I won’t sugarcoat it. Things are bad between J and I right now. They’ve been precarious for weeks, the dominating theme in my posts, but our relationship took a major hit Monday night. One I’m honestly not sure I even want to repair.
Monday night, I entered therapy in a rocky place. Although the school day had been okay, I had been marinating in shame all weekend, as evidenced by my last post. I knew we were to write the infamous letter that night. It’s been a longstanding issue for four months. I was nervous as hell about how it would go.
A brief summary if you are not familiar, as I don’t feel like linking to previous posts: In July, I asked J if she would be willing to write me a brief 1-2 paragraph letter, to be used as a transitional object when I am struggling to maintain our connection outside of session and battling thoughts like “She is judging me. Things are not okay. I should no go to session.” It was not an easy thing to ask for. J said she would consider it. She did not bring up the topic again until I asked her almost a month later, at which time she told me she would write it for me once she figured out what to say.
Another month and a half passed, and I waited patiently. Towards the end of September, she told me near the end of session she had decided it would be better for us to write it in session together. I was caught off guard and reluctantly agreed. After our most recent rupture, I called her out on agreeing to it and then changing the parameters of what I was told I’d be getting. She stuck to her guns and said she felt it was best we do it together. At the time, her reasoning was that I would believe that her words were more true if we wrote them together. I took some time to think on it, but decided to give it a chance.
If you’d like to finish this long post right here, it was a disaster. Hooray! Now you are caught up.
The long version is this. She asked if I still wanted to write the letter, and I said yes. She asked me if I’d like to write it on a pad or on my phone.
If you didn’t catch on, she asked if I’d like to write it. As in, she assumed I was doing the writing? I’m not sure why she assumed this, as it was something I’d asked for from her. I immediately felt my heart drop and I knew this was not going to go in a positive direction. I told her I thought she would be writing it. She seemed surprised, but agreed, and asked me to hand her the pad.
I was feeling so uncomfortable, like a young child with too many needs, especially because we had not really mapped out how the letter-writing process would go. I made some sort of statement that I wasn’t sure what to do/say and needed her to start.
J very dramatically rolled her eyes. She smiled, but she still rolled her eyes.
This very much affected me. It’s been an issue in the past and I’ve told J, as recently as three weeks ago, that it is never helpful for her to roll her eyes. It’s a boundary I’ve clearly set and yet here we go again. I called her out on it. She said yes she rolled her eyes, but it wasn’t malicious.
Oh great. Well, it didn’t feel fun. It felt like I asked for some clarity and guidance and her response was to make me feel small and ashamed for that need by rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness of my request.
J asked me what the goal of the letter was. I feel like she should have known the answer to that by now, as I’ve told her multiple times. But fine, I repeated it. To maintain the connection, especially when things feel very dark.
She told me she would write a couple thoughts and then see what I thought. That was fine. She wrote for 10-15 seconds, stopped, and then said “How about I write a line and then you write a line?”
Mind you, I asked her for a letter. It was supposed to be her words. When I was concerned about us writing it together, because I thought it wouldn’t feel genuine if I had to tell her what to say, she assured me I wouldn’t be dictating. And while I suppose this wasn’t dictating, it was something else entirely!
I was confused and quickly growing frustrated. I told her it wasn’t what I wanted from her. She said something about how she wanted this to be in my voice too so I could be a part of my healing process and the letter could be more helpful. Which, now that I’m looking back, is very different from the reasoning she gave me a couple weeks ago (that she wanted me to believe her words were genuine)
I argued that I’ve written myself plenty of letters on this blog in my own words. I have that already. What I wanted was something from her. Something to help me cope when I’m really struggling to connect. She said that if she does that, then I’m relying on her.
Well then why the hell did she agree to doing it in the first place, months ago?!
And also, aren’t I allowed to rely on my therapist a little? Isn’t that why I freaking have one?
When I told my friend this, she balked. Isn’t she familiar with the concept of a transitional object? I don’t know why she’s so resistant to this.
Here’s the thing. If that had been J’s initial response from the very beginning, I could have accepted that. I might have been upset, but I would have understood this as a boundary. We have always been working towards me being able to independently regulate and support myself. I’m good with that.
Where I’m having trouble is that she’s been so inconsistent. First, she agreed to it. Then she changed her mind about how she was willing to participate. Now she’s even changing her reasoning about why it’s important to do it this way.
Additionally, she cannot seem for the life of her to remember why I want this letter. This letter was not meant to be used to regulate all emotions and pull me from every dark place. I was asking her to provide some physical evidence that I could refer to in times of need. I was asking her help me feel connected enough to come to therapy and share the emotions.
Case in point, when I asked her why she ever agreed to this, she told me that she was not really clear initially on why it was I wanted the letter.
However, there’s no way that’s true. I know that when I first asked for this damn letter, I explained to her that I use previous texts she’s sent me to bridge the connection when I’m faltering. If I am holding onto fears of judgement or getting stuck in this idea that I shouldn’t go to therapy because it’s not okay to share my pain, I read them as a reminder that we are okay and I can trust her.
I wasn’t asking her to solve all of my problems with this letter, to pull me out of every emotion.
If it’s really true that she didn’t understand this, then she’s extremely dense. Or she hasn’t been listening.
It really feels as though she isn’t listening at all to me, because she isn’t retaining what I feel to be fairly important things. At this point, I was so frustrated and beginning to shut down. I could literally feel my body tensing, as if it was turning to stone. J echoed that I was disappointed I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and I agreed. She asked me to list evidence that I knew she cared about me.
I did it, and she said something about using those instances as a reminder. I reminded her again (another conversation we just had) that when the connection is broken, it isn’t me forgetting she cares. I’ve told her this, I said. It’s me dealing with that stormcloud of thoughts like I can’t talk about how I feel, she’s judging what I’m saying, she’s annoyed by me.
J looked at me as if she was hearing all of this for the first time. I said to her, it’s like you really don’t understand the difference. “Well maybe I don’t,” she said. I’m wondering if it was her realizing that for the first time that she’s not grasping the true nature of some of these issues, because I was certainly already aware.
Beyond this, I devolved. Completely and utterly. All the shame came flooding out of my body. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. I cried. I told her I hated myself, that everything feels like my fault, nothing is ever going to get better, and I’m so fucking tired of doing it. That was all I could keep saying, because it was what I believed.
When she tried to help me see a more positive side, I just felt defiant. She’s lying, I would tell myself. I know these things are true. If they weren’t true, I wouldn’t feel so empty.
We talked about the shame I felt around our relationship, how I felt sad, angry, confused. That things are different between us and I don’t know how to get back the feelings of safety and comfort. J validated these feelings. She reassured. She told me it was okay to be angry. It was okay to be sad. When talked about the difficult stuff, she validated “That is awful. That is overwhelming.”
I appreciated her attempt to do this. I’ve asked for validation, a lot. And I thought it would help. Yet, it felt lacking when repeated incessantly without almost any real emotion or follow-up.
Which just makes me sad. When did J stop feeling comforting at all?
At one point, as I was stuck in my self-hate spiral, she said. “Let’s go off track for a second” and then proceeded to remind me that she’d like me to see a psychiatrist. She thinks that me being on medication would reduce the intensity of my emotions.
When she said this, I felt rejected, like I was being passed off. Like I’m too much for her, so she’s trying to lighten her load. I know that isn’t rational, but it was what I thought and felt in the moment.
I have been back and forth about the psychiatrist, mostly because from what I’ve read BPD does not respond to meds. L said those exact words when I mentioned J’s psychiatrist suggestion, and scoffed. She said that while meds will sedate me, it won’t do anything to disrupt my mental processing.
So like I said, the session was an absolute disaster. By the end, I was completely dysregulated and had reverted back into my needy attachment state of apologizing (I don’t even know why? Because I was acting crazy?) and begging her not to abandon me.
Yet, as soon as I was a few hours removed from that room, I was considering not ever going back.
I am so, so, so extremely frustrated and disappointed and disillusioned right now. I am 100% open to admitting that there may be threads of self-sabotage that played into the downfall of our relationship. I can admit that the negative lens I have towards J right now is not helping things.
The fact that L’s facial expressions mirrored mine when I explained this specific situation and the fact that she was troubled by J’s reactions (the eye roll!) tell me that my feelings have their validity. She told me that this is not simply me going full on BPD. I have a right to be upset.
To wit, when I said I have a right to an apology for 1. rolling her eyes again despite my boundary and 2. handling this whole letter situation poorly (changing it up and not communicating about it), L fully agreed.
I have been fighting the end of my relationship with J. Despite all of the strife, I really have come to have such an affection for her. I simultaneously dread going to my sessions and don’t want to let her go. I keep thinking if I can just say the right things, she will understand. If I can just act a certain way, broach a certain kind of acceptance, her response will remind me things are okay. I will feel safe. If I can find the right strategy to interact with her, we will get back on track.
But really, is that my job? Shouldn’t she be trying to reach me, instead of the other way around?
L said some things today that make me consider this more. A month ago, she was advocating for me to stick with J, figure things out and repair. Today, she told me that sometimes we outgrow relationships and it doesn’t have to viewed as a failure to let it come to a natural ending. She told me that if our interactions are consistently sending me down a bad path, it’s no longer helpful.
She’s not wrong about that last part. This relationship is tearing me apart emotionally.
Yet, I still know she cares. She is so very clearly trying. She wants desperately for me to recognize the positive, and is starting to voice her understanding that sometimes I really just can’t. I’m blocked from it, and no amount of encouraging me to list my strengths or apologize to myself is going to fix that.
I think that is the hardest part. To know that she really does care and want to help, but isn’t reaching me. That there’s a level of misattunement acting as a barrier between us, which neither of us seems to know how to overcome.
She does not mean to hurt me, and yet she keeps hurting me. Again and again.
As I type that, part of me fights back. I’m hurting me. This is all my fault. I’ve broken her. Turned her against me. I was too much. My BPD ruined another relationship.
I told L that I’m beginning to wonder if J actually cares so much that it’s inhibiting her ability to see our relationship clearly. She’s not referring me out, she’s still promising to stay, and saying we will work on x, y, and z. L said it’s probably frustrating for J to watch me not improving but not know what to do.
And I do. I wonder, what does J really think? She’s admitted to feeling helpless, she’s admitting to desperately needing me to know that she means well and wants to help me.
Still, I feel helpless and don’t know what to do. J says it is a safe place, but she is not really showing me it is a safe place. The atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable, perhaps for both of us. But I am not the one with the burden of easing that discomfort. She is.
I feel that we are heading to our end. But still I fight it. I hope for change. I don’t know how I would gather the strength to walk away. It feels scary and heartbreaking.
L and I decided I could give it a little more time for now. See where things go. That’s if I don’t cancel my next session with J.
Then there’s the other small thing to consider.
When I first met with L about a month ago, I didn’t expect to like her as much as I did. I made the appointment with the firm intention that we would meet for 3-5 sessions and then go our separate ways. She was there to talk about J with me. That was her role.
Silly, silly me.
Before I met L, I thought about what seeing a second therapist might look like. I considered how I might structure our conversations and tried to tolerate the idea that talking to her would feel different than it would talking to J. I assumed different would mean bad.
In all of my imaginings of how things would go, I just imagined myself feeling neutral during the whole thing. Going in, talking, leaving. I seem to have conveniently forgotten that I am extremely emotion-prone individual, and that me interacting people with even a bit of vulnerability and getting validation leads to intense attachment.
I like L a lot so far. She said some really kind things about how I’m a “beautiful human” with so much insight. And I’ve said elsewhere that I love the way she phrases things. She so perfectly describes my different feelings and behaviors in a way that shows me she’s listened to me and genuinely comprehends what I’ve said.
I also like that she is a lot more direct. She’s unafraid to address things and is quite attuned to my body language. For example, today when she asked me about the self-harm, she then immediately wanted to know why I get “fidgety and stop looking at her” when she brings it up. She pushed me, and so we discussed it. It was helpful that she noticed and checked in.
She’s been trained in personality disorders. More than J. That much is very clear. She has a more intricate knowledge of my experience and asks good questions. I think that’s made me more comfortable in sharing some of my borderline side, the stuff I’m not being as open about with J.
So here we are.
I’ve had 4 sessions with her. The first two sessions, we followed the pattern I expected. We talked about J, with a little bit of the BPD stuff mixed in there. Then last week, we diverted off the topic of J fairly quickly and started talking about other things. Socialization, for one. She has already given me some good strategies to combat self-harm and self-punishment urges. L was saying that in the future, she wants to work on modify the words I say to myself in social interactions to break the paralyzing anxiety and increase my confidence.
I laughed. Because this was supposed to be short term. I verbalized that. “Well, I plan on riding this thing until the wheels fall off,” she said.
This felt like a relief, but also a potential concern. Shouldn’t I not see two therapists ethically? That was always my understanding. Obviously when it was short-term, I didn’t worry. But long-term? L hesitated and admitted that generally that can be true. Somehow, despite that we settled on me seeing her every 2 weeks for now and re-evaluating later.
I feel kind of weird about that, especially because J has no clue about L and I’m not feeling any type of desire to tell her right now. But I liked the idea of having at least one fulfilling therapy relationship while I kept working at a resolution with J.
Plus, to reiterate, I’m already becoming attached.
She has reminded me that she is flawed, and I am super aware of this. I know that part of my feelings towards her are coming from a honeymoon period of attachment and because, compared to J, it feels so wonderful to be heard. I know that sooner or later she’s going to piss me off.
Additionally, L has yet to witness any of the crazy. Unlike J, who has watched me fall apart and sob like a lunatic more than I can count, I keep myself composed with L. I don’t know how it would feel to show true emotion. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet, to be that vulnerable with her.
I am so torn. J knows me intricately and I know her, at least as a therapist. There’s a familiarity there that would take so much time to replicate with L.
I don’t want to give up J, I don’t want to exchange her for a new therapist, I’m not ready to give my newfound resource L up either. Which has created quite the quandary for me. I know if we continue this I have to tell J eventually, because the two could in theory coordinate care, but that’s only if I really plan to keep seeing J.
I hate this. I really fucking hate this.
For those of you reading who may want to comment, please be mindful of your choice of words. I am devastated at the idea of losing J, torn over this new relationship with L, and just generally feeling quite confused and overwhelmed. I know all of my communications with J are not the most effective, nor are all of my decisions here. But I am trying my best and could not have forseen a few months ago that this was where I would end up.