Dependence On Therapy

Since we’ve started working together, my therapist has mentioned quite a few times, that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy. Whenever she’d say that, I’d feel uncomfortable and get defensive. Even though she would tell me that she didn’t say I was dependent on it, I still took it as an attack. And I think I have figured out why it bothers me so much. Deciding to see a psychologist (or any mental health professional) is terrifying. I was terrified when I first reached out to my therapist. Deep down inside, on an unconscious level, I felt ashamed.

Even up to today, that shame is still there. It’s died down a lot, but a few fragments of it still exist. The man who calls himself my dad contributed to that most of all. He’s told me so many times how some people need therapy, while others have strong minds, so they can deal on their own. How do I take it? I take it as him telling me, and thinking, that I’m weak because I’m getting help, when I should just suck it up and get on with life the way he does. So here my therapist is telling me that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy, and in my mind it sounds like an affirmation that therapy is “bad, so you shouldn’t get used to it”. I know that’s not what’s being said, but that’s the way my overly sensitive, reactive mind takes it.

I see now why regular therapy sessions are so important. It’s not about being dependent on it. How do you become dependent on the process of therapy? It’s damn hard sometimes, and even if I’m okay during a session, it hits me afterward and sometimes I just want to crawl under the covers and shut the world away for the rest of the day. There were many times that I didn’t want to have a session. Where I wanted to cancel. But I knew that those were probably the times when I should have one. So I didn’t cancel, no matter how much I wanted to.

I read a lot of your blogs, and from what I’ve read, the majority of you have weekly sessions, some of you twice weekly, and you’ve also expressed a hesitation and even downright resistance to attending a session from time to time. So I know I’m not alone in this.

As my therapist mentioned during our short phone call on Monday (which was strangely helpful, which I didn’t expect it to be- mostly because I didn’t know what to expect in the first place), I need structure. I thrive on it. I feel unstable, and everything feels chaotic without it. My nervous system feels under threat. When things are structured, I feel calmer.

When I had 3 therapy sessions a month, I felt more secure. It felt more structured than it does now. Now it’s just all over the place.

Sometimes we open up a topic, but there’s not enough time in a single session to really delve into it. Then having to wait two or three weeks, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I don’t want to talk about something painful, difficult and shameful, and have two or three weeks go by before we can pick up on where we were. It feels like something is lost, and it gets disrupted. I know that the nature of therapy is that just because it seems something has been worked through, it might come up in future sessions again. Sometimes we think the work may be complete, only to discover that it actually isn’t.

Even when I write down things to discuss in the next session, it’s not quite the same. Those emotions that I felt, that were so extreme, die down, and it feels pointless to talk about it. If I do talk about it in our next session, those emotions are a distant memory, and I talk about the situation, or whatever it was, without really connecting with my inner world.

I think it’s important to have that safe, consistent space every week. I don’t show up just to see my therapist. I show up because I want to do the work. If you’ve got a physical illness that requires you to see your doctor every week for a checkup, does that mean you’re dependent and happy to go for those checkups every week? No. You do it because you know it’s important.

In keeping an open mind, if a person can become dependent on therapy, is that necessarily a bad thing? We’re dependent on work for an income. Which enables us to live, to pay rent, have food to eat, etc. So why would it be any different with therapy? The purpose of therapy is to help you heal and to craft the life you want to live. To help us grow, giving us valuable tools in order to function optimally in life. We’re still doing the work during and between sessions. But knowing that the next session is only a few days away helps, as you can more easily bring up any observations, experiences, etc in the next session, as it will still be fresh in your mind. Which, brings that sense of continuity.

Of course, right now I can’t afford to have regular therapy sessions. But when I’m able to, I’m definitely going to invest in it. The point of this post is just to share my view on how I don’t believe that one can truly get “dependent” on therapy, and why I think regular sessions are so important. I’m grateful for my therapist, who really tries to bridge that gap between sessions, and keep the therapeutic relationship safe and secure, which has been so helpful.

A while ago, I heard someone say that attending therapy is a form of self-care. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on this. I like hearing different opinions and view points, so please let me know what you think about this topic.

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Letter To The 14 Year Old

Every now and then I go through my computer and delete everything I don’t want or need anymore. Those things that I won’t need soon, but still want access to, I put on my external HDD. I don’t like clutter. Not even on my computer. Everything needs to be named properly and be in neat folders.

Today was my clearing day. I came across a letter I had written in December. I don’t want it on my computer anymore, neither on my external. So I’m posting it here instead.

This is the letter I referred to in my post “The Inner Child & Teen“.

Letter To The 14 Year Old

Dear (Me),

Today I heard you.
I heard your silent screams.
Today I felt your pain.
I cried your tears.
I’ve never allowed you in before.
But today I stayed with you.
And I was you back there again.

Disorientated and confused as you lay your head down.
Not sure what had just happened. Nothing seeming real.
“Help me”, those words spinning round and round your head.
Could anyone hear you? Did anyone know? Could anyone see?

Even within the darkness, unable to see everything…
I feel. I feel your pain and despair. The hopelessness.
The all consuming loneliness.
You just wanted someone to hold you, didn’t you?
The soothing sound of a heart beat, not yours.

Fear. Confusion. Shame. Pain. So much pain.

I wish I could tell you it all works out.
I wish I could tell you the wounds fade quickly.
But I can’t tell you this. You wouldn’t believe me anyway.

It hurts to listen to you. It hurts to be you.
But I’ll try to not leave you alone again.

The Breakdown And Recovery

It happened.

As you know from my previous few posts, I’ve been in a very dark place. Thoughts of suicide overtaking everything, and coming to a head on Friday evening. Obsessive thoughts of death and dying. Over and over again. Pain so intense, memories so vivid. It felt as though I had hit rock bottom. Hearing voices inside my mind telling me to end it. That I don’t belong on this earth. I knew those voices were my own. Frightening visions of a dark figure was also present. Even though it only lasted a second each time, it was terrifying.

I had my plan all mapped out. I even wrote a note, which left me strangely happy in a way. Like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. It was all going to be over soon. At the last-minute, an image of my therapist’s face flashed in front of me. I heard her voice. I fell to the floor and just cried. A mixture of pain, frustration, and a feeling of comfort and warmth from feeling our connection.

I read a book a few months ago, “Healing from Trauma” by Jasmin Lee Cori. After what happened, I remembered something I had read in that book. So I picked it up again and searched for the part I had in mind. Where she was talking about finding your rock. A person (or even a pet) that you feel connected to enough for them to be a powerful regulating resource. She says that it helps calm the nervous system. That was certainly the case that night. And I saw for myself just how powerful it is.

On Saturday and Sunday, I reverted back to my 20’s. A time in my life that I never want to relive. A time I had vowed to never repeat. But it happened, and I wasn’t aware that it was coming. I didn’t know the signs. I definitely know them now.

Earlier that day (Saturday) I thought about calling my therapist, but decided against it, as I didn’t want to bother her. If I knew then what I know now, I would have called her. Because once it hit, I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t regulate myself. I was so out of control, that all thoughts of calling my therapist disappeared. I didn’t think about anyone but myself. I was literally unable to bring anyone I know to mind. It was all about me and what was happening in that moment. I wasn’t aware of anything else.

I was reckless, self-destructive, and unintentionally putting other people’s lives in danger. (eg. speeding while drunk). I’m not going to go into detail about everything I did, as I’ve already told my therapist about it. But I will say this, I fucked up. Now that I know the warning signs, I will call my therapist this time, if there is a next time, which I’m going to try to prevent at all costs. Because this can’t happen again. I don’t want to end up destroying my life, or anyone else’s. I don’t want to live with the consequences of my behaviour. It only takes a second to ruin a life.

The difference between this time and my 20’s, was that I realized quickly (2 days instead of years) that I was running away from something. From extreme emotions, pain. Reality. Life. I didn’t have that insight back then. The way I lived my life those years, as well as this time, may have kept me alive, but this kind of behaviour doesn’t serve me, and it’s unhealthy and dangerous.

On Sunday evening, once I had “snapped out of it” I felt horrible. Ashamed. Dirty. Furious with myself. Shock was also mixed in. On Monday, those feelings carried over. I felt the effects in my body as well. I felt nauseous. My stomach was in knots and aching. My nervous system was protesting. It felt like I was in an alternate reality.

I usually have therapy sessions early on a Thursday morning, but I felt that I couldn’t wait that long. So I sent my therapist a text yesterday asking for an earlier session. We arranged it for a few hours later that day. At the beginning of the session I told her that I’m a bad person. She asked whether feeling that I’m a bad person, means that I am? Good point. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and does things they’re not proud of and regret. But that doesn’t make us bad people. Near the end of the session, she said that she’s glad we got together that day, and didn’t wait until Thursday. So was I. This is the second time that I needed a session more than any other time. It did me well. She told me that we could spend the session just talking, but it wouldn’t be effective in the long-term. So she went through an exercise with me, that was really helpful. And it will continue to be helpful. It was a very productive session, and she was very gentle and soft with me. Going into the session, I wanted her reassurance that she wasn’t going to leave me. But the way she spoke to me, made me feel very cared for, and I didn’t need to ask for that reassurance. Because I felt it.

I’m still feeling some of the after effects, but it’s not as intense as it was. I’m trying to practice self compassion.

This all proved to me just how important and vital deep and meaningful connection is for us as humans.

Heading For A Breakdown

I’m not in a good place.

I had an okay few hours yesterday, but that was unfortunately short-lived.

My immune system is down. My body is on high alert. My nervous system is shot. I can’t focus, I can’t concentrate. There’s this mental fog that I haven’t been able to shake.

At the same time, it feels as though my mind is about to explode. Been trying to self-sooth, but it doesn’t seem to be working either. All I want to do the whole time is cry. And some of the time I don’t even know why I’m crying. It just keeps coming.

All I want, all I long for right now is a long hug. A soft touch, a warm body. Someone to sit with me in silence and hold my hand. To hold me close and tell me that I’m going to be okay. I don’t want to hear “everything is going to be okay”, because no one can predict the future. But “you’re going to be okay” really works for me. It helps build me up, allows me to tap into my strength. Because during these intense moments, I feel I don’t have the strength to pull myself together, let alone to keep going. We all need love and closeness sometimes, right? “Please hold me for a while”, I want to say. But there’s a sense of shame in wanting to say those words. To ask for comfort. I don’t want to be saved, I just want to be held. Right now, I can’t be that person I need. I don’t know how to. And how can I, when I despise myself?

Am I so ugly and bad, and that’s the reason no one is ever around when I really need someone? You guys give me so much care and support here, which I appreciate immensely. But sometimes you just need that physical presence, you know?

I don’t usually ask for hugs, even when I desperately want one. On the way to work this morning, I decided that I’m going to ask my step mom for one (I don’t like being touched or hugged by my dad). But when I got into the office, she was passive aggressive with me over something that I can’t remember right now. It really hurt me, as if I wasn’t hurting enough already, and I could feel the tears coming. So I used that opportunity for a bathroom break. Even though I had just gotten in. And now I don’t want to even see her. I’m so damn sensitive.

I’ve always been sensitive and hyper-vigilant, but it seems worse these days. The smallest sound and sudden movement and my body goes into overdrive. Once it’s over, the effects still remain for quite a while. I don’t have energy for much. I don’t want to eat, my appetite is non existent. Besides what I mentioned above, the need for comfort, I don’t want anything to do with anyone. I want to crawl into a dark, warm space and just lie there. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live either.

Nearly every day I have to hear how bad my dad’s business is doing, and how they’re in deep debt. That we might not have a place to stay soon. Every week it’s the same story. I’ve asked him to please not speak about finances (especially the business’s finances) in front of me and the kids. But it seems he doesn’t get the message.

My dad will send me a message, or come home after work to change, and tell me that some friends invited them for dinner at their house. But I know when my dad is lying. Besides, my step sister is obsessed with checking in everywhere on Facebook. I see that she’s checked in somewhere, and tagged my dad, brother and step mom. That they’re having dinner, or watching a movie. Definitely not at some “friends” house. I don’t understand why they need to lie about what they’re doing and where they’re going. Only my brother will tell me the truth the next day, but also doesn’t know why they don’t ask me to come with. The only conclusion that I can come up with is that they don’t want me to go, either because they just don’t want me there, or they want to save money. But all that happens is that I’m left feeling like a burden. And like I’m not part of the family. I don’t belong.

That triggers thoughts and memories of times past where I also felt this way.
I left a good job in order to make sure that my dad was going to be okay (after his suicide attempts). In order to parent him (which I shouldn’t have done). So I followed him from one woman to the next. I’d find a job, and then their relationship wouldn’t work out and it was onto the next woman. I knew they would break up, and I was always afraid that he’d attempt suicide again. After every break up, my dad would tell me that the women didn’t want me around and that’s why they broke up. Even though they hardly ever saw me. I was doing my own thing most of the time. He’d never mention how he had fucked up in the relationship, it was always the other woman. And me. So how can I not feel like a burden?

I feel really alone and lost.

As well as so much shame. For being a burden. For being me. For being alive.

It’s like I’m heading for a breakdown, and I feel powerless to stop it.

An Emotional Storm

My therapy session on Thursday was an emotional shit storm. The people at the gym where I used to train in Muay Thai got it right when they nicknamed me “Storm”. Small, innocent and fragile looking. But once unleashed, has the potential to be deadly.

Well, this Storm certainly hit in this session. My therapist didn’t stand a chance.

As you are well aware by my posts over the past while, I’ve been in a very dark place. I’ve been an emotional wreck. It’s been a difficult week for a variety of reasons. In relationships, I don’t usually express any “negative” emotions I may be feeling. I suppress them. It’s rare that I’ll show that side of me. I prefer to find a quiet place to vent my frustration, and take the anger and hurt out on myself. Yet, with my therapist, it doesn’t quite work that way, and I can’t figure out why that is.

When I’m in such an emotional state at the beginning of some sessions, the smallest thing can send me over the edge. I don’t scream and shout, but I use my words, and the tone of my voice is harsh enough. But I don’t think that’s any better than yelling. Something as small and innocent as one word (or something my therapist doesn’t say) will suddenly unleash the storm. She triggers something within me, and I become a whirlwind. It’s happened a few times over the course of our one year relationship, and I hate it.

In these moments, I can’t think clearly. My emotions run the show. I turn into an angry teenager. I don’t act like the adult I actually am. It’s when I’m insecure, feeling fragile, and I end up being oversensitive. Those are the times when the smallest thing can be blown up in my mind as the biggest threat I’ve ever faced. My therapist was right when she said that no matter what she says or does in that moment, I’ll look for proof that she can’t be trusted. I’ll find reasons to push her away.

I felt I wasn’t getting what I needed from her. But instead of telling her, explaining to her why I was so upset, I just carried on going down the road of pushing her away. I couldn’t express myself clearly, so I was plain mean.

Something she said hurt me deeply, and even though I’m scared to, I’m going to be open with her about it on Thursday. After all, she’s the one who always insists on talking through any problems in the therapy relationship, and says that we shouldn’t leave anything unsaid. She’s obviously right, and I’m slowly learning that it’s okay, and necessary, to talk things through, and not let resentment build beneath the surface. That will just erode the relationship, and therapy will eventually stall.

At least the session ended on a good note once I had calmed down. When this happens, when I act out like this, I’m left feeling embarrassed and ashamed, and have to sit with these feelings until we can talk it through in the next session.

So now it’s time to work on “repairing” the relationship again. And once again I need to apologize for my behaviour, because it was inappropriate. I think that will be a good way to start our next session.

The storm has moved away. For now at least.

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.

Just A Burden

Being ignored. The story of my life. But do you think I’m used to it? No, it still fucking hurts.

I’m the odd one out. I’m the one whose voice doesn’t matter. Who doesn’t get asked whether I want to do something with them… Only to find out that day, from my uncle (not even them) that they’re going away for the day or weekend. I won’t always want to go with, but sometimes I would like to… And I would appreciate just being asked at least.

Trying to have a conversation, but getting interrupted by someone else, and suddenly it’s like I don’t even exist anymore. And they want to know why I don’t want to spend much time with them. Seriously? What’s the point when I’m either ignored, talked over, get mocked, or subjected to listening to inappropriate things. God help me when I try to express and tell them how it makes me feel. Showing any negative emotions, and it becomes a shit storm. I get yelled at and made to feel like a nothing.

I know I’m a burden. I know I’m an adult. But in those moments I feel like that past child all over again. I’m supposed to be part of this family too. But I’m always left feeling ignored. They even forget I’m around sometimes, and aren’t ashamed of admitting that. Oh man, I feel so loved and special.

It’s not just family either.

But you know what? I just don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m not going to ask for what I want or need ever again. I give up.

I’m not human. I’m not a person. I’m just a burden.