Guess What? Things Are Still Hard

I wish that I could say my lack of posting was because I’m out in the world enjoying a good time and living free of my demons, but that’s just not the case.

In fact, lately life seems even harder than usual. I feel like I’m constantly clawing my way through each day, just trying to survive it. I’ve been in the pits of a depressive cycle for about the last week, but even before that things felt challenging and lonely.

I’ve set a timer today, because I wanted to write but kept erasing my first sentence. The goal is to type for a half hour and just see what words fall out onto the page. Maybe this is something I could do more often if it’s been helpful.

To all my WP friends out there that I’ve continuously been neglecting, I first want to say I hope you are all well. I’m sorry, again, for not being able to maintain enough focus to read and comment on your blogs.

Lately, the thing that feels the best for me is the end of the night when I’m in my bed. I love curling up under my blankets and shutting the rest of the world away. Of course, that isn’t really living. It’s an escape. Which is really the problem, I’m constantly wishing to escape. Being around other people is very much a challenge.

The negative thought spiral is working overtime in my head and it has total control. I am not in the driver’s seat right now. I don’t think I have been for awhile. Am I functioning? Yes, in the sense that I’m going to work, seeing friends occasionally, and still trying to help my grandfather each Saturday. But it still very much feels like I’m in a state of maintenance, keeping everything stable instead of really doing anything that feels fulfilling for me.

The politics of work continue to suck. Like, they are super awful. People keep telling me that it would be like this no matter what school I worked at. And I know that’s true, because people seem to have this innate ability to stir up drama sometimes even without the intention to.

But also, I hate when people say that because it feels dismissive.

Still, I feel alone at work and constantly question who I can trust. I have one very close friend that I feel most comfortable with. There are maybe three others I feel like I’ve reached friend status with. And the others? Many of them are super nice, but I know that I wouldn’t put it past them to talk about me behind my back.

The colleague I share an office with is one of those people. She’s a nice person who means well and she’s very good at her job. But she’s also someone that can be very manipulative in the sense that she’s good at telling people what they want to hear. Sometimes she’ll say one thing around just me and then her opinion changes when someone else is around. Which means I can never trust if what she’s saying is really how she feels.

Worst of all, she will throw me under the bus to build herself up. She did just that a few weeks ago in front of my principal. The three of us were discussing something that she and I had already talked about the week before. Except the first time we talked about it, she didn’t share with me some important information that would have been super useful to know. Then she used it as a way to make me look naive in front of our principal.

I confronted her about it afterwards by saying I wish she would have told me those details when I brought the situation to her before. She said that she’d just forgotten to mention it. Even if I give her the benefit of the doubt about that, and she did forget, there would have been a way to feed me those same facts later in a way that didn’t involve our principal.

Rude.

Do I think she necessarily meant to hurt me? No. I just think she wanted to align herself with the principal. She wanted him to feel like they were on the same side, and I was collateral damage. She and I are supposed to be on the same team, and yet she sold me up the river just for a laugh with my principal. If I can’t trust her, who can I trust?

No one. The answer is no one.

Which sucks. Because I have to pretend like this didn’t damage our relationship. Even though it did. I’m doing a bad job of pretending too, because I have zero skill in diplomacy.

I hate my job sometimes. I really do. Even more though, I hate that this is so hard for me.

Therapy is going okay. L and I decided when I met with her last week that we will begin to move towards terminating our relationship. I think once L found out that I told J about her, she recognized that enough rebuilding had taken place with J. She said that for us to keep working together too frequently could interfere with my relationship with J. Which was fine, honestly, because I’m running out of things to talk about with L. I’ll see her once a month for the next two or three months, and that will be it. Unless I need her in the future.

With J, things going to go well and feel pretty okay. A noteworthy moment occurred yesterday, when I realized that she had hung the keychains I’d given her for Christmas in her office. Apparently, they’d been there since I gave them to her but I never noticed.

I’d actually seen them out of the corner of my eye the week before as I was leaving the office, but hadn’t gotten a good enough look to know for sure if they were the ones I’d given her. So after waiting all week to be able to check, I then forgot to look at the drawer when I came in, and ended up remembering closer to the end of our session. But of course, the drawer was not in my line of sight, so for me to see it I would have had to noticeably lean forward. And what if it wasn’t what I’d given her? I didn’t want to be too hopeful.

Eventually, I did get the courage to look and it was my keychains. Since it was obvious what I was doing I commented on it. “That’s the gift I gave you for Christmas,” I said with a smile.

She smiled back. “It is! I put it there so I can see it every day.”

It really made me feel very happy, especially because there are other items in her office that I definitely think were gifts from clients. It also made me feel like she genuinely liked what I’d given her.

But anyway.

I think have been scaring J a bit lately, because my anxiety is through the roof, my self-harm is worse than ever, and I’m visiting the dark depths of suicidal thinking more than anyone would like to. I’ve been really honest about it with her, even when it makes me feel dramatic and attention-seeking.

J’s been great about validating. Last night, she kept asking me to try to remove the judgement from the room, even if just for that hour. To try to just talk to her without all of those harsh critiques caveating my feelings. She promised me that she wasn’t judging me.

I really couldn’t do it, even though I wished I could. I felt so ashamed. I asked her how it was possible that she wasn’t judging me.

“Because I see you differently than you see yourself,” she said. I asked her what she saw. “I see how much pain you are in. I do.”

And let me tell you, even if it was just for a few minutes before the minions took over, I believed her. That was a nice change.

We discussed quite a bit of the safety plan yesterday, and I’m really trying, even though all I want to do is hurt myself. It’s hard not to have plans on a Friday night. It’s hard to feel like I’ll ever be worthy of everything better.

J told me last night that since none of the evidence is working right now to help me, maybe I could try believing that I’m worthy of happiness using blind faith. Believe that I’m a good person just because.

I’m trying it, because it’s as good of a suggestion as anything else at this point. A damn shot in the dark. I know it was a suggestion borne purely out of desperation, because when she was suggesting it, I half-laughed and said. “I’m worthy of happiness. J says so!”

And she shrugged. “Whatever works.” This coming from the same woman who wouldn’t write me that letter months ago because she didn’t want me to be too dependent on her.

Well, jokes on you, J. I’m using your judgement of my value to keep myself going right now.

But here’s the thing I keep questioning. Is there anything that can really truly help me in a long-term, actual life-changing kind of way? Will anything ever make it truly better? Will it make life feel more tolerable? Or are we going to keep slapping different band-aids on this mountain-sized problem called BPD through trial and error method until this disorder finally kills me?

Advertisements

Progress

Screen Shot 2019-02-03 at 11.20.43 AM

This meme is a pretty accurate representation of what January felt like for me. Long and cold (bitterly cold) and just pretty much endless. Again, my endeavors to update my blog more were squashed, sometimes by a ridiculously annoying inability to concentrate and more often by the fact that I was sick more days out of the month than not. I actually just got through a really tough week of congestion and bed rest. Let me tell you friends, working with little kids is really a test on the immune system and I haven’t been passing.

I’m already having trouble keeping my focus on this post, so we’ll see how this goes. I hate that writing is so mentally taxing on me these days.

Anyway.

So what has life been like for me lately? Well, really it’s just a daily course of trying to keep my head above water. I don’t feel particularly stable in my place or my emotions at any time, so I’m always in the process of trying to do whatever I can to just break even, especially when it comes to work. Somehow, I always spend the day falling further behind and then the evening or the weekend playing catch-up. It’s frustrating. It’s tiring. It’s slowly getting to me.

I still don’t have any idea what kind of job I’m doing and how I’d compare to someone else starting fresh in their career. Sometimes, I feel like the biggest idiot. I don’t feel like I’m able to retain the facts I’m supposed to know and apply them when necessary. Others, I feel like I’m at least getting by.

Mainly, I’d like to update about how therapy has been going because I haven’t in awhile and maybe you’re curious. Or maybe you aren’t, but I’d like to talk about it.

I’ve had trouble putting my feelings into words lately. I’ve left many sessions wanting to share the place that I’m in with J, because it’s overwhelmingly good. Better than I could have imagined two months ago when I was ready to quit.

I am still seeing L, but much less frequently. I’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult for me to open up and be vulnerable around her. I feel shame the second I even think about sharing some of the dark thoughts, so I resist.  It’s no fault of L’s, she certainly gives me the space to say what I need. There’s just a lack of trust that comes with only knowing each other a few months.

By contrast, I am able to share more with J. There’s a lot at this point that I don’t have to explain to her because we’ve known each other almost three years. I still feel shame over admitting my dark feelings, but not as much. I think my recognition of this has helped me see that I really do trust J implicitly, even when the connection feels shaky.

There’s enough trust, in fact, that I finally admitted two things to J. First, I’ve been consciously hiding any feelings I have that are related to our relationship. Second, I’ve been seeing another therapist.

I didn’t plan to tell her these things, but the conversation swayed that way and I’d been stewing in my fear of telling her long enough.

She took it well. She understood the instinct I had to protect myself. She even told me that she thought it was a really huge thing that I’d felt such intense feelings of hurt and yet channeled them into something that became both productive and connecting for us during subsequent sessions.

In response to the news of L, she told me it did not hurt her feelings. I was not betraying her. She felt happy that I’d found some additional support when things were challenging for us. Even better, she was happy to let the two relationships remain separate. I’d feared she’d want to talk to L to coordinate care, and I wasn’t okay with that, so this was a relief.

The openness between us has been improving, and I’ve been brave enough lately to tell her things I might not have before. This week, we were discussing a fear I had that someone might be angry with me. J didn’t believe the woman was angry with me, and tried to point out evidence to the contrary. Later, I told her that while I understood her reasoning and that the woman might not be mad, she also might be mad. And if she was, I’d need to deal with it. So if I was going to entertain her side of it, she needed to entertain mine.

She cocked her head to the side and looked at me. I could see it dawning on her that I had a point. “You just made me realize something,” she said, and proceeded to agree that her perspective wasn’t reality. She thought: Of course she wouldn’t be angry, it’s not logical for the situation. But people aren’t always logical. So we did talk about how I’d handle the situation if the woman was angry.

It was a nice moment for me. I’d talked to J about how I’d like her to approach a situation differently, and she heard me. No frustration, no judgement. She’d heard me.

I still think I might like to discuss the letter one day, because I’ve never directly told her how painful it was the way she handled it. We’ve talked about how it was a difficult session for both of us,. Maybe she would be able to hear that too. Then I wonder, is this issue too far in the past and should I just let it go? I’d like to, but I don’t know if I can just let those truths remain unsaid.

At Christmas, I gave J a gift. I wavered on doing so, because things had been so difficult, but something pushed me to do it anyway. I wanted to give her something meaningful, and I settled on two keychains, one dragonfly and one hummingbird. Dragonflies represent change, while hummingbirds represent stability or continuity. To me, that was the ultimate dialectic of our relationship: We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, yet she was still there for me and I still chose to go to therapy.

She appeared genuinely touched by the thought in the moment and then texted me later that night to express her gratitude again. When I read the text, I was filled with affection for my therapist. A fondness that only comes from a relationship that has survived a lot.

And so now we’re in this weird kind of place. A place where I have rediscovered the connection to J and look forward to therapy being my safe space as the week, but am now dealing with the familiar sting of separation at the end of the hour and a dull longing to talk to my therapist throughout the week. A place where there is a recognition of my trust in her, a belief that she truly cares, but also still residual feelings from past conflict that morph into insecurities that I’m too much for her and being silently judged. A place where I value J’s skills tremendously while simultaneously questioning if she can really help me.

All of that is okay right now, mostly. While I wish that I had the relationship with J where I could tell her every single thought and leave each session feeling wholly understood, part of me recognizes that she’s human and not capable of meeting each one of my needs all the time. She is doing her best, she is helping me, and the other stuff is slowly working itself out. I don’t want another therapist. I know that now.

It’s a weird form of acceptance.

And I wonder, is this some kind of progress on my part?

From Bad to Worse

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?”

Uh…?

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.

However.

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.

Ugh.

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. 

Confronting Anger

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.

 

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.

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.

IMG_8461

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.