The more I think about the way things ended with Zooey, the more I can connect it to a troubling pattern in my life.
I don’t know that I believe she intended to hurt me, but she didn’t go out of her way to ensure therapy ended in a better way, either. As I continue to reflect on that, I realize that this has been a fairly common theme within the relationships in my life, particularly with individuals that were in an authoritative or caregiver role. Ultimately, Zooey couldn’t be better because she didn’t want to be. She must have been so wrapped up in burnout and clinical shame that she literally ran out of steam. She couldn’t push herself out of her comfort zone one final time, even for the benefit of me and my treatment.
And that’s the pattern.
This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, I seem to have a knack for attracting caregivers that inevitably fall short of taking doing just that. I’m trying so hard to be okay with her and with this mess…to believe she is good and was somehow just incapable of being better in those final moments. But I am not so sure that’s true.
She had a choice. She had so many choices. She could have referred me out sooner and spent ample time helping me through that transition. She could have engaged in better self-care. She could have set clearer clinical boundaries when my treatment with her began to be overwhelming. She could have worked with me to develop a plan to supplement my treatment so that she wasn’t shouldering it alone (all of these being things my wife or I suggested to her at one point or another, by the way).
But she didn’t. And her lack of ability to handle the therapy appropriately and efficiently really sucks. It pulls me right back into this dark place of shame where I reminded that I am not enough. I wasn’t enough for her to fight for me in the end. I know, logically, that that fault lies with her, not me. But what I hear in my head is the voice of my abusive parents, telling me how worthless and stupid and crazy I am.
I’m reminded of the many times they told me that only they could truly love someone like me: that I was too much, that no one else would put up with my “bullshit” or “make the kind of sacrifices” they made to “fight for me.” When I finally cut off my parents, my mother left eleven scathing messages. All of them focused on what an ungrateful asshole I am and to lament about all the wasted hours and energy and money they spent on me. Her final words were “What have you ever…EVER done for us?” I guess I didn’t realize I owed my parents back for, you know, birthing me? Providing basic necessities of life? Who knows?
But this situation with Zooey does make me wonder – were they right? Not in terms of ALL relationships. I certainly have friends in my life that know my story and accept me unconditionally for that. But in terms of people that symbolize or represent a parent or caregiver. Can anyone who is in that role ever truly be present with me? Can they really step in and sit with me long enough to allow me to do the work I need to heal from all the trauma inflicted on me by my actual parents? Can they endure the necessary emotional discomfort to process all of that ugliness?
Or is my story just too much? Am I just too much?