A Lifeline

Last week my therapist cancelled our session due to a personal loss.

My heart went out to her.

It was a strange experience. Usually a cancellation would trigger my abandonment issues. But this time all I could think and feel was an intense sadness for her. What this cancellation means to me didn’t even enter my mind (at least not consciously). For the rest of that week I carried on with life as normal.

Of course, I thought about my therapist often, and experienced those same feelings of sadness for her situation. Along with a deep sense of care, and hoping for comfort for her.

Something inside me shifted on Monday. Certain frustrations in my life intensified, and I received some bad news regarding my emigration (a new plan has since been made however). I was feeling extra intense pressure from my dad and everything starting going haywire inside my head. I felt overwhelmed. To the extent where I just wanted to end it all, just wanted to make it stop.

And then the panic set in. The desperation. I wanted my therapist. She would understand. She always does. She was the only one I feel safe with emotionally. Our session was a couple of days away, but what if she cancels again? What if she doesn’t come back? What if our relationship changes due to her loss? Yes, now the attachment demon had arrived. Now it was about me again.

I felt ashamed by these new thoughts and feelings. How could I be so selfish? That’s when the self-hatred kicked in.

On Tuesday came the message I feared. My therapist was cancelling our session this week too. This brought back the memory of another attachment figure, my OT, cancelling two of our sessions back to back, and then sending an email weeks later terminating our work. The reason for the new cancellation was also a trigger. The memorial service was on the day my session was supposed to be. My therapist had said that she would be back in the office this week. So the thought that she was going to be seeing some other clients this week, but not me, felt devastating.

In panic mode all I wanted to do was beg her for a time, any time this week, even just a 10 minute call, which we had done before. I wanted her to know how badly I was taking this. The effect it was having on me. I felt like I had been on the edge of a cliff since the previous day, and now I was slipping. But despite the frame of mind I was in, I resisted my urges. Because I didn’t want to make things harder for her than they already were. Because I care about her.

But I knew I needed to do something because at that moment I didn’t trust myself with myself. I knew I needed to talk to someone. A professional. I thought of the therapist who I had two sessions with when my therapist was on leave. While I had been comfortable with her, I wasn’t comfortable enough in this situation. I didn’t want anyone that was even remotely connected to my therapist. I wanted A. Other than my current therapist, A knows me best and knows how to work (and deal) with me. We worked together for more than two years after all.

I reached out to her and asked whether we could schedule an appointment for sometime this week. I was worried that she wouldn’t have time available. But thankfully, she did. So we scheduled a video session for the next day. And even though I was in a horrible place for the rest of that day and evening, there was that little sliver of hope peeking through. Keeping me going. Keeping me safe.

Still, leading up to our session, fears that she would cancel as well, kept showing up. But she didn’t cancel. She showed up. It was like coming up for air.

We’ve had contact since we stopped working together when I moved over to my current therapist in 2018, but they were just text messages here and there. She still reads my blog. This has all been enough to keep our connection strong.

I didn’t know what to expect after such a long time of not seeing her. I thought I’d be nervous. That it might be weird. But it wasn’t. It was as though no time had passed. It felt familiar. Comfortable.

For some reason, my distress of the past few days and hours fizzled out as soon as I saw her. We caught up a bit. Some nice moments.

It was easy to open up about everything going on. And it felt so good to be able to talk to someone about this situation with my therapist. Especially with someone who is a therapist herself, and at the same time, knows me well. She provided different perspectives. Possibilities. Got me to list the evidence for why I can trust my therapist and know she cares about me. This exercise was extremely helpful, and not something I had been able to do, or see, in my distressed state.

What was also helpful was when A told that I’ve grown since we worked together, and pointed some of it out. It helped because I’d been feeling like a failure. A therapy and personal failure. Like I had regressed completely. It also felt really good when she said that it was nice to see me again. A much-needed boost to my self-esteem.

Ever the ethical professional, she asked whether I would be okay with her contacting my therapist to let her know that we had a “emergency” session. I actually really appreciated this because like she said, she doesn’t want to interfere in my work with my current therapist. Feeling protective though, I asked her to rather send her that message next Monday. I want to give therapist some “space” this week. She doesn’t need to be thinking of me right now. I’m seeing her on Monday (still struggling with the fear of yet another cancellation), so then we can discuss it as well.

This session was exactly what I needed. It felt like a warm, comforting hug. It was as though I had been stuck in a pit of despair and negativity, but had been pulled out of it. Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m completely okay. I’m still struggling. But I’m coping.

We do what we have to in order to survive.

Kindness & Gratitude #3

My doctor (GP) is one in a million.

From the very beginning when I first started seeing her, she gave me her email address and told me to keep her updated with how the meds are going, and even updates on my life. When I was in the psychiatric clinic, she made an effort to come visit me, bringing along a slab of my favourite chocolate.

She doesn’t pretend to be clued up on psychiatric meds, and rather calls my psychiatrist (saving me a ton of money) to make sure it’s safe and the best option for me and what I struggle with before prescribing a new medication. Thankfully we’ve found the right combination, so that’s not necessary anymore.

A couple of days ago she emailed me the following quote:

“Is there anything she can’t handle? She’s been broken. She’s been knocked down. She’s been defeated. She’s felt pain that most couldn’t handle. She looks fear in the face; year after year, day after day, but yet, she never runs. She never hides. And she ALWAYS finds a way to get back up. She’s unbreakable. She’s a warrior. She is YOU.”

I’m so grateful that I have an amazing team of professionals who go above and beyond for me. I know a lot of people aren’t so lucky, and I wish that professionals like those I have, were the norm, rather than the exception.

Tired Of Being Sad And Alone

I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

I’ve been carrying this sadness alone for a while, and it’s been fine, I’ve been okay. But now I would love to have someone reach a hand out to me, and walk through this with me. I don’t want to do this alone anymore. I’m so tired.

I’ve been going through a few things, things I haven’t told anyone I’m struggling with. I feel quiet and withdrawn. I can’t seem to reach out even though I want to. And no one can see what I’m going through. I’m still good at hiding my deepest and truest feelings. I can’t seem to speak out. I can’t even write about it here. The one place I can be completely open and honest.

There are moments where the sadness is so great that even when you’re being verbally attacked, all you can do is stand there, unable to move. The words seem to float over you and disappear into nothingness. There’s no more space for anymore sadness.

That’s where I am. I’m hurting, and wish someone could see through me and hear my silent cry for love and care. Someone who will look deeply into my eyes and really notice me. But how can they, when I’m hiding.

There’s a hole inside me that I can’t fill myself no matter how hard I try.

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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.

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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