Stranger Sessions

Things have been so strange in therapy lately. I think we recovered fairly well from the whole “Google” incident, and I was able to talk to her openly about what it meant to have Grey Mouse as a transitional object. Although that conversation was upsetting because she sorta went in a different direction than I did.

I’d imagined she’d offered me the doll to help hold onto her and our work over that weekend. She did, but the thing she identified *first* was how she believed that taking care of the doll might help me connect with the part of myself that has such incredible love and compassion for my nieces and nephew. In essence, she was hoping I could channel that into compassion and love for myself, in particular the younger parts of myself.

Which is a good idea, but it felt like a rejection. And then I felt embarrassed for thinking she’d offered it to me to help connect with her (as opposed to myself). She clarified that it was for both reasons, but by that point all the warm fuzzies I’d felt from the original gesture were gone and I hastily threw the doll back in his normal resting place on the ottoman in her office.

*Sigh*

Since then, I suppose things have been kinda all over the place. It’s hard to remember, or to piece it together in any coherent way. I know that last Monday was rough for me. The weekend had been particularly challenging as far as ED recovery goes, so I spent the session balled up in the corner sobbing and just screaming about how horribly fat I am and how much I hate myself.

In the session before that I was completely silent. It wasn’t an act of rebellion or punishment. I didn’t want or need my therapist to save my from anything. I just…couldn’t speak. I didn’t want to speak. After about 25 minutes of being completely distracted by how uncomfortable I felt in my ever-expanding body, I was able to relax enough around those particular emotions to realize that what I actually felt was rage – an emotion I rarely allow myself to acknowledge.

I’ve been feeling particularly vulnerable and threatened in the therapeutic relationship lately. My therapist often uses humor, which sometimes borders on (or actually is) sarcasm. She can be a bit forceful with me. She has a strength that intimidates and sometimes overwhelms me. Normally I just roll with it because, overall, she’s quite kind and friendly with me. But recently we’ve been in some serious mother-transference territory and the slightest hint of sarcasm or even minor suggestions of rejection send me reeling.

So I finally just asked her to please stop talking to me that way. I know she doesn’t mean to hurt me and that she uses humor to open up space and build rapport, but there are certain things that I just never find humorous. So I told her that. I asked that she please not joke about money, boundaries, or abandonment/rejection.

She kinda hemmed and hawed a bit. Her initial response was to remind me that I have an impact on her as well. She doesn’t think it’s fair that I should be allowed to come at her with a sarcastic or disrespectful tone and she should just “take it”. And, in general, I don’t think she should have to take it.

Except that I kinda do.

I reminded her that we are not equal in this matter. She is in the more powerful position, particularly as we’re dealing with very intense and painful emotions around my relationship with my mother. In this dynamic, she represents my mother – the one person who has done more psychological damage to me than anyone. So, yes, I have an impact on her, but to suggest we are somehow on equal footing here is simply ridiculous.

Eventually she heard me and said that she would definitely consider what I said and be more careful with her tone and the way she utilizes humor. It felt good to assert myself in that way but the reaction I had following that session was very strange and unsettling.

I initially felt sadness and grief. I was rather shocked by how easy it ultimately was to ask someone to treat me in a different manner and have that person response in a positive way. I tried to think back on another time in my life when I had done such a thing and nothing came to mind. So then I felt sad that I hadn’t been able to just all my parents (and others) to stop hurting me and have them, you know, stop. 

But then on my train ride home, my emotions shifted to something else: guilt. I started to wonder if perhaps I hadn’t given my parents a fair chance to treat me differently because I had never outright asked them. Maybe if I had asked, they would have listened.

So then I tried to remember why I became estranged from my family in the first place and nothing came to mind. I couldn’t think of anything and I couldn’t conjure up a single negative emotional memory of them. This has never happened before. Part of what has made this estrangement so “easy” is that the pain and terror of being in contact with my family has always been very accessible to me.

It frightened me to feel this guilt and to struggle so much to remember why I don’t speak to them. I felt crazy! I became very agitated on the train and couldn’t wait to get home.

Then I started thinking about the AIDS crisis and how HIV was often spread by men engaging in homosexual activity that were “on the down low”. They would sneak around to have unprotected sex with other men, only to then go home and have unprotected sex with their wives or girlfriends, thus spreading the disease. The theory behind such reckless behavior is that these men couldn’t tolerate the dissonance or admit to their homosexual desires. To use a condom was to somehow admit to their same-sex sexual attractions and they couldn’t tolerate such an admission.

I wondered if that is the same reason why my father never used protection. Maybe he felt that if he wasn’t using protection, it wasn’t real sex (and by sex, I mean rape). I brought this up with my therapist and she said, “Well, to use protection, her would have had to acknowledge that you were a separate person, rather than simply an extension of him. And no, I don’t think he could do that.”

Damn. That hit me like a ton of bricks.

This week has been equally strange. There’s some sort of tension or something between us. I can’t figure it out, but I just feel so disengaged from her and from the process. I don’t want to feel that way, but I can’t figure out how to fix it.

 

*Yes, the title of this post is a nod to the Netflix series:)

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20 thoughts on “Stranger Sessions

  1. Rachel says:

    I feel sad that her humor hurts you. I agree it isn’t the same, and yes you can rail against her and say whatever you want, and you’re not supposed to have any retribution for that. Period. Therapy is not a relationship where you need to consider your “impact” unless you are wanting to do that. Her job is to handle the impact, whatever that may be.
    I’m happy to see a post from you, and get an update. I miss your posts and engaging with you on here. I’m sorry things feel strange and distant, that is a really tough and painful place to be in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah it’s been weird trying to identify what exactly is going on there. I think she uses the idea of my “impact” as a way to use our therapeutic relationship to examine my *other* relationships, but there’s just no way to really compare with something like this. I don’t have a right to treat her like crap (and I don’t), but constantly having to monitor the potential impact my tone may have on her is exhausting. And terrifying. I need her to see that yes, sometimes I am going to act like a little brat, but I still need her to kinda roll with it and respond with patience and kindness. I miss interacting with you, too! I still read every post you wrote but I am just at such a loss for words lately. Hoping to be writing more in the upcoming weeks, but we shall see. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel says:

        Yeah, you get to act like a brat and have her still be there, consistent and reliably there. I think the acting out is part of the therapy. We need to see that we can be fully ourselves, the entire spectrum, and not be punished. We don’t have to be any certain way, we get to be who we are and are still cared for and loved. I think it is a fundamental part of integration for all of the parts and modes that developed from being invalidating and abused and punished for having normal experiences our parents couldn’t handle because of their own inner regulation.
        I learn so much from the times I am a complete brat in session, and my therapist “takes it” (of course would say something if I was a complete asshole, which I am not) and lets me learn and come to my own conclusions about finding more effective ways to communicate and regulate the emotions.
        I think you are accurate in your assessment of your needs, and I hope she gets it and gives you what you are needing.

        Liked by 1 person

    • paperdolltherapyblog says:

      Rachel,
      I just wanted to say that as I’ve read through all of Andi’s posts your comments are so thoughtful, compassionate and genuine. You seem lovely and I thought you should know your words (read even months later) have helped me repeatedly. I always look for your comments in the comment section – and very much appreciate your words.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rachel says:

        Hi Paper Doll, I read your comment yesterday when I was sitting in the hospital with my grandpa. And I can’t tell you how much it touched me, in a moment and day where I was really struggling to feel my own worthiness. To read that you see these positive qualities in me. It was a reminder that helped shift my day, so thank you.
        If you have any interest in following my (private) blog, go to thetherapyrelationship.wordpress.com and click on the link to request access. I only open it up to people I interact with on blogs, for my own comfort level/anonymity reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paper Doll says:

        I have requested a follow and thanks so much for inviting me to read and be a part of your community.

        And I’m glad my words helped on a difficult day – they were all true. I hope today is easier 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • S says:

        Rachel, I didn’t realize this was you, but I’m so glad that you are still here. I’ve been following your blog for longer than I can recall and when it switched to private, I was worried. I’m glad you’re still here and still posting.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. paperdolltherapyblog says:

    You don’t know me yet but I’ve read absolutely every post you’ve written lately and you actually inspired me to start writing about my own journey, so thank you.

    I wish you the best in figuring this out with your T. I actually had a whole discussion about boundaries with mine before diving into some pretty heavy stuff because I needed to know whatever I throw at her – the walls are solid.

    You have every right to feel the way you do, I think you did really well asserting your needs, and I hope that she genuinely hears you and what you need.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. La Quemada says:

    I agree with Rachel. We need to be able to struggle against our therapists sometimes, challenge them, and even reject them without them rejecting us. It’s their job, not ours to cope with the impact of what we say (obviously there must be some limits of what they can tolerate but some sarcastic remarks don’t cross any lines). E recently told me it was okay with her to express anger and frustration. That doesn’t mean I feel comfortable doing it. It surprises me that your T would think the rules for her and for you in the therapeutic need to be the same.

    The part about using protection just breaks my heart. I’m so sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yeah you two make an excellent point and it’s certainly worth exploring further. Ugh, I know. I hesitated to even put that bit in the post but it felt good to just write it. It is the truth after all. Thank you x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. S says:

    Hey Andi,

    I hope this isn’t presumptuous – and I don’t know if you’re still considering other options – but just wanted to let you know that I recently found out that Columbus Park Collaborative near Columbus Circle has eating disorder dbt groups and I think other eating disorder services like supported meals, etc, and will collaborate with individual therapists. I don’t know anything about insurance coverage or cost there, or even about the individual therapists, but my old, really good therapist used to run dbt groups there and is now the director of the dbt track. I’m not sure if she still runs groups herself, but she has a background in psychodynamic therapy as well as extensive dbt training and is really excellent, very professional but also very kind and compassionate, so I’d guess her program is, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sirena says:

    I always really love how you can stick up for yourself and call her out on stuff that isn’t working for you and how you explain it to her. I’m always cheering you on. P.s Stranger Things was awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. e.Nice says:

    Really impressed with how you were able to communicate and get this across to her. Especially when you’ve been feeling off or having a harder time lately. You really are a good advocate for yourself and because of that you are able to make progress and have so much insight. I’m sorry for all the painful stuff this brings up.

    Liked by 1 person

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