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.
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 I 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.