The Beginnings of Repair

So I went to session today and it was…okay. We certainly didn’t completely repair this massive rupture, but we did take the very beginning steps back towards each other.

I spent a LOT of time trying to decide how I would even approach the session. In the end (and after reading ideas from you all, especially Clara and Pink*) I decided to abandon my need to control the situation. My fear instinct was to go in, walls up and guns-blazing, prepared for the worst. I debated even writing her a check for the full week of sessions, fearing she would terminate and I’d have to re-write a check for that single session only.

But I didn’t do that. I just let go.

At the last minute, I decided to approach the session as normally as possible, as if it were any other day. I kept to the same routine I more or less use at the beginning of every session: I walked in, set my stuff down, unzipped my coat, handed her the check (for the full three session fee), took off my rain boots, made some arbitrary comment (this time it was about how much I hate rain boots), took a deep breath and sat down.

Then I just started talking. I pretty much said what I wrote in my previous post, but added some stuff that Tina suggested about how I felt really afraid and unsettled by what had happened between us. I felt a lot of resistance from her, but I pushed through it. Then I set a basic narrative, as BodyPolitical recommended, giving her a sense of what happened from my perspective. More than once, I had to push through her interruptions and questions to remind her that I wasn’t necessarily fact-checking, but trying to hold both of our realities because I feel like mine keeps getting lost to hers.

I was able to tell her how afraid I am, how confused I am, and most important of all how I believe that she failed me.

I could tell it was hard for her to hear all of that, but in the end, she relented and said that yes, it there is a corrective for her there. She said she can see now how the boundaries were initially unclear and then shifted into an even murkier territory. She shared that she absolutely wants there to be as little ambiguity as possible around this issue because she knows how scary it is for me to not be able to see the edges of the boundaries.

I also made it very clear that the most important thing at this point, is that neither of us are right or wrong, and I am not interesting in fighting over technicalities. Rather, what I believe we need to focus on (and thanks again to Clara for this insight) is that this is a pattern I absolutely do NOT want to keep repeating. It’s destructive and painful and it pushes her away when I need her the most.

She agreed and said that she knows that pushing boundaries is hell for me, so we can definitely work on what’s really going on around this and how my needs aren’t getting met. I shared that I believe we should have dealt with this more back in July when we ruptured because I found out her father died (through Google). She insisted that we had talked about it, but I said:

“I mean, sure, we talked about it. But clearly we didn’t talk about it enough or else we wouldn’t be here right now.”

“Fair enough.”

Then I shared how I afraid I was that she was going to terminate my therapy and before I could even finish my sentence, she said that the thought never even crossed her mind, and she wanted me to really hear her say that. She said that pushing the boundaries and getting lost in patterns and transference dynamics is what we’re supposed to be doing. But that we’re also needing to be able to step out of them and examine what’s happening, which is where we got stuck.

I cried a lot. But, much to my own pleasure, I never raised my voice or got sarcastic or snotty with her. I stayed with the vulnerability and pushed through my defenses.

In the very end, I told her that I think eliminating email will ultimately be better for us and, further, that I think we need to re-visit the parameters around phone calls. I shared that although it was painful that she didn’t return my call on Thursday (which she didn’t do because she was unavailable, but also because I’d said if I didn’t talk to her this weekend, I’d just see her Tuesday and she wanted to “take me at my word” that I’d be okay until then…), it ultimately forced me to just BE with my feelings. And that experience allowed me to process a lot of material and figure out how I was going to survive without her.

I said, “I love that you reassure me, but maybe we could limit it to like one phone call per week or something. Which is hard because then I’ll be agonizing over whether it’s the right time to call or if I should wait until later, but if I always call when I need you and you always respond, then in the moments when I can’t call or you’re just unavailable, I don’t know what to do. I need to practice not being able to connect with you or get reassurance because it makes it so hard when I can’t have access to you.”

She agreed and I think she was pretty impressed with my insight and willingness to suggest this change. I don’t know that it’s a perfect answer, but I think we’re at least paving the way to setting up a boundary that feels a bit more containing and empowering for me.

*I cannot thank you enough for your support and input over the last four days. I reached out to this beautiful community and was absolutely overwhelmed with the love and validation I got back. I love each and every one of you. ❤

 

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24 thoughts on “The Beginnings of Repair

  1. Blooming Lily says:

    I am so, so glad that she was open to hearing what you had to say, and so amazing at the way you’ve handled this – with so much insight and grace. Obviously things may not be “perfect” or exactly back to where they were, but it sounds like today went really well, and I am happy for you. xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  2. tillydid says:

    I’ve been reading back through your posts recently & feel I need to tell you how overwhelmed I am by the pure,naked vulnerable honesty you are able to articulate. I feel so humbled to be able to read such raw emotions & to be able to draw from your writing a sense of understanding,that I’m not the only person having these feelings that I’m not alone.. You have helped me to validate my own emotions & feelings especially towards my previous therapist. Thank you,sincerely…Im so pleased that your session today was positive & you’re able to move forward together through the therapeutic process. Bless you xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alicewithptsd says:

    Wow Andi. So brave. And I see so much growth in you, to be able to go in there and show vulnerability and stay with it. This is huge. Huge. I hope you realize that. I’m glad that things are beginning to be repaired. It sounds like once you guys work your way through this, and come out the other side, you will land in a safer more open space. It’s just the getting there that is so painful at times, but to are doing so with grace. I’m glad she was able to hear you today and hope that the reassurance offered that she never thought of ending things will help to make the relationship safe again. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. thecollectivesystem says:

    Hi Andi,
    I am new to wordpress and to being a follower of your blog.
    Therapy does suck, doesn’t it!?
    I’ve been in treatment off and on (mostly off) since 1995. I have had some rough times with therapists and boundaries too. I do have a suggestion if your willing to try it and it’s acceptable to your T as well.

    I record all my sessions. In the beginning I wanted to record my sessions because I could not remember anything that went on during therapy, or if I did remember I may have taken something out of context and began to obsess about the meanings and so on. But that battle instantly cleared up when I started recording sessions because I dont have to wonder. I dont have to obsess, I dont have to worry. I can listen to it once, twice, as many times as I want to. And I can keep them. I have about a years worth I saved to a disk. After I have heard my session enough times to not need to think and rethink it, I can move on. It has helped us tremendously! Plus, if there is something in the recording I want to bring up in therapy again, I can either write it down and have a firm grip on what it is I want to discuss or I can simply play that part of the session with my T and we can clear it up the next time I’m there.

    I found some other benefits besides the clearing up of any misunderstandings I had in my head about what was said. I hear the tone of my T and his exact words. I seem to get twisted often after I leave treatment and I have found listening to our sessions untwisted in my mind many of the obsessions I would go off in to. Another benefit to recording our sessions is that I have little parts inside that fear the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ idea. When I leave I begin to feel the fear of the littles about when the next time we will see him. Will he be there? Are they important to him? When they get scared, does he know or will he care? The black and white thinking of children feeds into obsessions and our constant need of contact with our T. But being able to hear our sessions has helped in that regard too. He has also read a couple books to them and they have taken photos of him holding their stuffed animals. So when we are away from him they can look at the photos and know he really is out there somewhere. Plus for fun they can listen to him read “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day” to them and feel they are close to him in some way.

    Long, long story short – my suggestion to you is to think about recording your sessions. I have a Nexus that has a recorder app on it but I’m sure there are many ways available. Good luck to you.

    P.S. Recording our sessions made us (both our T and us) feel weird in the beginning but now we dont even think about it. It’s set off to the side, out of the way. He’s okay with it, we are okay with it, it has helped us learn about each other inside, and it cut out the calls, emails, etc.

    Lora

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Hi Lora! Thanks for reading along! So funny you should mention this, because recording our sessions has been on my mind for a while and I’ve been too nervous to ask my therapist if she would be open to the idea. But you make some great points, some of the very reasons I imagined it might be helpful for us to have a recording, so I’m going to try and bring this up with her in session today. Thanks again!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. La Quemada says:

    So difficult, and so well-handled. I am especially impressed you were able to keep going and continue being authentic and vulnerable while she was trying to break in with an alternative version (her version) of what happened. It’s brave of you. It also shows a lot of development, more trust in the process and more faith that both you and she can tolerate all the feelings that go along with the deep emotional work.

    I’m also thinking about your bravery in suggesting limits on the supportive phone calls. It is not easy to propose that, but I can see how it can lead you to the next stage of managing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Q. Honestly? Me too. This is new to me – being able to stay vulnerable even when I feel my heckles going up, preparing for war. I’m amazed, actually, that I was able to stay soft and raw with my emotion when I could tell she was being defensive. But it worked, and she is only human. I can’t say I blame her for steeling herself for a rough session, my instincts told me to do the same. But we both ended up relaxing enough to find compassion for the other and I think that made all the difference.

      Like

  6. Rachel says:

    I feel a sense of warmth and pride, mixed in with admiration, for your courage and wisdom in the handling of your feelings. You know your therapist and the relationship quite well, and I am glad you attuned to your needs here. And it really paid off.

    Liked by 2 people

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