Today marks six months since Zooey terminated therapy with us. I actually have session with the new therapist at 4pm – which is the exact time of that termination session. Weird.

I thought I would feel different about it at this point. Better? More resolved? Less consumed with grief and confusion and shame? I don’t know, exactly. Just…different.

I suppose I do feel better overall. But in other more subtle and pervasive ways, I feel worse. I think I understood that her actions would ripple in ways that might take a long time to even see. But I felt determined to master it.

Looking back, I think so much of what held me to therapy in the aftermath of her abandonment was the absolute determination I felt to not allow this woman to have any more impact on my life than she already did. She hurt me profoundly. I didn’t want to let her continue to do so.

Yet…somehow she does. I don’t see her. I don’t speak to her. I don’t even know her. She is a ghost now. But, like a ghost, she haunts me. I see and hear her everywhere – in the words and expressions of the people I work furiously to trust. The very moments of connection and attunement that I long for are the same moments that snap me back to her. Her words. Her expressions. The naïveté with which I embarked on that therapeutic journey.

I am reminded of the vast discrepancy between what she often said versus what she actually did. She betrayed my trust without intent or malice. I think that’s worse. I prefer to imagine she deliberately compromised my treatment and progress than to accept the harsh reality that she just didn’t know better. 

How will anyone know better? How will I? How can I believe that anyone means what they say? How can I rely or depend on the safety and nurturing someone alleges to provide? How can I know what is real?

Just as these moments in the current day transport me back to all that hurts about Zooey, the moments with Zooey transport me back to a lifetime of hurt and betrayal and lies. I place all of this intensity around Zooey because it’s safer. It’s easier to talk about. It’s safer to explore. There’s less of an investment and thus less to lose.

I have this very short but incredibly clear memory of my biological mother. I am a teenager and I’m in severe distress. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I can feel the emotion. I am terrified and out of control. My mother stands in front of me, screaming about something. I feel myself break internally. A child part, maybe?

I stop her mid-scream and I just cry out for her: “Mommy, please! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please love me! Please!

She softens and I sense her calming a bit. She puts her arms out to me, ever so slightly. I sigh and imagine the warmth and safety of laying my ear on her chest, feeling the soothing sound of her heartbeat. I pause, skeptical, but then I lean into her.

She steps backwards and drops her arms. “Oh stop being such a baby!

I fall to my knees and hold myself in a futile attempt to self-soothe. It feels like I’m dying. My heart is shattering into pieces and I’m trying to hold all of them inside so my heart doesn’t explode all over the living room.

I just stay there, rocking and sobbing until the world goes dark again.

It is so unbearably painful, this memory. I needed her. I was hurting. I begged for her to help and she allowed me to believe – even if only for a second – that she would be there for me. And I did believe her. Wholeheartedly. Naïvely. Stupidly.

But she didn’t want to help. She wanted to mock me and watch me suffer. She abandoned me in a moment of dire need for connection. I hate myself for trusting her and I hate myself for not predicting her betrayal.

Which brings me around to this day, six months ago, when I felt the same way. I know these are dramatically different contexts, but somehow the underlying emotion is so similar.

I trusted Zooey. She allowed me to trust her. She did all the right things to appear trustworthy and invested and caring. But, just like my mother – when I stood in front of her in extreme distress, begging for connection and begging for help – she put her arms down and took a step back.

How do I heal from this? How can I ever be okay? How could I ever truly believe that anyone will embrace me, rather than turn away?

And how can I ever forgive myself for letting these things happen?


30 thoughts on “Six

  1. Cat says:

    Wow Andi, the context of your mother and Zooey may be different but they are the same and I am in awe of your insight. This is painful, I can feel it in your words. I don’t know how we heal from stuff like this, but in my short experience, something very powerful happens when we connect with the source and sit with the emotion and this is what you are doing. That doesn’t happen overnight, but somewhere in the not too distant future, I really do hope you feel healing. I think this is excellent work, maybe even one of the most powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jaklumen says:

    Hi Andi.

    Apologies if I’m having trouble understanding your post– chronic pain again. I saw my therapist yesterday again, and it went very well. I was hurting bad enough even then that I had to get a ride with my father; I couldn’t drive. Anyways, to get straight to the point, I empathize. Dad asked a lot of questions, about the source of my trauma. He called back later to say my mother does not remember the trauma she inflicted on me.

    When the pain quiets down, I’ll write more about it. Again, I empathize with trouble with therapists– I’m glad that my hard efforts finally paid off this time around, and I hope all is well likewise for you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

      • jaklumen says:

        you’re welcome… for now, I keep trying to remember “D.E.A.R. M.A.N.” and all the other acronyms for communication, and figuring out grounding exercises, and what else I want in my “Trigger Toolkit”.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. J says:

    I don’t know. I wish I had answers. It’s been 4 years since I last saw my previous terrible-bad-unethical-incompetant shrink and I’m still hurt and angry at times. For a long time I also found it easier to think that she deliberately (out of laziness, financial gain, whatever) treated me unethically and negligently rather then that she just didn’t have the skills. Now, for the last 6 months or so, I’ve found myself leaning towards the latter — that she didn’t know better. She wasn’t qualified. She was undereducated. But I’m still angry and I don’t forgive that. She had no excuse. She was trained at Columbia and Cornell. She should have known better. At the very least, she should have been aware enough to recognize she was harming and not helping (or even just that I wasn’t getting better) and referred me to someone else. I can’t forgive her for stealing those years of my life, my hope, (and so much of my savings), and I don’t think I ever will — but I don’t think I have to, either. What she did to me was wrong. My being hurt and angry is emblematic of a health(ier) sense of self then anything I had with her.

    Hoping you find peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thank you so much for this comment, J. It’s always so comforting to know that I’m not the only one feeling these things. The relationships we forge with our treatment providers are important and have a profound impact on us. Regardless of the reason, when they let us down and fail us in such huge ways – it leaves us with such pain and confusion. Your shrink should have known better. Zooey should have known better. We both deserved better.

      And yes – I think being angry with them (where the anger belongs) is incredibly healthy and healing.



  4. S.G says:

    In answer to your questions in the 7th paragraph. I *think* we can’t know who will hurt us, who will break promises to us, we can make educated guesses based on knowledge gained from previous experiences but it’s always going to be a risk to trust or authentically connect to others. I think the idea is that through therapy that we develop enough of a sense of self that we trust ourselves to survive being let down or betrayed. That we won’t need anyone to the extent that they are able to break us. We will be enough for ourselves, we can count on ourselves to get through any hurt caused by others. And the knowledge of that is what will give us safety.
    I’m sorry you’re hurting right now. I am sorry Zooey screwed up so badly. It shouldn’t have happened. And I am really sorry that your mother couldn’t be there for you in the way you needed her to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • iamcynical says:

      I think this is true.

      Once we gain confidence in ourselves and process those negative events–coming to a resolution, understanding, or acceptance…we can let the negative experiences roll off our shoulders instead of getting lost in the experience.

      Also I wanted to say it is NOT your fault that others weren’t there for you like u needed. They obviously did not understand you.

      It was not u that was lacking but them. They were lacking something, intelligence, awareness, skills or otherwise that they needed in order to understand you.

      This does not make it okay, but I hope you can find people who understand you and an be there for you. Reach out to those people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      “I think the idea is that through therapy that we develop enough of a sense of self that we trust ourselves to survive being let down or betrayed. That we won’t need anyone to the extent that they are able to break us. We will be enough for ourselves, we can count on ourselves to get through any hurt caused by others. And the knowledge of that is what will give us safety.”

      YES! Totally agree. And this, I think, is what I am working for. I just can’t figure out how to get any traction.

      Thank you ❤


  5. iamcynical says:

    You need not blame yourself. It’s not your fault that these things happened to you.

    I agree with what another person said it seems like ur mother and zoey are connected– most likely in the sense of looking for that secure attachment.

    It seems that with both these women the attachment process was disrupted. What I mean is that these events caused trauma for u.

    It seems u were unable to get the security and comfort you needed–not only in these events but most likely in earlier life as well, I suspect.

    We can’t go back and fix that or re-do it, but what you can strive for is to have a secure attachment and comforting relationship with your wife or therapist.

    I hope that these people can help you feel more secure.

    Just know you are in control and have power now. You no longer have to keep people in your life that will hurt you. Sometimes people make mistakes–we are all human. I know that does NOT make what anyone did to you or what happened ok…but sometimes compassion and understanding can help lead to forgiveness and letting go.

    I kind of got off track so I’ll stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Grainne says:

    Lol. I hate this phone keyboard. Starting again…

    Not trusting anyone is a hard place to be. I have never been able to give myself over to anyone the way you describe, so fully. I find peace in knowing that sometimes people try to be there for me and fail, but they did try. Now, what your mother did was simply cruel but there’s a difference between maliciously hurting someone and trying to care for someone and failing. You know what I mean? There will be a lot of disappointment in life when people fail, but that soul destroying hurt your mother caused you won’t be the norm. I try to look at it that way anyway.

    Congrats on making it through six months without losing your shit. I think you’ve come incredibly far.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kat says:

    sounds like you are starting to unravel some of your triggers, being able to put emotion and the visual together, to make the memory complete, since your brain originally separated the emotion and hid it away but left the memory, because of something traumatic.

    it is good you can see why Zoe triggered you so much, good that your brain is letting you see that her behavior is the same to this now complete memory, that she hurt you just like you were hurt before.

    you are getting closer to making that whole memory be just that…a memory, rather than something that attacks you out of the blue in the present day. that is good. that is progress.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Rachel says:

    You are doing such great work, Andi. Painful work to try to make sense of what happened, and how you feel about it. I am so sorry you are hurting so much. I wish I could say or do something to change it so you don’t have to go through this. It was bad enough the first time around (parents). Proud of you for facing this. xx
    And ps – congrats on the end of the term! 🙂 I hope you take a much-needed restorative weekend, with whatever it is that restores you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. iamcynical says:

    ***last comment I will make on this post*****

    1. I bet your mom has attachment issues to–struggling with that ability to fully embrace–yet she did reach out a tiny bit. I wonder if she wanted to comfort u but didn’t know how, or had her own issues with that. Not that that takes away from your pain or experience. As your mother she should have been there to comfort you.

    2. Though it contradicts what I just said a bit–there is no need to make excuses for those that hurt you. Like Zooey being “naive” and not knowing any better…she was your therapist. She has expectations to be trained and know better.

    In any sense these people are the one with the issues here. They let you down–you are not the one who let them down. You were the one who should have been helped, loved and comforted.

    I just REALLY hope you know you did not do anything wrong and there should not be ANY blame on you. I hope that somehow can give you some relief…though I’m sure this is a tough journey to recover from these repeated traumas.

    I think you are so strong and so insightful and I am really glad you share your experience. Though we are different in many ways I realte to a lot of things you post about. So thank you. Just you speakin out has helped me in many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I’m sure my mother did have her own attachment issues. Her relationship with her own mother was almost identical to the one she created with me. Which then makes me wonder about the type of mother my grandmother was, you know? Perhaps my mother was reaching out in the only way she knew how? Still. I wish she had cared enough to be better. My cousin (“sister”) and I have completely broken the cycle. Perhaps my parents weren’t capable of that, but dammit if I don’t wish they had been.

      Thanks again for all your kind words of support and encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Cat's Meow says:

    The “who to trust” question is a very good one. I think that we start by making an educated guess and then slowly trusting them with things that matter to us more and more. I have also learned that no matter how much someone cares, they still mess up sometimes. I’ve been told that if if they sincerely apologize and work with me to make things better, then that’s how healthy relationships work. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I no longer freak out over every little break in my relationship with my T, because I have worked things out with her enough times that I know that I will be able to this time, as well. Often what seems to me to be a big lapse on her part turns out to be her meaning something in a different way than I had taken it. We both try to keep the other’s meaning in mind in the future.

    The big thing here is that we keep on returning to each other to work things out. If either person flees, that can’t happen. Zooey did for you. Your mom did in such a cruel way that she obviously was very broken- what a devastating heart wound for you to have taken. What happened with Zooey must have brought all of the trauma of your birthmother’s rejection right up to the surface. I’m sorry that makes you want to run from your current therapist before you trust her too much.

    Many thoughts of support.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Anxious Mom says:

    That memory of your mother is so heart-breaking. And infuriating, thinking about that as a mother myself. Some of the women (her and Zooey that I know of) that have been in the position to help you, to lift you up, to guide you, have failed so miserably. And maybe I’m just repeating something that’s been said already, but it is so not you, it’s them, and it’s a shame, you deserve so much better. Much love to you hun ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Tina says:

    Oh the irony & how your words resonate:( So many times my mother did that to me. I’m not sure which hurt worse: her silent treatment or when she called me her favorite name “you weak, pathetic, stupid bitch”. She could drop me to my knees in a worthless pile. I would rather know that it was a lack of knowledge & skill, a lack of tools & resources than just cruelty & malice. The first indicates you cared, but didn’t know how to & the second means you hated me & thought me unworthy. I continue to fear more & more each week that my therapist will drop me, refer me or worse sit across from me in that chair pretending to care, saying the right words, but with growing disinterest each week.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. manyofus1980 says:

    Hugs. This is so very sad. But…you are strong. You will heal. In fact your on the right road already. You did not give up. You stayed in therapy despite everything. That says something for your strength of character and your determination. XX

    Liked by 1 person

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