Embrace the Awkward

imagesI had another therapy session today (our regularly scheduled Monday session). I was so damn nervous about it that I actually sat down and wrote this affirmation to myself in her waiting room before it started:

Focus on remaining calm. It will be okay. She’s on your side. You do not have to be perfect. Just be honest. Remember to breathe. This is your treatment, so you can talk about whatever you want. If she redirects you, it is probably to keep the therapeutic space safe and if that activates feelings of rejection or invalidation, you can simply tell her that. You are stronger than you ever fully give yourself credit for. Embrace the awkward!

I think the affirmation helped because it went very well. Probably the best session we’ve had so far, actually. She asked me if I remembered Friday’s session. I do, but in that weird underwater way that I remember things when someone else is fronting. We still talked about it, though. She brought up a lot of the same points that Julia articulated in her post reflecting on that session, which I thought was very fascinating. Then I mentioned that Julia wrote a post about it and she asked if she could hear it. So I read it to her and she said several interesting things in response:

  1. She felt Julia was actually very articulate and spoke quite poignantly about her experiences.
  2. At the moment Julia was feeling stupid (and thus laughed at her), she was also feeling stupid for being laughed at, so they were both feeling stupid at the same time.
  3. She noted the “ten minute warning” she gave at the end of session and could clearly see that it agitated Julia.
  4. She did know it was Julia, based on information I had previously given her.

I was very impressed by how obviously attuned she was to Julia throughout their session and afterwards. She was paying close attention and although she wasn’t entirely sure how to navigate therapy with this new part she’d ultimately never met before, she was okay with not having all of the answers. What a relief.

Then we talked about Zooey (of course). I brought in a printed version of the “Math” post that I wrote (in which I did legitimate arithmetic to make myself feel better about my time in treatment with her). I also briefly talked about some other things, like an agenda I had written for a session where I outlined various reasons our therapeutic alliance was declining and a bulleted list of new boundary guidelines for Zooey and I. I will share those here once I fully discuss them with the new therapist.

We didn’t talk about it today because we ran out of time. I could have just given her the papers like I always did with Zooey, but this therapist doesn’t do that. She said that although I am welcome to share anything I want with her, she wants us to actually talk about it together before I hand it over. She feels that to just give pieces of paper (with very important stuff written on them) to her without discussing it is in itself a rather “dissociated” way of doing therapy. She makes a good point.

I’ll admit I felt sorta lame once I was looking it all of this paperwork again. I actually said out loud, “God, I am so stupid. But then the therapist was like, “I think the exact opposite. I can clearly see how hard you were working.” And she’s right. I fought so hard to figure out how to make it work with Zooey. I was constantly shifting and moving and trying to predict what would make her feel the most safe and comfortable and effective. If that is not a re-creation of my family dynamics, I don’t know what is!

But the thing is, this new therapist said that that is okay. In fact, it’s expected. Of course I’m going to re-create my family dynamics. That’s generally what happens in therapy.

Then I was explaining how at one point I started setting an alarm on my iPhone so I wouldn’t go over session time. She immediately said “Okay, just so you know – it is MY job to keep track of time. That’s what I am supposed to be doing, not you.” Zooey never did that. I actually couldn’t even SEE the clock in her office because it was sorta behind me. So although I couldn’t even tell when I was going over my session time, I was still absolutely terrified that I would go over and upset Zooey.

And that, in a nutshell, sums up exactly what I was trying to convey during this session (although it took me 50 minutes to figure that out): I cannot be responsible for her.

I cannot be the one who does all of the sacrificing and maneuvering to make this therapy work. I cannot constantly worry about whether or not she is feeling secure and empowered in her job as my therapist. I (and others) are certainly willing to partake in the work it requires to have an effective therapeutic relationship, but I need the therapist to meet me halfway (at least!). I need her to actually do her job.

Luckily, she is a) seemingly much more aware of what her job is and b) willing to, you know, do it. 

10 thoughts on “Embrace the Awkward

  1. Zoe says:

    I feel very hopeful about her after reading this entry. She seems to have a professionalism that is much lacking in a lot of therapists. I especially liked that she wanted to discuss whatever notes you gave her beforehand. So much can be lost when we read things — tone, expression, body language. She wants to listen and that is a wonderful thing. And see — you don’t have to immediately throw all your trust at her. It’s kind of like not being able to swim and standing by the shore. She’s in the deep part, waiting, but she’s not making you come right away. She’s talking to you in spite of the space between and seems to be fine waiting for you to take those steps. I really hope things work. Plus — talking to her has made you realize even more that Zooey was exceptionally lacking. It wasn’t you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andie says:

      Aw, you are the best! I feel like you’re my #1 fan, haha. No, seriously though, I completely agree with you. The total contrast between this woman and Zooey has given me a whole lot of needed clarity. And I LOVE the swimming metaphor! That’s a perfect representation of how this relationship feels to me/us right now. Thanks for your amazing comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zoe says:

        🙂 I’m always really happy to read posts on your blog. Especially happy when things are going good for you. I’m always sending you strength waves and good vibes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Grainne says:

    Wow! What a huge amount of processing in one session! I’m really glad that things are looking less bleak with your new therapist. I felt so sad for you when I read the post Julia wrote.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cat says:

    This sounds like it was an excellent session… what a difference a few days makes. I think it’s right that you take as much time as you need to settle in and, of course, as you already know, you are not there to help them to feel more comfortable, but brilliant that you identify this as being similar to your interaction with family… My Therapist doesn’t accept writing for the same reason as your doesn’t. I’m really pleased to read a very different post to a few days ago….well done 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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