I came across this article in my inbox this morning and wanted to share it on my blog. I really appreciate the way Annie approaches this subject with empathy. All her posts are worth a read and I can highly recommend her blog.
It was my birthday just recently, and I had a bit of a “mid-life crisis” that day. Panicking that I’m in my middle 30’s and still living with parents, and that it seems things will never get better. It doesn’t help that I’ve been in a depressive phase as it is for the past while. I go to bed praying that I don’t wake up, but when I do wake up try to tell myself that today will be a better day. It never is.
I find myself becoming increasingly unstable, and I don’t know what to do about it. I learned a couple of months ago that reaching out for help either gets met with rejection or being completely ignored. Of course, I knew this for most of my life, but I seriously thought and hoped (and was told) that it wouldn’t always be that way.
Tonight I learned the hard way again. It doesn’t matter how much I’m struggling, or even when I desperately beg (something I never thought I’d ever do) for that support- support they absolutely have the power to give- I’m not going to get it. The message I hear loud and clear is “you don’t matter”, “your life means nothing to me”, and “I don’t care”. It especially hurts like hell when it comes from someone you’re so attached to, someone you thought cared. Finding out they actually don’t… Words can’t accurately convey what that feels like.
I genuinely feel unworthy, rejected, abandoned and like I don’t belong anywhere. Just want to mention that I’m not talking about my therapist, but someone else in the mental health profession. Although on that note, the way I feel is that I’m just another client. That’s the truth though… I am just another client. I’m not special. I’m not important. You know, you go into therapy and don’t count on how important that relationship is going to be. But I’m beginning to see that I don’t want that relationship anymore. I don’t want a close relationship anymore, because it just leads to hurt and disappointment. Our therapists are professionals and can’t give us some things we wish they could. They’re not our friends, siblings, parents, etc. It’s just a working relationship. I don’t see the point of attachment anymore. I don’t think there ever was one, other than a baby’s necessary early attachment to their mother or primary caregiver.
Often these days I wonder… do I even want to continue? Because I’m slowly giving up on attachment and support. I’m definitely done with asking for help. From now on I’m a closed book. No one needs to know I’m struggling. After all, it doesn’t help even when they do know.
A comment by one of my blogger friends reminded me of this post. It was one of the first I published on this blog so most of you wouldn’t have read it. I’m also reblogging it because I needed that message today.
Being in a contemplative mood tonight, I want to write a post regarding a few things from my recent experience, as I wrote about in my first post Goodbye’s.
I was going to be driving approximately 1321 km (820 mi) over the course of 3 days. No one thought my car would be able to make it over 2 days. I’m certainly glad I didn’t attempt to. I had a few problems and had to stop at each and every gas station, but nothing major. The car wasn’t the problem.
Instead of taking the usual highway, I was advised to take a back road instead. I have Google Maps, so we were sure it wouldn’t be a problem.
Oh, but it was.
That first day driving, I spent the majority of the trip crying like a starving baby, and wondering what the hell I was doing. So it certainly didn’t help matters much…
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Yesterday was a better day.
This roller coaster I’ve been on seems to be slowing down. I’m not off the ride just yet, but the slower speed is a relief.
I’m proud of myself for one thing at least. Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is self-medicate with my benzo’s (more than what’s prescribed), I used the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Urge Surfing and Riding The Wave. Just allowing myself to fully experience the urges for self-harm, medication, and alcohol, and feel the emotions that I so desperately wanted to numb.
I managed to cope with those intense feelings and urges by doing some physical activity right in my room, such as push ups. Something I find really soothing is lying stomach down on my fitness/exercise ball and slowly rolling back and forth, stopping for about 30 seconds every now and then to just breathe and feel the pressure and support against my stomach and upper body. It may sound weird, but it helps. I had to use a lot of my coping skills and tools, and I realized again just how important it is to have those.
Another urge I’ve had is to quit therapy (next session and the first of this year is next week Wednesday). Not because of my therapist, but because I’ve been wondering whether therapy in general is still worth it for me. Feeling like I’m sick of doing the work and still having these bad mental health days, to this extent. But I managed to avoid sending those emails and messages.
My main goal during times like these is to get through these moments in less destructive ways as far as possible. And I think I’ve managed that quite well so far.
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.
Don’t touch me.
Please hold my hand.
Leave me alone.
I hate you!
I love you!
How can all of these kinds of conflicting thoughts and feelings exist in a person at the same time?
These were the words spoken to me by my therapist yesterday. I’m struggling, a lot, and needed that reminder. It’s times like this that I’m especially grateful for therapy and a great therapist.
My inner critic has been especially boisterous this past while, as have the critical voices from my childhood and beyond. Every attempt at positivity and self-compassion has been met with these negative voices shutting it down. Separating out the voices and recognizing which is my own inner critic, who is ultimately just trying to protect me, and which belong to those people in my life, who due to their own issues and projections have targeted me with their hurtful words, has been helpful.
“You’re useless, a waste of space, and will never amount to anything”, “you don’t deserve love, a hug, attention”. The voice of others. When these kinds of words come from people you love and are supposed to trust, who you are dependent on as a child, they build up and almost become like a part of you. It’s extremely difficult to challenge them.
“You can’t do this”, “it’s not good enough”, “you’re too much or not enough”. My own. To my inner critic I can say “thank you for trying to protect me, but it’s okay if I am unsuccessful at this. I’ll learn from it and do better next time”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s good enough”. This voice is trying to protect me from rejection, shame and pain. See the difference? For me at least, it’s easier to deal with my own inner critic.
When I got home from therapy I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But the critical voices were so loud (“you’re just lazy, you should be working”) and I was struggling to tap into my own self-compassion. I then remembered C’s words “be kind to yourself”. In that moment I decided to pretend that she’s talking to me instead, and to speak to myself the way she speaks to me, with kindness and compassion. And it worked. So I ended up taking a guilt-free 90 minute nap, one I desperately needed. By pretending that C that was talking to me, I slowly started to find my own self-compassionate voice again. So that’s another simple little tool for my coping toolkit.
It’s so easy to get lost in all the voices of negativity. Both those around us and those within us. So if you struggle with this, maybe this concept can help you as well. I hope you have someone whose kind and gentle voice can help guide you in finding your own voice of self-compassion.