90 Minutes

Friday’s (extra) session ended up being 90 minutes long.

I walked in and sat down, immediately curling into myself and pulling my hoodie up over my head. I asked her if she was mad at me.

“No. But…are you okay?”

I just started firing off random and incoherent thoughts, explaining that I was most certainly not okay. I explained that a series of upsetting things had happened that were building up and I needed to just talk.

She told me to go for it and she’d just listen for a while.

I talked about how my sister (cousin) contacted me about my niece. Apparently my niece’s behavior has become very regressive since school restarted earlier this month. She’s been displaying very emotional and labile behavior and has stated that she hates school and hates riding the bus.

Upon further investigation, my sister learned that a boy on the bus has been harassing my niece – insisting that she kiss him, hold his hand, etc. She believes he has touched her as well, but can’t quite determine the nature of physical contact.

Since both my sister and I were sexually abused by more than one perpetrator as children, this was obviously very triggering for her, which then triggered me. Since this is her child, I know she saw a similar situation unfolding in front of her and she felt helpless and terrified. I tried to just stay very calm. I advised her to remain focused on her daughter – ask her what’s going on, tell her you love and support her, let her know that you’re paying attention and you SEE her. She needs to feel as though she is being protected and is not left alone to fend for herself. Once that task is done, then go to the school counselor or her teacher or bus driver and start problem-solving around this boy.

She took my advice and we stayed in contact throughout the next 24 hours as things unfolded. It seems to be calmer now, but I know we’re both emotionally heightened and reeling from the very idea that someone has violated this child’s body and space.

My therapist asked me what major thoughts/feelings I was feeling around this.

“I just…I want to support her. I want them both to know that I’m here and I will help them. I want my sister to know that she’s a good mom; that her daughter will not relive our childhood. But she feels helpless. I feel helpless! How can either of us possibly know how to appropriately respond to this? We were raised in a culture that silenced, ignored, and abused little girls. There was no one to model good parenting; no one to protect us; no one to tell us that we could protect ourselves, our bodies, our space. If we don’t know that, how can we teach it to our kids?!”

She started to respond, but I switched topics.

“And then I got the results from my MRI. It was abnormal. The hamstring tendon is partially torn, as expected, but I also have a labral tear in my hip and cartilage breakdown. My doctor said it is not even related to the pain I experienced in the back of my hip because it’s an anterior tear.”

“What causes that?”

“It’s generally caused by either sudden trauma, such as a car accident, or repetitive trauma, as you’d see in athletes. I have been in car accidents, but I was never injured. I played sports and danced throughout childhood, but not seriously enough to warrant a torn labrum.” 

(For reference, the labrum is a ring that surrounds the socket of a ball-and-socket joint. It’s essentially an extension of the socket and serves like a suction cup to keep the ball in the socket. We have them in our hips and shoulders).

“What do you think it’s from?”

“Well this particular type of tear comes from microtrauma that happens when the hip joint is repeatedly pushed to the end of its range within a very specific combination of motions.”

“What are those motions?”

“Abduction, external rotation, and flexion.”

“What does that mean? What does that look like?”

“Ugh. Okay. So abduction is pulling the leg away from the body. External rotation is turning your toes out. And flexion is bringing your knee towards your torso. Kind of like tree pose – do you know what tree pose is?”

“Yes.”

“So imagine that position. If you’re in that position and you’re repeatedly pushed to the end of those motions, it puts pressure on the front of your hip, pushing the femur on the socket, which causes the tear.”

It looks like this:

 

“So imagine being in that position with both legs and having pressure repeatedly put onto your legs or knees. THAT would tear my labrum and cartilage in this particular way.”

I waited.

I let her visualize it all in her head – the distinctly sexual nature of such a position and what might lead to pressure and repetitive trauma on the hip joint.

Once she put it together, I saw the expression on her face change to something of horror. She looked up and we made eye contact.

“Yeah. Exactly.”

I knew there was so much more to say about this, but I just couldn’t go there.

“Anyway. My doctor said this puts me at a higher risk for osteoarthritis in my hip so we need to keep an eye on it. For now, physical therapy should be fine, but we may need to try more stuff later if it gets worse.”

I jumped topics again:

“So do you remember how there was that drama with Mom a few weeks ago about her friends staying with us during her layover when I said yes and then backed out of it? Well I’d been sorta avoiding her since then. I mean, not really, but enough that she probably noticed. I hadn’t reached out to her at all except maybe one text message. Anyway, she called me last weekend and left a very nice voicemail, which I never returned. I just wasn’t ready to talk to her yet.”

“That’s okay. Sometimes we just need space.”

“I know. But then she called me and I was at the gym, but I picked up anyway because I felt bad that I’d been avoiding her. I said ‘Hello’ and she said ‘Hi Andi, it’s [her first name]’, which…I was so stunned I didn’t even respond to her right away.”

My therapist just looked at me, a bit confused.

“This is so stupid! Nevermind.”

“No, it’s okay. This seems important to you. Even if you think it’s stupid, why don’t you just say it anyway? Just to get it out there?”

“Fine. It’s just…it’s been about two years since she introduced herself on the phone by her first name. She usually says ‘Hello my sweetheart, it’s Mom’. And so I was really caught off guard by that. Which is lame because she’s NOT my mother – this ‘Mom’ thing is just a cute game we play. But still, it hurt me.”

“Of course it did. In this relationship, she is the Mother. And Mothers shouldn’t just stop being your Mom because things get a little tense or distant between the two of you.”

“Well that’s what I was thinking; it’s like she backed out of that part of our relationship because she was worried I was mad at her or something and that’s not fair.”

This conversation also had a lot left to be discussed, but once again, I changed topics:

“Plus I got this fucking invoice from the Trauma Center yesterday. Which means they’re still fighting claims from last year and that money could add up very fast; money I don’t have. Plus, if they challenge Zooey‘s claims, I will get an invoice from her, too. And if I even have that much contact with her, I just…I will lose it. I cannot handle that.”

“Right. That would be very upsetting. But as far as the insurance issue itself, don’t just accept this as your debt. Fight them. This is ridiculous and they need to pay for your care.”

“I know. And Wife is planning on handling all of it nice and calmly, but all I can do is panic. Money is a major trigger for me, especially when it relates to insurance and psychiatric care.”

She started to ask me more about that, but I knew I wanted to pivot the conversation in a different way.

“So as I was panicking last night, thinking about all of this potential debt and all the drama over money, I started figuring out how to lower our expenses. Naturally, since I spend the most money on therapy, I decided that should be the first thing to go.”

She paused, waiting for me to continue this thought.

“I just started freaking out. And I thought it was about the money, which it was, in part. But then I realized that I was creating the perfect excuse to bail out of therapy. So then I started wondering why I feel such an intense need to abandon this work, and THAT is why I emailed you at 2am to ask for an extra session.”

“What do you think that is about? The need to run away?”

“I think it’s about fear. And about power and control. I want to ‘pull a Zooey’ on you. If I come in here and say that my financial situation has changed and I can no longer afford to pay you, there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

“True. That is a pretty good way out.”

“I mean, I guess I could also just say ‘fuck you’ and walk out, but I wouldn’t be that obvious. I’d want something to just make it easy for me to bail. Something that’s seemingly out of my control so I wouldn’t have to take responsibility for that decision.”

“It sounds like you want to ‘pull a Zooey’ on me before I can do it to you.”

“Yep. Exactly. Because I always feel a strong sense that a premature ending to this work is inevitable and I want to stay ahead of that. I don’t want to be blindsided again. I can’t tolerate that. I can’t tolerate THIS.”

She asked me to talk more about that emotion. About the fear and the intolerability of everything.

“It’s everything! This is not my life! I don’t feel real! This life…I am not supposed to be living this. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here. I’m not sure I was ever supposed to be here. I know I wasn’t supposed to live this long, so all of this is just pretend. It’s fake. And it doesn’t belong to me. And all of that – the reality of how little I deserve to even be alive makes this life unbearable.”

She glanced at the clock and said,

“I’m torn, as I often am, at this point in the session. We have 15 minutes left and we’re getting into some really important material. So I’m torn as to whether we should dig into more or pull back so that you’re able to leave here feeling safe and contained.”

I know she meant this from a place of concern and protection, but it just made me flip my shit. I started crying and yelling about how it takes TIME to warm up in session and even feel safe enough to talk about difficult things:

“I watch the clock just like you do! And once I feel calm and settled into the space, I start to consider what I could talk about. And I’m asking myself the same questions: can I get into this material and do this deeper work and still make my way back before that hour ends? Do I risk getting stuck in a regressed or dissociated state or do I just let the clock run out, knowing I’m holding back?”

“I know you do. I know you’re constantly assessing the situation.”

“It’s agonizing. And lonely. There’s SO MUCH I want to say – I want to go deeper. But I am so fucking terrified that I won’t be able to return to my Adult Self in time and we’ll both end up overwhelmed and resentful of each other and of the work. So I just sit here, alone, holding onto all of this shit that I desperately want to release.”

“I know. And I see this pattern in our dynamic – we get about 45 minutes in and that’s generally when we get to something that I would really love for us to get into further, but it’s hard to know what to do.”

“I know. I think I sense and react to your hesitancy. Or you sense mine.”

“Perhaps we both sense each other’s hesitancy?”

“Probably.”

“Right. And I’m going to think about this pattern some more – about how we can maybe shift our dynamic to allow you to relax earlier in the session and feel more welcome to share that stuff as it comes up, rather than agonizing over what and when to share.”

I love that she said that, because I know she means it. I know that she’ll think about it a lot and come back with ideas.

“Also, while we’re figuring that out and working on new ways to make this space safer for you, there’s still the option of more time. I know things are a little complicated with scheduling for us right now, but adding 15 minutes to our sessions might be just what you need to push through that particular barrier.”

GREAT.

So here I am freaking out about all the money I spend on therapy and grasping at any excuse to run away from it while she’s suggesting I see her even more.

I don’t know. It’s confusing. If three sessions a week still isn’t enough, what is wrong with me? What would an extra 45 minutes per week really do? Why can’t I do enough in three hours?

But maybe she’s right.

Or maybe she just likes that check I write her every Monday.

What a mess.

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28 thoughts on “90 Minutes

  1. Boost Connection says:

    I’m so proud of you for asking for the extra session. Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your mind and you needed space to bring that in. That’s a lot of emotional material to be holding onto yourself and you needed to just put it out there, maybe so you can open even more space inside for whatever’s been trying to emerge lately.

    You deserve as much time as possible to be heard. If you were in therapy 3 hours/week for the rest of your life, it still wouldn’t make up for the decades of trauma you endured. I understand all the intense abandonment fears you are experiencing. You’re really in the work right now and I would be afraid of being left there too. But I think I’d most want support at the same time because it’s better than being alone with all this crap, ya know?

    You deserve good things, my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thank you, dear. Yes! So much on my mind. Tbh, this is kinda how it feels almost all of the time. I just am generally better at holding it all back and focusing on the “most important” topics during session.

      Very kind comment about the 3x/week. I need to focus on that reality – there is a LOT of trauma to overcome and that process may take the rest of my life. I just hope it isn’t always this painful and challenging.

      I definitely don’t want to be left in this. That would be beyond devastating.

      SMUSH!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

    OH hugs hugs hugs
    She is really on your side in helping you through all this messy bullshit. Stick with her, work the schedule. You CAN do it, Andi!
    I’m so proud you were able to open up even with the topic jumps. You needed that release. You are making progress even if you don’t see it. Slowly and steadily.
    It’s not about the money to her-it’s about your safety, your ability to recognize and cope through triggers, and explore all the trauma you’ve endured in a safe place.
    Deep breath in, and blow that fucker out! STRONGS ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anxious Mom says:

    You’re doing great! And the extra 15 minutes–well, it’s all relative, right? 15 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but I could see where that might allow you to cover a good bit of extra ground. Especially, if as you mentioned, it takes a little while to get there. Gives you a chance to really hit your stride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      True. It really doesn’t sound like much, but when I think about how much we CAN get through in those last 15 minutes, I realize how much we really can do in that period of time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cat's Meow says:

    I really think that those 15 minutes, correctly placed, could make a huge difference in a session. It amazes me how once I’m able to deeply get into the work, 15-25 minutes of deep work is often all that I’m up to, since the deep work is So intense.

    You are doing amazingly to decide to lean in to the work rather than run!

    My therapist and I have talked about how while I will be dealing with the effects of the abuse for the rest of my life and new bits and pieces might come up, the intensity level will go way down and I will be able to spend most of my time just living. I hope that happen for both of us.

    I wanted to acknowledge that sense of feeling like you shouldn’t be alive. It can bring such a profound sense of wrongness to everything. Like nothing fits. I’m sorry that your experiences left you with this to struggle with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spacey Tracey says:

      Yes, that feeling like you shouldn’t be alive…Just a few weeks ago I heard a song that was popular when I was 3 or 4 and one that I really liked and all of a sudden I was having these major memories coming from that time and I could remember that I hated to wake up, I would get very shy and not want anyone to see me and get so overwhelmed and not want to be seen. I had forgotten about it and suddenly I could feel it so strong and can remember just knowing I wasn’t welcome to wake up. I didn’t deserve it and then I could feel in my body knowing that I wasn’t welcome or even wanted to be born. It was an accidental teen pregnancy and although she refused to EVER name or speak of the father i believe from all the secrecy that has gone on over the years it may have been a certain family member. But I swear I have those feelings of complete unwantedness that go all the way back. It does make a person feel like they just don’t deserve to be alive! I bet there are such things from very young from you too that lead up to your feeling that way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        I’m so sorry. To feel like you don’t deserve to be alive, even going back before your own birth, is such a deep and excruciating pain. Thank you for sharing…I hate this, but it’s so good to know I’m not alone.

        Like

    • Andi says:

      Thank you. Yes, that feeling of wrongness … that even being alive is wrong … is so tough. And I agree, I think 15 minutes could go such a long way. But I also think that I worry a lot about NOT using it well and then wasted my and her time.

      Like

  5. alicewithptsd says:

    I really think that adding 15 minutes is a good idea, and nothing to feel bad about. It often takes me a good 30 minutes of chit chat, then maybe 15 minutes of internal debating or hinting to Bea about what I need to discuss, and then I can finally talk about things for 15-20 minutes and still have 10-15 minutes to get grounded because I have 90 minutes sessions. And sometimes I still run over on those. It’s so hard to get into that headspace, to feel safe enough to bring up the ugly stuff, and I think it’s sort of weird, right? Like it’s not “normal” conversation, it’s not stuff we talk about in real life, and then we walk into therapy and try to dredge it up. And if it feels disconnected, or not part of us or part of us but somehow separate (I really don’t know how to explain this very well), I think it’s even harder to bring up. I don’t know. Just my thoughts.

    And, I really feel for you, your sister and niece. I went through a similar situation with Kat, and I relied on Bea a lot during that time. It’s so hard, especially when you can’t separate your story from the child’s story— things got very twisted together for me during that time, and I was really afraid everyone in my life was hurting Kat. I think the important thing is it was addressed, talked about with Kat, and with your niece. They both know it is okay to tell, to talk. So they are being protected. We didn’t tell, we didn’t feel safe enough to tell, or of we did the reactions we received were horrible. That’s not the case here; it sounds as though your sister is handling this all very well, and letting your niece know it’s okay. I still worry about Kat, that she will be me when she grows up; Bea assures me this won’t happen because it wasn’t a horrible secret, it was stopped, and Kat has been allowed to talk through it and work through it in play therapy both with Bea and with me at home (seriously triggering for me, but I made it through somehow). Bea did say that just as when the death of a loved one may bring up feelings of loss and grief over other loved ones deaths, having feelings hurt by a peer, or anything similar may bring up feelings of that situation but it wouldn’t be the way my memories take over and make me feel crazy horrible. I don’t know if any of that is reassuring or not, but I understand how triggering that situation is.

    Hugs…xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks for your reassurance around my sister and niece. I try to keep reminding myself that her and I both intentionally broke this cycle. We are determined to raise our kids differently and to always see them and protect them. And to constantly communicate with them and tell them that we are here for them to share with. I hope that will be enough.

      As far as therapy, I appreciate you sharing your story about the longer sessions. I definitely want to think about this more. It’s so complicated for me to open up this space even more. It’s a lot of pressure. I’d LIKE to think I’d use that time to get to the difficult stuff that is so hard for me to carry around, but I probably wouldn’t. And that stresses me out, even though I know that ANYTHING I bring up in session is important work (because there’s a reason I bring it into the space, right?).

      Thanks again for your support xx

      Like

      • alicewithptsd says:

        You know…I totally get the fear of not using the time for “important stuff”. But, if it makes you feel any less alone, I spent most of this summer chattering away about Kat, the weather, walking, Hagrid, laundry…I used 90 minute twice a week shrink sessions to talk about nothing. But to hear Bea tell it, I was doing what I needed to, to stay safe and function until I could deal with the crap, and I was using my sessions wisely, as a space for me to just be. I don’t know. It’s craziness, to me. But to her, it was part of the process and perfectly acceptable. So, maybe we need to start being more accepting of what we bring to the space? I don’t know. But, I know how hard this is.

        Like

  6. Spacey Tracey says:

    When there is so much going on at once there is nothing wrong with skipping from topic to topic. Its like you are giving the therapist all the bits and pieces of what is overwhelming you and the jumble going on in your mind then it is her job to help you sort out and proritize the issues. I think it was great you touched on everything a little bit. So, after identifying what would cause that kind of injury and looking back on your experience of the MRI, it makes complete sense of the trauma and pain you felt and I’m assuming reliving painful, forceful childhood rapes. Its a wonder you were able to complete the procedure. I had very violent oral sex forced onto me. By 17 I was already having major tmj surgery and my mouth wired shut. Of course I believe there is a connection and so with you. Like VanderKolk says, “the body keeps the score”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yes, the body absolutely keeps the score. And I have been feeling that more than ever lately. And actually, it did feel good to cover a lot of material, even if it was random and confusing. It felt nice to just dump it all into the space and lay the groundwork to bring any (or all) of it up again at a later time.

      Like

  7. Lemonbella says:

    I know one of the important steps for me was letting go of the time factor (and as usual I didn’t realise its importance until AFTER i did it…). I had to accept (allow myself to accept) that my T was responsible for the timing etc. not me – and that meant I had to trust her to do it well, talk to me if there was a problem, and, crucially that she cared enough about me to follow through on that responsibility – rather than *me* having to manage the timings (because for me that was a little microcosm of constantly feeling like I have to ‘manage’ me and my emotions for the sake of other people and to prevent them walking way – welcome to my ISSUE!).

    You are doing really well not to just run away – that’s all you need to do right now. She sounds like maybe she wants to try and help take some of the load of managing the timings etc. of sessions so if you feel you can, let her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      This is such a big struggle for me, likely because I feel inherently unworthy of taking up any of her time (even time I pay for). So I do think she’s good at managing the time and all parameters well, but it’s hard for me to LET her do that, I think. More to work on.

      Like

  8. Ellen says:

    I really relate to getting into heavier emotional territory right at the end of a session. I do that routinely also. My T floated the idea that I did that purposely, in order to put a boundary on how deep I could go. I don’t know if that’s true for me really – it just takes me a while to warm up. For a while I did try longer sessions and it was helpful. It sounds like it would be good for you to try, if you can afford it anyway.

    So much heavy stuff – take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I mean, yeah, I think it could be a combination of things for me. It’s partly fear, partly not wanting to allow enough room to dig into it, and partly that it really does take time for me to feel comfortable enough in the space to share the really tough stuff. I’m definitely going to spend more time thinking on the time element. Thanks for sharing your experience around this.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rachel says:

    All of those situations in isolation would be enough to send me into a tailspin, let alone all at once. Props (is that still even a phrase?) to you for asking for that session, for going, being real, and facing this shit.

    Liked by 1 person

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