Raising the Bar

*Trigger Warning*

*Trigger Warning*

I had a dream on Wednesday night with both Zooey and the new therapist in it:

I went to this random house for session as usual. The therapist didn’t have an office, but was seeing clients out in the living room. I thought that was very strange, but I rolled with it. At some point I got up to use the restroom and I ran into Zooey. She apparently had an office in the same building. She invited me to come to her office so we could talk and I agreed.

I can’t remember much of what she said, but I know the basic gist of it was a pseudo-apology. She didn’t explicitly say she was sorry, but she talked about the situation being “less than ideal” and alluded to the possibility that she handled it poorly.

Then she opened up the option for me to start seeing her again. I told her that I didn’t think I could do that. She said I didn’t have to make a decision on the spot – I could think about it. I felt very overwhelmed and confused, but I stumbled away from her repeating the phrase, “I just can’t…”

I relayed this dream to the therapist in session this morning. She felt that perhaps the interaction with Zooey was indicative of the sort of “auto-termination” process I’ve been doing alone since she never offered me much of a chance to do that with her. I agreed. I think my rage and frustation is shifting into sadness and a deep sense of loss. And this dream tells me that I’m getting closer to acceptance, which might actually be what’s triggering the sadness and loss – that sense of finality that tends to accompany acceptance.

The therapist also reflected that perhaps the permeability of her “office space” (being in the open living room) was symbolic of the space we’ve created in therapy, which allows me to continue to explore my feelings and to grieve Zooey while simultaneously building a new therapeutic alliance. I hadn’t considered that, but she makes a good point. She really has given me a solid, safe space to anchor myself in while exploring lots of different fears and worries, especially as they relate to what happened with Zooey.

Then I pivoted the conversation to therapy in general. I mentioned that as I’ve traveled this long journey in and out of treatment, I’ve gradually raised the bar with each new clinician. I quickly alluded to a psychiatrist that I gave oral sex to. She paused for a moment and just said, “What?” I replied, “Oh, I haven’t told you that story yet?” to which she shook her head no. I asked her if I could tell her what happened and she said of course.

After I told the story she said, “This is not even remotely enough to capture the magnitude of this, but that is horribly disappointing.”

I said, “Actually, I think ‘disappointing’ is the perfect word. When I think about that memory, that’s a lot of what I feel. He was supposed to protect me. He was supposed to say “NO!” when I propositioned him – not agree and then hold me accountable to that proposition when I started to back out of it. So yes, I feel very disappointed that he didn’t keep me safe. That was his job.”

She agreed.

Then we talked a lot about how utterly ridiculous psychiatric facilities are. I explained that of the 15 perpetrators who have abused/assaulted us, six of those individuals hurt us while in a locked mental hospital. One of whom was the doctor responsible for our care.

Society has such a distorted idea of what happens in these places. There’s this illusion of safety, but there is no safety. Not safety from self (hence all the self-injury and the suicide attempt we made while a patient there) or safety from others (staff or patient). You lose all of your humanity the moment you walk in those doors. It’s torture.

I went back to this idea of raising the bar. At first, I just wanted someone who wouldn’t actively harm me. Then, when I found my previous therapist (from 2009), I was excited to find someone who actually believed me. Zooey was someone who believed me as well, but I could also begin to process some of that trauma because I had several years distance from it.

But then she failed me something terrible.

I told the therapist that I know she believes me. I don’t think she’ll hurt me in some obvious manner (i.e. sexual assault). And I don’t think she will do to me what Zooey did, primarily because that was the main baggage I brought into our therapeutic relationship. I think she’s extra mindful of not abruptly abandoning me since it is so raw and specific to what brought me to her care in the first place.

But beyond that, I have no idea what she is capable of.

did have an underlying feeling of foreboding with Zooey. My instincts were clear and loud in relaying that something was wrong. But they failed to be more specific on what, exactly, was the source of danger. It wasn’t until things had already exploded that I made the connection.

I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to miss something like that again.

I explained this to the therapist and she said, “Well, first of all – that feeling of foreboding is very much related to your trauma. But my hope is that we will continue to talk about these things. If those feelings come up – if your instincts begin to signal to you that something is off – I really want you to bring that in here so we can talk about it. I don’t know what will happen, nor do you, but if we are able to talk about this stuff, I think we can prevent something like that from happening again.”

She makes a good point. And I think she’s right.

Well, I hope she’s right.


23 thoughts on “Raising the Bar

  1. manyofus1980 says:

    ohmygod i am in shock, a psychiatrist made you give him oral sex? wow. outrageous really and so so wrong on his part. i’m glad you found a great new t. she sounds so much like Eileen. Eileen would tell me to bring stuff to her to, we’d openly talk it through…open and honesty, that works. X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah. I was 18. Long, stupid story. But yes. And it took me a long time to realize it was wrong. I like that you compare my T to Eileen because she always sounds so wonderfully competent 🙂


  2. Boost Connection says:

    You deserve the chance to raise the bar. And it’s not your fault it was low to begin with, not when you’re taught it’s okay for adults and authority figures to abuse or misuse you.

    *TW* Fuck that psychiatrist. That’s statutory rape. I hope he chokes and becomes incapacitated and lives his life as a semi-vegetable trapped in his own body for another 50 years while someone tortures him. People who abuse their authority over vulnerable people they are responsible for get nothing but contempt and disgust and violent feelings from me.

    You deserve the highest fucking bar there is in existence +1.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anxious Mom says:

    Jesus Christ. There aren’t words for what should be done to people who take advantage of their positions and abuse people like that, especially those who aren’t in a position to defend themselves. ((Hugs))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rachel says:

    I’m horrified for your 18 year old self. And so sorry that happened and that you had to cope alone with that awful experience. Glad you are someone who doesn’t give up because I am appreciating getting to know your story. Glad you found a solid therapist too. You deserve it someone who will work as hard in therapy as you do! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Zoe says:

    I. Can’t. Even. Words.

    I have always been terrified of mental institutions of any kind but you’ve just raised my awareness. I remember skipping the asylum season of American Horror Story because I didn’t want to believe that place was more dangerous than I already thought. I can’t. I honestly can’t. You have been through so much and I just. Why? Why can’t there be safe people and safe places as a majority? Gosh. What awful situations!

    I do love what she said at the end though. I think it’ll be okay. And you’re definitely heading the right way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I know. It’s so far beyond words. I wish so much that these stories weren’t as common as they are. It’s horrifying to think that such institutions (implemented for reasons of safety) are so far from being safe or healing. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. silentlistener2510 says:

    Hey Andy and J,

    You deserve to raise the fucking bar. What twisted and sick individuals for abusing you guys.
    I have believed for a long time that mental health care can be just as fucked up as the wrong kind of physical health care and that system is broken too.
    sorry you know it firsthand.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cat says:

    As soon as I read the living room part of the dream, I associated it with feeling safe, maybe comfortable and the fact Zooey was outside that room and you were saying ‘no’, is progress.

    WTF I would love to burn the Psychiatrists balls off with a red hot poker and no wonder you were almost destroyed by yet another person who was supposed to protect you, it all adds up.

    Great work, Andi, you’re doin amazin 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Hmm. I love that you had a similar thought – that’s very cool! And yes, it totally sucks that this person who was supposed to provide me with safety and care ended up just being another abuser. Thanks for the support!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. alicewithptsd says:

    I just can’t wrap my head around the shrink who abused you. I believe you, I’m just shocked. And disappointed. You deserved so much better, you deserved safety. I am so glad that a part of you knew you deserved better and that you have kept raising the bar. The new therapist still sounds competent and honest. I think you have raised the bar with her, for sure. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I understand what you’re saying. Sometimes even I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I think I’ve raised the bar, too. And I hope it’s farther than I can even imagine right now. Thank you xo


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