When the therapist called to check in on Friday night, I was a total mess. Not only because of all the internal chaos, switching, and overwhelming emotions that had brought me into (mild) crisis, but also due to the triggering nature of being in such a situation, needing a therapist to call me. Again.
I felt this so intensely that it was hard to even talk to her. She kept asking me what I was feeling, what I was thinking, what was going on with me? I gave these deliberately vague answers. Eventually, she said “I really want you to be honest with me.”
“I want that, too. I want to be really authentic and open about what is going on. But I also want to say what you want me to say. So I’m trying to figure out how to share honestly, but at the same time – I also want to answer you in the way I think you want me to answer. But, also, it feels really important that I tell you the truth…”
“Yes, I want you to feel like you can tell me what’s really going on with you. I think we’ll be able to figure this out together if I have a better sense of what is going on right now.”
After that I was able to talk a little more openly, but that same feeling kept creeping back in. Especially when she would say something particularly validating or to indicate that she was committed to working with me. You’d think that’s exactly what I would want to hear (and I do) but it is SO TRIGGERING because I immediately snap back to similar moments of being on the phone with Zooey. She said almost identical things to me in moments of distress.
Eventually I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be like this. I hate being like this. And I know it’s frustrating and makes people feel really helpless – I feel really helpless! But obviously my fear of what this moment feels like and being alone in it is greater than my fear of losing you.”
(I literally cannot believe I actually said that. OMG.)
“What do you mean by ‘like this’? How do you imagine you are being right now? Because I’m not perceiving you in any specific way. I just see you as someone who’s working very hard to figure this out, but is also in a really difficult place right now.”
“Like this! Annoying. Whiny. Challenging. Willful. In this place where nothing will help me.”
“I don’t think that. I think you’re in crisis and I’m here to help you.”
“Oh Jesus Christ!”
“Okay…What was that reaction about?”
“Nothing. I just…”crisis”?!”
“Do you not think this is a crisis moment right now?”
“No, I do. It’s not that. I…Zooey used to say that a lot. She used “crisis” against us. She said she was there to help but then she wasn’t. She left. This is what happens – people just can’t tolerate being in this space with me.”
“Does it seem to you that I don’t want to be in this space with you right now?”
“No, actually, now that you mention it – it doesn’t seem that way at all…”
“So maybe there are some scripts playing? Maybe you’re remembering other times you felt like this and Zooey is coming to your mind, which is scaring you and bringing up a lot of other emotions. And I know that Zooey was with you through some crises and she said she wanted to help you, which is similar to where we are right now…”
“But (as far as similarities) that’s about it.”
I don’t know for sure that this woman will hang with me long term, but I really like how far she distanced herself from Zooey in this conversation. She was not going to allow me to parallel them any further than I already was. She obviously doesn’t see herself as comparable to Zooey and although neither of us know what will happen in the future, I think this moment brought me a little bit closer to believing that she is really in this with me.
I need to keep remembering that she is not Zooey. And I need her to keep reminding me, too. Which seems like something she is more than happy to do.