what she was trying to convey.

After she said that, I finally found the courage to tell her that I was angry about the whole phone call, that it contributed to me wanting to take a break, and that I felt like she was probably happy I wasn’t there.

It was near the end of session, so she didn’t say much back other than maybe we could talk about it the next session. I nodded, and asked her in a very small voice: “Are you fed up with me.”

The look she gave me very closely resembled an eye roll. She tilted her head and side-eyed me.

Are. you. fucking. kidding. me.

Did we not just have a whole discussion on how her rolling her eyes made me feel like she thought I was ridiculous and pathetic? Like my needs were childish?

I’m proud of myself, because I actually looked at her and said. “Please don’t look at me that way. I’m being serious. I need to hear it from you, because it feels differently.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’m sorry.” She said she was trying to give me a look as if to say oh, come on. I told her that wasn’t helpful.

I can’t even remember if she actually told me she wasn’t fed up or not. All I remember about that interaction is that I asked her a vulnerable question and instead of giving me a genuine response, she used this ambiguous look that maybe was supposed to mean Of course I’m not fed up with you but came across to me as Shouldn’t you know better by now? What type of ridiculous question is that? If I wasn’t fed up before, I am now. 

So yeah, I left with some mixed feelings and maybe a little more anger to add to the pile.

On Monday, I called for my first phone check-in. I’d had a crappy weekend; some intense chest pain after swallowing a liquid the wrong way sent me to urgent care and both my mother and grandfather’s responses to that just exacerbated things in a negative way. I was overwhelmed with work and the way it seems to cloud every aspect of my damn life. I told J all of that. She was somewhat sympathetic and talked about setting better boundaries, but didn’t give me a lot of specific strategies. I felt like I was just getting some vague suggestions to “separate myself from the job” and “give myself credit” with some cliched silver linings thrown in there.

Again, it was fine, but I felt something was lacking. I hung up feeling disappointed.

By Thursday, I was anxious about seeing her. I knew I had a bucketload of building feelings, many of them negative, and I wasn’t sure what I felt comfortable doing with them.

There was a lot of silence, scattered all throughout the session. I’m finding that I really don’t know what to say anymore. I’ve got all this pain that I deal with throughout the week, doubts about my abilities in my job, fears about the future, feelings of emptiness and low self-worth.

But when I get in there, I can’t get at the heart of it with her. She’s encouraged me to talk about what I’m feeling, reminded me that it’s okay to share the same feelings again and again, but I can’t do it. Hell, on Wednesday night I had a breakdown because I’d set poor boundaries with babysitting and was doing a report into the late night hours. I cut myself six times. When asked how the rest of my week had been, I just admitted things had been difficult. I talked a little bit about what had been going on at school, but shoved the rest into a box.

So we were quiet. She asked what I wanted to talk about and I shrugged, because I really didn’t know. “I don’t know what to say,” I told her. “Okay,” she said.

More silence.

I sat there, remembering her comment about discussing my anger from the previous week. Ask me directly, I thought. Please ask so I know it’s okay and you want to hear it. I know some of you will harp on the fact that should be the one bringing it up, but can you imagine how terrifying it is to address my feelings towards her when many of my past attempts have not been fruitful? While I think about sharing, every fiber in my being fights it.

I’m waiting for a cue that it’s safe. I’m waiting for her to tell me that this is important, that whatever I’m feeling we can work through together. I’m waiting for her to show me that she’s willing to listen.

We eventually talked about some social situations at school that had been difficult. We got back to the conversation on boundaries. J asked me how I could set better boundaries around thinking about school, since I’m at the point now where I’m dreaming about the kids. It was the same question she’d asked on the phone the other day, and provided little answer for.

I snapped, without meaning to. “I know know. I need some strategies. That’s why I’m asking you!”

She looked quite taken aback. Part of me enjoyed that, honestly, because it meant that she really heard my frustration. The rest of me felt bad about it.

We talked more about that for awhile, until we were lulled back into a silence. “How should we finish out our session today?” she asked.

“I’m really not sure,” I said, looking away. I really just wanted her to take the lead. My mind was completely blank, aside from all the feelings towards her I was burying. It was 7:20. “Wow,” I said quietly. “We still have 20 minutes left.”

“More like 10,” she corrected. Except she’d taken me at 6:40, and I get a full hour, so it was 20.

I started to tell her that, but immediately stopped. It didn’t feel like it was worth it. And what I’d taken from her response was I don’t want to see you for any longer than I have to. Nevermind, I said.

“Do you want there to be 20 minutes left?” she asked pointedly, and I couldn’t tell what she meant by that.

“No, 10 minutes is fine.”

I was incredibly uncomfortable at this point. I’m sure it showed, and finally she asked what was going on for me. What was I feeling? I told her frustration. She wanted to know what I was angry about. I told her I wasn’t sure if it was okay to say why I was frustrated. She said, okay that’s fine.

Okay, cool. Except she obviously knew the frustration was at her because I had told her the previous week. I took her response to mean that I should continue to shove the feelings down.

Some of this next part might be out of order, because I can’t remember exactly how it unfolded. I just remember what was said in pieces. But she did know the frustration was at her. I finally said to her. “Things haven’t felt right between us. I know you feel it too.” Then I corrected myself, trying not to assume. “Or at least, I think you feel it too.”

J agreed things had been tense for a little while. See? I knew she knew.

She asked me what else I was feeling. I told her scared. Again, she asked of what. I sat bracing myself for a long time, and then finally was able to admit that I was afraid of her. How she might respond to my feelings.

“Because you might not like what I have to say?”

Wow, J, are you really that dense or do you just really think that poorly of me?

It all opened up then. I told her it feels like I’m not allowed to talk about therapy in therapy because the last time I said I felt like I was doing a lot of that, she agreed with me. What I said this, she just nodded in agreement, as if to say, yup, I did say that. I told her when I do share how I’m feeling about our relationship, I feel like she gets really defensive.

She mentioned that it’s been hard for her to hear that a lot of my anger is directed at her, which of course gutted me. As angry as I am, I’m not trying to hurt her. It’s hard for me to sit with that.

Which I’m sure she fucking knows.

I was proud of myself for being able to say that the imbalance of power in our relationship means that she doesn’t get to just fall back on the “I’m human” response every single time. I absolutely know she’s human, but she is also a therapist and she has to modulate her responses sometimes. She said that she knows this (sure doesn’t seem like it), but she chooses to share her feelings “once in awhile” (sure seems like more than that lately!) for some reason that I can’t remember.

I’m sure it is hard for her to hear that I have anger directed at her, but that’s literally the job she signed up for. In that moment, it’s not about what she’s feeling, it’s about what I’m feeling and where those feelings are coming from. She was making it more about her than me. I didn’t say this part, I wish I had.

I told her that I’m stuck in this cycle right now where I’m afraid to share my anger because I’m afraid of making her feel helpless, like she can’t say anything right. And then when I do share, I feel like what I do share gets thrown back in my face (e.g. the eye roll, which I didn’t mention specifically, but alluded to). She can say it’s not a judgement, but that’s not how I’m perceiving it.

She knows that she does that apparently. She says she’ll bring things up knowing it’ll make me uncomfortable. I guess it’s some tool? I don’t remember, because all I could think was, well fuck you, that’s clearly not helpful for me.

I told her that I know some of my feelings are valid and I’m afraid of being pathologized. I’m holding back because I need to know she’s hearing me, not just defending her perspective.

“Well, when have I not compromised with you?” she asked.

That comment stung. First, she completely missed any opportunity to validate everything I was saying about not feeling safe or heard. Second, she missed an opportunity to truly hear and honor my anger in an appropriate way.

I can appreciate that maybe she really wanted to know specific examples as a way of improving her interactions with me, but her tone did not convey that. It didn’t feel like she was asking out of genuine understanding, but rather to dismiss my experiences further by explaining her good intentioned. I could feel that she really didn’t understand where my anger at her was coming from.

I didn’t feed into it, because I knew if I brought up a situation right then (e.g. her agreeing to write the letter and then not writing the fucking letter), I would likely just feel more invalidated.  I told her I didn’t feel like I could communicate my feelings effectively at that moment. She let it go.

We went back and forth for awhile more. J asked me how holding onto my anger outside here was serving me. I asked her why I should just have to let it go, why I shouldn’t be allowed to express it. “You’ve always been allowed to express your anger,” she said, “I know I’ve said that.” Great, let’s make it about you again. Plus, that’s so confusing. Why are you simultaneously telling me to let it go but also express it?

Then I said I’m afraid to share it because I don’t want to make her feel helpless. “You don’t know that’s how I feel.” Uh, she freaking said it was how she felt? “At that moment in that time. But you don’t know that’s how I feel right now.” Which I heard as, stop making assumptions, you dumbass. You don’t know me. 

It felt like everything I said got twisted and she was willing to take on nothing about how her responses were upsetting or might have contributed to my withdrawing.

I couldn’t win. This whole conversation just fell flat on it’s ass. I know that my anger it making me read into everything she’s saying, but honestly she could have handled that so much better than she did.

There’s two parts to this: 1. I feel like J, as a therapist, could have understood that me fearing her judgements and reading into some things isn’t all about her, it’s about me and my harsh internal critic that tells me I’m always wrong and a loser who deserves to die. 2. It would be nice if she could also recognize that some of my feelings stem from her not necessarily handling some of these situations in a way that best aligned with my needs, whether or not it was technically appropriate. Maybe she even could have done some things differently. I wish she’d just admit that.

Then it was quiet. “So where do we go from here?” I asked.

“That’s your choice,” she said. “Therapy is supposed to be helpful for you. I want it to be helpful for you.”

Technically, this was an ethical response, but it wasn’t a very empathetic one. Granted, it was the end of session, but she could have given me so much more. She knows the pain I have at the thought of starting over with someone else. I know she knows, because I’ve told her 100 different times.

Mind you, I had also said at some point during session that the voice in my head was telling me to run and “burn the bridge” (a direct quote from L). “Like so many of your other relationships of the past,” she said, understanding. I nodded, and told her that I didn’t want to listen to the voice. I wanted things to feel better again.

So it was super nice that all she said was “it’s my choice,” after all that. What happened to, “I’m more than just a 6:30 timeslot?” Am I only that way when I’m not questioning her or in a frenzy of negative feelings?

Mixed messages, I swear.

Honestly, to me it felt like her pushing me in the direction of the door without having the gall to actually say it out loud.

At the end of session, she also told me that it’d probably be good if we spent more time talking about my anger next week. Ugh. Excuse me, J, you’re part of this relationship too. You admitted to knowing it was tense and you didn’t bring it up either. It’s not just on me.

She asked if we were good for next week. I told her maybe. That I’d set it for now and we’d see. She asked if we’d be speaking by phone on Monday, I said I really didn’t know. Because I don’t.

This is the longest post I’ve ever written I think. I’m just so maxed out, so up to here with all the J stuff. Thankfully, I will see L again next week before I see J. I know that I have to go in to my next session (I’m going to go, not cancel), find a way to share all the things I’m feeling, and see how J handles it.

I can tell you that my doubts have grown larger and I’m fearing it may really be time to call it. I know she cares, somewhere in there, but I’m maybe wondering if that’s not enough. If I’m just going to keep being triggered and feeling like I have to hide it, because J won’t be able to hear my feelings towards her and work to the core of them.

That terrifies me. It’s terrifying. All these other posts, I’ve been saying I’m at a crossroads, seeking support to figure out what to do, but part of me always figured I’d just stay with J. It’d work out, it would be okay.

Now? I’m really not sure. Has my trust eroded beyond fixing? Can J really meet my needs? Does she still even want to be my therapist?

It’s all so scary, because I don’t know what the future would look like. And I need someone badly. I need a safe person. I want it to be her.

So what if it’s not? I’m wrecked at the thought of it.  I made this piece of artwork for her last night. I plan to give it to her Thursday, so maybe she can understand a little better all that’s going on inside my head right now.

I don’t want to give up on her, but I also can’t give up on me. Maybe we can fix it, maybe we can’t. Only time will tell, I guess.

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An Alphabet of Gratitude

Today, I happened upon a post of Ashley’s about the A to Z challenge of gratitude. It’s easy enough, you just name something from each letter of the alphabet you’re grateful for. Well, I said it was easy, but it was actually kind of tough! Especially at the less common letters, I felt like I was playing scrabble.

Here’s my list!

  • A – Animals. Dogs. Cats. Bunnies. I want about 10 of each. No matter what, petting an animal or laughing at a funny animal video always raises my spirits.
  • B – Babysitting. H & S are the sunshine of my day, despite all the kid-size offenses that require me to play the disciplinarian. There’s nothing quite like one of their hugs, the sound of that laughter, or playing a silly game together.
  • C – Comfort. Whether from a friend or my fuzzy bed blankets.
  • D – DVR. A little silly, but catches all of my favorite television shows that I’d for sure miss otherwise. With a busy schedule like mine, I’m grateful to be able to watch at my own pace!
  • E – Education. I was lucky to be able to have any many years of school and training as I did. While school work is never fun, I always really enjoyed learning new concepts and connecting them to my experiences.
  • F – Football. For years I was not a sports fan. Now, my love of the Green Bay Packers gives me an outlet for my pent-up feelings as I yell and scream at the TV.
  • G – Grandpa. After a really difficult year following his heart attack, he turned 86 this week. How blessed I am for him and his silly and cranky ways.
  • H – Holidays. Christmas, Halloween, Easter, you name it. . The more I can decorate for it and the more excitement surrounding the holiday, the happier I am.
  • I – ImprovementThe little steps I’ve taken to better my life. It takes time. It takes patience with myself, but I’m getting there.
  • J – Jewelry. Specifically, a necklace given to me by my grandmother and some earrings that are my Nana’s. Accessorizing helps me feel more confident and wearing my grandmothers’ things connects me to them.
  • K – Karma. Specifically, good karma. I believe you get back what you put into this world.
  • L – Leaves. Fall is my favorite time of the year, and these gorgeous colors make every afternoon drive a sight to see.
  • M – Macaroni and cheese. My ultimate comfort food.
  • N – Naps. Enough said.
  • O – Organization. It keeps me on track to get everything done and as a result, relieve some stress!
  • P – Playlists. Music feeds my soul. I’m almost always listening to it. My carefully curated playlists, made for to satisfy whatever emotion my mind is currently housing, are always something I can rely on to calm me down or charge me up.
  • Q – Quiet time. I need my breaks as much as anyone else. Sometimes its nice to just sit without needing to meet anyone else’s expectations or needs.
  • R – Reading. I wish I had more time to settle down with a book, because I love getting engrossed in a good story.
  • S – Sunny days and sunsets. Little compares to the beauty of it, especially those colors in the sky as the day leaves us behind.
  • T – Therapy. Event though J and I are in the middle of a rough patch, I wouldn’t have made quite the growth I have without our work together.
  • U – Understanding. Those moments of support, encouragement, validation from others.
  • V – Vacation. The ones I’ve taken and the many many I plan to take. Or even just a four-day weekend from work.
  • W – WordPress. I stole this one from Ashley, but who wouldn’t be thankful for this community? I love each and every one of you.
  • X – Xenopus. It’s a clawed frog. The word is fun to say. Honestly, I was having trouble coming up with one for this, so I picked at random. But I’m happy this little guy is part of our world!
  • Y – Yearning. For love. For friendship. For independence. Sometimes, it’s what keeps me fighting.
  • Z – Zones of Regulation. A counseling program I’m working on with my students at school, but also learning a lot from. All about the strategies you use for different color-coded emotions.

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to try it too. The more creative your answers, the better.

And….Break!

The other day, I came to a decision I never thought I’d make for myself. I’m currently taking a two week break from therapy. Or at least, a two week break from J.

Let’s back up for a second. Where did all of this come from?

I mentioned in my last post how I missed my first scheduled phone check-in with J on Monday. We were supposed to have a 15-minute conversation in the afternoon, but she never called. I was really upset by this, and felt forgotten and unimportant.

The next day, I texted J to follow up, which I consider to be a big step for a person who usually stuffs their feelings down and pretends they aren’t important.

Me: Hi. Maybe I understood wrong, but weren’t we scheduled for a phone check-in yesterday? I just wanted to follow up.

Her: Yes, I waited for your call. I assumed it was a day you felt you didn’t need to check in and skipped the call. 

Okay, so this response alone sent my emotions through the roof. She assumed? Based on what in our history would she ever think it would be a good idea to assume? Especially if it’s assuming I’m in need of less support, considering I’d just asked for more. That was frustrating, but I took a breath and typed out a response.

Me: Since I usually have to wait for your okay to call when I’ve needed a check-in before, I was waiting for you to text or call. It was actually a difficult afternoon and I really did need to talk. 

Her: I’m sorry to hear that. Our wires got crossed. My understanding from Thursday was that you knew the time was there if you wanted it, and would decide on Monday. Now we both know for next time. 

That was the end of the conversation, because the only other things I had to say were not very kind.

I quickly sent off a frenzy of angry texts to a friend complaining about her, because I had so much fire brewing within me and I needed it to go somewhere.

Maybe it was a miscommunication, fine. Those happen. I guess we weren’t clear. But since the incorrect assumption was made on her end, and I had been promised a time that I didn’t get, shouldn’t she have offered me a makeup time to talk or even just briefly checked in to make sure I was all right?

Playing devil’s advocate for myself, I know there was nothing requiring her to do either of those things. I know that she’s already very busy. I know that it’s important for me to take care of myself (which I did). However, I feel like the J of the past would have done those things. I feel like any good therapist would.

That text felt like nothing but “therapisty” bullshit. It felt like a simple dismissal, a casual “that sucks, but oh well, not my problem.” It felt like she didn’t want to do the damn check-ins in the first place, and jumped at the first opportunity not to.

I was really angry. My body was filled with that electricity that surges when I’m anxious, and I couldn’t focus on anything. All I could think was she doesn’t give a shit. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have sent that text during work.

Hours later, I wasn’t quite filled with white hot rage but I still felt fairly irritated whenever I thought about her. And I knew if I went to my session, all of that anger was going to come out. She wouldn’t get it, wouldn’t be willing to share any accountability, I’d get even angrier, and then I’d leave feeling completely invalidated and emotionally unstable. Not a definite, but probable. Probable enough that I was literally dreading going.

So I didn’t. I cancelled.

I’ve never done that before. Or, I’ve done it, but then uncancelled when J called me on my avoidance. This time I really did not go.

I had some uneasiness about doing it, because I knew texting to cancel created a catch-22. If I tried to cancel and she did anything to try to stop me, I knew I’d give in, which would just enable me to do this again the next time I was angry. If I tried to cancel and she didn’t try to stop me, I knew I’d feel like she didn’t give a damn about me.

If I was being honest, I knew just a small part of me was testing her to see if she’d try and stop me. Testing how much she “cares.” So I had to prepare myself for what it would feel like when she didn’t. And I needed to make sure that cancelling was what I really wanted. For that reason, I didn’t let myself text her until almost 24 hours after the text exchange.

She didn’t fight me on cancelling, and that was fine. Maybe she was happy I cancelled, maybe not. I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s not about her. It’s about me. And I am actually really happy with my decision This morning, I had a slight pang of regret over not going. I thought about how wonderful J could be, and how much I rely on my routine hour to vent, and I wondered if I made a mistake. But guess what? It was actually great. I was able to stay a few hours late after school and catch up on some work, which relieved a lot of my stress. Then I got to come home, eat dinner at a normal time, shower, and just watch TV. I rarely ever get this many hours to myself in an afternoon.

Usually when I have to miss a session because J is away, I agonize over it. Especially during my would-be hour, I struggle. Today? I hardly noticed when that hour where I would be with J came and went.

Looking back at my decision, I think cancelling my session was a really healthy thing to do. J and I have talked about how I can be very impulsive when emotions are high and that it’s important to take space. That’s what I did, I took space so that I had some time to think. So that I didn’t blow up at her.

In fact, I’ve already decided that I want another week off. Today, the mom of the girls I babysit asked if I’d babysit next Thursday at 6:30, which is my normal session time. She told me I could have another night off if I wanted. Usually, I’d take that so that I could hound J for a different time. But this time, I don’t really care enough to even try. Which says a lot about where J and I are right now.

So tomorrow I’m going to text her and cancel. I’m going to be honest about the fact that I need a break and schedule our next session for the 18th. In that time, it’ll have been 3 weeks since we’ve seen each other. Truthfully, the space may do both of us good. Not that I should have to think of her, but that might just be the reality. I may have burnt her out.

In the meantime, since I’m not seeing J next week, I’m trying to get an appointment with one of the therapists in the interim. I decided not to see the therapist that was also seeing my student, for obvious reasons, and I asked to be referred to someone else in the practice. The first therapist told me Friday that she’d reach out to the other one on Monday, but I’ve heard nothing, so I plan to check in tomorrow.

It is so important to me to get an outside perspective on my problems with J, because they just keep building and building. Off-the-mark comments and perceived slights feed the doubts that say J isn’t trained in the areas I need her to be, can’t adequately contain all my feelings, isn’t willing to address our relationship stuff and might even be fed up by it. Since I don’t really feel like I can discuss them with her, they linger and fester until a relatively minor thing like a missed check-in causes me to explode.

I want to resolve it. I feel like if I can get some strategies about how to address my therapy problems with J from another therapist, then maybe she and I can work through this. Maybe we can have a fresh start. Maybe things can be okay.

But I don’t know. I really don’t.

There’s the underlying issue, the “she doesn’t care” fears. I know she cares. Or that she did. But lately, all I have are these fears. Doubts. I don’t want to show her my crazy, don’t want to share those feelings of disappointment or sadness or anger, because I feel judgement from her. I feel like she’s surprised by the fact that I’m triggered by our relationship. I feel like she’s annoyed I keep bringing it up. I feel like she’s exasperated, like maybe she feels she can’t do anything right.

I don’t know if those things I sense are truly there or if I’m imagining them. But the problem is, it doesn’t matter if J would tell me she’s not judging, not exasperated. It doesn’t matter if she tells me it’s okay to talk to her. Ever since she so grossly missed the point on my post and invalidated it, right after a repaired rupture where it seemed like she really got my perspective, I haven’t trusted her. That moment, feeling like we were worlds apart, like she’d forgotten everything she’d sworn to understand just weeks before, shattered it.

I don’t believe her.

I don’t know how to come back from that. I want to. I do. I promised myself I’m not making any termination decisions just yet.

Still, things have been so up and down. Back and forth. We have okay weeks and good weeks with crappy moments and crappy weeks with good moment. That’s not a positive trajectory. It doesn’t bode well.

Although…don’t relationships go through rocky periods sometimes? Wouldn’t it be great progress for me to be able to repair a relationship with strain instead of just giving up?

The worst part is, I can’t control J’s part in this, I can only control mine. I have to figure out what I need from her, what kind of response I want from her, before I can find out if she can truly meet my needs. And as a good friend pointed out, even if we can fix the issues, we may not be able to fix her lack of training in this area.

So that’s where we are. That’s where I am. On a two week break from J. Okay, or at least stable, for the moment.

As a side note, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been so supportive and commented on my last post. I know I’ve not been great at reading and commenting on everyone else, so I appreciate you guys still being there for me. I’m hoping to find some time this weekend to catch up on everyone’s lives!

Day by day. That’s all we can do.

 

My Therapist Forgot Me

Okay, so I don’t actually know that J forgot me. All I know is I’m feeling forgotten and unimportant. I’m feeling like my therapist doesn’t give a shit. And then on top of that, I’ve got some additional shame for feeling that way to begin with.

Here’s the backstory. Last week, things were going semi-okay during session. I at first hadn’t wanted to admit how much I’ve been struggling with work, but I eventually copped to it and J’s response was pretty okay. Like, maybe not exactly what I needed but empathetic enough to be comforting and honestly even didn’t know what I needed so I can’t blame J for that.

In some silence towards the end of session, J then said something that upset me. I’ll get to what that was, but it’s not important for this story. What’s important is that I felt immediately disconnected, like my needs were not important, and for some reason instead of withdrawing I had this impulse to try harder to get them met. So I danced around the topic for a little but then I finally got the courage to ask her if we could have weekly phone check-ins so that I didn’t have to hold it all for so long. Yes, a week isn’t that long, but I’ve been concealing a lot of feelings from the world.

J agreed to these check-ins really without any problem. I of course said I’d compensate her for them. So we set one up for today at 3:15.

Today was not an awful day overall, but I’ve dealt with some difficult feelings this weekend and was feeling really stressed about what was coming up on my plate for the rest of this week. Then, this afternoon, I made a mistake that I was extremely upset with myself for. That happened about an hour before my scheduled check-in, so I was actually really looking forward to talking to her. Just to be able to vent about it and maybe hear some kind words.

I was sitting in the carpool line, waiting to pick up the girls, during my allotted 15 minutes. The few times I’ve asked for a phone call, and the one time we had a phone sessions, I had to wait for her to give the okay to call. I assumed that it would probably be that way or she’d just call, because So I sat and waited for a text.

She never texted. Never called.

I suppose I could have called her myself or even texted her. For the first five minutes, I didn’t do that because I thought maybe she was running late. Then, after that, once eight or so minutes had passed, I didn’t call because I knew if I did and she picked up I wouldn’t have enough time to talk to her because the girls would be out of school.

Plus, I felt so pathetic for wanting to talk to her so much, for being so upset that she wasn’t calling. It was like I was trying to play it cool, like I didn’t want her to know that I had been counting down to my precious check-in time for the last hour and was noticing that time was elapsing.

And even if I was supposed to be the one to have called, even if she was waiting on me, shouldn’t she have texted or called at some point to check in and see if I was still interested in talking? If something came up, shouldn’t she have let me know?

Yeah, if something had come up, I might have been upset, but I would have rationally understood. That I would have been able to accept.

We literally made this plan four days ago. I’m so confused. Did I misunderstand her?

So I don’t know that J forgot me. It’s possible something else came up, but none of the other possibilities make me feel any better. I want to text her and ask about it, but like I said, I’m embarrassed about how much it bothered me. And truthfully, I can’t deal with any other potential response from her that isn’t validation of my disappointment and maybe even an apology. If she comes up with some excuse, it’s just going to make me angry.

The minions are minimizing the situation in my head. Telling me that I don’t matter. Of course she didn’t call. She was annoyed I asked in the first place. She thinks I’m too needy. 

Part of the reason this has really gotten to me even more is that it feels like another case of a need going ignored. That comment I mentioned by J that upset me? It was her telling me out of the blue (after not mentioning this it in nearly two months) that she suddenly felt like it would be better if we wrote the letter, the transitional object I asked for from her that could help me keep a connection to her in between sessions, together.

Her reasoning was that if we did it together, then I could better believe that her words were true when I read them. Or some other bullshit like that.

All I know is she previously agreed to doing it (which she only agreed to after I confronted her for saying she’d consider it and then not bringing it up for a month!), and now suddenly the parameters around what I was promised have changed. It’s frustrating.

It doesn’t help maintain that trust either. She spent all of last week telling me that I need to use therapy as my time to be vulnerable and open, to let the emotions I’ve been pinning down all week come to the surface. She told me this is the one place I don’t have to maintain a certain sense of composure and be anything for anyone else.

But she wasn’t there when she said she’d be. That makes me sad. Sad and disappointed. No matter what the reason, what the intention, I feel forgotten.

Can I take care of myself? I can. I did, sort of. I really tried to talk myself down. Which is great and all, but I shouldn’t have had to because I had set up a time to talk to her

So anyway, that’s the latest on the J Chronicles. I really just needed to vent. I’m sitting squarely in “cancel session” mode right now. It likely won’t happen, because despite my anger, she’s the only one that will listen to all of my struggles. Since, you know, I pay her and all.

What fun therapy is, eh?