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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Truth and Transitions

Since I had to go to therapy right after the rather disastrous appointment with my shrink on Monday, I was in a difficult emotional space. I felt intense rejection and a sense that the world was caving in. I think I also felt like I had very little left to lose, since I was now in conflict with both my therapist and psychiatrist, which emboldened me in a much needed way.

So when I got to session, I opened with about as much truth as I could handle. I said,

“I feel like we should just end this: therapy, sessions. Because I feel like you are dangerously close to bailing on me and I can’t tolerate that thought. I can’t be in that space, dealing with all of this fear. I can’t be waiting for that. I can’t be imagining it. I don’t want to think or feel or do anything that has to do with you abandoning me. So I just want to walk away now, before you can really hurt me.”

She first assured me that she has (still) not had any thoughts about bailing on me or ending our treatment, but then she asked if perhaps her comment from last week had left me feeling afraid and concerned that she was at a limit with me?

“Yes, absolutely.”

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Returning My Call

My therapist called me back late this morning. I told her I had a few things I wanted to say.

First, I explained that I absolutely do not remember getting to her office on Friday or any of the time during session before being violently thrown back into my body at the last minute. I told her that it has been a while since I lost time like that, especially during session. I will lose a few minutes, or maybe half of a session, but even when that happens I generally have a sense of who was out and why.

She told me she had a feeling I wouldn’t know what happened or who was out. She said that the part she spoke with had “a very different opinion of therapy” than I do and that clued her into the fact that it wasn’t me. She doesn’t believe she’s ever met this part before.

I reiterated how terrifying that is for me, to lose time like that. I also shared that I have soreness and bruising that seems to have come from something that happened within session, which also makes me very nervous.

I said, “It is very important that the physical space, the therapeutic space, and the therapeutic relationship do not somehow become another source of trauma for me, which is a pattern I seem to enact over and over. And part of the problem, I think, is that when things like this happen, my clinicians won’t talk to me. They won’t communicate with me about what’s happening. They just start making decisions and setting parameters on everything from how I can sit in session to what I’m allowed to say. I don’t like that and it doesn’t help anyway. I want to be able to just talk to you about what is happening and how it is impacting both of us.”

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One Crayon

The last couple of days have been so rough. I’m hanging in there, but I kind of feel like I’m drowning.

Thankfully my monthly peer support group for DID was today and that was a damn lifesaver. It is remarkable how healing it can be to sit in a room with people who have such a profound understanding of the fundamental way I experience this world. It was one of the best groups I’ve been to so far. We really touched on some deep and very important topics that resonated across the group, allowing for a really meaningful conversation that I think all of us needed today.

I always feel less crazy when I leave there.

I met my wife in Central Park after the meeting and we ate bagels while sitting on sun-warmed rocks, people-watching the walkers, runners, bikers, horse carriages, and rickshaws all around us. It was one of those experiences that feels surreal. The park was absolutely beautiful and the sun was soothing to my soul as it beat down on my cold skin.

Next was shopping. I needed a “business casual” outfit for an event later this month since all of my professional clothing is too big now. I found a blazer and button-down, but we both walked out of the shopping center with massive headaches because the lighting in those places is too intense for life. Plus someone had sprayed a truly insane amount of perfume and it was probably poisoning our brains as we browsed clothing racks.

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Appropriate and Necessary

I opened yesterday’s session by commenting on how much contact my therapist and I have had over the past week:

“Do you know that we talked for four and a half hours last week?”

“Oh, really? Is that…you mean, with the three sessions and the phone calls?”

“Yes.”

“You did the math?”

“Yes.”

“How do you feel about that? About last week and how much we talked?”

I told her that I was surprised I’d had that much to talk about; that I could fill that much time. I shared that I thought it was really helpful and she agreed. She said that I’d had a difficult week and thus I needed the added support.

I said, “Right. I mean, you know, I think it was appropriate…and necessary.”

“Necessary?”

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Scheduled Phone Check-In

Yesterday, my therapist and I had our scheduled afternoon phone check-in.

We’d agreed beforehand that I would call her, so I did. She picked up and said, “Hello?” and I said, “Hi, it’s Andi. Whoa, this is weird.”

“What’s weird?”

“I’ve just…I’ve never called a therapist and had them actually pick up the phone before. Usually I just leave a voicemail or speak with an answering service, so it’s a little strange that you just picked up and said hello.”

She validated my weird feelings and that prompted a discussion about talking on the phone outside of sessions. I told her it felt strange to just call to simply talk, not because there was some pressing crisis or emergency. I didn’t need her to intervene, I just needed to connect with her.

She told me that I’m allowed to just check in when things feel important or when I feel like I need to connect with her. She also reminded me that I’m allowed to be seen outside of crisis and I don’t need to require emergent care in order for her to want to help me.

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Unbearable

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my therapist closed Friday’s session by saying,

“There is nothing I can say right now that will help you or make you feel better. And that is awful. So we’re just going to need to hold onto this until Monday. But I am here. If you need to check in before then, I am here.”

I was so irritated with her and myself and the entirety of therapy in that moment, but I really appreciated that she said that. It was honest and real and she was absolutely right; nothing either one of us did would have helped take away the pain I was feeling. Her comment didn’t seem to come from a place of helplessness as much as an acknowledgement of our reality.

I also appreciated that she offered contact with me over the weekend. It was an important gesture because it signaled to me that despite the 45 minutes we’d just spent completely missing each other, she was still there and we were still connected. She wasn’t going to take herself away from me just because we struggled to reach each other in session.

So I did call her, basically the minute I walked in my front door. I left a message asking her to call me back and she called about 90 minutes later. I opened the conversation by saying, “I think I just need to hear your voice” (which is a pretty big deal considering the repercussions of saying the same thing in a voicemail to Zooey).

She said, “It sounds like you’re needing connection right now, after having such a difficult session.” 

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Talking About Her Comment

Going into Thursday’s session, I knew I wanted to talk about the comment my therapist made on Monday in response to my fears around our growing attachment (“Well that’s kind of hard when you’re coming three times a week!”). I re-capped that part of the conversation and I explained that it felt like she was making fun of me or mocking me somehow.

“How so?”

“It’s like you were saying: ‘Well what did you think was going to happen if you came here so often?!’…as if I am stupid or something.”

“I don’t think that. In fact, I have no expectation that you should know what to feel or expect about coming here three times a week. I’m sure you feel a lot of complicated things about it.”

She continued…

“And I can see how my comment might not have sat well with you…”

She paused a bit to reflect on the conversation and her own intentions.

“I think what I was doing was responding to the double-bind you were in: that you want so much to have support and to feel safe and secure in this space, but at the same time, that intimacy scares you and pulls you out of the safety. So as I was listening to you speak on Monday, I realized how difficult this situation is for you and I wanted to speak to that.”

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Threatened/Threatening

Therapy has been a strange experience recently.

A good kind of strange, I think, but still unsettling. This feeling mostly revolves around the burgeoning attachment I seem to have for the therapist…my therapist.

It has been a very slow burn for us. After all that happened with a previous therapist, I was beyond hesitant to build a new therapeutic relationship. I went into this one guarded, scared, and pessimistic as hell. I held my hopes at a fairly low level to (try to) decrease the repercussions from the abandonment/betrayal that I saw as inevitable.

But relationships are always shifting. And slowly, over a period of just over nine months, we have gotten to know each other. We’ve had our fair share of rupture and repair and, from those experiences, we have gained a certain amount of trust in each other. She has repeatedly proven herself committed, interested, and (most importantly) capable. I often find myself annoyed by her ability to meet my needs, either before I even know what they are, or directly after I express them.

I don’t know why that annoys me. Probably because it is so utterly unfamiliar. And, as a human being, I fear the unknown.

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