Therapy Breaks

The therapist is going on vacation next week. *Gasp*.

Folks, let me tell you something: I HATE therapy breaks. For every and any reason. My vacation, their vacation, national holiday, illness, whatever. I hate them all. Any shift in my routine makes me feel completely out of control. I’ve been avoiding having any conversation with the therapist about said vacation because it makes me so uncomfortable. But last session, she brought it up and I realized I probably shouldn’t wait until the last minute to discuss this with her.

I asked her if she remembered what I said happened the last time Zooey had gone on vacation. I also reminded her that this time last year (literally, this exact week) I was locked in a psychiatric hospital. She smiled and said, “Well! What a difference a year makes!” which was kinda nice to hear, but I also snapped back, “The week is not over yet” in typical doomsday fashion. Life with PTSD, amiright?

She said she has a basic idea of what happened with Zooey, but she isn’t entirely sure of the time frame. Then she asked if I thought it would be helpful to talk about last year; to give a timeline from before the hospital to when we first met back in December, right after Zooey terminated. I thought that was reasonable, so I explained how the tension and chaos with Zooey and I started in mid-summer.

Then I went on vacation once school let out in August. The day after I returned, I had session with Zooey. I don’t remember going. I don’t remember much of that day at all. I just remember a doctor waking me up at 2am and thinking, “Where the fuck am I?!”

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Boundaries, Shame, and Sexual Tension

Today’s session was very….dense. We got through so much important material, but it seems like we just flew through it. Everything feels so jumbled and messy in my head. I wish I’d had an audio recorder so I could play it back because at this point it’s hard to even remember what exactly happened.

But I want to get this written down, so I’m just going to start at the beginning and hopefully writing will help me organize my thoughts…

First I read her my Mother’s Day post, since a lot of the emotion from this past weekend was around that stupid holiday. She laughed a lot at the appropriate moments. We didn’t spend much time dissecting it, probably because I essentially said everything I had to say about it in the actual post. She more or less just agreed with me. We did do a bit of reflecting on the bizarre way our society both canonizes and yet holds contempt for motherhood, as well as the ultimate “taboo” around family estrangements. I felt like she heard and acknowledged me, but that part of the conversation wasn’t too deep.

She commented that she’d also read the article I mentioned and found it to be both interesting and spot-on. I said, “Yeah, that seems like something you’d read” to which she kinda just laughed, but also – it was an admittedly awkward moment as (I think) we both realized she’d just revealed something about herself. I also felt a little strange about knowing that she’d read it because it DOES tell me a lot about her political leanings and feminist values. Not that I couldn’t have guessed that on my own, but making an assumption about your therapist and having actual confirmed knowledge about them are two very different things.

Which is what most of the rest of session was about. I told her about seeing Zooey’s gentleman friend on the train. I prefaced it by saying, “I’m going to tell you a weird story and you’re probably going to judge me, but that’s okay because I would probably judge me if I were you.” She narrowed her eyes and skeptically said. “…okay.”

It was hard to explain what happened without explicitly stating that I had internet-searched Zooey as well as her roommate. I needed to explain how I would even know who he was, let alone recognize him. I basically summed up everything I said in the post about it and her first question was, “Were you maybe secretly hoping he recognized you?”

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Shaken Up

Yesterday I went to study with a friend. She’s house/dog-sitting for a friend who’s out of the country, so I met her there. It’s technically only ten miles away from my house, but being that the NYC subway is configured in a very special way, I had to take a 58 minute trip that involved three trains.

One of those trains stops near Zooey’s home. Why do I know this? Well, for one thing – her address showed up on my insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs). For another, we “Googled” her at some point in September-ish and her address came right up (which matched the address on said EOBs). From there, we discovered she had a roommate – a gentleman friend, if you will.

She once used his name in session. She was referencing my wife, but she accidentally said his name instead of hers (to be fair, they are quite similar). So then we googled him as well. I won’t tell you much about him because I don’t want to be even weirder than I know this must already sound, but whatever – I think you’d be harder pressed to find a client who HASN’T done an internet search on their therapist than vice versa.

Regardless, this is a dude who likes to post photos. Especially of obscure abstract urban images from his daily commute and also: himself. So we all know exactly what he looks like. Also, he has an arguably unique look.

Enter yesterday, when I’m riding said train that passes by their apartment. Every time I’m on that train and make that stop, I hold my breath. I know the odds are pretty damn low that I’d run into Zooey, but I still worry.

I didn’t see her. Phew.

However, as I stepped off the train and bolted to take the three flights of stairs to catch the next train, I felt someone very close behind me as I was climbing the first escalator. I have this weird aversion to the very top and bottom of those scary machines. As I reached the top, two people were just standing on the steps of the escalator, allowing it to move them up (as it was designed to do). I hesitated to pass them because I worried about getting caught (I swear this fear comes from my parents forcing us to watch “Rescue 911” too much as a child). My slight hesitation made the person behind me come very close to running into me and he brushed my arm as he passed while I quickly stepped to the side to wait for the remaining stairs to electronically rise to the top.

As soon as I looked up to see who the in-a-hurry-New-Yorker-douchebag was that couldn’t possibly wait for the last four steps to get off the escalator, I immediately recognized him as this gentleman friend of Zooey’s.

At first I panicked, until I remembered that he has no idea who I am. (Right?).

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Yesterday’s session was kind of weird. I wanted to reschedule Friday sessions for reasons I’ll describe in a bit. I’ve had to change sessions before and each time, it somehow managed to be super awkward and trigger some sort of therapeutic impasse. Despite how much effort I put into not being weird yesterday, I somehow managed to do just that. Yet again.

The reason I wanted to reschedule is because our laboratory supervisor was not impressed when I strolled in 90 minutes late for open lab last Friday. I’ve already mentioned this on here before: it’s supposed to be voluntary extra time to practice lab skills, but for some reason, the lab guy takes it incredibly personal if you don’t spend all 7.5 hours there every single Friday.

When I walked in late last week, he said, “Busy morning, Andi?” I replied, “No. I have an appointment every Friday morning, as I’ve mentioned before.” Which clearly did not appease him and instead prompted him to go on a rant about “priorities” and “time management”, embarrassing me in front of the entire class. No bueno.

Honestly, I don’t need the lab time (as is pretty obvious from my academic performance), but I also definitely don’t need public humiliation on a weekly basis. There are only four open labs left in the semester, so I decided I’d rather just reschedule therapy than potentially go to battle with this dude every time I’m “late”.

I told the therapist this story as a preface to requesting that we change our Friday sessions. She started to look at her calendar for other possible session times when I added in that if we couldn’t reschedule, perhaps we could just “let it go for now.”

She stopped mid-movement and asked, “Well what do you want to do?” 

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Request for Professional Review

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As most of you know, I’ve been going back and forth about the decision to file a formal complaint against my former therapist for her highly unethical behavior. If you’d like to know more about the specifics, you can read about it here or here.

(Short version: she abruptly terminated treatment with me after 10 months of twice-weekly therapy. I walked in to session one day and it was over. No transition and no new therapist in place. And to top it off, she blamed it all on me.)

I’ve been agonizing over this because I think I always knew that what she did was very wrong. But in the aftermath of losing her, I was still intent on preserving the relationship and trying to stay connected with her somehow. I loved her and she was important to me. Thus I was afraid of doing anything that might provoke her and push her further away from me. Now that all ties have been officially cut, I’ve had more clarity and the chance to think about this objectively. With my new perspective, it is clearer than ever that what she did was unethical.

Still, though, I’ve been doubting myself and whether or not filing such a complaint would be an act of retaliation or some attempt for me to remain connected to her somehow. I don’t want to be punitive. And I don’t want to get myself into some long drawn-out process that will be emotionally draining.

I’ve been debating over whether to not to bring this up with the therapist I’m seeing now. Since she is also a social worker, I felt that this might be a strange topic to discuss. I also admittedly don’t want her to think I’m the type of client who just files arbitrary complaints left and right when things don’t go the way I want them to. (She would probably never think that, but I don’t want to risk it. Or, more importantly, I don’t to risk that I will perceive her reaction as some version of the aforementioned opinion.)

Luckily, Wife and I have a friend who is also a therapist. Even better, she’s a therapist who’s not a social worker. So when Wife and I went to visit her and her husband this weekend, I used the opportunity to pick her brain a LOT. I’d sent her the link to this blog, so she was already aware of what happened with Zooey. And let’s just say she was not impressed.

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New Office, New Energy

25581707_2The therapist I’ve been seeing moved offices this weekend. Today was my first session in her new office.

I have mixed feelings about it. The building façade is under construction as they prepare for a French restaurant to open next month-ish. The elevators are tiny and weird. The bathroom is locked. She said there’s normally a key in the waiting room, but it’s missing so I could use hers until then. Nope – that’s totally weird to me, so I nearly peed my pants during session.

The waiting room itself is startlingly bright – stark white walls bouncing fluorescent light all over my sensitive eyeballs. Classic huge “oriental” rug in the center. Pretentious magazines on cheap furniture and sub-pretentious artwork in cheaper frames. One of those water fountains with plastic spigots, but no cups (shall I drink from my hand?!). Endless doors all over the place (including a semi-secret hallway that leads to more doors) all with those circular white noise machines churning out endless “shhhhhhhhhhh” sounds. Presumably all with various psychotherapeutic dyads rattling away behind them. It’s very….sterile. And a sensory nightmare.

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Now Is The Start

Tonight Wife and I went to a restorative yoga class. It was actually a combination of restorative yoga poses, aromatherapy, sound vibration, and Reiki. It was awesome. The leaders talked a lot before class about the upcoming change of seasons. Friday marks the beginning of Spring, lined up with the equinox and the transition into a new moon (in Pisces this year). It is a time for change, new beginnings, and focus. It is also a time to emerge out of the depths that Winter pushes us into and begin a season of growth and rebirth. Ultimately, they said, it is the time for new starts (although they warned us that things may move quickly, so be careful what you wish for!).

All of this reminded of a song I love, which I want to share with you. It’s called “Now Is The Start” by A Fine Frenzy. Some of the lyrics really speak to how I’m feeling about my transition away from Zooey and towards the therapist, such as:


Do you hear, do you hear that sound?

It’s the sound of the lost gone found.
It’s the sound of a mute gone loud.

It’s the sound of a new start…”

I really think that the “Zooey chapter” of my life is finally closing. I feel myself shifting more towards true closure every day. I know the grief will continue to work it’s way out in various cycles, but for the most part I am ready to let go and begin the new chapter of my healing journey.

Now is the start.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 8.53.37 PMAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I scheduled an extra session for today with the therapist I’ve been seeing. It went well.

I started the session by saying, “so that was a LOT of stuff last session, eh?” To which she agreed and asked how I felt about sharing all of it. I explained that I prefer to just lay it all out there so we have the full context with which to connect dots and synthesize information. She responded by saying that she felt that was indeed a good way to go about it and, also, we should continue talking about it. I was just like OMG YES! YES WE SHOULD!

In sessions with Zooey, we’d often pull out these really big, important things and then never actually talk about them. This left me feeling really alone and overwhelmed because now I had all this really heavy stuff to carry around by myself. It kept adding up and adding up and eventually became impossible to balance. I would try to bring up the topic again, but she had this way of just refusing to truly engage with me about certain things.

So I was hella relieved when this therapist suggested we keep talking and processing everything that happened. I needed to hear that. I needed her permission to keep breaking this all down because sometimes I feel really silly that I have such intense emotions and reactions to a former therapist.

I talked a lot about my perception of and reaction to Zooey’s behavior in the end. I really feel like her choice to use certain words and phrases, such as “highly inappropriate”, “please be respectful of this”, and her (incorrect) statement that I’d been contacting her “regularly” are particularly difficult for me to sit with. She knows me well enough to know that those particular statements would be triggering for myself and certain other system members.

We were constantly painted as this difficult, manipulative, clingy patient by various mental health professionals, especially throughout our adolescence. As someone who was severely abused by our primary caregivers (among others), you can probably imagine that we’ve had some pretty serious issues with attachment and boundaries. Rather than helping us learn and grow in these areas, people tended to just get exasperated and expect us to magically know how to fix it. It was very painful and shameful to try to navigate these relationships. So we are incredibly sensitive to being called manipulative or to people suggested we aren’t respectful or mindful of their boundaries, especially in a clinical setting. Zooey knew that.

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Shortly after I started seeing Zooey, I told her about a therapist I had while hospitalized as a teenager. Her name was René and she was very nice for the most part. Two of the parts in our system (13 year old twins) are really into astrology and identify very strongly with the “dueling fish” that are associated with our zodiac sign, Pisces.

We were babbling on about this when suddenly we asked René when her birthday was so we could tell her cool stuff about her zodiac sign.

She immediately reacted in a very strong way and said,

“I’m not going to tell you that. You can’t ask me that. It’s very inappropriate!”

We were admittedly hurt and felt incredibly stupid/ashamed for asking in the first place.

That was our first real introduction to the idea of “therapeutic boundaries” and realizing that there are certain things you’re not allowed to know about certain people.

Zooey responded to this story by saying,

“Well that doesn’t seem fair. She got upset with you for violating a boundary that you didn’t even know existed…”

Huh. Imagine that.

I honestly can’t tell if Zooey is totally and completely lacking in self-awareness or just a plain old hypocrite.

Either way, remembering this specific interaction made my laugh/cry because as we all know, Zooey did the exact same thing.