Inconsolable

I had a very hard time sleeping on Monday night. I think I was nervous about my job interview Tuesday morning, but I was also just extremely agitated. I couldn’t get comfortable and I felt something that I struggled to identify. Loneliness? Grief? Sadness? Emptiness? Anger? All of the above?

I’m not sure.

When I mentioned it to my wife and we spoke about it, she said that she believed she briefly spoke with a part that she’s never talked to before. She guessed perhaps it was Scooter because this part seemed young, but also very angry, expressing intense anger at my therapist for leaving us (i.e. going on vacation). Interesting.

The interview went very well. I wasn’t particularly nervous for the actual process of being interviewed. My résumé is stellar and I have a charismatic, articulate, confident presence that tends to impress people. I also went into the interview knowing I’m a very good match for the company, so I was more or less scoping them out to see if it seemed like a good fit for my career trajectory. I ended up being quite impressed with the two interviewers. There was a moment when I could tell they switched from “interviewing” me to “selling the job” to me, which felt nice. I love the idea of being a prize candidate and I’ve worked damn hard for it!

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Knocked The Wind Out Of Me

Right now I’d be going to session if my therapist wasn’t on stupid vacation. I’m still super irritated with this whole thing. I’ve never been thrilled when she leaves but I usually just suck it up and block out anything I’m feeling until about an hour or so before I see her again.

But in an effort to stay connected to the work, to her, and to what’s important about all of that, I’ve been actively pushing myself to stay present with whatever feelings come up. Which sucks. I had another dream with my therapist featured in it last night. I don’t remember much of the actual material, but I know that I felt scared (not of her, but of someone or something) and she was there. I can’t really explain it, but something about the dream felt very intimate. We were in a place that was emotionally closer than I’ve ever felt with her in real life, at least not that I’ve ever been consciously aware of anyway.

She often tells me that my extreme fear of intimacy is what generally leads me to pick fights with her or sabotage our conversations. I always find that strange because I think I’m a person who generally embraces intimacy. I have a beautifully intimate relationship with my wife along with several close friends. There are certain people that I don’t ever really censor myself for when I’m around them. But maybe that’s a different kind of intimacy, or a false intimacy or something.

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Initiating Disengagement

I woke up this morning already beginning to feel crushed under the deep shame of wanting and longing for connection with my therapist (or any human being, really). I’m basically already initiating the “disengage from therapist” sequence because I’m so terrified of the space I’m in right now…probably because I love how it feels to actually trust my therapist.

It’s very scary to feel like I suddenly have so much more to lose.

But I really don’t want to back away from this.  I want to hold this space for myself and keep reminding myself that I enjoy it and it feels nice and (gasp!) I deserve it, dammit!

I’ve made couple of videos since I mentioned wanting to keep some sort of video log during my therapist’s vacation. I kinda hate them because I hate my own face and voice, but I’m trying to remember that she looks at and listens to me at least three hours each week, so she’s used to it.

I’m feeling slightly anxious that the videos are somehow too intimate to be creating, let alone bring to her to view for herself. Not sure why, and that’s probably worth exploring. For now, it’s comforting to have my phone to talk into as if she’s eventually going to hear those words.

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Trying to Hold Onto Connection

My therapist is officially on vacation now. *Sigh*

Today’s session went pretty well. There’s nothing that was bad or negative about it, I’m just sad that she’s going to out of the office for 12 damn days. Boo.

I opened the session by asking if she was ready for vacation. She said,

“Well not yet! Are you still mad that I’m going on vacation?”

I said yes and then outlined many of the things I spoke about in my last post. I was very honest with her. She figured I was worried about the usual fears (abandonment) but I added my concern that we would lose the momentum we’d worked so hard to build up over the last several weeks. She agreed and said that although it could (and likely will) be difficult to pick up where we left off, we also won’t be starting over again.

True.

But I’m still concerned. I feel so good right now about where we are, relationally. I feel so relaxed in the relationship, in a way I’ve never experienced in therapy before. I found myself beginning to jump to conclusions during session today regarding her thoughts about me, but then I “reality checked” myself and realized I don’t actually believe she’s thinking anything bad about me. I suppose I have a different level of trust with her. I feel very calm and open right now.

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I Hate Vacations

My therapist will be on vacation next week. Although I’m grateful that we were able to move through this latest rupture in time for her to leave, I’m incredibly anxious about her being away. I struggle just to go from Monday to Thursday between sessions. Weekends are generally not as much of a challenge, perhaps because I tend to transition into “off work” mode, understanding that this is time for my therapist and I to be apart. But being separated from her during working hours is always much harder for me.

Today’s session was fine. I did a lot of talking, free association style, about various aspects of my past. I’m not sure why, but it’s random stuff that’s been on my mind so I figured it was worth mentioning. I felt good about the conversation. I felt her presence, and we really felt like a team. But I’m also aware that I tend to do more talking about non-relational feelings when she’s due to be out of the office.

At the end of the session, she mentioned her vacation and wondered if it’s something I wanted to talk about. I just told her that I’m pissed that she’s going away and there’s not much more to say about it. She asked if we could maybe just hold onto that for now and discuss it further tomorrow.

I really do want to talk about this some more. I told her that I feel more or less okay with her leaving, but that I can definitely feel other parts that are less than thrilled. She thought perhaps that’s something they could bring in tomorrow…

We’ll see.

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Beaming

My session yesterday went very well. I’m a little surprised because I was so anxious going into it, but I think all of the writing and talking I did throughout the weekend helped me feel more confident.

Before heading into session, I started to regret not making an exhaustive bulleted list of everything I wanted to cover (which is my usual routine). But then I remembered my posts here and all of the important dialogue I had with my lovely readers, and I started to calm down. I reassured myself that I knew what was important to me and found some confidence that I didn’t even know I had.

I opened the hour by saying,

“I feel like it’s been forever since I was here…I’m like ‘wait, what were we even working on?’ But it also seems like I never left. It kinda feels the exact same…like we’re just hitting the replay button or something.”

She asked what in particular I was feeling.

“Anger, I guess. Like…I feel okay-ish outside of here. More optimistic, to be sure. But then I come in here and sit down and I just feel so pissed!”

She speculated that my anger comes from all of the tension and difficult emotions surrounding our latest discussion about boundaries. This is when I felt my throat start to tighten. I was so worried I would say the wrong thing and lead us back into an argument. But I also didn’t want to just surrender, so I said:

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Agitated

As much as I was soothed by the phone call I had with my therapist on Friday evening, I continue to be very agitated regarding the issue of boundaries and affection. I’d say I was probably at about 8/10 on the panic scale when I left session, 6/10 after talking to her, and since then I’ve been hanging out around 4-5/10.

I really loved her metaphor about the elephant. And I appreciated that she made a point to let me know that she wants to support me and would never intentionally or deliberately deny me what I need. I also understand that her version of giving me what I need will likely always differ, sometimes vastly, from what I imagine.

But I also can’t shake the feeling that all of this is happening within the realm of where the therapist is most comfortable. I think she has a flexible way of conducting therapy that also exists within a very rigid framework. Which is to say that she is only flexible when it suits her particular needs, or her specific version of therapy.

And so here I am, twisting and bending and trying desperately not to break, in an effort to preserve the therapeutic relationship. I will admit that I do see her bending as well, but as I mentioned – I feel as though she only does so within a limited range, whereas I’m expected to move far outside my comfort soon.

Which, you know, may very well be the whole point of therapy.

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The Elephant

After I published my post about yesterday’s session, I called my therapist. I left a voicemail that went something like this:

“Hi. I’m calling because I think we probably need to talk before Monday because that’s a long ways away and this feels important. I know you’re out of the office tomorrow, and potentially all weekend, so you may not be able to call me back, but I’m asking anyway. I *think* I need to talk to you, but I don’t know…because I don’t really know what that even means! Anyway, if you have a chance between now and then, can you please call me?”

Oy.

She called back an hour or so later and we were able to speak for about ten minutes. I told her just about everything I was feeling and thinking. I essentially outlined much of what I’d written in my previous post, specifically that I felt like she was not necessary putting conditions on affection for me, but just withholding it entirely.

I also said that although she is certainly entitled to conduct therapy in the ways she thinks are most helpful, I’m not sure that my feeling as though she won’t offer me compassion or reassurance, even when I really need it, is a good match for me. I explained that I’d imagined I didn’t feel those things from her because I simply hadn’t been asking for them (or asking in the right way). But upon finally finding a way to point out this specific need, I learned that it wasn’t something she was even considering offering to me and that was absolutely devastating. I further told her that this realization not only undermined my relationship with her, but my relationship with therapy in general. I was questioning everything!

I was somewhat surprised by her reaction to all of this.

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The End?

Wow. I seriously feel like the floor just fell out from underneath me. Not just for today, or with this therapist, but for therapy in general. Its the type of realization that I’m not sure has the potential to be reparable because my very understanding of the therapeutic process and relationship has shifted.

I wonder if it’s always been this way. Am I just now seeing this? Have I been hoping and reaching for something this entire time that never actually even existed??! Am I really that fucking naïve and stupid?

Probably. Let me try to explain.

I went into session today hoping to expand on yesterday’s session. Since I had written so much on the topic, I figured I could just pull from that material. But I didn’t want to get into vulnerable stuff if my therapist had somehow changed her mind about allowing me to call her to connect between sessions (something I do maybe a couple times a month). So I went about asking about the phone calls in an admittedly less-than-ideal manner. I playfully said,

So did you have a chance to think about our conversation yesterday? Are you going to take away phone calls or..?”

I get that there were better ways to ask this question, or address the issue, but that’s something I’m actively working on, and still really struggle with. She responded by being a bit snarky and saying that she felt like there was no way for her to really answer that question. Why? I cannot tell you. I know she explained it several times, but it all seems like nonsensical bullshit to me right now.

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Want v. Need

When I was a kid, my parents would send my siblings and I outside to play. I didn’t really mind because I honestly loved being outside. As soon as it was nice enough, I was playing outdoors until the street lights came on. During the cooler months, they’d send us to our playroom – a room that evolved from something for small children (with endless toys) to something more appropriate for older kids (with a cool fold-out couch, TV, stereo, and many posters torn out from the pages of Teen Beat magazine).

I kinda loved having the separate spaces. My parents were often boring, annoying, or outright scary. But, also, they would tell us not to disturb them. Common phrases I heard were, “Don’t bother me unless you are dying” or “That scream better be because your arm was just cut off!”

Whether or not they meant that in the literal sense? Who knows. But I know my siblings and I certainly thought they were serious. And so my very difficult relationship with “needing” pretty much anything continued to develop.

My therapist and I have been having a deliberate conversation around boundaries. This is always the toughest subject for us in session. It just triggers such HUGE emotional pain for me. In a recent session, I asked her two questions that she interpreted as me “mocking the boundaries”. That statement felt very confusing to me because my intent was simply to try and open up a conversation about something that was really hard to talk about. I didn’t experience myself as consciously doing anything at all with the boundaries, but she clearly did.

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