Not Funny

I ended up calling my therapist on Tuesday. I kept ruminating about her failure to talk with me about her short break next week for Thanksgiving, so at about 11pm, I called and left her a voicemail that went something like this:

“Hi, it’s Andi. I’m calling super late because this is the first chance I’ve had to slow down and breathe all day. And I realized that I’ve spent most of today obsessing over you not telling me that you’d be out both Thursday and Friday next week. I mean, maybe it should be obvious that you’d be off Friday as well, but it wasn’t. So it’s just really concerning and distressing to me that you didn’t talk about that with me. Especially since next week is Thanksgiving, which is something I’m super stressed about, which you know because we’ve been talking about it! And I know we’ve been in a weird, difficult place lately, but I’m still pissed that I have to go through that without you. It pisses me off and I need a place to discharge all of that emotion, so…here it is. Okay, bye.”

I felt kinda better after I hung up. It served its purpose.

She called back the next day and acknowledged my voicemail. She reminded me that she’d offered sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday next week to make up for the missed hours and said we should definitely try and talk about this during our next session.

I kinda just skimmed it the first time I listened. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. Then I listened again and realized she sounded very thoughtful, which was nice. I could tell she’d chosen her words and tone carefully.

So after stalling for five minutes at the opening of yesterday’s session, I told her I’d received her voicemail. I said the thing that stood out first was her reiteration that she’d offered me other times:

“I heard you say that. It wasn’t lost on me. But that isn’t the point…that isn’t what upset me. I was upset that you were…I don’t know, it was unlike you. You’re very diligent about this kind of stuff – scheduling, parameters. You are always on top of that. So it seems careless to me that you didn’t bring it up with me sooner that you’d be out of the office during two of our regular sessions.”

She said that made sense and that I was right – it was different of her to not have talked to me about it and she could see why that would be upsetting to me. Then I told her I didn’t know what to say because it seemed like the conversation was over now.

“Well I didn’t mean to end the conversation. If there’s more to say about it, I want to hear it.”

“Okay. So…you’re supposed to protect me. That is part of your job – to keep me safe in the ways you’re able to. And we talk all the time about how the ways to keep me safe, and keep the work and the space safe, is to ensure we have routine, predictability, parameters. But you broke that. And the timing is particular unfortunate because, to me, it seems like you’re putting conditions on keeping me safe.”

“Conditions? How so?”

“Because! We’ve been in this awful place lately and it seems to me like you chose not to be as firm with your usual professional conduct because I am somehow not meeting your conditions.”

“What would those conditions be?”

“That I demonstrate to you that you’re doing your job; that I respond to treatment and to you; that I don’t cause you to feel helpless…”

“That sounds like a lot of work. And it sounds exhausting.”

“It is. And I’m serious.”

“I know. I was planning to bring up the break with you on Monday, but -“

“-I don’t believe you.”

“I know. I know you don’t. And I was hesitant to talk about this with you because we’ve had such a hard time lately when it comes to scheduling changes. Our conversations end up being very upsetting to you. I wasn’t sure how you’d react to me bringing that up.”

“First of all, that’s different. If I come in and say I need to cancel or reschedule, that’s on me. But we are not equals on this. So I can change things and be a flake or whatever and that’s part of my deal. But you don’t get to do that! You have to be consistent. And you have to tell me when you won’t be here, no matter how you think I’ll react to that information.”

“I hear you. I hear you.”

“Plus you didn’t seem to care when I brought it up on Monday. I asked if you’d be out Friday and you were just like ‘No, I won’t be here.’ Why didn’t you take that time to have a conversation with me about this?”

“Did you not hear me offer other session times next week?”

I felt the heat start to rise into my face. I wanted to just shut this conversation down, but I took a deep breath and collected myself.

“See. That, to me, is challenging. You know the answer to that question because I answered it in the beginning of this session. I told you that I heard you say that. So why would you ask me that question if not to be challenging?”

She literally shrugged and threw up her hands.

“Why are you doing that?! Why are you just throwing up your hands like you don’t care?”

“I absolutely care. But I feel like my hands are tied. I feel like everything I say to you is upsetting.”

“So? What are we supposed to do? Just sit here?”

“I don’t know. What if I just don’t know the right things to say? What if I’m not a good enough therapist to figure that you? What would that mean?”

I laughed. “Do you really believe that? That you’re not good enough?”

She shrugged.

“Wait…are you worried about that? Do I need to be worried about that?”

“Maybe. Maybe you do. Maybe we both need to be worried…”

I felt my heart stop. Everything stopped. I looked at the clock – it was halfway into the session. I started thinking of ways I could get myself out of that room without making a scene. I needed to leave. I needed to get out of that physical space before the unthinkable happened. I was just about to excuse myself to at least go get some water when she said,

“…okay, I was being playful about that. It seemed like a particular difficult topic to talk about, so I was trying to find a way in. But I can see now that it didn’t help.”

I was dumbfounded. “No. That was not funny.”

Tears started streaming down my face.

“I see that now. And I can see that I hurt you. What did I trigger?”

“What?? Are you asking me that because you just want me to talk about it or because you genuinely don’t know?”

“I genuinely don’t know.”

I just sat there for a long while before saying, “I feel like you’re mocking me. Because it seems SO OBVIOUS to me what just happened, so the fact that you’re saying you don’t know seems almost like you’re making fun of me.”

“I promise I’m not making fun of you.”

I sat for a while more, still crying. Still panicking.

“Well now I just feel stupid because this is so important and so triggering to me and you have no clue what is going on!”

“Well then maybe I am the stupid one.”

I sat a little more, just trying to keep myself relatively composed. I felt like I would burst. I was shaking. Then I started to dissociated.

“Try to stay with this. I know it’s painful, but try to stay with it.”

“I can’t even remember anymore! I can’t remember what I said or you said or what even happened.”

“That’s not as important as the emotion…what’s the emotion you’re feeling?”

I didn’t want to tell her that, or anything else. I waited a little longer before asking her to repeat the last few moments of our conversation before everything came to a screeching halt. Once she did I said,

“Okay. So in the roughly 12 seconds between when you suggested that we should be worried and the time you clarified that you were kidding, I was absolutely terrified. I seriously thought you were going to tell me that you were backing out of this.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because…I just thought you were opening up a conversation about how this isn’t working and we’re not a good match and maybe we should talk about what to do moving forward…”

She looked startled as she realized what I was saying.

“You thought I was abandoning you.”

I covered my face and started really crying.

“Yes. I really did. And I just thought to myself, ‘No. Please no. I can’t do this again. HOW did this even happen again?! WHY is this happening?!’ I went to this horrible, dark place inside and I really thought you were going to terminate my therapy. I thought you were giving up on me.”

“That’s…I’m sorry. I don’t think that at all. I’ve never thought that. I think this IS the work…we’re in it. It’s hard and painful and uncomfortable, but we’re doing it. I believe in us. And I believe in you.”

I believed her. Sort of. But I could not recover from that moment. I still don’t think I’ve recovered. It’s not really her fault or my fault or anyone’s fault, but reliving that moment – realizing this thing I need and want and love and rely on was about to be yanked away from me – was severely triggering, even if it ended up being false.

I know she was trying to use humor to help us communicate, but this was just not funny. But I’m so glad she clarified for me and we were able to talk about it more.

36 thoughts on “Not Funny

  1. Anxious Mom says:

    Ugh knowing how things went with Zooey, that’s so…disappointing doesn’t quite cover it…that she’d even jokingly go there. I can’t imagine how awful that must have felt, how it must still feel. ((Hugs)) ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sirena says:

    No, I think you’re wrong, it is someone’s fault, it’s firmly HER fault. Maybe I’m not seeing this straight because I feel triggered by that conversation and the things she was saying and that’s just from reading it! I don’t blame you for panicking and dissociating. I feel really angry on you behalf. That was not the time or place for a joke, and it wasn’t a very funny one at that. It was a joke that directly fed into a place of fear for you. Do you know what I see in these recent conversations, I see you both participating in the role of victim, rescuer, persecuter. In this particular conversation she seems to have put herself in victim mode and your directness and questions of wtf she’s playing at puts you in persecutor role and she just kind of shuts down, hence the throwing up of the hands and the scared to tell you about the breaks coming up. She was avoiding and that was wrong. Please look up transactional analysis and the drama triangle and you’ll see it’s a game we all unconsciously play and I think that’s going on here. She gets supervision, right? Ask her if she’s consulting on this issue because I think she needs support through the fog of this place you’re both in. I think there’s definitely counter-transference going on too and it all needs aired and brough to the surface and supported. Your questioning of her is spot on, you really see better than her just now in some instances what’s going on and your directness is putting her in the spotlight and she’s shrinking back from it I think. So much going on here. It will get better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      I think you’re onto something with the victim -perp thing. I definitely had that sense as I sat through this conversation. It was strange and I felt like I couldn’t break out of it. It felt like she WANTED me to behave in a certain manner – a way that felt inconsistent with what I was authentically feeling. And then, for whatever reason, I was drawn towards that behavior. Ugh. SO much transference, counter-transference going on right now. Such a mess. Just riding it out. Thanks for the support xo


  3. Cat's Meow says:

    I cannot believe that she did that to you! I am so sorry! I agree with Sirena on this. She definitely needs to get some supervision on what is going on between the two of you.

    Even if she might have made the joke at another time, from the way that you describe her, she is quick enough at putting things together that she should have realized from your reaction what she evoked in you.

    You have talked about how you felt like you were “too much” for Zoe to handle and how you fear that you will be too much for any therapist to handle, right? If she was as “with” you as normal, she should have been able to put two and two together.

    Maybe she is feeling a little helpless right now. Maybe she is feeling frustrated, not knowing how to help you. You are in a very tough phase of therapy right now and as a human, she may be having uncomfortable reactions to not being able to help you as much as she wants. So this is a period when she needs extra support outside of the session so she can be the therapist that she is capable of being inside the session.

    I am really sorry that this happened.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thank you. I was pretty damn shocked myself. I still haven’t really been able to talk to her about it because I just can’t go there. There’s absolutely nothing she can say in response to this that will make this better. Not yet anyway. I don’t know what she’s feeling, but I sincerely hope she’s able to deal with it and pull it together.


  4. Lemonbella says:

    You have my thoughts – tough session, tough to even read. Coming on the back of other tough sessions makes it even harder to live with, I suspect.

    I feel compelled to put something else out there, as well as that, though. It FELT like it was ‘going to be yanked away’, but that isn’t what actually happened – could there be learning there about how the feeling of things is not necessarily what they are, and being able to just stay with it – as horrible, gut wrenching and out of control as that experience is – is important? Because if you can stick it out, then you give the circumstances (and the other person) the chance to not be how you (understandably) anticipate them being and thus learn better how to help you? (which is a horrible, vulnerable thing to have to learn when life thus far has taught a person to anticipate, prepare and avoid)

    I say this because your last sentence leapt out at me as a small, tiny voice that maybe saw that and saw a little chink of light through what’s an awful session and I wanted to tell that voice: well done. I also say it because that’s something I’ve had to learn. 6 months into therapy my therapist reflected in passing (rang a bell with the ‘playful’ intent of what you recited here) that we’d been together 6 weeks. That *devastated* me – because here I was in this horrible, terrible process talking every week about how horrible and terrible it was and she (to me) indicated that she was not hearing that and was faking it at times when I felt she was with me in it – it made me doubt everything. In subsequent weeks when we talked about it, she reflected that it was because she remembered it as less time because to her we were still very early in our therapy journey. That was hard to hear, but she was right, and it did teach me that my anticipation/assumption of what was going on for someone else is not always right and that acting on my assumptions/anticipation (a habit which has protected me in the past) rather than sitting with the anxiety and pain that causes me might actually cause situations to play out in a certain way.

    Sorry, I have rambled – processing on the page again! I’m not trying to minimise that experience for you, nor saying that your therapist doesn’t have some important supervision and the responsibility to do her own processing around this – just that recovery from it might be possible and you did the hard bit by managing to stay in the session.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      I definitely make a lot of assumptions that come from a place of intense fear and trauma. It drives me nuts actually because I really don’t WANT to react that way. It’s almost entirely out of my control. Which sounds lame, but I don’t know how else to explain it. I absolutely expect her to fail me, to hurt me, to disappoint me, to abandon me. So I think I put her there when she falters even the slightest and she senses that pushing away and is frustrated with how easily I push her away. We have a lot to work on, her and I. But I’m sticking it out and hoping for the best. I love your comments – process away! 🙂


  5. Zoe says:

    I don’t feel comfortable with how this panned out especially given how much you’ve opened up to her and how fear of abandonment or disappointment is a huge deal for you. I don’t know if she reacted in frustration, by adding humor, or if it was truly a slip up, but I was severely WTF-ing while reading this exchange. I’m sorry this turned out like that. I actually panicked right along with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Right? I mean, the very premise of how I ended up in her care in the first place is because a previous therapist abandoned me. HOW is that not always at the forefront of her mind? So puzzling. And her misstatement on this was especially painful. I haven’t even taken the time to attempt to process this with her because I’m not sure it would do us any good right now anyway.


  6. ambivalencegirl says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m spinning and that session was beyond intense. It was fine of her to tell you she felt stuck and as if nothing she said would be right…that is really good feedback but it’s all in how it was said. And instead I heard the same thing you did and feeling abandoned and hurt. Possibly it is the work and learning that everyone is human. And that thanksgiving is stressful! I’m going to a yoga class thanksgiving morning, maybe you could do the same. That’s my answer to everything lately. I’m thinking of you. I’ll be sharing soon and I got a new T and my trust level is just so not good right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Omg I was FINALLY cleared by my physical therapist to return to yoga next week! Yay! I truly believe yoga heals all and I think I’ve been going especially insane without my 2-3x/week classes. REALLY looking forward to getting back in the groove!


  7. SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

    {Hugs} I am so baffled the way she “handled” the situation, knowing it would trigger you. Positive side-you two are both working hard to navigate through alot. Don’t give up on her OR yourself, most importantly. {Hugs} Let’s enjoy some nice tea together, with no expectations of conversation, just company 💗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah, it was a super strange situation. I don’t know that either of us really understand what happened. But I’m not giving up. She broke my trust a bit and that’s hard. Very painful. We’ll need to spend a bit of time repairing that, but it’s worth it. In the end, she’s a good therapist and it will pan out. It’s just the process in between that is so extraordinarily painful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

        It is a hard road to travel. Thankfully you have a therapist that is adaptable to you and your needs. I think there’s always a bit of trust that gets broken in any therapy relationship that in the end can make it stronger and healthier. Keep working on it. You’re doing a GREAT job ❤❤❤


  8. alicewithptsd says:

    I’m also triggered by this session and what she said. I feel like she was wrong, just so wrong, to even joke about that. I’m sorry that she acted like this. It’s not funny. I’m glad you were able to stay with it enough to talk about it with her, and I think it’s good that she said she has never thought about leaving. I do feel like she maybe needs some supervision on this. It’s messy and tough, and painful and hard, and it does seem like some of this is the work, but I just can’t help but feel some of her reactions are causing more pain for you. Which is why she needs supervision. I don’t think yiur reaction is off, at all. And I think you are so brave to keep pushing through this and doing the work. I want to say “hang in there” but that seems so lame, and like it’s not enough. So, I’m sending good thoughts and support. I know you can get through this. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      I agree. To me, this is one of those topics that should be filed under “never EVER okay to joke about”. Super confusing to me as to why she did that at all. It leaves me scared and mistrustful. But I’m pushing through anyway, trying to keep myself in some contained space while we play out this mess of a rupture. Part of the process, I suppose. But oh so painful. She does get supervision. I don’t know much about it (at my request and her discretion), but I know she’s “supported”, which is all I need to know.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Grainne says:

    I’m usually good at seeing both sides of a story but this time, I’m really confused and feel so sad for you. That was cruel of her…she knows your background in therapy and she knows what worries you the most. I can’t see how she would think that was ok to say. It sounds like she was annoyed and being petty. I mean, I’m one who emotionally misreads many situations in my own world but this one, l just can’t see the other side of. There is no way that it seems appropriate in the least. I’m sorry she did that to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Grainne, I really appreciate this comment. I also struggle to see any possible reason for her behavior here. I’m too scared to talk to her about it, but I know we’ll eventually need to tackle this. Regardless of her motivation, I need to know she’ll never do this again. Not okay.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. plf1990 says:

    Holy crap that was not funny at all. I would have absolutely flipped out. Jesus. I agree with the post above. It was cruel.

    She sounds frustrated, to me. I definitely get the feeling that we are allowed to be flaky etc but they aren’t. I have been here with my T when she’s got really frustrated and my reaction has been one of ‘you aren’t allowed!’ But she will always say she can feel frustrated, angry etc AND she won’t leave. Those two things can happen. I am sure this is the same here.

    But I would have gone absolutely batshit crazy if she’d said that to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Ha! Thank you! I did go a little batshit crazy. I know she’s human and thus imperfect, but this was just so over-the-top for me. I was stunned. I remain stunned. I hope we’ll eventually be able to figure this out, but for now I am too scared to even broach the topic.


  11. Ellen says:

    Can I write a dissenting opinion? Sometimes when I’m mad at my T, and commenters support me and trash him, I feel ambivalent. So anyway, my take on this was that while I totally understand being triggered, I’m not as sure it was her fault. For instance, reading the post, I couldn’t figure out what she’d said that was so bad until you explained it. Then it did make perfect sense. And I’d forgotten you have this particular vulnerability because of poor therapist behaviour in the past, which I don’t really have myself. That’s probably why I didn’t catch what the problem was in what she was saying.

    I liked how she asked you to stay with it – it wasn’t as if she was defensive and didn’t want to hear about it. I liked how you both stayed with it actually.

    I got no vibe that she has any intention of leaving.

    Hope you feel better and that you two can discuss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I don’t think she’ll leave, either. That’s why I laughed when she asked what would happen if she just wasn’t a good enough therapist. The idea of that was literally humorous to me. But then things just got weird and it triggered a very real trauma for me that led me to freeze and get scared and things just got messy. I am always trying to be aware of the role I play in situations like this and I know my own trauma response was a big part of how this unfolded. I’m baffled as to why she’d ever imagine it would be okay to joke about being worried about our status as clinician-client, but I’ve yet to process that with her, so only time will tell. Thank you for your honest opinion and feedback. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Rachel says:

    Not funny at all. I just feel sad about her behavior lately. I can’t imagine how it feels for you. I’m so sorry this is happening. I hope she gains some insight, quickly. Take care of your heart, dear friend. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Who knows. Something in the water, perhaps? Nah, I think we’re just in a place that brings about this kind of shit. My family, my abusers, my very trauma is in that room with us for each and every hour. It’s bound to creep in from both sides. That doesn’t excuse her behavior, but it offers some explanation, I guess. Thanks xo

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Karen Beth Courcy says:

    my OWN heart stopped reading this!! the whole thing was going great until she threw up her hands in “not knowing what to do” … I couldn’t believe she would even JOKE about something as sensitive as ABANDONMENT … her saying “well maybe we should both be worried” .. that was VERY unprofessional and I agree with a few here – she needs someone to step in with you guys because she is not handling this right. I can think of 10 different ways she could have handled this and I am not even a therapist. My therapist would never have said half the things she said, he would have been gentle and caring about how I felt.

    I dont mean to sound harsh here Andi because you have gone through the ringer with this, but she is not handling your needs in a professional or helpful way .. her JOKE was abuse on all the little parts inside of you trying to heal!

    First of all, you were RIGHT in telling her all the things that you told her. It was HER responsibility to let you know WAY ahead of time about thanksgiving. It’s a holiday YES, but it’s her job to let you know ahead of time that these 2 days she will be out so that the two of you can take the time needed to plan around it, talk about it, work with it and make it an easy transition .. my therapist always lets me know a month ahead of time if he is taking time off. My therapist is out WED, THUR and FRI next week but I knew that a month ago. We have talked about it and replanned our sessions, not the week before at the end of the week.

    You are RIGHT in how you feel …. she is WRONG and I would not put any of this on on your at all… I LOVED what you said here “you’re supposed to protect me. That is part of your job – to keep me safe in the ways you’re able to” …YES her being your therapist she is resposible for helping you to feel safe in ways she can, and she had that opportunity to make things right and all she is doing is making it worse and abusing your emotions ….

    I couldn’t deal with this.. I dont know how you are working through this …. I am so sorry but just know, none of this is your fault …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      YES! Thank you! HOW could she even joke about such a thing? I was (and remain) completely heartbroken. I know there’s some serious counter-transference going on and I’m hoping that by calling her out on some of it, she’ll be more mindful of how she’s letting her own shit interfere with her ability to do her damn job. Thanks for you support xo


  14. Tina says:

    I’m so sorry. I feel every ounce of your pain!!! Going through something a bit similar. Holidays are tough. Our therapists’ absence is tough. Combine those two factors and that’s extremely challenging. My psychologist minimized his “I’ll be gone next week” responded to I’ll struggle with “you’ll be alright”. 😦 My therapist often infuses humor!! Occasionally, he misses the mark by a mile!! It’s hurtful. He’s never aimed so directly at my weak spot … hmm okay maybe he has hit my Achilles heel in the name of humor. It’s a catch 22 with him, though. It’s an honest, sincere attempt to “cheer me up” or lighten up moments he feels have become way too dark, but when it backfires … OUCH!!! I guess it highlights their humanness; their ability to make mistakes. I hope she didn’t intended to shoot right for your Achilles heel. I guess it led to a breakthrough and a better understanding of your fears around that, but it wasn’t worth the chasm it deepened. 😦 Ouch💔 Safe, nurturing, warm hugs. 👐🏼

    Liked by 1 person

  15. thehumanhurricane says:

    I would say that many things are said ‘there is much truth in humour.’

    I also think it’s very easy to get out of anything by claiming ‘joke’ or ‘I was trying to be funny.’

    I feel very protective of you and just be careful. Start putting things in place to protect yourself when you feel unsure. I know she has become the pinnacle of your support. But this behaviour from her is to be noted. Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thank you for your kindness and support. I’ve been approaching therapy with renewed caution since this happened and explicitly told her that she has to rebuild some of the trust that was lost. In essence, I let her know that her behavior has been noted and is not acceptable. Hopefully I’ll actually be able to talk about this with some substance in the near future.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Amb says:

    I knew as soon as I read her statement how that had triggered you. I’m very shocked that she didn’t realize it. I’m so sorry, Andi. That must have been a terrifying, painful session.

    Sending you so many hugs. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

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