Today’s session was just impossible. We could not connect or find each other to save our lives. We were probably the most frustrated and passive-aggressive as we’ve ever been. What’s interesting is that I can tell we were both fighting like hell to understand each other, but it would not happen.
I’m just gonna blame it on the transference.
I think it’s probably safe to say that the therapist and I are in the midst of some pretty awful transferential displacement. I’m not doing it on purpose and I’m actually not sure I shouldn’t be doing it (au contraire, I think much of the point of psychotherapy is the work you do amid transferential feelings) but wow, it does not feel good. At all.
She knows how smart I am. She knows that I fundamentally understand how horrific my parents are and how spectacularly inept the mental health system has been for me, time and time again. I know it, too. But that doesn’t stop me from needing to do this specific work around the possibility that I made up all of this abuse and that all of these assholes were right to staple the “Borderline” label to my forehead and call it a day.
Do I truly believe that? No. Not at all. I am ultimately unwavering in my belief that my parents abused the shit out of me and that I have both severe PTSD as well as DID. But not ALL of me believes that. So the Parts that were told time and time again that they were liars and had this “physical evidence” used against them are still battling with those demons, who also happen to be part of the same damn System.
I told the therapist that I shared my medical records with my wife, friends, DID support group (which was held over this past weekend), and here on my blog. I also shared some of the absolutely beautiful responses that I received, offering support, encouragement, and empathy. I told her of one particular response I was sent privately:
Hey Andi! I read through your post about your psych evals. I wanted to offer some comfort. I was put into the psych hospital twice, after two suicide attempts, and received the same treatment. They would identify that I had signs of PTSD, talk to my parents, and everything would change. I would be called a liar and at some point in time they told me I was embellishing stories for attention. Also, I know this is embarrassing but I wanted to address the part about the hymen. I have spoken extensively to my GP and she tells me that doctors cannot usually tell if sexual abuse has occurred, or even if intercourse has occurred, with an examination. The hymen is just a membrane that stretches and can tear, but it actually can grow back/reform together. There is a wonderful article from a midwife who talks about how she has delivered multiple children for multiple women who all still had an intact hymen. Mind you, this woman is pregnant and obviously has had sex. So take that piece of info with a grain of salt.
She responded enthusiastically, saying, “Oh my gosh, that’s great! That is SO great! And so helpful! Because I had that same thought – like, why did they put so much emphasis on your pelvic exam? So strange!” She also reflected how horrible it is that someone else went through this and we spent a moment discussing how blatantly ignorant and irresponsible mental health practitioners can be.
I then told her that the validation and support is everything anyone could want after sharing such a thing. But that it also feels terrible. She countered by saying something additionally validating that just sent me spinning. I started to get more frustrated. She tried to light-heartedly joke with me and I kept it deadpan as I responded that I still think it’s possible that I am a total liar.
She said, “But we just discussed how your parents got over-involved and corroborated with ineffective hospital staff to create this entire trope about you as a liar. And, also, why would you have lied about this?”
“I don’t know, okay! I don’t know…but I hate that everyone just keeps saying that. It’s great that everyone believes me, but maybe they shouldn’t.”
“Is that why the responses are hard on you? Do you need someone to sorta be with you and entertain the idea that you’re a liar?”
“Yes, actually! I really do. And you keep looking at me like I’m frustrating you, which I probably am, but I think this is really important. I know, rationally, that those charts are shit. But it is still about an actual person: me. And Parts of me haven’t resolved this yet. I know how the body works. I know what my parents did. But I am not the Part that was forced to get a pelvic exam and then forced to sit in a room with her abusers as the hospital staff shared that they found no evidence of sexual assault.”
“I know. I think about that and I wonder how your parents must have reacted…”
“Elated would probably be a good word for it, I’d imagine.”
“Alright, well I will be that person, then. Let’s talk about the possibility that you lied about all of this…”
And we did. She asked me a lot of questions about how and why someone might lie about this. She asked me to essentially explain my DID, sans abuse. I told her that someone once told me that “Multiple personalities come form severe and chronic trauma…or from the work of a very clever Borderline.”
“And who said that to you?”
“A former therapist.”
She rolled her eyes as she said, “Yeah, I had a feeling…”
Then she explained that even a “very clever Borderline” would likely have become that way out of severe trauma and that such a statement is wildly ignorant to the mechanisms behind the coping skills developed in BPD.
I knew she was right and that she was saying all of the right things, but I just couldn’t figure out how to feel okay with us or with the conversation. I felt afraid of her, afraid that she was annoyed or regretting this entire relationship. I expressed to her that she seemed frustrated and asked that she please be patient with me even though I’m throwing up double binds and engaging and power struggles and otherwise being difficult.
She said, “Where are those words and phrases even coming from?”
“A thousand people!”
She just looked at me. I said, “Okay, maybe like ten. But…enough people have said those things to me to let me know when I’m being difficult. And I really don’t want you to get mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at you. But you’re also telling me that you need to be frustrating while asking me not to get frustrated. Do you think that’s fair?”
I don’t even remember how I responded. I’m sure the rest of the session was some variation on this bickering because I just could not pull it together to communicate in any effective manner at all.
Which sucks, but as I said before, I think this is really important. And as much as she doesn’t like it, I really do need her to walk me through what my life would mean if my parents and all of these staff members were right about me. I think I need to do some weird corrective transferential re-enactment that starts with me being labeled the liar once again and then allows someone else to bear witness to these Parts’ pain and suffering despite being difficult and frustrating. I know it’s weird, but it just feels like something I have to do.
Because I don’t think I will be able to let go of being called a liar until I do this work.