Quick Recovery

During nearly every session with my therapist, I put my feet on the chair at one point or another. I either sit cross-legged, side sitting, or with one or both knees up to my chest. The first several times I did this, I’d put my feet down once I noticed I was doing it and apologize. Each time I did so, my therapist would respond by telling me it was okay.

I always loved that.

Today I came into session in a very light and jovial manner. I asked her if I could show her some photos. She said of course, so I pulled out my phone and knelt down in front of her (something I have never done before because I usually just hand her the phone) to show her some Halloween photos of my sister’s children and a funny picture of my classmate and I taken earlier in the week. We laughed together and I could tell she was excited to have this glimpse into my life outside of her office.

When I returned to my chair I set my phone down and reflexively picked up my right leg to place my foot on the chair. I was wearing heels though, so it felt awkward. I paused a second and then said, “Well this doesn’t work as well with heels on” as I put my foot back on the floor.

Doing that reminded me of my sentiment around such things, so I spontaneously said, “I love that you let me put my feet on the furniture!”

She said, “Well I might change my mind, come winter.”

I felt my heart sink. I quickly responded,

“I never put my boots on your furniture LAST winter…”

“No, you didn’t. I think you just took your shoes off.”

“Yes, I did. So why did you say that? Are you worried I’ll bring in my salt-coated, snowy boots and ruin your furniture next month? Do you think I’m that mindless and disrespectful?”

“Not at all. I was just playing along.”

“It doesn’t feel that way. It feels like you needed to say that for some other reason.”

“What would that reason be?”

It kind of went on like this for a while. She explained that she was also just responding spontaneously in the moment and she hadn’t meant anything else by her comment. I explained that although that may be true, I was having a very strong emotional reaction to her response. I felt shut down, as if she was keeping me in check somehow; as if I needed reminding that I can’t always put my feet on the chair. There are limits, boundaries, rules and I have to follow them.

She noted that I seem to have similar intense reactions whenever there’s any sort of boundary brought into the session, perceived or otherwise. She asked what that felt like and I told her it felt like being pushed away, physically; like literally having someone place their hand on my chest and shove me.

She asked if it felt like a punishment of some sort,

“Here you are talking from this spontaneous place because you feel relaxed and good about our conversation and then I turn around and remind you that maybe this space isn’t as free and open for you as you thought?”


“And your response…it’s almost as if you imagine I am retaliating against you for having that thought.”

She’s right. I did. It scared me and I felt embarrassed for saying what I’d said. I told her as much. I further stated that this is why I don’t like speaking spontaneously; I end up saying regretful things. She told me that if there is any place where I should feel safe and free to say anything, spontaneous or otherwise, it’s in therapy.

Sure, lady.

She pointed out that this happens a lot for us, these mini-ruptures that occur mid-conversation. I said,

“I know. And this type of trigger either freezes me in place, rendering me completely unable to continue with the session in any productive manner, or causes me to spiral further and further downward as the hour passes.”

“Is that what’s happening now?”

“No. Which is why I was just able to articulate that to you.”

She smiled and I kept the conversation moving, explaining why I love that she lets me put my feet on the furniture (a story for another post).

This is a pretty big deal. I have never been able to recover like this after being in that type of emotional space. Generally I really do just become useless when I feel any sort of rejection, abandonment, embarrassment, or fear. I panic. I forget anything I ever wanted to say to my therapist. I just shut down completely and my brain starts screaming at me.

I don’t know what was different this time or what will happen the next time, but I’m really impressed with myself for being able to hold those tough emotions and not let myself be destroyed by them. I still felt them, but I fought back against it and I was able to ride out the pain in order to keep the session flowing.

I have never recovered that quickly from feeling so triggered by a relational issue within session itself. Maybe this is a new skill of mine? Let’s hope it’s repeatable.


29 thoughts on “Quick Recovery

  1. Cat's Meow says:

    I wonder how many of us have our sessions with our feet up on the chair/ couch on some way? I certainly know that my shoes are generally off before I sit down on the couch and the often don’t hit the ground until I am trying to ground into the here and now at the end of the session.

    My therapist often reminds me when I learn a new skill/ have a break through of some sort that I may not always have access to the new skill, but now that I have found my way once, it will just get easier and easiest to find my way back. It helps me to keep that in mind, so I don’t get as frustrated at myself when I can’t do X or work from an understanding of Y all of the time. “It’s a part of the process”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Ha! I bet a lot of us do this 🙂

      Thanks for that additional insight – it will be important for me to remember that although I won’t always be able to use this skill, it’s still there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sirena says:

    Yay, new skill!! You will use it again I’m sure of it. It’s amazing how abrupt and huge those trigger are though isn’t it? I completely get the boundary thing, I feel the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    Excellent work! I’m glad you were able to hold onto her feelings of tenderness for you, amidst being triggered. Those triggers are so swift and cutting. I’m also glad she lets you put your feet up 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. alicewithptsd says:

    This is awesome! I bet that even if you can’t always access this new skill, it will get easier and easier to do. I’m so proud of you. Also, my feet are always on Bea’s couch, right away I curl up, as soon as I get in her office. So you aren’t the only one with your feet on the furniture! Bea sometimes sits with her feet up on her chair, too. It’s what made me feel comfortable in the first place.

    Liked by 2 people

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

    Fantastic news! And I can related to so many of these feelings – I will send this to my therapist, to explain how I feel, and will reblog next week 🙂
    And I put my feet on the chair as well 🙂 I always feel bad for getting to ‘time up’ and then taking up ‘extra time’ by putting my shoes or boots back one. To get round this, once I decided to put on my boots while I was still talking, but then I felt dreadful leaving session that time as it felt as though I’d literally walked out almost mid-sentence!
    I curl up with my ‘therapy jacket’ over my knees (it also means if I’m wearing a skirt I’m not self-conscious about ensuring nothing is visible!). I pull it up towards my face when I’m finding things really difficult and need to hug it or even (once) put it over my face! I’ve also noticed that on occasions where I have felt a lot of anger/resentment I have left it sitting on the couch next to me, rather than putting it on my knee. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but, I realised afterwards, it was certainly unconscious communication about how I was feeling….
    I really hope that, even though there will definitely be times when it won’t necessarily feel possible to use this skill, that it becomes easier and more frequent as time goes on. Take care x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Karen Beth Courcy says:

    Thank you for sharing! Its normal to have ruptures in therapy .. in fact my therapist and I had a rupture last week in therapy. He was running late 15 min and I was ok with it as he planned to give me the same time (15 over) .. and for some reason my therapist couldn’t let it go that he was running late, and we spent the WHOLE session talking about why his energy was off around being late which caused me to get pissed off because I was ok with it..

    In the end, we ended up having a rupture around this and we later connected and it ended up being ok.. its the HUMANNESS of therapy (which I plan to write about this weekend) .. ruptures are normal because we are in a normal human relationship with our therapist….

    Good for you for recovering from it the way you did 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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

    Reblogged this on Life in a Bind – BPD and me and commented:
    I wanted to share this post, not only because it is a lovely moment of ‘progress’ for a blogger whose therapy journey and her insight into it, is interesting, moving and inspiring; but also because it is one of those posts that I relate to completely and which perfectly describes my own experience as well.
    These moments of mini-rupture happen fairly frequently in my therapy, and my interpretation of them, my fears about them, and my reaction to them, are exactly as described here.
    A triggering comment from my therapist (one which, for example, I perceive as a criticism or as rejection), can have an instant effect on me and on the mood of the session. As described in this post, most often the situation arises in relation to boundaries of some kind, whether real or imagined. Almost invariably, these moments ‘freeze’ the session; however freely I may have been speaking beforehand, I feel myself instantly shutting down and ‘zoning out’ – withdrawing into my own bubble, with my pain. Either that, or I try and keep going, but things get progressively worse as the feelings of rejection just keep mounting the more they are not addressed or brought out into the open.
    It’s wonderful when, as happened here, I am able to work through it and turn it around, within the session itself. That definitely happens more than it used to – though there are still many times when ‘the freeze’ happens anyway, however much progress I think I may have made.
    I think what’s important is to try and understand how and why we react as we do in these situations. The more we do that and the more frequently we can work through these moments ‘in real time’ in the session itself, hopefully the less triggering these situations will become, and we will start to claw ourselves out of the vicious circle of perceived rejection and distancing, leading to us shutting down and distancing, leading to further feelings of abandonment.
    Oh, and another aspect of this post that I related to – I too put my feet up on the chair during therapy -though not for the reason described in this blogger’s subsequent post!

    Liked by 1 person

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