Round Two

I wish I could report that yesterday’s session went better than Monday’s session.

It didn’t.

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was worse, but it was very very similar.

I had session right after my internship. On the train ride to my therapist’s office, I was debating whether or not I should share about how the shift had gone. It was my second day, but I didn’t mention it at all on Monday because there were so many other things I wanted to touch on in that hour.

Also, it always seems like such a silly waste of time to share about these peripheral things when there’s so much else we’re in the middle of right now that is more important.

But I’d had a very successful shift and treated five patients on my own. My clinical instructor was very impressed with me and I felt proud of that. So, like a little kid who wants to run home and tell their parents about the awesome thing they did at school, I wanted to run and tell my therapist how awesome I was at my internship.

I did. And I could tell she was proud of me, too. She said, “I’m not surprised at all, but it’s very cool that they obviously like you so much at your clinic!”

Then I shared that I met the massage therapist who rents the office on off-hours. After we had our obligatory social introduction, she asked me where I was from (meaning my family heritage). I told her I was born here in the U.S. but my family comes from the United Kingdom and Italy. She said, “Oh wow. I thought you were maybe Polish or something – you’re so beautiful! And those eyes – they are stunning!”

Then I made a reference to the 1980’s and she said, “You were around in the 80’s?” so I told her I was born in the 80’s. She looked surprised and said, “Oh my goodness, I thought you were closer to 20!”

Which led to an emotionally charged conversation with my therapist about how difficult it is for me to accept such “compliments” because #1: I hate people looking at my body and things like this remind me that they’re doing so, and #2 it’s not really a compliment since I literally had nothing to do with my genetics.

(Also, I didn’t mention this to my therapist, but #3: I hate my face because I look so much like my parents and so every time I look in the mirror, I see those monsters staring right back at me.)

I told my therapist that I thought the massage therapist was being nice. She said, “She wasn’t just being nice, that is how she genuinely experienced you – as youthful looking and beautiful.”

I said, “No she didn’t, she was just making conversation!”

She had a defeated look on her face and just said, “…Okay.”

I knew we wouldn’t make much headway with the body image conversation, so I changed the subject about fifteen minutes in; I told her I wanted to circle back around to Monday’s session and spend a little bit more time processing what happened between us. She thought that was a great idea and I could tell she was impressed that I’d brought it up.

I explained that there were a lot of important things that came up in that conversation that weren’t actually expressed properly. I also said that we were very disconnected – it felt like we were so far apart and just could not find each other. She asked me to share more about what I felt she didn’t hear me saying and to try again to say what I wanted to say.

I hesitated. I told her I was afraid to recreate that conversation in all of it’s messy frustration. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what happened. I don’t even know how it happened, but it did.

I started to share the way I experienced that particular part of the session and she responded that she had actually experienced it completely differently. At that point I didn’t even want to talk about it anymore, but she said it would be good to do so. She said that our realities will never match up and they don’t have to, but the goal is to bring them closer together.

I knew she was right, but it is SO HARD for me to get this shit out of my mouth at all. The idea of having to try yet again to articulate something that feels so painful was not at all appealing. Plus it’s embarrassing for me; I’m always afraid that by re-hashing these types of things, I’m making it super dramatic. So then once she realizes what I was actually trying to say, she’ll just think it’s dumb.

At one point she asked me to share how I experienced her reactions to me while I was talking on Monday. I told her that I felt she was frustrated and probably confused because my tone was very strong and a bit confrontational. I imagined she was caught a little off-guard by my emotion and was wondering where all of this was coming from. I also shared that I was watching her face while I was speaking and I felt she had a bemused smirk on her face and that she seemed to be feeling a lot of emotion that she was trying to restrain.

She said, “And why would I be feeling those things?”

“I don’t fucking know! And you know that! How could I possibly know what or why you’re feeling anything?! This feels like such a trick question! This line of questioning sucks. Does this work on other clients? Are they okay with being interrogated like this? Am I the only one who thinks this feels like shit?!”

She asked, “How could I have asked that differently? What would you like me to say in response to you?”

“I don’t know! What the hell? Do you want me to do your job for you, too?”

“Yes, because you won’t let me do my job.”

She was right and I knew it. But I wouldn’t admit it. I was too frustrated and I felt too helpless. She kept talking,

“I’m thinking of an earlier conversation we had where you shared that you felt you often caused your therapists to feel incompetent. I am not feeling that way right now, but I do wonder if you’re intentionally being provocative. I feel like my hands are tied right now – nothing I say is what you want to hear. And I do detect an attitude from you. Which is okay – you’re allowed to have these feelings, but you also need to know that your behavior has an impact on people.”

“Right. So now, on top of everything else I’m worried about, I have to worry about your feelings? I can barely take care of myself and now I have to take care of you? I can’t do that!”

“No, you do not have to take care of me. But you do need to be aware that you have impact.”

I tried to calm myself a bit. I said, “Listen, I know you aren’t really interrogating me. I know that when you ask me such questions, you’re genuinely interested in the answer and trying to figure out how I’m experiencing this or what I’m imagining about you or about what’s happening in the work. But it just feels like an attack. I feel like you’re questioning my reality and my reality was ALWAYS questioned. So when you do that, it triggers an old wound and I react with a lot of powerful emotion. But I think that emotion is important. So I think what I’m trying to do is use this relationship and use the therapy to talk about other emotions from earlier in my life. I’m trying to use it as the medium with which we can discuss it.”

She replied, “Well this is something we’ve talked about before, right? That trauma response. So maybe what’s happening is that the way we’re interacting reminds you of an earlier time. We both know that you grew up in an environment where if you did try to share your experience of something, you would not only be questioned, you’d likely be attacked for it. So although the emotion you’re feeling right now about this conversation and about how I’m responding to you is genuine, I also think it’s based on historical relational trauma.”

I just looked at her, dumbfounded. Then I took a deep breath and said, “That is literally exactly what I just said.”

“That is not what I heard you saying.”

I grit my teeth, crossed my arms, and looked up at the ceiling to try and contain all of the emotion that was surfacing. I tried so hard to hold back my tears, but I started crying anyway and that made me even more frustrated. In that moment, I didn’t want her to see me crying. I didn’t want to give her that.

After a moment, I looked at the clock. We were out of time.

I just started yelling, “This sucks so fucking bad! I brought this up because I wanted to feel better about it but now I feel even worse! And now I have to hold onto this until Monday; hold onto this relationship drama along with all of the other shit I’m trying to hold onto and it’s just too much. It’s too much, it’s too much, it’s too much.”

My entire body started shaking.

She very slowly said, “There is nothing I can say right now that will help you or make you feel better. And that is awful. So we’re just going to need to hold onto this until Monday. But I am here. If you need to check in before then, I am here.”

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27 thoughts on “Round Two

  1. Cat's Meow says:

    I’m sorry that the session was so messy, frustrating, and left you feeling all alone. What a terribly difficult part of the process of establishing your relationship!

    As frustrating and frightening as it is, it seems that there is some part of you that needs to fight with her right now, though. As awful as it feels, it’s something that the two of you can use as a part of the therapeutic process. Both to explore the past and for you to experience having on going conflict, but not being punished or abandoned for being ‘difficult’ in the present.

    But you so clearly express how miserable it is to go through and I hope that you are able to move on to something that is at least slightly easier before too long!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes, it really did. Especially the alone part, which was unbearable. I definitely think I need to fight with her right now. As she was pointing out my attitude, I said to her “I know. But I think I need to just be nasty to you right now because I know I can do that and you won’t slap me across the face” and she said, “True. I won’t” So…I mean, I think she understands that I just need to be in this agitated space with her right now. I also hope we can find our way through this sooner rather than later! Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. pattyspathtohealing says:

    Omg, Andi. I’m so sorry that your therapist could not seem to hear you and that you are left to hang on to this crazy stuff. Honestly, I think it’s going around. As I walked out the door in basically the same place on Thursday, my therapist said, all I well. I think trying to assure me that our relationship is okay. I yelled back, no, it’s not and stomped off. Her next client looked very taken aback. The look on that client’s face cracked me up, when I thought about it when I got to my car.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Patty. I felt very much like she wasn’t hearing me or seeing me in that hour, which was so painful. Thanks for sharing your experience with this – it’s always so healing to know I’m not alone with this stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tina says:

    Wow … that sucks. That would be SO frustrating to end a session like that. I’m not even sure I could do it. I would need some reassurance before Monday that you’re hearing what I’m saying & that we’re ok:(

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Anxious Mom says:

    Damn, I’m sorry that session went so poorly. I’m sure she isn’t deliberately being obtuse, but jeez, it almost seems like it. I hate she didn’t give you some time to find your bearings (or help find them) before leaving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I felt that way, too – as though she was being deliberately obtuse. I’m not sure if that was it or if she just wasn’t tracking with me, but it was so agonizing either way. And I agree – I think she needed to give me more time and space to get through that stuff. I felt so abandoned in it.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Sirena says:

    O-M-G… frustrating as hell. I feel like she’s trying to keep herself out of your therapy ( a technique they all use) but like it or not they ARE in it. And I feel like a lot of this could be avoided by her just sharing herself. Telling you what was and is going on for her when you speak, this bullshit of “what do you think I was thinking?” etc is a pile of crap. I feel frustrated for you. I love when you get angry at her, I’ve said that before, but you are SO en pointe on what you say, calling her out on her therapy speak. She’s hiding behind her therapy-self and she needs to come out a be her authentic self. Why is she hiding? I wonder if she feels the strength of your anger and it does make her retreat a little bit into the safety of ” I am the therapist” It is hard to sit with anyone’s anger, whether you’re trained for it or not. And I wonder if that feel a bit abandoning to you? She encourages all your feelings yet when you do, she retreats somewhat? I thnk she needs to get into it with you. You are an intelligent and self-aware client who needs a lot more honesty and authenticity than she is currently giving. I think you are strong enough to take that honesty, strong enough and robust enough to hear how she is experiencing you and the relationship, and I think you really need that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes! SO frustrating! We’ve been talking a lot about transparency recently and she shared that she feels like I ask these questions in a challenging way that sorta suggests that I don’t really want an answer, or that I wouldn’t like the answer regardless of what she said. Which is fair, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t also being obtuse and dodging my questions. Such a damn mess. I definitely think I am strong enough to handle honesty and authenticity from her, but maybe she’s not so sure. Thanks for the support, Sirena. xx

      Like

  6. Cat's Meow says:

    I wanted to added some other thoughts that came to me as I was writing for myself.

    I’m having trouble finding the words to describe this… At least twice I have experienced a lot of conflict with my therapist just as I have been learning to let her in more. One time it was about accepting that no one could be there me all of the time. Intellectually, I understood that she couldn’t be there 100% of the time, but I was dealing with a level of me that needed for someone to be there. It was a very, very young need that should have been satisfied when I was a wee thing, but it wasn’t, and the cruel reality is that no matter how much I needed that around the clock sense of comfort, protection, and love, it’s impossible for me to get it now. The best that I can do is to accept as much as I can from all of the different people who care for me, learn that even if they aren’t present, I still matter to them, and then fill in the gaps myself. Particularly because I wasn’t willing to wake my husband to ask for help, I was all on my own in those bleak middle of the night hours. I would bemoan to my therapist that I was “all alone” and she would respond that I wasn’t as alone as I felt, because I have people who love and want to support me. I felt so misunderstood. From today’s viewpoint, I think that we were both right. At a certain point, it does come down to me taking care of myself, because I am no longer an infant who needs my mother that way. But she also was right that I was far less alone than I felt, if only I would stop shutting people out when I most needed them.

    The second time was about my realizing that no matter how much someone cared and no matter how closely they listened, they would never really understand what my reality had been like when the abuse was happening or what it is like right now as I struggle to deal with it. People might think that they understand, but it’s impossible for them to Fully understand because they interpret everything through their own experience, no matter how hard they try to understand. There is no perfect understanding. Plus, I knew that even though my therapist was there with me when I talked about the most horrible things, there was some element that was different about the connection. It left me feeling so very, very alone. As we talked, I learned more about how she has to hold herself to remain available to and there with me while I go to those horrible places, but also to remain solid enough in her separate self that she did not absorb too much of the damage of what I was sharing. She was doing something that was somewhat different from her normal way of being with me and it did involve something like distancing and it partially was to protect herself. But she has to protect herself so she doesn’t burn out and she can continue to be there, her taking that stance ensured that she could remain as close as possible to me for the whole session rather than getting overwhelmed and withdrawing, and her protecting herself was not a rejection of me. It was a healthy and responsible way of dealing with the realities of working with a severely traumatized client. She had worked out a way to give me what I needed both then and over the long term. She was doing what she had promised me that she would do, take care of herself so I wouldn’t overwhelm her and so I didn’t have to worry about regulating myself in order to keep from overwhelming her. Because I grew up with a mother who alternated between dealing with me pretty well, enmeshment and emotional neglect (out of ignorance of how to do better, not lack of wanting to do better) I felt that I needed that enmeshment experience in order to feel understood and fully cared for. When my therapist wouldn’t give that to me, it made me angry at first. Finally we talked about it enough and she acknowledged enough times that she could never fully understand my experience, never having been through something like that. She also told me that she wanted to understand as well as she could and that she could see the effects that it had on me. While she could never understand what the experiences were like, the effects were clear. And she wanted for me to tell her whatever I needed to tell her about the experiences. Eventually, I learned that all of that was enough for me. I didn’t need for someone to be there with me In my anguish, I needed for someone to be with me and help to connect me to my current reality.

    Sorry to go on for so long, but things that you have said reminded me of those experiences, so I thought that there was a chance that some pieces of them might resonate for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      A lot of that does resonate with me, yes. I often feel alone and I’m also aware that I’m doing most of the keeping myself alone. Which mainly comes from fear, but is still very real. I think I do sometimes struggle with feeling as though she and I are so far apart simply because she can never really know or FEEL my trauma and my suffering. The dynamic of therapy puts her in a position of power and a position of being “less crazy” or “less broken”, which serves to make me acutely aware of how crazy and broken I feel.

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  7. alicewithptsd says:

    This is so hard. All of this is so hard. I wonder if you need to “be nasty to the therapist” to test her, to really prove that she won’t leave or get mad or anything else if you behave like this. Maybe this is one thing you need to feel safer in this space– to know she won’t leave if you are nasty to her. I remember, once, early on, when we were emailing about relationships (Bea insisting they matter, me stubbornly sticking to my stance of they are unimportant), Bea told me that it would me normal for me to be mad and act mean towards her. I’d written this email, and said things I needed to say, but at the end I had apologized because I felt as though I was being hurtful or mean and I wasn’t meaning to, I just needed to get my point made. It made me uncomfortable, the idea of being deliberately mean to her because I was mad, but I get it now. And I wanted to tell you that I have it on good authority that it is normal to be mad and mean to your therapist.

    I hope this weekend passes by quickly, and that you can find moments of peace. I hope Monday’s session is better. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Oh I am absolutely testing her. And I’ll probably keep doing that for a long damn time. I’m at a point where things are shifting and I’m not sure what comes next. I need to be sure that she’s gonna stick around through all of the potential ugliness of that. Thank you for letting me know that it’s normal to be mad at my therapist. xx

      Like

  8. Rachel says:

    Agh, so tough! Sending so much tenderness and support.
    This is hard. Based on what you wrote, it sounds like there is some need surfacing to test and push and provoke. You are provoking her deliberately (which I know you are aware of) and she is aptly calling that out, which is very appropriate and good. What I am hearing is that you have some need surfacing, but what I can’t’ quite pinpoint, is what that need is from her. Do you want her to just stay? Are you wanting her to fight back? I can’t tell. Maybe you aren’t sure yet, either. Which is why you two are locking horns here. I sense she is retreating a bit, which frankly, doesn’t surprise me. If a client was doing this to me, I would also need to step back in order to see clearly enough what was happening so I could make myself as useful as possible. Cat’s comment really resonated with me – as hard as it is for us, our therapists are not going to ‘get it’ and be there with us right in it. They have to separate themselves from it, and us, when shit gets real. It hurts to feel so alone, I hate it too. I hate feeling like she doesn’t care and isn’t understanding. But she never will fill that. It hurts so bad. Of course you rail against her – and that is okay. It is okay to not know what you need. This will shift, I know it will. You’re doing such good and difficult work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes, exactly. I know I need something, but I don’t know what that is. I mentioned that to her on the phone today and we were sorta able to sort it out a little more, but it’s still incredibly frustrating.

      Interesting point on her retreating – I sorta feel like she does that, too. She steps back to say “Okay, what is the bigger picture of what’s going on right now?” which is probably a good thing, but it makes me feel abandoned/rejected. I agree with Cat’s comment, but I actually feel as though this therapist is more “in it” with me than any previous clinician. Maybe that’s what bothers me? Who knows. I’m so weird. Thanks for the support xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel says:

        I’m pretty bothered by my therapist being so helpful and on point, too. It is uncomfortable and I can’t even really explain why, but sometimes I want her to mess up or hurt me just so I don’t have to sit with this vulnerability.
        I don’t think you are weird. I think you are a feeling, sentient being unimpressed with environments that don’t feel congruent to you. So misattunements are noticed immediately. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Ellen says:

    I too struggle a lot with my T. I admire how you are able to stick to your guns here – I tend to give up and change the subject pretty quickly, and want to work on staying with it. That part of it is all me – my T would stay with it if I did. I also relate to the pain of that disconnection very much. And also to wishing there was more of a plan. Good for you for venturing into painful territory, and also for just noticing and verbalizing what’s really going on for you.

    You do have insightful comments here, and I don’t feel intelligent this morning, so I’ll leave it at that. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thank you, Ellen. I really appreciate that because it WAS very hard for me to stay with this. I keep trying to figure out where the need for a plan is coming from, but I don’t quite have that nailed down yet. But the disconnection is just something I cannot withstand.

      Like

  10. Spacey Tracey says:

    Well, I have been in the middle of some deep shit that FEELS horrible and session time was up and there was really no way to wrap it up or anything but to leave feeling awful and undone and I have to say that none of my therapists have ever told me that they were available for a check in if I needed it prior to next session. That part does impress me. I’m not saying they didn’t feel bad to see me in pain or that they weren’t concerned. When I was new to my current therapist and had a bad bad session she did once call to check on me the next day, but none of them ever invited a check in. In fact the company that I go to now doesn’t even do crisis calls in between sessions. If you call after hours you are directed to a state wide crisis intervention suicide prevention number and you talk to a stranger. I know you are going to have to work out whatever shit comes up for you in your own time and way but she does appear capable, willing and dedicated to seeing you through this! The other thing I know is that if I asked my therapist about the vision of goals and outcomes she would put it right back on me saying “this isn’t my therapy you tell me what you want this process and outcome to look like, you tell me what you want this to look like”. I remember I had a therapist who I would journal and she would write to me a note back each time and we had two notebooks going so each week I had a note to look forward to when I left because separating was so hard. I remember one of her messages said I’m sorry we had such a rough session and that I didn’t seem to get it, maybe there really wasn’t an “it” to get. I remember being upset but sort of knowing way deep down that even though I was seriously struggling with something she was sort of right and that really I was just testing her. I’m not trying to be mean or insensitive, I know the struggle is there I just know that sometimes in our pain comes a mistrust and resistance that can make it hard for our therapists to help us even if they are good, dependable, capable, trustworthy professionals. Now, please don’t get upset with me for playing devils advocate OK?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Hmm, that’s sounds tough – not having access to your therapist outside of session time. I appreciate that you at least have the option of a crisis line, but sometimes you don’t need crisis intervention as much as a conversation. I very much appreciated that she reminded me I could check in and I think her acknowledgement that there was nothing she could do was very honest.

      As far as goals, I know she doesn’t really believe in “goals”. She conceptualizes therapy more as a constant process that flows wherever it needs to go. I get it, but that’s difficult for me to sit with because it feels too porous and abstract.

      I don’t think you’re being mean, insensitive, or the Devil’s Advocate. There is a lot of validity to what you’re saying and I always love getting feedback, especially when people share their own experiences. I know that I am absolutely testing her and making it very difficult for her to help me right now.

      Thanks for the support xx

      Like

  11. Life in a Bind - BPD and me says:

    Sending big hugs Andi, that sounds extremely painful and you are so brave x You have had some amazing comments, and everything Cat and Rachel have said, particularly, really resonate with me and there are some excellent comments in there, as well as in others’ words as well. I will be thinking of you before your next session and look forward to hearing how it went. Painful though this is, I can’t help feeling you may be on the brink of a really really important breakthrough/transition point in your therapy and in your relationship with your therapist, and hard though it is to keep going, I’m keeping everything crossed that you will look back on this as a key step forward for the two of you. Take care xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Amb says:

    Ugh. It sounds like this was a really rough session. It didn’t seem like she was being very helpful, but I also think that maybe you’re pushing her. It seems like you expect her to give up on you, because so many other shitty people have. I think maybe you’re testing her in a way? You know, by seeing how hard you can push before she’s had enough. If this is way off, I apologize. If it’s any consolation, though, I don’t think she’s going to give up. I truly believe that she’s in it for the long run. xxx

    Like

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