I know it’s something I shouldn’t do. It’s something I didn’t want to ever do. Yet, I find myself doing that very thing sometimes.
As my regular readers and those who have followed my blog for some time know, I changed therapists earlier this year. You can read this post if you want to know more. At the time I knew I had made the right decision. And even though there have been moments where I’ve questioned it, I still believe it was the right one.
Even now that I’m not seeing my previous therapist, A, for sessions anymore, it was agreed that I’d still check in with her from time to time and say hi (she has also sent me messages first). I also like sending her a funny video or cute picture. And she still consistently replies to me each and every time. This makes me feel secure in knowing that she’s still around and still cares about me.
From the beginning, C, my current therapist, told me that time management isn’t her strong suit. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have areas we don’t do great in. But this really bothered me in the beginning of my therapy with her. It doesn’t bother me as much anymore, and sometimes I actually even find it enduring. But then there are times like yesterday where it gets to me. I had been upset with her because she hadn’t replied to an email I had sent her earlier the week. I hadn’t asked for a reply, or even posed a question, but still wanted her to reply because I was ultimately reaching out for connection.
When the session started C could tell that I was upset and frustrated. I took out my play-dough and just sat playing with that. She had told me to get some a few months ago, and it’s awesome and so helpful! Anyway, I eventually told her why I was upset, and feeling hurt and wanting to push her away, told her that I want to go back to A, because she always replied between sessions. I also told her that just when I feel I can trust her, this happens and that trust is gone. But after the session yesterday I realized that’s not the truth. I do trust her. My black and white thinking just gets in the way. I get the idea of holding both the positives and “negatives” about others, but the application of it is another matter. I still struggle with either/or. I can do it, but it takes a lot of effort, and when strong emotions are involved it’s even harder. One thing I can say is that when I specifically ask C for a reply, she does, as she reminded me in our session yesterday. So she is consistent in that way.
This whole thing wasn’t actually about the email. There were other factors too, and they were the real issues.
When I went to sleep on Thursday evening, all of my dreams revolved around A, so waking up I missed her like crazy for the rest of the day. C had also told me about two weeks ago that my psychiatrist, who I also have an attachment to, is emigrating in February. Abandonment schema activated.
What I also hadn’t realized until C mentioned it, was that I know it’s almost time for a break in therapy. We have one more session next week, and then only on the 16th January again. That’s the longest I’d have gone without seeing her. And with the news that my psychiatrist is emigrating after having just come back from her honeymoon, I was worried that C will also decide to leave when she gets back in January. She told me that she’ll come back, she’s not planning on leaving. I know it sounds strange to some people that I have to hear those words of reassurance, but it really does help me. I gave her my journal from my Box of Hope yesterday to write something for me for while she’s away, which she agreed to do. I’m really grateful for that.
I know my therapist cares, because she’s done a lot for me, and still does. Things she didn’t and doesn’t have to do, but that mean a lot to me and really helps. It’s not fair to compare my therapists. I know that. They’re two different people, with their own ways of working, strengths and weaknesses, and both of them have helped and continue to help me in so many ways. But I also know that I’m human, have attachment issues, and that it’s part of my process. I don’t want to have moments like this again, but it’s okay if I do. I’ll work through them.
It’s something that we humans do in most other relationships as well. “So and so never did that”, “I never had this problem with so and so”, for example. So I know I’m not alone in making these sorts of judgments and comparisons. And I’m pretty sure that most therapists are guilty of this at least on one occasion with regards to their clients as well.
We’re all human after all.
I find it fascinating that when I’m contemplating or experiencing something, that topic keeps showing up in various ways and settings. It’s like that popular example of wanting to buy a new car, and the model and colour you’re especially interested in, seems to show up everywhere.
This time the topic is that of touch and hugs in therapy. I’m subscribed to a few different YouTube channels, two of those of therapists, and found one of the videos particularly intriguing.
There are so many people, therapists included, that believe that touch either shouldn’t have a place in sessions, or that it might even be harmful to clients. I’ve also read a lot of research and opinion pieces on the role of touch in the mental health field. It’s a very grey area. Through this, and through my own feelings and experiences of the matter, I’ve firmly believed (and still do) that touch can be important in a therapeutic setting. And that’s why I found this particular video really great. I’ll link to it at the end of this post.
I can remember a very good example of the power of touch during one of my therapy sessions. I was in a very chaotic state, disoriented and dissociated at the same time. It was a culmination of certain things that happened that day, and something that happened while waiting for my session to start. When we got to my therapists office (she had to take my hand to lead me there, that’s how disorientated I was), she sat down right next to me on the couch and held both my hands in hers as I slowly started feeling better. By her doing what she did, I didn’t feel like I was free-falling and alone in a place I didn’t quite understand anymore. I can’t remember a lot of what was said, but I can clearly remember the warmth of her actions, and how powerful it was for me at the time. I believe it’s what helped stabilize and regulate me much quicker than if she had just sat across from me as usual.
Have you had any similar experiences in your own therapy? What are your thoughts on the role of touch in the mental health field?
You can watch the video here:
My therapy session last week Wednesday marked a turning point in my relationship with my new therapist. I usually do 30 minute sessions with her, as that way I’m able to see her every week. But I wasn’t ready to leave this time… I wasn’t in a good space. So she said we could stretch it to an hour session. The nice thing about having her work part-time at the clinic is that the patients don’t have set times for sessions. Which was a major problem for me when I was still in there, and after figuring that out, my therapist started giving me rough times for our sessions (+/- an hours difference), which was so much better for me than not knowing at all.
At some point during the session I realized… I’m growing attached to C. I never thought it would happen. It’s terrifying, and was one of the contributing factors to my intense moment on Friday. I had become really good at containing myself when it comes to emails and texts, but had a relapse on Friday, which culminated in me sending her a panicked apology email after the first one I had sent. She was nice about it though, and in her reply told me that I didn’t do anything wrong (I had been convinced I had, and that she would “drop me”). We had a session today, and spoke about it. She told me that she won’t do that to me. She won’t just reject and abandon me. The relief those words bring is profound. Although I still don’t trust her fully just yet, but like she says, it’s a process.
She had asked me last week if I have any items or objects that I use to help soothe and regulate myself, and helps me feel connected to certain important people (like A) or places. I showed her one of the cards that A had sent me (and that I carry everywhere with me), and also that I have a “therapy jacket” from my early days with A that helps with that. When my therapist asked me last week what I can do to take our safe space, that feeling, home with me when I leave, I told her that I can’t seem to hold onto things like that. I jokingly told her I could take her with me though. That was a nice light moment. Before I left today she told me that she has something for me, and after packing out her whole bag (this had me laughing, because as a lot of women know, this is a familiar scene), she handed me a piece of rose quartz. It’s significant because in her office there are some small pot plants and a big rose quartz ornament thing, all of which I love touching and looking at, so she uses them as grounding objects when I dissociate. Anything I can touch and play with helps significantly. So I loved that she gave me that, because it reminds me of that space and of her. When I got home I just crashed onto my bed, got under my weighted blanket, put on an episode of a series I’m watching and just held onto that stone the entire time. I decided to just listen to my body, no work, no nothing, just watch TV for as long as I wanted and take a much-needed nap. When I hold this stone I feel calm and soothed. I can’t believe how much it helps. It has the energy it’s intended to have.
I sent A an email last week. She told me that she doesn’t want me to feel guilty or have regret at having moved to C. That she agreed and supported my decision, and that she was proud of me for taking that step. Those words meant so much to me. I realized how much guilt and fear I have been holding onto. Reading those words felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. “It’s okay”.
I haven’t been doing well lately. Life is too much for me to handle right now. So many things are going wrong. Yesterday and today I’ve been angry at the whole world. Myself included. And I’m not too sure where all this rage and hatred is coming from. I’m aware that I’m being irrational in some moments, but I’m struggling to find a more balanced and mature way to handle things. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m angry. What I’m really angry at or about. I’ve had intense cravings and desires to relive the drug and alcohol filled days of my 20’s. Just one of the reasons I’m angry at myself. During today’s session I threw my arm band and punched the wall. Essentially throwing a teenage tantrum. I was relieved when my therapist didn’t yell at me, and there was no negative reaction from her, which helped calm me down. Maybe a part of me wanted her to yell at me. Maybe I wanted a reason to hate her and not feel the attachment. I apologized and told her that I’m not angry with her, which she said she knew. I spent the rest of the session just crying. I’ve been filled with so much anger the past couple of days and when I would start to feel tears coming and the anger dying down, I’d resist. But in the session, I just couldn’t anymore. I know it’s okay to cry. I know it isn’t good to shove it down. But still, I couldn’t break through that wall until today.
I just feel exhausted now. All that pent-up energy is gone and I feel like sleeping for a couple of days. I’m thinking of taking tomorrow off work. And that means all work, not just from my office job. I’ve been trying to do too much and solve too many problems that I just don’t have the strength for right now. I need to take care of myself.
This post seems to be a little all over the place, but I couldn’t be bothered about that, so it is what it is. I need to process and my brain isn’t functioning at optimal level.
I’m feeling a bit better today. Clearer. Less confused.
Last night I went to group and during the break I saw C on her way out. I had been feeling a little overwhelmed during group, and without even thinking about it, I ran to catch up to her. I had no plan. So when the first words out of my mouth were “I want A”, I was surprised. I can’t really remember much of what happened next. I vaguely remember C saying something and asking me questions, but it’s all a blur. I had sent her a message the day before telling her that I want to cancel our session for this week. I had bumped into her just before group as well, and told her that we could have a session next week instead. What I remember very clearly during these weird few minutes during group break, was asking whether we can still have our session today.
So that’s how I wound up in her office this afternoon. I spilled the beans, and told her everything I mentioned in my previous post. My doubts, self-doubt. Thoughts. Feelings. All of it. And C validated me every step of the way, which just made opening up easier.
She asked me what had happened the previous evening. What had changed between me seeing her an hour earlier and being adamant about not having our scheduled session, to my request to have the session after all? That one stumped me. After a little introspection, it hit me. Attachment pain (as one of my fellow bloggers puts it). The OT I had worked with last year was facilitating the group last night. The first time in months. During group I had been fighting that feeling of attachment, among other things going on in the group. Missing A and wanting to go back to her hadn’t left, and the two situations fed off one another, culminating in a big attachment mess in my mind.
The reason I had initially canceled our session was because I felt I needed more time to figure this shit out. I have also been wary of how things were going and didn’t want to deal with C this week. It came out during the session that another reason was that in my mind she was the “bad object” (she used this term) I wanted to get distance from.
Just as an aside: This is very hard for me, but instead of referring to her as “C” like I’ve been doing up to this point, I’m going to refer to her as “my therapist”. I’ve realized that’s one way I’ve been keeping her at an emotional distance, so I need to change this.
Anyway, we spoke about a lot of things in only 45 minutes (it was supposed to be a 30-minute session, but we went over) that have come up since we started working together, including the relationship. One of the things I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my therapist hugging another client, came up too. She actually brought it up, which I was grateful for, since that was one of the things I wanted to discuss with her. She said that A and I had established boundaries over the course of our relationship. It had been a process. Painful and frustrating at times. But I settled into it eventually, and it became the norm. I was used to those boundaries. To the way things worked. I knew what was acceptable, what wasn’t. And now some things work and look different. So it’s normal that I’m feeling confused, unsure, and insecure. She said that whenever there’s a threat to a structure I’m comfortable with, that’s when I become unsettled. She mentioned a few other instances of this (things I haven’t written about). One of them is the time she came into my room when I was still in the clinic, to see one of my roommates (who didn’t want to come down to her session). Things like this that threw me off. When she said this, it just all clicked into place. It cleared up the confusion I had around these times. About what was happening inside me.
As the session progressed, I found myself softening toward her. I told her that I feel like I abandoned A, and that I didn’t do things the right way. But I’ll send A an email about this when she gets back (I see she’s currently away on leave). The more I spoke about her, the sadder I felt. At some point I switched and felt anger toward her for being away on leave. “again“. My therapist pointed out that A had suddenly become the “bad object” and she, C, the good one. That’s when I started crying. She was right. And I hadn’t even been aware of it until she mentioned it. Her tone of voice changed to soft and gentle, which only made me cry harder. She told me that it’s okay and possible to have two “good objects” at the same time. I remember A had also pointed out how I tend to do that.
So much of what my therapist had said this session made so much sense. So many things seemed to fall into place.
Today was the first time I felt she was really in tune with me. The first time I actually felt some real connection to her. In the short time I’ve been seeing her, she’s taken a lot of crap from me, and always handled it amazingly well. No matter how much I’ve acted out, she remains calm, patient, and surprisingly, compassionate. She deserves a medal for that. As does A, although I was more “well behaved” with her.
This was truly the most valuable and insightful session I’ve had since starting with my new therapist. Which gives me hope for future sessions. So I’ve decided that I’m going to stick with it. With her. I hadn’t realized until today that I had actually subconsciously been fighting against her. And as she mentioned again, it will always remain my choice to be there. If I decide I want to go back to A, that will be okay. Even though I feel better now about working with her, it feels even better knowing the option, the choice, is still mine, and there.
Things still don’t feel quite “in place”. I’m hurting a lot, and it’s extremely hard right now. But at least after today, things seem to be moving forward in a positive way with this situation. All I can do is give it time, and truly try to give this my all.
Since the weekend I’ve started having stronger emotions coming to the forefront. Mostly sadness. I’ve contemplated getting into contact with Elizabeth again, thinking that maybe I’m ready to resume a friendship. I’ve been feeling the loss more. So maybe now isn’t such a great time. I’ve also been struggling with thoughts of “I made a mistake” ending therapy with A. I’ve been struggling with self-doubt these past few days. I’ve been missing A a lot. Not just missing her personally, but also missing our work together.
I had a therapy session with C yesterday. While I was sitting waiting for my appointment, she came out with another woman, who I assumed was a client. This woman hugged her goodbye, and in that instant I felt something. Jealousy and anger. They weren’t intense emotions, but not very subtle either. When I got into C’s office, I asked her whether that woman was a client, and it turns out it was. I had hoped that it was a friend instead.
Naturally, C asked me what I was experiencing. What had that situation triggered in me? I struggled for a while to communicate my thoughts, as I was also feeling confused. I wasn’t quite sure what I was experiencing, or why. I don’t feel this incredible connection with C, so why did it bother me that another client hugged her? I ended up leading her down a different road to what I only later realized wasn’t the whole truth. It wasn’t intentional. But it at least gave us some material to work with, so I don’t feel too bad. I’m going to bring up the subject again in our next session though. She was really on the money when she said that it seems to her that I just want to feel cared for today (yesterday). To know that I’m loved. When she said that, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. I hadn’t even really consciously been aware of it until she said it, and I realized how right she was. And I still want that today.
On Monday I wanted to send A an email telling her that I’ve been thinking about returning to therapy with her, but that I’m not sure if I should. That I’m confused. But I didn’t send it. I could just imagine her saying “that would be inappropriate” with regards to sending her such an email, since C is my therapist and I should be talking to her about these things. So I just ended up sending A a quick text message to say hi. It helps so much just knowing that she’s still around, and we can still communicate. I just wish I could see her again.
I didn’t talk to C about this yesterday. It’s on my agenda for the next session. What happened yesterday, how I felt, just made me even more confused than I’ve already been lately. I also feel fear somewhere inside, but I’m not sure where it comes from and why it’s there.
With regards to whether she allows hugs, she told me that she doesn’t mind hugging her clients or her clients hugging her, as long as she doesn’t think it’s going to do them more harm that good. And as long as it’s with express consent. Then she asked me what I need then and there, and if I would ask if I want/need something. I told her that most of the time I’m too scared to explicitly ask for something, like a hug for example. But that I do sometimes ask… I’ve become better at it. In that moment, I didn’t want a hug from her. I didn’t want to hug her. Even after our session, I just thanked her for the session and left. It had been one of those days where I didn’t want to be touched by anyone, and even being close enough to touch felt overwhelming. So, I didn’t want a hug. But I didn’t want her other clients to get one either. Messed up, I know.
My roommates in the clinic haven’t been in contact with me. I sent them each a couple of messages, and they replied, but days later, and with messages that can’t even really be seen as a proper reply. The worst part is that I saw they went somewhere together last weekend. I know I said that I understood that this might happen, and that it would be okay. But that “no care” attitude is gone, and has been replaced with feelings of rejection. I’ve removed them from my contacts. I’m not going to run after people anymore.
I feel a little lost. Lost. Alone. Sad.
Now this is an awkward topic, right? Which is why I haven’t written about it yet. I’ve been meaning to for quite a while now, but I couldn’t get myself to start. After the in-person session I had with my therapist last week Monday, I feel the time is right. There’s nothing strange with what I’m writing about, it’s just that not everyone is as comfortable with this topic as I am. I get it. I was there too. In fact, even though it’s so much easier for me to explore this these days, I still feel a little vulnerable. But that’s why I love my blog space. I can be as open and honest as I want without anyone seeing the different shades of red spreading across my face when I share certain things. “Red suits you”, one of my friends recently said after she kissed me on the cheek. In my defense, we’ve been friends for over 21 years, and she’s never done anything like that. She’s one of those “anti-touch” people.
So. I love my therapist. She knows this, as I’ve told her a couple of times in the past. I once asked her whether that was okay. Trust me when I tell you, it’s okay. I haven’t said those words to her since last year, but there have been a few times where I’ve almost blurted out again “I love you”, but didn’t. I wasn’t quite on the “knowing what I actually mean” path yet.
The love I felt for her has taken on different meanings throughout the first year of working with her. The “in what way?” question had been a source of confusion during much of that time. A few sessions into our first couple of months working together, I had a little bit of a crush on her. Okay, maybe a big one. There was also a time where I thought I might actually be in love with her, or getting there. I told you…Awkward. Plenty of times, I thought that loving her is wrong. That I’m not supposed to. Not allowed to. That it’s inappropriate. The natural consequence of those thoughts was shame. And a lot of it.
Sometime last year, I went through a stage where I had a few intimate dreams of her. They confused me. I told her about one or two of them, but never went into detail of course. It’s intimidating and so scary to bring these kinds of dreams and feelings to our therapists. Wondering what’s wrong with us, and feeling ashamed and embarrassed. But it’s nothing they haven’t heard before. Those feelings can be so big sometimes, and it’s important to talk about it. I’m guilty of not always having spoken to her about some of those feelings. But I know I’ll be able to if something ever comes up again. After all, I need to practice what I preach, right?
I once told my therapist that I love her as a person. A fellow human being. But that’s very broad isn’t it? After all, I only get to see the professional Clinical Psychologist side of her (with little bits of self-disclosure thrown into the mix every now and then). But, it’s still her. Maybe I don’t get to see the other roles she plays outside the therapy room, such as that of wife, daughter, friend, etc. But I also get to see her in her role as therapist, which they don’t get to see.
“I love coffee.”
“I love my friends.”
“I love my parents.”
“I love my partner.”
“I love my children.”
“I love my pet/s.”
Love. One word to represent different forms of it. So I’m going to call this form “therapy love”.
I feel like I’ve grown in the love I feel for her. I’m finally in a comfortable, secure place, where it just makes perfect sense. It’s not the kind of love shared between partners, parents, children or friends. It’s a love of its own. But it’s not less than those other forms. The therapeutic relationship is unique and not the typical kind of relationship, but it’s still a relationship. And the same is true of the love that we feel inside that relationship. I know a lot of you love your therapists this way too.
Then there’s the love that the youngest parts feel. I think it comes out of how children might feel about their main attachment figure? I’m not sure. I can’t remember if I felt anything about my earliest attachment to my mom. The earliest memories I have of her is when I was about 3 or 4 I think. But I also don’t remember much from those years and those after. Just little (and big) things here and there. But the love for my therapist that comes from those little parts feels different. Attachment love maybe?
Seeing my therapist again last Monday was amazing. When she came to get me, the minute I saw her face, it felt as though my heart just lit up. It was so nice being back in her office. It was familiar, with that “home” feeling. I like the fact that she has couches, and not just chairs. Like with my psychiatrist and OT, it felt a little awkward sitting in those chairs. I also find it intimidating because you have someone sitting right in front of you, whereas the way my therapist’s couches are arranged, you don’t get that “she’s staring me down” vibes. It’s comfortable and makes the space feel less clinical, and more welcoming.
I brought a lot to her that session. Way too much. I was emotional and jumped from one topic to the next. I was extremely ungrounded. So I gave her too much to work with, or too little. But at least now I understand (after she explained it to me), how the way I want therapy to work won’t provide long-term benefits. I might feel better for a few hours afterward, but that’s not the goal. I’ve always felt that maybe I’m doing therapy wrong. But there isn’t a wrong. It’s a learning journey as well. And now I understand her view better, and it makes so much more sense. Now I know better how to approach our sessions. Strangely, I feel more in control, like there’s a clear structure to work with. I’ve always tried to squeeze as much into a session as possible, because it feels time pressured due to the fact that I don’t see her every week. I feel like our most productive sessions have been when we’ve stuck with one topic though, and I know she feels the same way about this. I prefer it that way, so will give up on the “time pressure”.
Sometime during the session, my therapist asked “what do you want?”. In that moment, every part of me wanted to say “can you please come sit next to me? Hug me?” Of course I didn’t ask that. I’m very aware of boundaries these days, and I especially don’t want to cross any of her personal boundaries.
Near the end of the session, I wanted to show my therapist some of the pictures that I had taken while visiting with my mom, sisters, aunt and uncle. By that time I was feeling much more grounded. I like how she always seems so interested in seeing the pictures that I take. Last year, during one of the sessions we had when I was still living in the same city as her, I also showed her a picture (of me when I was a little girl- moody as hell), but I just handed her the phone where she was sitting. This time though, she actually moved to the furthest end of her couch, so she was close to mine. That surprised me (in a good way of course). One of the other reasons why I didn’t ask her whether she could come sit by me, was because I was also holding onto shame (so what else is new dammit), and therefore felt untouchable, unlovable and hideous. Why would she want to sit close to me? Why would anyone? Stupid inner voice. That one little action, of her moving closer, made a world of difference. It felt as though she broke through another one of my defenses. I have so many, I don’t even know all of them. Most are (probably) subconscious.
At some point I had the urge to draw, colour in, paint, etc. Why, I have no idea. My therapist let me borrow some paper and her pencil, and I got to it. It was so small, just took up a little space in the corner. I drew one thing on top of the other. No one would have been able to decipher that and know what the hell I had just drawn. But I know, so that’s what matters.
At the end of our session, I started to feel a little emotional again. I didn’t want to leave. But of course, I had to. Don’t you just hate that? As we were walking out, I wanted to ask my therapist whether I could hug her, but felt too shy to ask. But I knew that if I didn’t, I would probably regret it for a long, long time, and beat myself up over it. And then without thinking about it any further, I just came out and asked if I can give her a hug. She said “of course” and when she said it that way, I knew she was comfortable with it then, and I felt relieved. And my favourite part was when she said “I’ll give you one”. I loved that! It was the most special, meaningful hug I’ve ever had. A hug from the person that I never thought I’d ever get to be that close to.
It feels like my connection to her, that bond, has deepened. Which I didn’t think was even possible. I felt loved and valued. She really cares about me. And that’s such an amazing, warm, and soothing feeling.
I love my therapist.