After reading Zooey’s email response, it seemed like she was trying to set a boundary, but was simultaneously refusing to be explicitly clear with me about it. I felt like her email was a cop-out and that she was STILL not taking responsibility for her own actions and decisions. I also knew that if I didn’t ask for clarification, I’d agonize over what, exactly, she meant.
So, true to form, I wrote her back and simply asked for clarification:
Thank you for responding, Zooey.
This may be redundant for you, but I do want to be perfectly clear on this: are you telling me to not ever communicate with you again in any way?I understand the restrictions on personal relationships post-termination. In person and in a previous email, you said that you welcomed updates about my life. It would seem you are perhaps backtracking on that, so now I am admittedly confused.I think it would be best if we were both explicitly clear on the boundary you are setting. Otherwise, it will probably drive me crazy to try and guess what is or is not okay.Thank you,Andi
Andi,In the past, when I said I would welcome hearing from you, I had in mind an occasional email or perhaps a holiday card. You said that you did not intend to contact me regularly, yet you have been contacting me regularly. I am not comfortable with this. (Leaving me a voicemail in which you ask that I call you back so you can hear my voice is absolutely inappropriate given that I am no longer your therapist.)
Given the above, yes, I am asking that you no longer contact me.
- She never ever stated any specific parameters to contacting her after termination.
- I did say I did not intend to contact her regularly (which was true). And I didn’t. I emailed her once (which, btw, she responded to) and left one voicemail. I don’t believe that qualifies as “regularly”.
- The way that she uses my exact spoken words: “so you can hear my voice” was most definitely meant to be used as a weapon to shame me and point out how wildly inappropriate I was. No I wasn’t. And I don’t accept your shame, Zooey.
- SHE is the therapist. How the fuck was I supposed to know I shouldn’t call her again? How was I supposed to know that would be inappropriate? Especially since, you know, she never TALKED TO ME ABOUT IT.
- She then turns ALL of the shame and error and responsibility onto me and ends her email by essentially saying that since I did not respect her boundary (which she did not actually set) she has now changed her mind (about a decision she never made clear to me) and because of my inappropriate behavior (which I had no way of knowing was wrong) she no longer wants me to contact her.
- I HAD TO ASK HER TO CLARIFY THIS AT ALL.
She had endless opportunities to have a dialogue with me about this. I presented her with so many opportunities in both the session in which she announced she was terminating therapy and the actual termination session (reminder: I had to ASK for that because she was too much of a hot mess to figure out how to properly end therapy with someone). I also ended my previous email to her with an entire paragraph outlining my thought process around sending the email. The last line was:
“It’s important to me to be appropriate and respectful of both of our space and feelings, so please feel free, at any time, to clarify what you’re comfortable with.”
Which, to me, seems like an absolutely PERFECT time to be really fucking clear about what you are or are not comfortable with. Yet still – nothing!! She responded to that email and just said how happy she was that I had a new treatment team and that she appreciated how much thought I put into contacting her. What the actual fuck? HOW was I supposed to know that that actually meant “Please don’t contact me again for an arbitrary and unknown number of days that is certainly less than one million, but definitely more than 31. Also, do not say that you want to ‘hear my voice’.”
Which, just to reiterate: I am NOT ACCEPTING HER SHAME ABOUT THAT. I do not regret making the call or anything I said in my voicemail. It was clear, authentic, courageous, and communicated a need. I have had many, many people shame me for asserting needs that revolved around wanting to feel connected or attached to them and there is no way in hell I am letting Zooey do that to me. So…thanks but no thanks. You can keep that shame.
So now I have the absolute clarity that I wanted and needed from her. I desperately needed her to set a clear and unwavering boundary for me. I felt so adrift and confused without it – one foot tentatively placed in a therapeutic relationship with a new therapist, but the other firmly planted in my dynamic with Zooey. She finally set the line I’ve been needing, but I’m also left here sorta wondering:
Why the hell did I have to literally drag it out of her?! WHO WAS THE THERAPIST, HERE?!