Restraint

As I mentioned in my last post, my therapist lent me a stuffed animal to use as a transitional object for this weekend. I have session this afternoon and I’ll have to bring Gray Mouse back to her office.

It’s been interesting to have him with me the last three days. I think that my relationship with this stuffed mouse has somehow been a recreation of the relationship I have with my therapist. (Maybe that’s the point?)

It’s hard to explain, but I feel a lot of restraint around it. I know it’s here and that I can ultimately love it or hate it as much as I want, but I am cautious and protective of myself. I feel almost afraid to truly allow myself to feel connected to the doll and what it represents, which is the connection I have with my therapist and our work together.

I can tell that there is a part (or parts) of me that feel a desperate and unfiltered attachment to this doll. But I can also feel the skepticism and restraint that comes from other parts. So although it is literally just a stuffed animal, I find myself feeling a lot of complicated emotions around it.

I haven’t let it out of my sight since she gave it to me. It’s generally been within arms-length of me the entire weekend. I even slept with it, alongside my other stuffed animals. My wife suggested that Gray Mouse could befriend some of our other toys and I was incredibly resistant to this idea. It felt like too much – like something that wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be allowed. I think I was trying to figure out exactly how my therapist would want me to utilize this gesture and what she would and would not approve of me doing with the mouse.

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Transitional Object

At this point, I believe I have seen my therapist for 202 sessions. That’s a lot. In all of those sessions, I have never asked her for any sort of transitional object. Partly because I’m afraid to ask and partly because I wouldn’t know what to ask for.

She has a very plain office, void of almost anything personal. I often sneak a glance at her bookshelf to see the titles, but I believe it’s entirely professional texts and nonfiction selections.

She also has maybe five tchotchke type items and I never pick them up or ask about them. And she has a single stuffed animal, a gray mouse, that made a mysterious appearance in her office several months ago. The mouse is generally resting in various positions nestled on or between the three pillows she keeps on top of an ottoman. I have laid down on the floor a couple of times and when I do that, I usually grab a pillow to place my head on.But otherwise I’m too afraid to touch anything else. I don’t want to be intrusive or get called out for being “nosy”.

Until today. Today I was in “rare form” (as my parents would say) and I felt curious about everything. I think it may have partially been a way to distract from myself and what was going on with me, but I also just felt an uninhibited curiosity that I wanted to explore. So I picked one item up at a time, brought it back to my chair, held it and played with it, and asked her about it. There wasn’t much to say, but she was kind and forthcoming with the conversation. I think she was curious herself, about my strange behavior.

Finally, I allowed myself to reach for the gray mouse. Or, Gray Mouse, as Anna (our 7 year old part) formally calls him. I’ve never actually touched him myself. I usually avoid looking at the toy because it activates that child inside and it distracts me. I don’t like feeling connected to the young parts. Their vulnerability and insatiable needs are frightening to me. But I grabbed him and held him close to my heart for about half of the session.

It was an interesting session. I felt dissociated from almost everything, which allowed me to speak in the kind of open and honest manner that I normally only wish for. I shared some things I’ve been holding onto for a long time. I asked my therapist some simple (and somewhat “personal”) questions I’ve been wondering about more or less since I met her.

It was nice, but also quite  raw and painful. I can tell that we are at a crucial point right now. I am incredibly emotionally vulnerable for myriad reasons, including the nature of our current relational work and the possible transitional state of my self-destrutive impulses (from restricting back to cutting, drinking, using, etc).

As our session wrapped up, I could tell she sensed how intense I was feeling. She asked about my plans for this evening and the weekend, most likely checking in for safety and stability purposes. But then she said,

“This might seem like a strange question, but do you want to take Gray Mouse home with you and take care of him this weekend?”

I felt that little girl inside of me absolutely squeal with delight. I let out this sound that I cannot even describe and said, “Really?! You would let me take him for the weekend?!!”

I was damn near hysterical with joy. I looked up and saw my therapist beginning to become misty-eyed. I’m not sure what she expected in response, but I think she was somehow very touched by the moment.

“Yes. But you have to take care of him and make sure he doesn’t get hurt. You have to take care of each other.”

I squeezed that mouse with everything I had and told her I would take excellent care of him before stashing him gently in my bag. I don’t really feel much of anything right now, but I’m hoping I can “unthaw” a bit and pull out of this dissociated state some more so that I can really use this object to feel connected to my therapist throughout the weekend.

I really, really need that.

 

Having An Impact

I knew I wanted to set up yesterday’s session for success as much as possible, but I wasn’t sure how. I was still reeling from Monday and felt confused and unsure how to proceed. In the end, I decided that just being as honest as possible would probably be my best bet.

So I went in and talked a bit about the things I wrote about in my previous post – feeling unheard, shut down, veered into a space I wasn’t prepared or willing to enter. I told her I felt as though she was withholding connection, perhaps as a consequence for seeking (and ultimately receiving) connection in the “wrong” way. I mentioned the seemingly strange ways she was drawing a distinction between us and how distancing and alienating that felt to me. I talked about feeling as though there was a mismatch between the conversation we’d had on Friday versus Monday and the seeming incongruence between what she was saying and what I was feeling.

She mostly just listened. For a while, she didn’t really respond or seem to identify with much of what I said. She maintained that she was indeed “there with me” during the session, even if it felt different or disconnected. Then she once again mentioned that my actions have consequences. At that point, I felt very frustrated with the way she was talking around this issue, so I asked her what exactly she meant by that.

Finally, she said,

“I guess maybe I am having a bit of a a delayed negative reaction to being googled. And I see and hear that you felt a lot of positivity from the connection we shared on Friday and you want to talk about that and find that space again, but I am not feeling that connection. I feel like you’re trying to force me into a space of connection instead of talking about why you did what you did…”

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Regret

I wish I had written a post on Friday, after I’d gotten out of session. It was a difficult session, intense and uncomfortable. But also profoundly intimate and full of rich connection.

When I left, it took me roughly two hours of slowly browsing through a bookstore to restore my nervous system to something resembling calm.

The long and short of it is that I’d begun to feel quite disconnected from my therapist. I’ve written previously about my struggles with an eating disorder and how that has tremendous power to pull me out of connection with everyone (myself included). My therapist has certainly not been an exception.

In making the decision to increase my food intake and actively fight back against my ED, the lack of connection between her and I has been that much more painful. I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to do this, but last week after a particularly challenging (failed) attempt to connect with her, I came home from session and did a web search on her.

I put in her name and location. I’ve done this before – when I first began to see her. In another life, when I had therapists with poor boundaries and even worse communication skills, “googling” a therapist seemed like what you just did. So naturally I searched her online to see what came up. The answer: not much. Just professional stuff like her education , work history, and licensing information.

Which, I suppose, is what I imagined I would find this time around as well. Sometimes I go directly to her profile page on PsychologyToday to feel close to her and to remind myself that she wants to be doing this work and that this is literally her job. It’s soothing.

But I was wrong. There was more.

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