Today’s session was terrible.
I don’t regret going, or asking for it back, but it was awful. I knew it would be. I had no delusions about this being a wonderful hour where we were attuned and I’d leave feeling all warm and emotionally validated.
I was angry with her and I told her as much. I told her I thought it was a poor choice to bring up my decision to cancel Monday’s session for a doctor’s appointment during a very short phone call. I was not prepared for that. I thought we would just touch base to acknowledge an email I did not send and to center ourselves a bit before we met again.
When she brought up the cancellation, I just started to panic. I stumbled over my words, trying to justify my decision in the little time I had to do so. So, to me, bringing up something so important when we didn’t have time to process it was unfair. It left me completely alone with all of those panicked emotions.
I also told her that I didn’t even have to explain myself. I can cancel a session! I didn’t have to tell her it was for a psychiatric consult. I don’t even have to tell her I’m seeing a psychiatrist at all. I am allowed to do things in my life without narrating them to her.
She said it seemed like I had a lot of shame around her bringing up my cancellation. I told her I do have shame around it, but I also feel that her insinuation that I’m somehow not conscientious of scheduling seemed highly misrepresentative of how I’ve historically conducted myself within this space. I said,
“In 90 sessions, I’ve cancelled ONE time…”
She cut in, “Twice.”
“When else did I cancel?!”
“For another psychiatrist’s appointment.”
“No. I rescheduled that. I’ve only ever rescheduled my sessions.”
“Well rescheduling is not ideal, either.”
I could have started screaming.
I did actually raise my voice at this point because I felt so angry that she was now telling me that it’s not okay for me to even reschedule my sessions. I just started yelling. I told her that I have a crazy busy schedule and she knows it. She said that she does know that and she’s been very accommodating around my school schedule.
I said, “This is such bullshit. It is so hard for me to fit everything into each week. But THIS is always my priority! With the exception of the hours I literally have to be in a classroom, this is what comes first. I fill-in everything else around it. But I do have other things to do! I have to somehow fit in physical therapy twice a week and sometimes things just come up that coincide with our session time. So then I have to make a choice and, if at all possible, I ALWAYS choose this.”
She said something about how she knows I do my best and that I’m thoughtful of being able to come to session, but she also thinks it’s less than ideal for me to be canceling or rescheduling sessions.
“Less than ideal? What does that even mean?”
She just looked at me like I was being a petulant child, but I was being serious. There’s a LOT of space that falls under less than ideal and I need to know what exactly that means. Does it mean she’s a little disappointed? Does it mean she’s angry? Does it mean she’ll throw my ass on the curb if I keep changing session times?!
She didn’t answer me.
I told her I felt a ton of added pressure now because my schedule will always mean that I have to move appointments around, so if I can’t do that, this is definitely not going to work. She said,
“I know that you have a hectic schedule, but when we moved to three sessions a week, you made a commitment to that.”
Whatever. I don’t even understand what the fuck is happening anymore. I can’t imagine any way that I’ve veered from my commitment to therapy. It’s something I put tremendous time, energy, effort, and money into. I don’t “half-ass” anything and therapy is no exception. I was so offended by her suggestion that I am balking at my commitment that I nearly walked out of the room.
At some point she said that she could tell I was having a very intense reaction to the idea that I’d somehow done something wrong or disappointed her:
“I’m not disappointed in you. You did nothing wrong. But I get the sense that this experience of imagining you disappointed me is just horrible for you; it’s so painful and crushing. It’s this feeling of being brutally punished or annihilated.”
I nodded and said, “Yeah, but I am the one who has to feel that way.”
“Yes, but we all have our things to deal with.”
That comment did make me get up and walk out of the room. I got some water to give us both a little break.
Later on in the session, she was again reflecting back some of how painful this experience is for me. My response?
“Yes, but we all have our things to deal with.”
She threw her hands up. She couldn’t understand why I’d said that. I explained that when I’d reacted to her empathy by stating that what she had just described were MY feelings, she’d decided to reminded me that EVERYONE has difficult feelings. So when she offered me more empathy, my reaction the second time was to say to myself, ‘You’re not special. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Everyone has things to deal with, not just you.’
She said she was angry. I asked her why and she said,
“Because I feel like my hands are tied; there’s nothing that you want to hear today; nothing I say will be the right thing.”
“Well I guess we are feeling the exact same way then.”
She asked me why I jump so far when she sets parameters:
“When I change the parameters on phone contact, that means ‘never call me’. When I bring up the canceling and rescheduling, that means ‘never cancel. never reschedule.’ Why do things have to be like this for you? What is that about?”
“That is just what I hear you saying. I’m sorry. I can’t be in a different space about this right now. It doesn’t matter what you say, I cannot think anything else. I can only feel today.”
“Well that is a good start. I am not changing parameters or bringing things up to punish you. I get the sense that you feel like you’re being punished in some way, but you’re not. I am doing that because it is my job to hold this space. I know that you are always working to keep boundaries and maintain the space. You are very conscientious around this. But I am trying to take some of that from you; you don’t have to be the one to make sure that this space is kept safe and that you’re not crossing some undefined line.”
I don’t think I even know what that means. How could I ever possibly trust her to hold this space? How can I trust myself? Trust that I’m interpreting things correctly? For example, with the rescheduling: I thought that was okay, but apparently it’s not. I didn’t know that!
At the end of session she told me that she knew it was a difficult hour and that it felt terrible, but that she still believed there was a lot of work to be done in this particular space that we’re in. It just might take some time to find our way back to each other.
I certainly fucking hope so.