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.

 

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My Therapist Forgot Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

She never texted. Never called.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What fun therapy is, eh?

 

Finally, A Post!

It’s been quite awhile now since I’ve posted anything on WordPress. Over two weeks in fact, which might be the longest break from writing I’ve taken since I began my account!

Understandably, the reason for my absence has been the start of my new job. September 4 was my first official in-service day, and the kids began school just a few days later. School has now been in session for just over a week. My day typically consists of waking up at 6, leaving at 6:50,  and working from 7:30 until about 3:00. I then leave the school and head over to babysit the girls, where I stay until 6 or 6:30. Sometimes I go to the gym after work, sometimes I have an errand to run, or sometimes I have a late night appointment. On Thursdays, I don’t work my second job, so I go to the gym right after work and then get a little time at home before therapy. Usually, I’m home and in bed before 10:00.

I haven’t been writing mostly because I have no energy left to expend after all that! I put all of my effort into making it through the day, so by the end I’m physically and emotionally spent. I have little ambition to exhaust myself more trying to get out all the thoughts and feelings swimming around within me, so instead I settle for lighting a candle, playing some phone games, and getting the sleep I crave all day long.

The transition back into these long days has been a shock to both my body and my mind, and I’m still trying to adjust.

In case you’re wondering, things at the job have been pretty okay so far. There are moments that I am so completely overwhelmed with everything I have on my plate and I can’t seem to accomplish anything. A lot of things are different here, because it’s a new district with different protocols, because it’s an elementary school instead of a middle school, and because I’m housed in the school instead of an outside location.

So it’s a lot to learn and it’s very challenging. My colleague knows so much more than I could have imagined about pharmacology, development, and intervening for many types of needs. Sometimes it’s a little dizzying and I worry I’ll never be as competent as her, but she reminds me that I’m not supposed to know everything yet and says I’m catching on quickly. I’m doing my best to write everything down and watch closely to learn from my environment.

It’s so strange being on my own without anyone watching over me. I have a director of course, but I’m used to having a supervisor to double check all my work. Now, I’m on my own. It’s scary and weird.

Despite how hard this job is, I’m doing everything I can to do a good job. I’m asking tons of questions, I’m trying to get to know the kids, and I’m getting right in there when they need me. I make lists and lists of every little task that has to get done because I don’t want to miss anything. So far, so good.

Plus, my old supervisor and I still talk all the time. I’m glad to have him in my corner.

While there’s still a lot for me to learn and I sense that I will need to continuously improve in how I manage my workload and how I handle differences in opinion with staff and parents, there are a few things I’ve done well so far that I’d like to document for my own benefit.

A couple times, I’ve been able to calm down a preschooler who was either upset or showing some difficult behaviors. The first time, I sat down with him and read him a book. The second, I went in with a calm-down glitter bottle that took the little boy right out of his place of opposition. I’ve successfully called and had conversations with at least 4 parents so far, which always gets my anxiety going. I managed to bribe the IT guys into letting me jump the line to fix two iPads for our multiple disabilities class, which is important because that’s what our kiddos use to communicate. I completed an adaptive assessment with a parent while the little boy was in the room. I also survived my first solo meeting!

These are little victories. To anyone else, they might seem small. And there’s tons more to come. But they are my victories all the same and none of that other stuff takes away from them.

This week is going to add a new challenge as my social skills groups start this week. I’ve been in to observe many of my students already, and I made sure that they all were familiar with my face. Most of them seemed pretty excited at the prospect of coming for lunch group, which in itself is different than I’m used to. I love the kids so far, so I’m excited to see how group goes but I’m also nervous about the timing.

That’s pretty much it with my job. As far as therapy goes, I continue to be in a place of very mixed feelings. It’s been just a few weeks since J’s off-beat reaction to a post I wrote sent me into a tailspin right after our resolution from a previous rupture had made things feel stronger than ever. Since the session where I brought up my concern about possibly switching therapists and then went to pieces, we’ve discussed it exactly the amount I suspected we would. Not at all.

Things have been a solid meh from my standpoint. I talk to her and generally feel comfortable. Mostly, our sessions consist of me venting about all the things I’m not sharing with everyone else. It’s helpful to get that out, I admit that. My biggest qualm though is that it doesn’t feel like therapy is offering any solutions. Venting is great and all, but I want a little more to help me deal with this.

Although, I wonder what else she can tell me that she hasn’t already.

I also continue to feel annoyed that there is no consistency. It feels to me like every session is it’s own individual island, with no link between them. Despite mentioning that she’d like to readdress my goals together, and then me bringing it up again, that was forgotten.

I know it’s on me to talk about what I need to talk about, and I have been really making greater strides to doing that, but sometimes it’s super frustrating that she never follows up about where we stand. It brings up all that BPD minion crap of she doesn’t even really care enough to remember. This is an age old issue of mine.  I don’t even feel like it’s worth bringing up again.

Initially, I planned to just keep going into each session with an open mind with the hope that things would just naturally return to a place of stability for me. I felt like I needed to quietly deal with my J issues outside the room since we don’t seem to be making any headway on that together.

Although things are fine while I’m there, there’s the feeling that we are out of sync, so that I can’t quite connect in the way I once did and I’m having trouble understanding what I even need. This isn’t all J’s fault, it’s a disruption in the process between the two of us, although I doubt she feels it or even recognizes it the way I do.

She doesn’t get it, that is very evident. She doesn’t understand how there could still be issues, or at the very least doesn’t know what to do about it. And she seems bewildered that it keeps coming back to our relationship. I really think that she doesn’t get that some of the work lies there, not just in the daily happenings of my life. So I don’t feel like I can bring it up right now, because I can tell I’m just asking to feel unheard.

For all of those reasons, I leave feeling dysregulated. My emotions are bubbling within me and I’m left to find a way to push through that. There’s no time to fall apart. I spent most of my drive home that night trying to come back from a place of desire to hurt myself.

I thought about just taking a break, but that won’t change anything and I don’t want to just run away from her. Instead, I decided yesterday that I need some help on this.

I remembered that a blogger friend of mine had reached out to another therapist when she’d been struggling with her own. It feels ironic, needing a second therapist to discuss your first one, but at the same time it makes sense to me. J’s natural bias (because the issues are with her) complicates my ability to discuss it with her. What I need are different insights and perhaps different strategies. What I need is to be able to say freely what I’m feeling right now without having to prepare for the defense that’s coming.

So yesterday I reached out to a new therapist that I had found online. Beginning the first week of October, we will be doing some short-term work (3-5 sessions ideally) so that I can perhaps finally get past all of my stuff with J. The ultimate goal is to make it work with her, because she’s given me so much and I’ve grown a lot in my time with her.

Alternatively, I am prepared that doing this might lead me to the ultimate realization that maybe I have outgrown her as a therapist. I am clinging to hope that this will not be the outcome.

The minions are going at it in my head, telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing and that I’m being an attention-seeker, who is ridiculous for seeking out a second therapist. I worry this new therapist will think so too.

All I know is that I can’t keep feeling this way. I miss when J was my safe person. I miss feeling like I could tell her absolutely anything. There’s been so much up and down between us in the last few months. The worst part is that she isn’t doing anything wrong, I just feel like she’s misattuned to me and I don’t know what to do to fix it.

I hope I’m making the right choice here.

Crossroads

After my shitty session on Monday, I couldn’t look at J during therapy tonight. I really wanted to cancel altogether, but I told myself that I was going to go in with an open mind. Give her a chance. I planned to try working in the book with her and see if that made things feel better.

Unfortunately, all the feelings I’ve had over the last couple days rose to the surface when I sat down. I felt her watching me and couldn’t meet her eye, because she’d know I was upset.

She knew anyway. I asked if we could work in my skills book and she said yes, but then paused and asked if she could review) my mood chart (which we do every week). I gave it to her and we discussed that for a few minutes, but when things got quiet I asked again about the book.

“You really want to work in the book tonight,” she mused, eyeing me carefully. “Or are you just avoiding talking about something else?”

I told her I just wanted to work in the book, unconvincingly. She called my bluff. I think part of me was testing her, seeing if she’d notice I was upset, but the other part seriously didn’t want to talk about it.

She knew something was wrong. “You’re not even looking at me,” she said, a piece of evidence supporting her theory.

Oh, so it was pretty obvious.

She tried to push me to talk about it, but I shrunk further into my seat. Quiet. Scared. So we dove into the book, until the last 20 minutes when she insisted we close the book and revisit what was bothering me.

I tried to weasel my way out of it. I was so uncomfortable and didn’t see any possible way this conversation would end feeling okay. J really pushed me though. She promised me it was safe. “Is it?” I asked, and she said yes, She reminded me that if I didn’t, I might walk out of the room feeling like I wished I would have said something.

I sighed, and said that even if I did tell her, I might leave feeling worse than I came in, like I did the other night. Then I told her the rest, trying to explain my frustration to her in a way that made sense.

J did a pretty good job of handling my feelings. She told me I was allowed to feel them. She mentioned that our relationship has been a big focus lately. I tried to tell her that our relationship mirrors mine with others, and we need to be able to talk about it so I can be able to work through relationship issues with other people. And I can’t talk about it if I don’t feel supported. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like she gets that. J said that she does get it; she didn’t really admit or agree that she had “missed the point” with her comment, and instead talked about how our relationship might need to  mirror mine with others in the sense that I can practice handling it when someone responds in a way that misses the mark or doesn’t meet a need.

I didn’t love that comment, because it didn’t feel particularly validating. It felt like a dismissal of my feelings and the point I’d been trying to make. But at the same time, I do see where she has a point. Any type of disagreement feels strongly like conflict and any type of perceived invalidation feels strongly like rejection. Those things could be worked on.

We talked about the idea of me finding a new therapist. I told her I’d been considering it more seriously in the last couple weeks. I told her about my last post, and how many of the comments seemed to agree that a change might be necessary. Which is a double-edged sword because if people hadn’t agreed, I would have felt like an idiot, but now that they do, I’m worried that maybe I do need to consider a therapist switch more.

I asked J for an opinion. She told me that if I was continuously feeling that my needs weren’t being met, then it might be the right thing to do to find another therapist. She said that it would be unethical of her to advocate for “keeping me” if it’s not helping. Which, I suppose was the typical therapist answer I was expecting.

Then I asked her if she thought she could still help me. She said that she did.

I cried a lot. It’s a scary idea. J validated that it’s a scary idea. She wondered if things had spiraled so far that they could not be resolved and I told her I really wasn’t sure. I hoped not.

So I really am at a crossroads right now. Is how I feel a permanent thing or it just a reaction to some difficult weeks that can be eased with time? Are my feelings valid or am I sabotaging?

The other night I completed a big picture exercise to look at reasons supporting and contradicting the belief that I should change therapists. Here’s what I got:

Supporting:

  • J is not trained specifically in Borderline Personality Disorder, attachment therapy, or dialectical behavior therapy.
  • I don’t always prefer the lack of structure she uses in her therapy.
  • This type of conflict has recurred, where we differ in opinion and I feel unheard.
  • I seem to be triggered and feel invalidated a lot lately when I am with her, which may cause me to continue to hold back, and influence our progress.

Contradicting:

  • She very clearly cares about me a lot
  • She’s always had flexible boundaries, which has helped me feel safe and supported in the past.
  • She is always willing to listen to my concerns, and always stays calm, even if she does not agree.
  • We have resolved many issues in the past, and she has been open to trying to meet my needs by checking in more, giving me a transitional object, etc.
  • Starting over with a new therapist on top of all the other changes I’m dealing with would be ridiculously hard. I’d have to completely retell my story and build that trust.

Right now, the training is the biggest factor in the supporting column. I keep coming back to this idea that if she had that training, she might know better how to meet my needs instead of seeming surprised or offput when I’m holding onto trust issues and perseverating on our relationship.

However, I’m unsure that one factor outweighs everything in the contradicting column. Training is important of course, but we have made a lot of progress with whatever training she has now. That’s because of her level of care, her flexible boundaries, her openness to working with me. It’s because of the relationship we’ve built.

So…crossroads.

Right now, the decision that I’m making, somewhat by default, is to give things time and see if they improve. Like I said, there’s no way I can add in a new therapist on top of two jobs. I don’t even know if there’s anyone with the training I want in my area and even if there is, who knows if they’d be able to see me in the one hour I have free every week?

J and I have been successful together in the last two years, we’ve worked through many issues, so maybe we can work through this too. If we get to the end of this year and I still have these severe doubts about her ability to help me and continue to feel like my needs are unmet, then the conversation needs to continue.

In the meantime, J wanted to revisit my goals and wondered if that would help. I said I didn’t know, but I was willing to try it. I guess maybe we will do that next week. A good friend of mine suggested that we need to see if how I want to be helped and how J can help me still align. If not, there might be a problem. I think that she is right.

J is so important to me. I really don’t want to find a new therapist. I want my therapist to continue to be mine. I hope I find that this can be the case.

 

 

Angry Rant Alert

This is probably not the best time to be writing this post, but the feelings are still fresh and I need to get them out somewhere, so I’m unloading them here.

I’m so extremely frustrated with J today. I literally just left my session and I feel completely misunderstood. Again. I swear, it’s like we didn’t even have that whole rupture and resolution a few weeks ago. Is she able to retain anything?!

Things were fine when I got there. I’ve been feeling crappy, and I was pretty honest about that. At some point, I asked her if she read the post I sent her. The one I wrote directly in response to a question she’d asked me about how she could respond when I told her I’d been in enough pain so that she’d communicate that she knew I was sincere in a way I might be able to hear.

Her response? “My first question is why there was so much focus on needing me to believe you.”

She made some other comment on how the goal should always be about me and feeling better. Pretty much, why was I trying so hard to convince her of my pain?

I was speechless. “Because it’s the fact that I feel like you don’t believe me that holds me back from talking in the first place!”

This was the central issue in our conflict a few weeks ago. She wants me to share, to initiate, and I struggle to do so. It’s not a problem with her, it’s a problem with my ability to trust. You can say you believe me, that you know my feelings are intense to me, but it’s not going to stick right away. I need to hear it a lot.

So to combat that, she asked what she could to do build the trust. To help me feel believed. She asked for my freaking input and I gave it to her. At the time, I felt so relieved that she really got what I was saying and was willing to work with me to help me feel more comfortable.

So what the hell?! Why does she seem so confused about that now?

Look, I know I can’t expect her to be perfect and know exactly what to say, but her response was damn off base. Like, you literally asked me to write this post about you and your responses and then you’re bewildered about why you were the central piece of the post?

This is exactly why I never feel like I can talk to her about my attachment shit. Because I don’t want to be accused of making it all about her, when really it’s just about our relationship, which parallels to every relationship I’m in outside of he room and is actually fairly important to discuss I think since I struggle so deeply making and keeping friends!

The post WAS about me, about how to help me so I could help myself. About my feelings. But she didn’t see that and I’m so disappointed by the oversight.

So I feel unseen by my therapist. Again. Unheard. Eventually I gave up. I was done, withdrawn completely. I couldn’t look at her.

Some time later, she did say a bunch of validating things about how it was important to keep coming in and sharing even when it’s difficult. Even when it’s painful. When she said that, I pointed out that THIS was what I had been saying I needed from her. The validation.

“I know. I understood that,” she said. Except she hadn’t conveyed that clearly aside from saying “validation is all well and good” before springing into everything else.

I know she had good intentions. I really do understand that she meant well and didn’t mean to set me off. But she did and I honestly feel like some of that could have reasonably avoided. I feel like at this point she should have a better sense of me.

The doubts are back at full force. I straight up admitted them to her. I said I didn’t want to even talk about how frustrated I was with how she responded because then she’d probably be frustrated and helpless about how to help me again. And what would that mean for our relationship?

“It would mean that things are hard right now.” As if it were that simple.

“Or it would mean that maybe you can’t help me,” I replied.

“Is that what you think?” She asked me. And I told her that sometimes I do. She had little to say to that.

We have such history, a great relationship when things are well, but this seems to be a recurring pattern recently. I am trying extremely hard to be honest and open with her about everything and it feels like she’s missed the mark again.

And I wonder, do I need someone who is trained specifically in BPD? Who knows better how to take the behaviors that are so clearly my disorder, who can handle the attachment qualms? J stays calm, sure, but it seems to throw her and I’m honestly tired of having to accept that just because “she’s human.” I’m human too, and I’m in pain, and she isn’t helping.

I don’t want to leave her, but I’m seriously starting to wonder if that might be best.

I can’t stand the unstructured nature of our therapy sometimes. I don’t feel like she has a plan, and she’s pretty humanistic so she really probably doesn’t. I struggle with my with the therapy process being received poorlu by her, repeatedly.

J is wonderful. She is kind and knows a lot, but are we no longer working?

I hate that I think it might be true.

I’m just so frustrated. I know some of this will calm when I do. Later, when I’m settled, I plan on doing a big picture exercise to get a better idea of the supporting and contradictory evidence surrounding this idea that maybe it’s time to take a break and try someone new.

Either way, I think I need to distance myself emotionally from her on Thursday. I need to take some space and see how we do focusing back just on the skills again. No deep conversation about suicide and self harm. Not this week.

I’m tired of pushing for that connection and coming up with my intentions misread and my feelings hurt.

Reducing Sessions

The last week in therapy has been good. Not easy by any measure, but I’ve felt safe and contained while in that room. J and I have been working well together, a true team effort. I have felt like she has been attuned to my needs and I’ve been making efforts to talk about things even when they are difficult.

There’s a change coming though.

I’ve been seeing J twice a week for about three months now. It was an increase I had been dying to make and I was so happy to be able to do it once the demands of internship died down.

The first week of September, I’m going to have to go back to once a week sessions. This is the give and take of me choosing to stay with the girls as their babysitter in the afternoons. My schedule just won’t allow for anything else but that one day.

To say I’m dreading going back to once a week sessions would be an understatement. Yesterday, J told me that she has a conflict in her Monday schedule next week, meaning she’s out of the office all day. I have a conflict at my normal Thursday time, so we managed to find time on Wednesday. You’d think that would be a relief to me to see her at all, but all I could think was that this was supposed to be one of my last two weeks of double sessions. I left her office near tears and had to take a few minutes to let the emotion dissipate.

The truth is, I’ve been spoiled with the ability to see her twice a week and get that extra dose of support. To know that she’d be there twice a week, in spite of every awful feeling, was a huge relief. Even when things were difficult between us, I kept going. Going is always better than not going.

One session a week just does not feel like enough time anymore.

An hour is not enough time. It was, for over a year and a half, but now I’ve seen what it’s like to get twice that. I’ve felt the effects of having enough time to consult the DBT workbook and delve into the other things that are bothering me. Now, I feel like I’ll constantly be focused on the clock, worrying about how to fit everything in to that short little time period. Do we talk about skills or do we talk about something pertinent in my life? How do we find the space to give every subject the time it deserves?

Plus ugh, just thinking about having to contain all those big feelings for seven whole days. To pack them away and leave knowing it will be a whole week before I can let it out again. That used to feel like a fairly manageable period of time for me, but now I’m used to only three or four days. By comparison, a week feels endless.

Thank you to my attachment issues for that difficult feeling.

I almost wish I’d never taken on double sessions in the first place. Obviously, I don’t really wish that, because I’m grateful for the extra time I’ve gotten with J to work on things. I’m grateful I had the opportunity at all and the financial means to make it happen. I see the fruits of all those bonus sessions we had.

It’s just very hard. What I really wish is that I didn’t have to make this change on top of an already very taxing transition into a new job. I need J by my side for that more, not less.

I’ve tried thinking about ways to make up for what feels like a deficit. Seeing if there’s a way to do 90 minute sessions instead of 60. Asking for a 10 minute check-in another day during the week and paying for that time. I’ve already asked that if she’s able and willing to extend her hours so could do a double even once a month to let me know. That doesn’t feel particularly likely, but I figured it was worth a shot since I’ve seen her take people in the session after me before.

I’ll have to deal, because it’s not like there’s any other choice. I survived off of one session a week for a long time, so I’ll adapt back into that place. I know that I’ll be okay. I’m strong and I can handle carrying this myself. I’m persistent and I can keep fighting, even when it’s tough. I work hard and that will get me through the transition. I can be kind to myself in each day to my next session.

I don’t necessarily want to do any of that, but I can. I will be okay. I will be okay. I will be okay. I’m repeating that more to convince myself then to convince all of you.

But right now, it still feels like a huge loss.

 

 

Receiving Pain

One of the many confessions I made to J when everything came flooding out last week was that I see self-harm as a way of communicating pain. As in, when I’m feeling really really awful, one of the reasons I feel desire quelling within me to hurt myself is that I feel it clearly shows to her just how much hell it has been to live in my own mind that week.

I’ve nearly removed self-harm from my list of habits in about the last 2.5 months. There have been some slips, and what might be categorized as an “almost” harming event, but on the whole I’m not grabbing for my razor every other day (mostly because I threw it out). I’m working really hard at making better choices.

As such, I’ve noticed that when I am really fighting the urge, one of my recurrent thoughts is that I have to cut myself because if I don’t, how else will J understand just how deep and intense my pain was over the week? It’s like I believe words will not be enough to truly tell the story.

I’m not sure exactly where this need comes from. It’s not like J does anything over the top when I admit to her I’ve hurt myself. Typically, she’ll ask when and what triggered the incident. She may ask where I’ve cut. Often, we talk about replacement behaviors. Sometimes, we discuss safety. These are all run of the mill and none of them feel particularly validating. Not that they’re bad strategies, just that they don’t support me in a way that would encourage me to keep cutting to receive the attention.

When I wrote about this before, a fellow blogger who I really respect left me a comment that stated she was in a similar situation. What she and her therapist decided was to replace self-harm as a means of expressing severe pain with the urge to self-harm as an indicator of the same level of pain.

This idea seemed remarkably simple, but effective. I shared it with J. That strategy had been her first recommendation too. However, she wondered if I would truly be able to feel like my pain was understood or if the distinction between cutting and wanting to cut would still feel obvious to me. Would cutting still rank highest no matter what?

She’s probably right, I’m sure it would be a process to make the shift. But obviously continuing to hurt myself isn’t an option, so I think that I’m willing to try using “tempted to hurt myself” as the high point on a continuum of describing emotional pain.

J obviously doesn’t want me to relapse back into self harm. She doesn’t want this to be another factor contributing to that behavior. So she asked me how she can receive the information from me that I wanted to cut in a way that feels as validating as if I told her I did cut?

I’m having so much trouble developing a response. Since I don’t know the source of the need, I don’t know what she can do to help me suppress it.

So what can she do? How can she make me feel supported and understood? I’m still not entirely sure. I don’t have an end-all, be-all solution.

Validation is the golden rule of working with people like me. When in doubt, find some way to legitimize my feelings. Make sure I know that you’re supporting me amidst them. Say it 10 different ways. Say it again and again and again until it sticks.

“I believe you when you tell me how intense your emotions are.”

“I hear that you are in a very difficult place right now.”

“I understand how much you feel you need to hurt yourself. I’m glad you’ve chosen to be safe, despite all that pain.”

“What do you need? How can I help you right now?”

“Tell me more about what’s going on. Let’s work through these challenging feelings together.”

“I’m still here.”

I need to hear the validation. I need to hear it 100 times, using the same calm patience and empathy with each repetition. I need to hear it from J, and I probably need to say things like this to myself. To believe myself when I’m tempted to dismiss my own pain, as if not cutting means that I’m somehow healed and not allowed to feel negative feelings.

I need to hear that she’s still there, because maybe there’s a part of me that thinks not hurting myself means I’m on a path to being better – but does being better mean an end to therapy?

Will this work? Once, I’m sure it will not be sufficient. Over time? I’m hopeful.

Because what’s the alternative? Hospitalize me? Refer me to an IOP? We’re in agreement that I don’t need a higher level of care. What I really want when the pain has been that bad is to be held, but that is unfortunately beyond the therapy relationship.  So in lieu of that, I just want to know that she believes me, that she has as much of an understanding as she can without living the experience.

That’s so, so hard when I can’t know for sure what she’s thinking.

Has anyone else been in a similar situation? How does your therapist convey to you that they recognize the  depths of your struggles in a way that makes you feel like they really get it? I’ll take any suggestions.