It Was Okay

On Monday I phoned the OT who lead the group last week. I’m going to refer to her here as D from now on. I told her how hard I had been taking the events of last Tuesday’s group. That I’ve been holding onto this feeling of shame. Side note: I don’t really know how to let go of shame, other than to try to bury it. But that’s not helpful either, as it keeps coming back. I told her that I don’t want to go to group on Tuesday, but at the same time, I do. I asked her what I should do. She didn’t tell me what to do, but instead, gave me the tools I needed in that moment to make my own decision. She reminded me of a skill I “learnt” previously. Doing the opposite action to how I’m feeling. So if I don’t feel like coming to group because of the emotions I’m experiencing, then the opposite of that would be to go. Something like that. The moment she said that, it fell into place and I made the decision that I’m going to go in. For some reason, she has a strong influence on me (along with my therapist and the OT I’m working with individually). Their words hold more power than anyone else. I felt better after that call.

Walking up to the clinic last night and going inside, my heart was racing, and I felt nauseous. In our session on Thursday my therapist told me that she’s concerned about how often and how many of my Benzo’s I’ve been taking recently. So after that session, I decided to lay off them for a while. Last night was the first time I had it again, and just one, the lowest dose, just as prescribed (even though that dose barely takes the edge off). I had taken it before I left for group. Walking into the coffee shop (where we usually meet), I didn’t even look at anyone. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to stay, but I had already ordered my coffee. Which, by the way, is my weekly splurge. Who thought cappuccino was something to get excited about? I look forward to that cup of coffee every week… Don’t know what I look forward to the most. That or the group. I know, that’s sad. As I held the warm cup in my hand, and heard D’s voice in my head, I suddenly felt this calm come over me. Like a soft, comforting cloud.

It was then that I felt I could face everyone again. That it was okay. So I joined those outside, and that feeling of calm stayed. None of them seemed to look at me any differently… Like I had assumed they would. Assumption really is the mother of all fuck ups, isn’t it? Thinking that they were all judging me, when I was just projecting my own self judgement onto them. At some point I somehow (I have no idea how it happened), spilled coffee all over me. I’m one of those people who always falls over things, spill things, etc. I’m never without bruises (and never just one). My friends joke that when I get my own place I must child-proof it. Thanks guys. When these things happen when I’m around people (other than my friends), I get so embarrassed, turn bright red, and try to cover it up with a joke or two. But this time, I felt… Nothing. It didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t even care that it had spilled on my phone as well, whereas other times I’m paranoid about anything happening to it. Even a drop of water. Yes, I’m that protective over my phone. With all my stuff actually. Even my books. I could have read them twice, but they still look brand new. I look after my things because I can’t afford to replace any of it, and I only keep things around me that serve a purpose in my life.

One of the clinic psychologists was leading the group last night. I’ve always been somewhat wary of him. But the past two times that he’s run the group, I’ve been slowly warming up to him. But I’ll never talk to him or open up to him outside of the group. It was a small group last night, which was actually nice. The psychologist asked who wanted to check in first. One of the guys shared his week. When the psychologist asked who wanted to go next, I actually raised my hand! What?! I hadn’t gone in with the intention of sharing anything. But now, here I was, ready to do just that. I didn’t hold anything back. I told them about my struggle regarding last week’s group, and the aftermath of it. The shame, embarrassment, and fear, I’ve been feeling since then. I didn’t talk down to the floor this time, but looked at everyone as I spoke.

They were all so supportive, kind and validating. I felt relieved, like I could breathe again.

In the second half, we were going through the Barriers to Interpersonal Effectiveness. One of the guys was explaining how he experiences one of those barriers. I had noticed that he used the word “should” a lot. For example, “this person should support me”. I kept hearing my therapist telling me that she doesn’t like the word “should”. So I somehow managed to find the perfect time to jump in and give my input. I told him (and the others) how my therapist catches me when I say the word “should” (and all those other “have to” words and phrases), and has me rephrase it. Such as “I would like this person to support me”, or “I would prefer to have their support”. So I feel as though I at least contributed a little bit. And I still felt so calm. It’s very rare that I feel proud of myself. I’m way too self-critical. But last night was one of those rare times. I did it! And it was okay!

At first I thought (and said) “it’s probably just the meds that’s making me feel so calm and able to talk about this now”, but the psychologist was quick to point out that I can’t attribute it all to medication. That it was me, and that I did well. Thinking about it, I know it’s not “just the benzo”. Because last week I took three of them before the group, and I was still anxious. So one couldn’t have made such a big difference yesterday. I wasn’t dissociated either. I was fully present. At least that’s how it felt.

I felt relatively good driving home afterward. But at the same time, I had this subtle feeling that all was still not okay on the inside.

I’ll write about that in another post. I’m all out of writing fuel for today.

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Never Thought I’d Be Here – Part One

On Thursday morning I was reading something on the internet, when I started to feel uncomfortable. All of a sudden, that feeling erupted in a full on trigger. I immediately turned into a mess. I became that 14-year-old who had just been broken by someone she had looked up to and trusted. Images and emotions consumed my mind and my body. The emotions were far more powerful and painful than the images themselves. I felt like I was dying.

I wanted to phone my therapist right then and there. There was a huge battle going on inside me. Trying my hardest not to give into that desire to call her. We only had an appointment for Tuesday (yesterday). Then, I don’t know why, but the thought came into my head to phone a psychiatrist (I’ve been wanting to go to one for a while now). So I picked one of the two that was recommended, and phoned her office in a state. I couldn’t stop crying. I knew I couldn’t afford to see a psychiatrist, so why I felt the need in that moment to call her, I can’t tell you. She was so nice to me. I wanted to find out what her fees were, and instead she asked me whether I was on a medical aid. I am, so she suggested that I book myself into the psychiatric clinic where she works, and then I won’t have to worry about paying anything. I could see her first thing in the morning. I was so upset that I agreed. Psychiatrist had to keep reminding me to breathe.

So early the next morning, I packed my bag and made my way to the clinic. I can’t remember much about that morning. I remember seeing my psychiatrist, and being a nervous wreck.  All I know is that I was so scared. Not even scared. Terrified.

I’d never been in a psychiatric ward before. Later that day, I would feel ashamed that at my age, after having avoided it for all this time, I was now in the very place that I never thought I’d find myself. But shit happens, and now, in hindsight, I’m glad I went in. I was in the general ward, so it was voluntary and I could be discharged whenever I wanted to. But Psychiatrist recommended that I at least stay a few days.

The next thing I remember is lying on the bed in the room I would be sharing with two other women during my time there. I don’t even remember how I ended up in the room. I have no memory between sitting with Psychiatrist (even that is a blur), and finding myself on my bed. I had even unpacked my bag during that time. What the hell? Dissociation, that’s what the hell. I was curled up like a baby, unable to stop crying. Feeling disoriented, confused, and terrified. I didn’t know what was going on. Could I leave? Or was I trapped there forever?

Lying on that bed, I just wanted Therapist. I felt like a five-year old wanting her mommy after waking up from a horrible nightmare. As I mentioned earlier, I had fought against the desire to call her on Thursday, and plenty of times in the course of our relationship. But this time I couldn’t fight it. I wasn’t in touch with reality. I phoned her. So you must know the extent of my distress for me to have done that. The phone call is a blur as well. I can’t really remember what I told her, and what she said. But I can remember the feelings. How soothing and comforting her voice was. It felt like she was holding me. After our call, I continued crying. Partly because I felt like Therapist really cares, and I could feel that care. I guess it was tears of relief? I don’t actually know what it was. I was also still crying from the overwhelming feelings I had been having since going in that morning, and the day before. A little while after that, I started to feel more calm. Slowly coming back to reality.

This might sound really strange… Even though I am glad I had gone in and my experience had been pretty good, I still feel traumatized from Friday. I’m not even sure why. But I know that speaking to Therapist that day, made it a little less traumatic.

In the next post I’ll write about my experiences in the clinic, and what I’ve learned from it.

Already Missing Her

Today I had my last therapy session for 2016.

The next time I’ll be seeing Therapist is on the 10th of January 2017. I know I’ll survive and that life will carry on as usual, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss her and think about her every day.

I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams about her going away. About me not being a part of her personal life. But on the other hand, I love this therapeutic relationship. It’s more intimate than any other relationship I’ve ever had, and I know that it wouldn’t be the same if we were friends, or even family. The therapeutic relationship is a very special type of relationship, and I treasure it.

A part of me feels abandoned by her. That she won’t be here for me during December, which is the worst time of the year for me. But that’s Emotion Mind speaking. Rational and Wise Mind knows that this break is important for her. This part is glad that she’s going to have a break and be able to recharge. That she’ll be spending time with those she loves. And that makes me feel happy. It’s just hard to reconcile the two parts at the same time. It’s either-or, depending on which frame of mind I’m in at that moment.

The fear of her not coming back in the new year is there too. The fear that she’ll forget about me. But I trust her more than I did in the beginning few months, thanks to her consistency. So that isn’t my main fear. Especially now that we’ve already set a date and time for our next session. That really helps as well. She also sent me a beautiful recording, which I’ll listen to whenever I feel I’m missing her too much and just want her to come back. I don’t want to forget her.

I think my biggest fear is that I’ll lose that connection I feel with her. What if when she comes back, I don’t feel that connection anymore? I tend to push people away and put a shield around my heart if I don’t see them for a while, or feel I’m going to be rejected. That way I won’t have to feel that intense longing or pain. But I don’t want to do that with her.

I told Therapist about all the plans I have in place for December. Constructive activities that will help me through this difficult time. Such as working on the book I’ve started writing, blogging, studying Psychology through those free online courses (MIT’s Introduction to Psychology, for example) and textbooks, reading through Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual (and practicing those skills). And most importantly, spending time with my girlfriend, who recently told me “I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere”.

Trying to explain to someone (like my dad and stepmom) who just don’t get it, about how hard this is going to be for me, is like trying to explain physics to a three year old. Yes, I’m attached to my therapist. And maybe that’s not normal or understandable to most people. But it’s real to me. And it makes sense for me.

Going into this session, I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect the goodbye would hurt this much. I feel this overwhelming sense of loss, and I don’t know why.

I don’t want to see it as a “goodbye”. Instead, I choose to see it as “see you soon”.

Footprints

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.

 

What’s This Now? A Therapy Break?

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.

The Healing Bond

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.

The Therapeutic Relationship

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.