Forgotten

I have session three times per week. Right now, my appointment times are the same on Mondays and Fridays and slightly earlier on Wednesdays. I have to haul ass to get there on time after clinic. This past Wednesday I took a little longer to finish up with a patient and thus I got to the office one minute late.

I know my therapist’s clock is a little slower than my watch, so I wasn’t too worried. I really had to pee though, so after sitting in the waiting room for a minute or so, I just said “screw it” and ran to the restroom, assuming her door would be open by the time I got back.

It wasn’t.

I watched as the minutes passed and I became increasingly more anxious. Other patients came in and then went to their respective therapist’s offices for session. I still just sat there. Eventually, after probably 8 minutes or so I grabbed the book I was almost done reading and tried to occupy my mind with something other than my growing panic.

Fifteen minutes after my session was supposed to start, my therapist opened her door. She looked her normal self and didn’t offer any explanation for the delay. I was scared to say something, but I knew I needed to.

“Don’t we start a little earlier on Wednesdays?”

I watched as she processed what was happening and then a slight look of horror crossed her face. “Oh my god. Yes, you’re right. I’m so sorry – I got confused about the days and times.”

I felt both my heart and lungs stop functioning. I froze in place.

As I’d been sitting in the waiting room, I had imagined almost every possible scenario to explain why she hadn’t come to get me for session. But I didn’t know for sure until I walked into her office and asked her about it. Once I realized she hadn’t been managing some sort of crises or whatever, it hit me:

She had forgotten me.

And that sent a shockwave right to the very center of my most vulnerable and scary insecurities. I tried to recover from the experience, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t speak or move or even think. I was just stuck there, battling out emotion and reason inside my brain.

I think we attempted to salvage the situation by talking about it. I know she reassured me (more than once) that she had NOT forgotten me and had in fact just mixed up the times. She said she’d actually been thinking of me, but had thought our session was 15 minutes later. She also shared that she was absolutely mortified that she’d started the session late.

I shared that I thought she was full of shit.

She asked me to talk about my experience of waiting. I didn’t want to do that. I’d just lived through it and was still actively trying to pull myself out of the automatically physiological trigger response it sparked.  Plus I felt hurt and betrayed and abandoned, so I wasn’t feeling too willing to be vulnerable with her.

But eventually I said, “You know me well enough to know what that was like for me. I’m not asking you right now to literally guess, but I’m just saying…I’m sure you can surmise the types of things that would go through my head in fifteen minutes.”

She said she probably could guess, but that she’d rather not because she’ll definitely be wrong about part of it and it would be better to just hear it from me.

Ugh. Fine.

“I was thinking a lot of things….that you had a client emergency, that you were sick in the bathroom, that you’d gotten sick and had to leave suddenly, that you’d had a personal emergency and had to leave. I actually took my phone back out of airplane mode to see if you’d called and left me a message. You didn’t, so then I wondered if you’d had something come up that was so urgent you couldn’t call your clients or leave a sign on your door or anything. Then I worried you’d gotten hurt or were dying or even already dead.”

“Wow. That’s a lot. And quite a spectrum of possibilities.”

She asked how I felt. I told her mostly scared. And forgotten.

She wondered if I had questioned whether or not she was intentionally delaying session or not wanting to see me. I thought it was weird that she asked that because I didn’t mention any of those things, but I suspect she thought I was too scared or ashamed to admit those thoughts.

But I didn’t have them. Well, part of me did (of course), but I didn’t. I told her as much.

“Honestly, that thought didn’t really linger for me. I would actually find it hard to believe that you’d forget about me. For one thing, you seem more professional than that. For another, you see me three times a week…I’m assuming I cross your mind rather frequently.”

She laughed quietly and nodded in agreement. She shared that she was really glad I hadn’t assumed her lateness was a passive-aggressive message about our relationship and added that although she is generally a professional person, leaving a client in her waiting room for 15 minutes is decidedly unprofessional. She added,

“The session was supposed to start at 4:15 and it did, but you were in it by yourself.”

I just looked at her, confused.

“Well, so you were out there and I was in here. But you were having all of these thoughts and reactions to my behavior, so you were already engaging with me, or about me, and about our relationship but I was in another room. You were alone with all of that not-so-nice stuff.”

Yeah, no shit.

We spent most of the session butting heads and speaking in fractured, disjointed snippets of dialogue that never really made a lot of sense to me. I think that I was just too activated by the wait and the panic.

I didn’t get to talk about anything else. There were some important things I’d hoped to bring up but I literally could not speak to her. She didn’t feel safe or trustworthy. The space didn’t feel safe. Nothing felt safe.

I started to leave and she said she would see me Friday at 4:30.

Like a brat, I said, “Well I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” as I walked out the door.

“I suppose we will….” 

I was a damn nervous system disaster. I got home and told my wife what happened. She suggested I call my therapist and let her know that this incident was still having a powerful impact on me. I didn’t really want to do that.

But I wanted to want to do that. I wished I had that urge, that longing, to connect with her and to double-check that we were okay and she didn’t hate me and blah blah, the usual. But I didn’t.

I just thought, “Meh, I’ll survive. It will suck, but I can get to Friday without talking about this with her.”

Wife pointed out that I was (once again) engaging in active and unnecessary self-deprivation so I committed to calling and leaving a voicemail. I said I’d decide what to do if she called back when that moment came.

It did (about 30 minutes later or so) and I picked up. I didn’t have any plans except to tell her I was kinda freaking out, imaging that I was a total loser and should probably just not show up to class or clinic the next day because I’m clearly such a stupid fat loser that my own therapist forgets me.

She was basically like “Whoa, slow down. That is NOT what you said in session…what’s going on right now?”

I mean, who knows. The joy of multiplicity, amirite? I constantly have to feel completely opposing things and then try to navigate through the world holding onto all of that nonsense. It sucks.

We talked for a while. Nearly an hour, I think. This is the first time I’ve been able to engage with her in a while. The whole starving oneself tends to get in the way of cognitive functioning. Now that I’m eating (slightly) more, I also feel things more.

Which definitely explains why I have an eating disorder in the first place.

Anyway. Somehow we got to talking about our attachment and how it felt unsafe and unsure and that I question whether or not she’s someone I can trust. She said it’s natural to have questions like that after something like what happened earlier in the waiting room.

“Yeah, but I’ve also been feeling like something is wrong for a while now.”

“What’s a while?”

“I don’t know. Um, three months?”

“Well that’s concerning.”

*internal panic*

“Concerning? What do you mean by that??!!”

“We are working very hard to build this intimate relationship where we’re connecting to each other and creating a safe space for you to do some very difficult work. If you’re feeling this way, and have been feeling this way for a while, that worries me.”

We spoke about this a little longer and she said she had a feeling of what this linked back to (boundary issues, of course. God I’m so predictable). I hadn’t been thinking of that at the moment, but as soon as she brought it up I knew she was right. We’d managed to get through that mess, but not unscathed and not with a full resolution.

Then, in typical therapist fashion, she told me she thought it was good that all of this was coming back up and that maybe this unfortunate situation will be a way for us to swing back around and go back to those unresolved relational issues.

I wanted to scream. I hate it when my suffering is re-framed as a fucking opportunity for personal growth. No. Just stop being an asshole, people of the world!

Whatever. I’m glad we were able to talk about this because today was a big deal for me at clinic and I needed to go in that feeling okay(ish) about our relationship. She pointed out that it’s very very painful for me when there’s friction between us.

Again: no shit.

She said she was glad I called her and I told her that pissed me off because I knew she’d be glad I called and I didn’t want to make her happy. She playfully scoffed and said, “Fine. Then I’m not glad, but I’m intrigued that you called” (or something like that).

She said we needed to allow all of those emotions I was feeling that somehow got trapped inside of me to come out and be seen and heard; that it’s important for my anger with her to have a place in our work.

Ha. Yeah sure, lady. Good luck with that.

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Forgotten

  1. La Quemada says:

    Oh my gosh. This happened to me, too, maybe in November or December, I can’t remember. E. mixed up the time by 15 minutes, and I was very distressed sitting there and waiting. I also thought maybe there was an emergency and checked my phone for a message. I didn’t think she was doing it on purpose but I did have the “I’m not important” feelings when she came to get me and had no idea that anything was even wrong. And then when I told her and she first said is it okay if we just have a short session today… Ugh, that was the worst.

    (Even though I know everyone messes up occasionally, and she’s only ever done that once in the years I have been seeing her.)

    And if I show even the slightest bit of irritation with her (which happens seldom), she also acts like GREAT! What a wonderful opportunity to get your feelings out! I am so glad you are mad at me and telling me about it!

    Is that something you learn in psych grad school? When your client is at odds with you and feeling it really painfully, you should say, “this is wonderful progress”? Maybe it IS progress, I don’t know, but I prefer the kind of progress where I feel that I’ve made some good insights and am more in control of my reactions.

    I’m so glad though that she had the time and willingness to talk with you later on the phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Oh man, good to know I’m not the only one! Yeah, I’m glad we were able to talk on the phone, too. I think it would have been incredibly challenging to get through the two days before session with all of that intensity.

      Like

  2. Jean says:

    Well, they didn’t teach that in MY grad school! But they did say an error on the student’s part was a “a good learning experience.” Barf.

    Andi, the very best therapist I ever had did that twice. He said he was sorry — can’t remember if he explained or not. It hurt so much. I was in tears for days. So I get it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. e.Nice says:

    i hate being forgotten.
    it happens, and i do it to others, but it is the worst.
    I like this: “I hate it when my suffering is re-framed as a fucking opportunity for personal growth. No. Just stop being an asshole.” Seriously!
    and totally relate with this: “I told her that pissed me off because I knew she’d be glad I called and I didn’t want to make her happy.” ugghhh it feels like losing if i do something she wants me to do, and then she is happy and pleased. gah I can’t stand it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anxious Mom says:

    Ugh I feel for you, when my therapist is running a little behind, it sets off all of the anxiety alarms too, with one of my concerns being that I fucked up somehow on the date/time despite what the appointment card says. I hope Friday went better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah exactly. I generally panic before every session even when we have sessions at the same time over and over again. I always panic that I’m there at the wrong time. This did NOT help.

      Like

  5. LosiLosLoco says:

    Mmmh… the emotions are stirring. The more I read your blog, the more I want to try to not offend you Andi. But, that’s not good for me or you really… Truth be told. So I will try to speak nicely but sincerely about your content.
    I love reading your experiences. Even when they are chaotic and so filled with tension, I can’t stop reading. I just want you to feel better. 🙂 Know that you’re not forgotten. You have good things to look forward to. Just remember, it’s OK to be human and mess up. Just don’t stay down if you do.
    Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate it. ❤

    Like

  6. Karen Beth Courcy says:

    I REALLY wanted to comment to this blog write because I cannot tell you how many times in the past 9 years I have been in therapy with my therapist that he has ran LATE to a session .. it has gotten better, but all that you explain hits the mark RIGHT ON THE NOSE! I love what your therapist said here “The session was supposed to start at 4:15 and it did, but you were in it by yourself.”

    YES I have explained to my therapist many times that, session may start RIGHT on time for them, but for us, its a process.. the process begins as early as DRIVING to session! But I will say, it’s normal for a therapist to forget a time earlier or later especially if they have a full day … they are human and make mistakes and that is something I have had to remind myself many times when that has happened to me.

    The thing that I hate is when something like that BREAKS the session energy, we end up spending the whole session talking about the session starting late and you don’t get to talk about what you went there for .. THOSE are tough and I know how you feel … BUT I think its good that you guys talked about it, because those feelings you had about the session running late, has a lot to do with the young parts inside of you, or the old messages from the past and it IS important to process those feelings.

    I do understand your feelings around this … I too hate it when THEIR mistake turns into a lesson for US .. but it IS important that you talked about it, because it gives yo ua chance to express rightful anger towards a mistake your therapist made and that is good to process those feelings…

    Just know that you are not alone… this has happened to me in the past..

    Liked by 1 person

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