When I first heard this song a few days ago, it brought to mind my relationship with my therapist. It’s strange how I seem to be able to connect a lot of things to therapy.
Because of the boundaries that exist in any therapy relationship, there have been times where I felt like my therapist had ‘abandoned’ me. When she would push me, and encourage me to hold myself, and not become dependent on her to take care of me. That I needed to do that for myself, and was very capable of that. That I had made it through 30+ years without her. Sometimes those words hurt, and I felt that she didn’t really care. In my mind, I felt like I needed her to save me. Especially during periods of suicidal ideation. I want to be able to phone her at 2am and tell her to stop me from taking it further. But those damn boundaries. I know it’s not realistic to bother her after hours. But the emotional mind doesn’t think like that.
Since starting therapy, she’s been there for me every step of the way. She never left my side, even when I pushed her away, and tested her. She’s been my safe zone. When there’s a rupture, I panic and feel like she’s giving up on me and letting go of my hand. But I’m learning that just because there’s ‘conflict’ in a relationship, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.
She’s gotten me through many dark times. And even when I don’t see her for a while, the work we’ve already done together has made me stronger and better able to look after myself.
When I feel she doesn’t care enough, or isn’t there enough, the truth is very different. She’s still there. She’s still holding me. She still has my hand. I know she cares. Not just because she tells me she does, but also by her actions. She does so much for me. In a way, she is carrying me.
With the upcoming therapy break, a lot of emotions are coming up. Fear. Panic. Pain. Anxiety. How will I survive without her? What if she forgets about me? What if she doesn’t come back? We’ve been talking about the break and preparing for it, but that doesn’t make those feelings go away. There’s no magic pill for that. But I know that even though I won’t be able to see her, she’ll still be holding me in her heart.
She’s shown me time and time again that I can trust her. And I do. Sometimes my mind just needs to catch up to my heart.
It was one of those therapy sessions where it felt like I was talking to a best friend. It flowed, conversation was easy and seemed effortless.
Relationship with Therapist has been great. There was a little bit of a rupture a few weeks ago, but we got past that quickly. Thank god. But I learned and grew from it, so I’m glad it actually happened. Strange how it seems to work that way for me. While it’s happening, my world is in utter chaos and I feel like my heart is breaking into a million tiny pieces. Then I bounce back and quickly fall into that intimate, idealization state with her again. It also shows how good she actually is. In most of my relationships, whenever something went wrong, it felt like the end of the world. Like the relationship was broken and ruined. And that’s the way I feel when I feel a disconnect with Therapist. But she pulls me back in and helps me see that just because these things happen, and that relationships aren’t always easy, it doesn’t mean it’s going to end and that it can’t be fixed. I’ve already learned and grown so much from this special relationship we share. I’m so grateful for and to her.
We spoke about a few things, and near the end of the session, she wanted to discuss something with me. She reminded me of her upcoming vacation. That she’ll be away most of December and for a little bit of January. I’ve known about this for a while already, as we spoke about it very briefly before. But I didn’t allow myself to really think about it. When she brought it up again today, I can’t tell you what I felt. Because I still don’t know either. The emotions are somewhere there, but I just can’t see or feel them yet.
I was in such a hyper mood during the session and on cloud nine (thanks to my new very special relationship), and so happy to be talking to Therapist again, that I don’t think it registered. A part of me gets it, but another part of me seems to be shielding me from the absoluteness of it. It’s there. In the background of my mind. And I’m worried about what will happen once it hits me full force. I’ve never gone longer than 2 weeks without talking to her (and even that is painful), so I’m not sure how I’ll survive a month. Writing this, it still doesn’t feel quite real yet. I feel disconnected from this reality.
She wants us to prepare for this upcoming break, and we have a few weeks in which to do it. She wants my input and suggestions on how to make it easier for me. I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll definitely be thinking about it. I did come up with one thing though. I asked whether she’d do a voice recording for me, which she seemed on board with.
I’m busy deciding what I’d like her to include in this message, and one thing that kept coming up is that I want her to reassure me that she’s ‘real’. I didn’t really understand it. Actually I’ve never understood why I have this problem with things and especially people not feeling real to me, especially during absences. But tonight I think I have finally figured it out. And it’s something I’m planning on talking to her about. It’s an important part of the puzzle that is me. And a pattern I need to break free from.
I think other things that I’d like to hear is a reminder that she cares. That just because I can’t see her, it doesn’t mean that she’s gone. That she won’t think of me, or that she’ll forget about me. I want to be reassured that she’s not abandoning me, and will be coming back. That’s what I’m thinking… But I don’t know whether that’s too much?
I know a lot of you have had these extended therapy breaks. How did/do you cope? What has helped you through this time? I know we’re all different, and what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for someone else. But it will be interesting to hear about this from you.
I want to be as prepared as possible. Because I know this isn’t going to be easy.
In my post ‘The Therapeutic Relationship‘, I wrote about my connection with my therapist, and the fear that often accompanies it.
On Monday morning, in preparation for our session later that afternoon, I asked her to open up that post for our session (she has access to my blog). I wasn’t sure whether she had read it, but I thought it was important that she does.
Most of the session revolved around talking about our relationship, my fears and things I had left unsaid for so long. I didn’t run away from it this time. I fully embraced it. And I’m so glad I did.
I got to see a side of her that I’ve never seen before, a more vulnerable side, and it was absolutely beautiful. My heart just softened. I felt this overwhelming love for her, and warmth filled every part of me. That moment right there… That moment is one I’ll never forget. It’s etched in my memory forever.
One of the things I told her, is that I sometimes worry that I’ll be replaced by her other clients. That I won’t be important to her anymore. She put that fear to rest by saying that she’ll always make time for me. That she cares about me. It felt really good to hear that.
I also asked her whether she thought I was still making progress. Because I feel like I’m not. But I spent some time thinking about this since that session. And I reached the conclusion that I am making progress.
I’ll give two examples.
I never really had boundaries with people in my life. In my head yes, but I was unable to communicate and enforce them. Now, thanks to this healing relationship, I’m starting to become better at it. I wasn’t even aware of it at first, it came so gradually. I still have a way to go, but there’s definitely progress.
Since I started seeing her at the beginning of March this year, I had this obsessive attachment to her. I would bombard her with emails. When she went on vacation for about a week, late in April, that didn’t stop me. I even sent her an angry email. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, and what did I do? More emails. I was in crisis mode.
She always had an open policy, where I could contact her anytime. But I took it too far. I misused it greatly. In the last email she sent me during her vacation, she wrote that she feels strongly that we should have no contact between sessions, or have two sessions a week. But I couldn’t afford two sessions a week, so that was out.
I was devastated. I felt that the connection we had, had just been shattered. She had broken my heart. She had taken something away from me. I felt rejected and abandoned. When we had our next session, she was open to discussing this, and we reached a compromise. I could contact her during working hours. No nights or weekends. I still wasn’t happy with that arrangement, but it was better than absolutely no contact between sessions.
In our session on Monday, we revisited this topic. I told her that I don’t want this boundary anymore. That it hurts. That I’m jealous of all her other clients who don’t have this boundary. As usual, she listened and took to heart what I was telling her. She said that April is long gone, and she’s willing to give it a try and drop the boundary. I asked her whether she thinks I won’t misuse it this time. I liked her answer. She said that we know one another well by now, and she believes I won’t.
And I don’t plan to. I don’t want to use it unless I have to reschedule a session. It’s not about a boundary. It’s about me respecting her time. I want her to have her evenings and weekends to unwind and enjoy. And you know what? I’m actually glad she had set that boundary, because I grew from it. I learned from it. I learned to hold myself between sessions. To sit with my emotions and thoughts. To self soothe. I don’t feel the need to contact her in the evenings and on weekends, even though for some reason those are the hardest times for me. That is progress.
After this session, I feel an even deeper bond, a closer connection.
I want to encourage all of you going through therapy to be open and honest with your therapist about your feelings regarding the relationship. It’s so important for the healing process.
The universe has handed me a lot of shit, but it seems to have made up for it by connecting me to this amazing therapist.
Most of last weeks session with my psychologist was spent discussing our relationship. I had started the session by telling her that I didn’t want to be there. She wanted to talk more about that. I got angry at her after a while, and felt a lot of agitation and impatience. I wanted to tell her to just stop. I felt there were other things I wanted to talk about instead. Things I thought were more important.
She told me that this relationship is important, so if I feel a disconnection with her, it’s really important for us to discuss it. That if I ever feel that something she did or said hurt me, I must tell her. She doesn’t want things to be left unsaid. I told her I would, but told her that I want her to do the same thing. Because one of my biggest fears is that she feels negatively about our relationship, but keeps it to herself.
I care about what she thinks of me and how the connection feels to her. I really do. Perhaps a little too much.
Since that session I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of this. I came to the conclusion that she’s right. It is important to discuss the relationship. A month ago, I would have loved to have spent an entire session talking about our connection. But I’ve become uncomfortable discussing it lately. Uncomfortable feeling this attachment. More and more I’m feeling this need to pull away from her. To keep her at a distance. To withdraw.
Because now it feels very real. Before, I loved the connection we shared. But lately, while I still love it, and need it, it’s become more solid. More real to me. And that scares me. I’ve never had this level of connection with anyone before. I’m terrified. The potential for getting hurt is huge. I know she’ll still unintentionally hurt me. She’s only human after all. But it’s not just that. It also comes down to my own shame. I feel embarrassed for wanting her, for needing her. At feeling this bond. There’s a lot of shame attached to it, and I don’t fully understand it yet. I long to reach out sometimes, but it also stirs up those feelings of shame. Reaching out feels wrong. A pattern from my childhood, where reaching out was met with negativity. Now it feels like a boundary violation, not just a boundary crossing. I feel like I don’t deserve the attention. That I’m not deserving of her time. That I’m not worthy.
I always thought I allowed certain people relatively close to me. But looking back this past week, I was sad to discover that that wasn’t the case. I kept everyone at some distance. Never allowing them too close. And now it’s coming out in my therapeutic relationship. Even the most important relationship in my life, that with my grandmother, reveals that pattern. I just wanted to spend time with her, be with her. But never talking about my deeper feelings or fears. Never connecting on a deeper level.
On Tuesday I sent my therapist an email with a one of the rare pictures I have of me when I was a little girl, the only one I have of me and my mom together. I also attached a ‘personality’ profile I have taken when I was 19 and in college. Feeling the need to push her away, I decided to use a DBT skill instead, that of opposite action. So I sent her that email to pull her close again. It was important for me to reach out.
I’m grateful now that she pushed me to talk about it. There are a few things I want to discuss with her in our session on Monday. And I don’t care if we spend the entire session working through these things. It has to be done. It is important.
But I’m scared.
During my therapy session yesterday, I was highly annoyed with myself. I told my therapist that I feel I should be better by now. That I should just get over everything and move on. She told me that I’m very harsh on myself, and set very high expectations. That’s very true. I’m my own worst enemy. My harshest critic.
Then I got to thinking. I’ve read articles before on treating yourself as you would treat a friend. Back then it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But now I get it.
If a friend tells me that she’s a terrible person because of something she’s done, what would I tell her? I’ll tell her something along these lines:
“I can understand that you feel like a terrible person. But you’re human. We all make mistakes. The good thing is that we can fix these things. And those things we can’t mend, we learn from them. Simply by you admitting to what you did and how terrible you feel about it, you’re actually showing me the opposite. If you were truly terrible, you wouldn’t have been feeling this bad about it. That tells me that you have a good heart.”
Now what does it sound like when it’s me that’s done something I’m not proud of? It goes like this:
“You stupid idiot. Once again you fucked up like you always do. You’re the worst person in the world. Can’t you ever do anything right? You deserve to feel terrible about yourself. You shouldn’t even be allowed to live.” Yes, that’s really how I talk to myself. Black and White thinking in full swing. I would never talk to a friend like that, so why shouldn’t I show myself the same courtesy?
I learned a valuable skill from my therapist yesterday, which works great in the context of this post as well. I was going through one of my insecure phases and wondering whether I really can trust her completely. “I don’t want to be here today”. “What if you don’t really want to work with me and you’re only staying because it would be unethical for you to drop me?” Those kinds of things. After 6 months with her, I had hoped those insecurities would be non-existent, but that’s not the case. Just when I feel closer to her than ever before, and am enjoying that wonderful connection, it’s not long until I find myself pulling away and falling into the insecure, negative place again.
Yesterday, instead of reassuring me the way she sometimes does, she made me work this time. I suppose there has to be a balance. She can’t just always reassure me without showing me how to change my own thought patterns and reach conclusions for myself. That being said, she still managed to sneak in reassurances, and didn’t leave me completely alone trying to work through this.
She asked me these kinds of questions for each of the negative thoughts I was having (she encouraged me to look at the facts):
What is the evidence that she’s trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she’s not trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she doesn’t like working with me?
What evidence is there that she does like working with me?
This ‘little’ exercise took a while. She really makes me work hard, and sometimes it feels like my brain just wants to explode. Not to mention my rage at having to spend so much time on something that seems so trivial at the time. Afterward though, I see just how valuable it really is, and I’m grateful for it. I have so many cognitive distortions, and negative patterns and habits that I’ve developed over the years, so of course it’s going to be hard to train my mind to think differently. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to be my own friend.
I can use this skill to be a better friend to myself. When I start feeling like a failure, a waste of space, or whatever my mind comes up with, I can practice this technique.
“I’m a failure.”
What evidence is there to suggest that I’m a failure?
What’s the evidence that I’m not a failure.
This stuff can be used for anything. Thank you psychology. Thank you therapist.
I’m going to practice being kinder and more gentle with myself, and talk to myself the same way I would to my friends, and other people in my life. If I find myself being harsh, I will re-frame it and ask myself what would I tell someone else if they feeling the same way.
We deserve to be our own best friend.