The therapist is going on vacation next week. *Gasp*.
Folks, let me tell you something: I HATE therapy breaks. For every and any reason. My vacation, their vacation, national holiday, illness, whatever. I hate them all. Any shift in my routine makes me feel completely out of control. I’ve been avoiding having any conversation with the therapist about said vacation because it makes me so uncomfortable. But last session, she brought it up and I realized I probably shouldn’t wait until the last minute to discuss this with her.
I asked her if she remembered what I said happened the last time Zooey had gone on vacation. I also reminded her that this time last year (literally, this exact week) I was locked in a psychiatric hospital. She smiled and said, “Well! What a difference a year makes!” which was kinda nice to hear, but I also snapped back, “The week is not over yet” in typical doomsday fashion. Life with PTSD, amiright?
She said she has a basic idea of what happened with Zooey, but she isn’t entirely sure of the time frame. Then she asked if I thought it would be helpful to talk about last year; to give a timeline from before the hospital to when we first met back in December, right after Zooey terminated. I thought that was reasonable, so I explained how the tension and chaos with Zooey and I started in mid-summer.
Then I went on vacation once school let out in August. The day after I returned, I had session with Zooey. I don’t remember going. I don’t remember much of that day at all. I just remember a doctor waking me up at 2am and thinking, “Where the fuck am I?!”
The three day hospital stay was a disaster. They were not equipped to treat me and they gave Zooey a hassle, even though she literally worked there (albeit in a different department). I was supposed to have session with her the day I was discharged, but she filled the appointment, so I couldn’t see her. I was pissed and I told her as much via text. She asked if she could call me over the weekend to talk and I said that was fine.
That’s when things really shifted. Suddenly I needed “more intensive treatment” and she gave me an ultimatum: either go to a daily DBT program locally or attend a two week trauma program out of state OR she would not be able to keep seeing me. She used our relationship (and my attachment to her) as leverage. She knew I’d choose her, even if it meant doing something I didn’t want to do.
I wasn’t fundamentally opposed to either option. But considering I was in school, working, and completing a mandatory internship, it really was not ideal for me to be traveling out of state or trying to fit daily DBT into my schedule! Once Wife and I looked into the trauma program, it actually seemed like a great program, so I agreed to apply for that. The time frame they gave us was “anywhere between October and February”.
Um, no. That was NOT going to work for me. When they called to do my phone interview, I explained everything I had going on and asked if they would be able to possibly work within a certain time frame in October. Thankfully, that did work for them, so I was able to rearrange my schedule and also be away during the two weeks of class that I did not have an exam or presentation. Phew.
The program was lovely, but very skills focused. It was jarring to go from twice-weekly psychodynamic psychotherapy to daily skills-based treatment and then back into psychotherapy. I had a hard time adjusting to being back in therapy with Zooey and I was admittedly still resentful towards her for giving me an ultimatum to begin with. I felt like so much had been left un-discussed between us and the tension just kept building more and more.
Then she went on vacation in November, about three weeks after I got back from the program. She said I could reach out to her during her vacation, but I was determined not to do that. Obviously I’d been such a burden on her that she had to send me to another fucking state for treatment. I wasn’t about to disrupt her vacation.
When she got back, things were even worse. I was so angry with her – for forcing me into an intensive program, for being confusing and sending mixed signals, for saying one thing and doing another, for abandoning me to go on vacation despite all of the chaos between us. I didn’t even know how to talk to her. That first session back was rough. I wasn’t very nice to her and towards the end of it, I told her I wasn’t even sure therapy made sense anymore. I wasn’t asking to terminate, I was just scared and confused and hurting. She responded at the very last minute by saying, “Well I think we both have a lot to think about.”
I was out of time, so I couldn’t do anything except walk out. But her comment sent me reeling. What did she mean? What should I be thinking about? Why does she need to think about things? WHAT is she thinking about?! I knew, on some level, that things were over. The next day I got an email from her asking if Wife could come to my next session with me. And then at that session, four days after she returned from vacation, she terminated treatment.
Once I finished this whole dramatic story, the therapist reflected back to me that I seem much less ashamed when I speak of Zooey than previously. As she said that, I realized she was right. I told her that I think having time and space from the situation has allowed me to see it more clearly. I explained that I don’t agonize over this anymore. I still find myself running through what happened in my head every once in a while. I’ll ask myself what I could have done differently or done better to prevent the situation from getting so out of hand.
She said, “Nothing. You did nothing wrong. And there’s nothing you could have done ‘better’. At the end of the day, your therapist terminated your treatment with no warning and no rational explanation. That is not your fault. That is unethical and a terrible thing to do to a client.”
She’s right. I know she’s right. But I still feel compelled to wonder. I think the wondering gives me a (false) sense of safety: if I can figure out what I did wrong to make Zooey leave, I can prevent others from leaving me.
The therapist told me that she IS available to me during her vacation. She said she’ll be checking her voicemail, so I can call and she’ll call me back to check in. Or, she said we could schedule a full phone session. I declined the phone session and I told her I probably wouldn’t call, either. And I probably won’t. It’s too painful to imagine reaching out to her when she’s not at work. As it is, I only call if I know she’s in the office. Then I (half) jokingly said, “I think we need a break from each other anyway. A week off will be good for us.”
She said that she is still keeping the offer open. I can call anytime. Then she asked me if there was anything else she could do to help bridge the gap between sessions while she’s away. I said, “Well…I don’t know what will happen. I don’t think you’ll go away and realize you don’t want to work with me anymore, but you might. If you do, I’ll deal with it. I’ll figure it out. But if I am not so nice to you during that first session back…please just don’t take it personal.”
She smiled and said, “You got it – it’s a deal!”