So to save you a lot of time and energy, let me just start off by saying that things are okay between J and I right now. Or at least, they are moving towards okay.
If you want to read the rest, here’s a recap of my two sessions from Thursday.
I met with L in the afternoon after I got off of work. We talked about what had occurred in my sessions with J over the last couple weeks. L was pretty awesome. When I explain my perspective of a situation, she does a very nice job of validating where I was coming from and re-explaining it in a way that both confirms her understanding of what I’m saying and also assures me I’ve been heard. She also can fit some of my actions into the frame of my disorder in a way that doesn’t make me feel pathologized, which is appreciated. L is very direct and the way she phrased some things just made me laugh.
Also, as an aside, she asked me immediately about the self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Literally it was the first thing out of her mouth after hello.
Anyway, L and I talked about what I wanted from J. For me, the biggest piece was that I needed J to understand my difficulty holding onto the security of our relationship and that she would be willing to give me that continued reassurance. L thought that was reasonable. She said that wherever J might think I should with trusting her and being able to reassure myself, I am where I am, and that’s where J needs to meet me. L told me that it was really important to see if J could do that. She gave me some advice about how to open my session and things that I could say to J if I felt like I was being invalidated/misunderstood.
I also gave L the artwork to see. She told me it was incredible. She said it really highlighted everything going on inside my head. Her reaction made me feel warm and validated.
It was a good session. L seems to be really attuned to me so far and that’s a nice thing to experience. We made another appointment for next week, to follow up on the situation with J.
I’m already feeling that attachment to L, which is worrisome, because this cannot be a long-term relationship if things pan out with J.
I left and went to my next session. When I went into J’s office, I was a bundle of nerves. L had told me the answer to J’s first question had to be honest. I couldn’t divert or minimize my feelings. So when J asked how I was, I told her I was very nervous about how the conversation would go.
She had a little bowl of candy on her side table, so I took one and started talking about Halloween. Then talking about the girls. She chatted with me. After a few minutes, I got quiet. “I’m stalling,” I admitted. “I know that,” she said.
Then I ventured into the scary part. I told her all the reasons I was angry. While I did, I stayed incredible calm and even managed to look her into the eye. I went through my list bit by bit, told her how each experience made me feel and what I was thinking. J sat quietly and listened. She never once tried to interrupt. I liked that.
Within this, I spoke a lot about the fact that it’s frustrating to me when it feels like she doesn’t understand my lack of emotional constancy. That she seems surprised that the relationship continues to be an issue. I told her I know that after almost 2.5 years, it might seem weird to her that I can still have doubts, but I do. I struggle to hold that connection between our sessions.
So when J finally went to ask a question, she wanted to know more about that.
I tried really hard to convey to J what it feels like to me in between sessions and how the trust can just slip away to be replaced by doubt. We talked about what the specific doubts were, how I may know that she cares and wants to help me, but I may doubt her ability to help, or think that she’s judging me.
She asked, those positive pieces of evidence that I care and want to help you aren’t enough to challenge those doubts? I told her no, and she accepted that.
At this point, I handed her the artwork. I told her that while she and I could have a good session, all of the negative thoughts will still be in my head. I told her that’s why I asked for the letter. She studied my artwork and told me it was very powerful. She told me it gave her a better idea of what I experience. “You’re trying to fight this all the time,” she said and I nodded.
I really emphasized the importance of the validation and reassurance. I explained to her that those little phrases that I’ve written down for her before (e.g. “I’m still here” or “It’s important to talk about these things”) helped me feel the encouragement to talk about the topics that feel shameful and require a certain amount of vulnerability.
J wanted to know if her saying these reassuring things would actually make me believe that they were true. I told her I wasn’t sure, but that they would keep me engaged enough to participate in therapy. She accepted that too.
At some point, J asked me to tell her about times where her responses to my issues or emotions had been helpful. I shared that when we had resolved our issues from the summer rupture, that was when I felt the most heard and understood. I had really felt things were taking a positive step.
Which was why when, during our resolution, she asked me to tell her how she could better show that she understood my severe pain and then turned around and questioned why I needed her to understood, I was confused and frustrated.
I shared this part too and J seemed to grasp what I was saying.
As we were talking about the feelings associated with her reaction to my post, I decided almost spontaneously that it would be better if I didn’t share posts with J that concerned our relationship via text. It seemed like I’ve done so a couple times now and there’s a lot of risk in how not being understood will impact me. J agreed. We agreed that if I’d like to send her occasional posts about other topics, this was still okay. Although I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable with that for awhile.
I told J that I felt stuck and I asked her if she did too. She admitted that she did a little bit, and seemed to agree that there was a lot of us saying the same things to each other. I suggested that I’d felt a lot of help from using the DBT book to break down specific situations and could we do that again?
J liked that idea. So we decided we could use it to help me find alternative ways to handle past interactions that I’m dwelling on or to prepare for future interactions that I’m anxious about. She reminded me that DBT is a lot so it would be good for us to keep practicing.
We decided that we are going to make the socialization piece a big priority. Which is funny, because when I was with L, that was something she wanted to talk about next week, even just briefly, if I was interested in doing that.
I told J that I appreciated her not immediately just telling me why she reacted the way she did in those situations that had angered me. But now I wanted to know what her opinion was. J reiterated that of course she has good intentions. She’s been trying to get me to see that, and that’s why she thinks she’s been so insistent and defensive. When I’m upset with her, she so badly wants me to know in that moment she hasn’t meant to hurt me.
“I was trying to help and I made it worse,” she told me, which was honestly what I’ve been waiting to hear this whole time. J told me she’d be more mindful of doing that in the future. I told her it’s okay to tell me her perspective, but I just can’t have it be the first type of thing I hear or I withdraw.
J told me it is really helpful for her when I’ve written things down like I had on Thursday, because then I can speak about my feelings with much more clarity. “It helps me understand where you’re coming from and see how our interactions have…”
She paused. “Impacted me?” I finished for her.
“Exactly,” she said. Thank you L, because I’d recycled that term from her.
At the end of our session, I asked her for a resolution with the letter situation. That was not an easy thing to do, but I did it. I couldn’t bare to let it get buried again. She said (and almost looked nervous) that she’d really like to do it together. She said that she knew it was different than what she’d initially agreed to, and she understood where my frustration came from, but that she had a lot of trouble coming up with the “right” words on her own. She wanted this letter to be helpful for me.
I tried to argue that if I had to give her the words to say, I wouldn’t be able to know that they were genuine. J responded by saying that I wouldn’t be giving her the words, it would be a collaborative process. I’m not dictating for her.
I don’t know what the hell that means. It was slightly frustrating and I said I wanted to think about if I could accept the terms she was offering. With some time, I’ve decided that I think I will try it. Because as uncomfortable as the thought of doing it together makes me feel, I’m willing to admit that perhaps it can be a connecting experience. Perhaps I could end up with something very helpful for me.
I owe it to myself to give it a chance, I think.
All things considered, I think this was a pretty solid session. There are so, so, so many ways things could have gone off the rails, but J was receptive to everything I had to say and didn’t dismiss my emotions. She listened. She validated. We made some plans. I didn’t leave a dysregulated mess, which is a huge win.
There are still doubts. I still don’t feel 100% ready to trust her. But I feel better about our relationship moving forward. I felt some semblance of safety in her office that hadn’t been present in weeks.
I think we have some renewed strength in our connection. I’ll take that for now.