One of the key things my therapist and I spoke about during our phone conversation Wednesday night was emotions. I told her I felt like I had trapped a bunch of difficult emotion within myself, specifically in my chest, because there didn’t seem to be a safe place to discharge them.
I was admittedly upset with her for leaving me in the waiting room for fifteen minutes. I wasn’t able to identify exactly what I was experiencing emotionally, but I knew there was a lot of energy built up. It felt hard to even breathe.
I didn’t want to go to Friday’s session. I considered bailing, but I’d had a difficult day at clinic (unrelated to the actual internship, more about food stuff) and I needed a place to process it. I decided while walking over to my therapist’s office that I would use my hour in session to talk about all of that nonsense.
Which I did. I opened the session by telling her I’d had a difficult day and then started to explain what had been happening. I was telling a story about my colleague who’d lost some weight and was passing around her before/after success story photos that were featured on a prominent website recently.
While everyone was reacting with the obligatory, “Wow you look so great!” comments, my classmate encouraged me to share about my own weight loss. She met me last year, about two months after my relapse so she’s watched my lose a pretty good amount of weight. She doesn’t know it’s due to restricting and disordered behavior, so I know she was just trying to be kind.
I told my therapist that I shared my weight loss with my colleagues. She asked me what number I gave them. I said I didn’t want to tell her that. She asked if I told the truth and I said yes. Then she asked me why I wouldn’t tell her what I’d told them.
“Because I don’t want to.”
“Well I think there’s probably something behind that, don’t you? It’s strange that you don’t want to share that with me.”
“I don’t want to talk about this!”
She pushed me even more and I got pissed. I told her that she was irritating me because I rarely ever say I don’t want to talk about something specific, so I wanted her to respect that. She scoffed.
“What?! It’s true. I almost never say I won’t talk about something!”
“I think you say that a lot more than you think you do…”
I was livid, but also something else. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but I felt violated in some way. I have a very clear idea of how often I’ve flat-out refused to engage about a particular topic because it is very hard for me to do that.
It’s hard for me to say “no”.
I just kept being nasty to her. I was angry and she said it was important to “stay with my anger”. Except, staying with my anger only made her angry and she started to lash out at me back. It wasn’t really disrespectful or abusive (at all). It was subtle. But I am incredibly sensitive to even minor changes in others’ emotions, especially when that person is my therapist.
She asked me something. I answered with attitude. She responded with a hint of mockery and I snapped my head up,
“First of all, don’t ever mock me again…”
She paused and said, “You’re right, I can see that. I’m sorry, I won’t do that.”
I closed my eyes for a second and then just unleashed a torrent of frustration on her.
“This is exactly what I’m talking about! You never make any room for me to be angry. You keep telling me that it is so important for me to be able to bring all of my emotions in here, even the difficult ones, and especially the anger. Yet here it is. This is me, angry. This is what it looks like: I’m a brat who says nasty things. And you can’t handle that. Your immediate response is to mirror me and be nasty right back at me.”
“How am I supposed to react to you? Am I supposed to just allow you to behave however you want? That’s not realistic and it’s not authentic to who I am or how I experience you. You are allowed to be angry and behave however you want. But you have an impact on people, on me, and there are consequences.”
I just laughed and then said,
“I literally don’t give a shit. It is NOT my job to take care of you; to make sure your feelings aren’t hurt or I don’t offend you. There’s no way I can stay genuinely with these emotions if I need to be constantly worried that I’m going to upset you….or face ‘consequences’ for how I’m behaving!”
“What would you like me to do? Is your expectation that I will just sit here when you’re kicking me?”
“That is not realistic.”
“I think it is. And that’s what I need from you. I don’t need you to point out that I’m being an asshole or how that hurts your feelings…”
“I don’t think that’s what I’m communicating to you. I do not think that you need to take care of me or not hurt my feelings. At all.”
“Yet that’s always the FIRST thing you bring up whenever I start to be more difficult or rude in my demeanor. Why?! Why do you have to do that?!”
She reminded me that there are consequences for the way we behave.
“Do you really think I don’t know that?! Do you think there is ever a moment when I’m in here with you that I’m not worried about how it will impact you…and how that impact will end up affecting me?!”
“No. I think you’re very thoughtful and I know you worry a lot about that…”
“Then WHY do you constantly keep reminding me that my actions have an impact?”
“What else would you have me do when you’re acting this way?”
“I don’t know…love me anyway? Just let me be angry and rude and nasty. Let the emotion be in here with us…let me feel it…let me be in it. Be in it with me. Make space for it. I don’t expect you to not say anything at all, but why do you have to say it right away? Can’t you just let me be pissed at you and do what I need to do and just stay with me. Then, once we’ve had a chance to talk about it and I get it out, you can gently remind me that while anger is okay, being rude to you is not….???”
She thought about it for a while. We both did. We talked some more but I can’t remember the dialogue as clearly. At one point I said something nasty to her again. She calmly asked me if being rude to her and ‘knocking her down’ was funto me and what I was getting out of it.
“No, it’s not fun. I don’t know what I get out of it but you need to fucking deal with this. This is what my anger looks like right now and I’m going to stay in it even if that means I’m rude to you and you keep getting pissed off about that.”
“Oh my god, I HATE you right now!”
“I know you do.”
“All I wanted to do was talk about the shitty day I had. I didn’t even want to come here at all but I needed to deal with everything that’s happening and Wife works until late so I thought it would be nice to just let it out here. But then you had to insist I share something I didn’t want to share and you just pissed me off even more. Which…whatever…if you hadn’t left me in the waiting room last time I would have been able to talk about this all sooner and then maybe today wouldn’t have been so shitty!”
“So it’s my fault you had a bad day today? That seems a bit simplistic…”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Simplistic? OF COURSE it’s simplistic. I wasn’t attempting to capture all of the nuance and complexity of that situation in one fucking sentence. Jesus. I was just trying to be authentic with you.”
She looked confused for a moment but then she said, “I see. And now that I look at it, I can tell you were trying to bring up being left on Wednesday and introduce that topic into our conversation in perhaps the only way you knew how?”
“And I think that this all ties back to boundaries and the rupture we had a few months ago around boundaries.”
I glanced at the clock and felt myself scream internally. I looked right at her and said,
“I’m implementing a new rule: you’re not allowed to say the word ‘boundaries’ if there are less than five minutes left in the session.”
“Why? Because it’s hard for you to even hear that word?”
I’d been holding my chapstick, uncapping and re-capping it about a thousand times, with the rage of a bull behind each movement. She asked me what the chapstick represented; what the emotions or thoughts were around the way I was holding it.
“I wish it was a blade so I could carve into my own fucking skin!”
She frowned and said, “Carve into your skin or into mine?”
I jumped in my seat. “Mine! I wouldn’t…I don’t want to actually hurt you…I…”
She interrupted me. “I know, I know. I didn’t mean literally.”
“I just think that when you’re angry with me, you punish yourself. You cut yourself, you starve yourself, you deprive yourself, you put these punitive rules in place that isolate you and hurt you. So maybe you can just be mad at me and not hurt yourself as a punishment for having that anger? Don’t hurt yourself because you’re mad at me…”
I felt tears starting to come up. I was shaking. She walked me through a quick grounding exercise to slow my breathing and heart rate. I put my coat on and walked out without saying anything.
I opened my wallet while waiting for the elevator. I pulled out the last blade I have – the one I keep on me at all times “just in case.”
I thought about what she said as I held it.
What if? What if I didn’t hurt myself to try and contain or push away the pain of being angry at her? What if I just let myself be pissed and trusted that nothing terrible would happen to me because of that?
I walked back into the office and knocked on her door. She opened it.
“This is my last blade.”
I handed it to her.
She took it.