Building The Therapeutic Relationship

My therapy session last week Wednesday marked a turning point in my relationship with my new therapist. I usually do 30 minute sessions with her, as that way I’m able to see her every week. But I wasn’t ready to leave this time… I wasn’t in a good space. So she said we could stretch it to an hour session. The nice thing about having her work part-time at the clinic is that the patients don’t have set times for sessions. Which was a major problem for me when I was still in there, and after figuring that out, my therapist started giving me rough times for our sessions (+/- an hours difference), which was so much better for me than not knowing at all.

At some point during the session I realized… I’m growing attached to C. I never thought it would happen. It’s terrifying, and was one of the contributing factors to my intense moment on Friday. I had become really good at containing myself when it comes to emails and texts, but had a relapse on Friday, which culminated in me sending her a panicked apology email after the first one I had sent. She was nice about it though, and in her reply told me that I didn’t do anything wrong (I had been convinced I had, and that she would “drop me”). We had a session today, and spoke about it. She told me that she won’t do that to me. She won’t just reject and abandon me. The relief those words bring is profound. Although I still don’t trust her fully just yet, but like she says, it’s a process.

She had asked me last week if I have any items or objects that I use to help soothe and regulate myself, and helps me feel connected to certain important people (like A) or places. I showed her one of the cards that A had sent me (and that I carry everywhere with me), and also that I have a “therapy jacket” from my early days with A that helps with that. When my therapist asked me last week what I can do to take our safe space, that feeling, home with me when I leave, I told her that I can’t seem to hold onto things like that. I jokingly told her I could take her with me though. That was a nice light moment. Before I left today she told me that she has something for me, and after packing out her whole bag (this had me laughing, because as a lot of women know, this is a familiar scene), she handed me a piece of rose quartz. It’s significant because in her office there are some small pot plants and a big rose quartz ornament thing, all of which I love touching and looking at, so she uses them as grounding objects when I dissociate. Anything I can touch and play with helps significantly. So I loved that she gave me that, because it reminds me of that space and of her. When I got home I just crashed onto my bed, got under my weighted blanket, put on an episode of a series I’m watching and just held onto that stone the entire time. I decided to just listen to my body, no work, no nothing, just watch TV for as long as I wanted and take a much-needed nap. When I hold this stone I feel calm and soothed. I can’t believe how much it helps. It has the energy it’s intended to have.

I sent A an email last week. She told me that she doesn’t want me to feel guilty or have regret at having moved to C. That she agreed and supported my decision, and that she was proud of me for taking that step. Those words meant so much to me. I realized how much guilt and fear I have been holding onto. Reading those words felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. “It’s okay”.

I haven’t been doing well lately. Life is too much for me to handle right now. So many things are going wrong. Yesterday and today I’ve been angry at the whole world. Myself included. And I’m not too sure where all this rage and hatred is coming from. I’m aware that I’m being irrational in some moments, but I’m struggling to find a more balanced and mature way to handle things. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m angry. What I’m really angry at or about. I’ve had intense cravings and desires to relive the drug and alcohol filled days of my 20’s. Just one of the reasons I’m angry at myself. During today’s session I threw something across the room (nothing that could break) and punched the wall. Essentially throwing a teenage tantrum. I was relieved when my therapist didn’t yell at me, and there was no negative reaction from her, which helped calm me down. Maybe a part of me wanted her to yell at me. Maybe I wanted a reason to hate her and not feel the attachment. I apologized and told her that I’m not angry with her, which she said she knew. I spent the rest of the session just crying. I’ve been filled with so much anger the past couple of days and when I would start to feel tears coming and the anger dying down, I’d resist. But in the session, I just couldn’t anymore. I know it’s okay to cry. I know it isn’t good to shove it down. But still, I couldn’t break through that wall until today.

I just feel exhausted now. All that pent-up energy is gone and I feel like sleeping for a couple of days. I’m thinking of taking tomorrow off work. And that means all work, not just from my office job. I’ve been trying to do too much and solve too many problems that I just don’t have the strength for right now. I need to take care of myself.

This post seems to be a little all over the place, but I couldn’t be bothered about that, so it is what it is. I need to process and my brain isn’t functioning at optimal level.

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A Good Therapy Session

I’m feeling a bit better today. Clearer. Less confused.

Last night I went to group and during the break I saw C on her way out. I had been feeling a little overwhelmed during group, and without even thinking about it, I ran to catch up to her. I had no plan. So when the first words out of my mouth were “I want A”, I was surprised. I can’t really remember much of what happened next. I vaguely remember C saying something and asking me questions, but it’s all a blur. I had sent her a message the day before telling her that I want to cancel our session for this week. I had bumped into her just before group as well, and told her that we could have a session next week instead. What I remember very clearly during these weird few minutes during group break, was asking whether we can still have our session today.

So that’s how I wound up in her office this afternoon. I spilled the beans, and told her everything I mentioned in my previous post. My doubts, self-doubt. Thoughts. Feelings. All of it. And C validated me every step of the way, which just made opening up easier.

She asked me what had happened the previous evening. What had changed between me seeing her an hour earlier and being adamant about not having our scheduled session, to my request to have the session after all? That one stumped me. After a little introspection, it hit me. Attachment pain (as one of my fellow bloggers puts it). The OT I had worked with last year was facilitating the group last night. The first time in months. During group I had been fighting that feeling of attachment, among other things going on in the group. Missing A and wanting to go back to her hadn’t left, and the two situations fed off one another, culminating in a big attachment mess in my mind.

The reason I had initially canceled our session was because I felt I needed more time to figure this shit out. I have also been wary of how things were going and didn’t want to deal with C this week. It came out during the session that another reason was that in my mind she was the “bad object” (she used this term) I wanted to get distance from.

Just as an aside: This is very hard for me, but instead of referring to her as “C” like I’ve been doing up to this point, I’m going to refer to her as “my therapist”. I’ve realized that’s one way I’ve been keeping her at an emotional distance, so I need to change this.

Anyway, we spoke about a lot of things in only 45 minutes (it was supposed to be a 30-minute session, but we went over) that have come up since we started working together, including the relationship. One of the things I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my therapist hugging another client, came up too. She actually brought it up, which I was grateful for, since that was one of the things I wanted to discuss with her. She said that A and I had established boundaries over the course of our relationship. It had been a process. Painful and frustrating at times. But I settled into it eventually, and it became the norm. I was used to those boundaries. To the way things worked. I knew what was acceptable, what wasn’t. And now some things work and look different. So it’s normal that I’m feeling confused, unsure, and insecure. She said that whenever there’s a threat to a structure I’m comfortable with, that’s when I become unsettled. She mentioned a few other instances of this (things I haven’t written about). One of them is the time she came into my room when I was still in the clinic, to see one of my roommates (who didn’t want to come down to her session). Things like this that threw me off and sent me into meltdown/tantrum mode. When she said this, it just all clicked into place. It cleared up the confusion I had around these times. About what was happening inside me.

As the session progressed, I found myself softening toward her. I told her that I feel like I abandoned A, and that I didn’t do things the right way. But I’ll send A an email about this when she gets back (I see she’s currently away on leave). The more I spoke about her, the sadder I felt. At some point I switched and felt anger toward her for being away on leave. “again“. My therapist pointed out that A had suddenly become the “bad object” and she, C, the good one. That’s when I started crying. She was right. And I hadn’t even been aware of it until she mentioned it. Her tone of voice changed to soft and gentle, which only made me cry harder. She told me that it’s okay and possible to have two “good objects” at the same time. I remember A had also pointed out how I tend to do that.

So much of what my therapist had said this session made so much sense. So many things seemed to fall into place.

Today was the first time I felt she was really in tune with me. The first time I actually felt some real connection to her. In the short time I’ve been seeing her, she’s taken a lot of crap from me, and always handled it amazingly well. No matter how much I’ve acted out, she remains calm, patient, and surprisingly, compassionate. She deserves a medal for that. As does A, although I was more “well behaved” with her.

This was truly the most valuable and insightful session I’ve had since starting with my new therapist. Which gives me hope for future sessions. So I’ve decided that I’m going to stick with it. With her. I hadn’t realized until today that I had actually subconsciously been fighting against her. And as she mentioned again, it will always remain my choice to be there. If I decide I want to go back to A, that will be okay. Even though I feel better now about working with her, it feels even better knowing the option, the choice, is still mine, and there.

Things still don’t feel quite “in place”. I’m hurting a lot, and it’s extremely hard right now. But at least after today, things seem to be moving forward in a positive way with this situation. All I can do is give it time, and truly try to give this my all.

I Don’t Know What To Do

There’s been chaos inside my mind. It’s a battlefield in there. I have to make a decision, and the sooner the better.

Do I stay in therapy with C? Or do I go back to A?

I think I already know what I want to do, but I’m terrified that I make the wrong decision. After all, my track record when it comes to decisions doesn’t seem to be very good. I can be convinced of one thing for a while, but then something changes, and suddenly I’m thrown for a loop. So I think the biggest issue here is that I’m too scared to trust myself. So when I say I don’t know what to do, I mean it.

When I started therapy with C, she said that we could try it out for a while, and if it doesn’t work for me, I can always resume therapy with A. And the truth is that the more time goes by, the more sessions I have, the more I want to go back. Why am I holding back though, while nearly every part of me wants to run back to my favourite person? Because I’m still trying to figure out if I’m doing it for the right reasons.

Maybe I don’t need to figure it out. I couldn’t have known some of the things I now know. I’m just scared of messing people around. I know therapy is about me, but it’s still me that I have to do right by. I care about people, and I need to know that my decisions are what’s best for me, while also respecting and keeping others in mind. That’s just how I work best. And it’s how I live with myself.

There are obvious benefits to staying with C, but most of them are surface level things, and won’t do much good if certain other conditions aren’t met. With A, right from the beginning, it felt like a perfect fit. With C, I’m struggling to connect. There seem to be too many elements missing. I’ve realized over the past few days just how vital the therapeutic relationship is for growth, change, and healing. Well, I’ve always known that, but more so lately. Now that I don’t feel there’s much of a relationship in my current therapy. Is this my fault? Or is it just how it is?

I don’t feel like anything is happening with C. It doesn’t seem as though she’s actually helping. I’m not even sure what we’re doing. What the purpose of our sessions are. A seemed in tune with me most of the time, right from the beginning, and she has a brilliant mind (which fascinates me). Our sessions were challenging, interesting and insightful, and I had a lot of “aha” moments. I haven’t had any such moments with my new therapist.

Sure, I’ll talk to C about this. But I don’t know what that will accomplish. She’ll probably just tell me it’s my choice. I don’t feel like I can tell her some of what I wrote here. Maybe that’s part of the problem. I don’t know. My new therapist is lovely, but I don’t know if we’re the right “fit”. I feel like I’ve lost the most important person in my life. The person who knows me better than anyone. Who’s been there for me through so much. Who has helped me so much.

The one person I really want to talk to about this is A. I can give her the full story. But, because this is life, she’s exactly the one person I can’t talk to about this. At least not now. So I feel stuck.

A Heartbreaking, But (Relatively) Peaceful Decision

I’ve been wanting to write this post since my therapy session last Tuesday, but have been hard at work making a website for a client. Once I’m busy with a website or graphic design, I lose track of time and before I know it, hours have passed. I’m definitely made for this field of work. It feels good.

I spent the weekend locked up in my room, working on the website, doing lots of reading, and other activities that I enjoy. It was a nice, relaxing weekend, and I was enjoying my time alone.

As most of you already know, I was seeing another psychologist during my two weeks in the clinic. The medical aid wouldn’t cover Skype sessions with my usual therapist, and my psychiatrist suggested C.

For those who don’t know, I met my lovely therapist more than two years ago, when I was still in the city I lived in with my ex of four years. It was a toxic relationship, and I was at rock bottom. That led to me meeting my therapist. When I left my relationship and moved to this city, my therapist thought it would be in my best interest to continue seeing me via Skype, rather than referring me to someone here. I was very attached to her, and like she mentioned in our last session, I would have stayed in a bad relationship just to keep seeing her for therapy. It’s worked beautifully for two years.

When I was in the clinic last year, I refused to see a different therapist, so just didn’t see anyone. I was only there for about five days anyway. This time I agreed to see someone for the duration of my time there. When my psychiatrist told me about C, and that she’d be a good fit for me, I agreed to give it a try. I saw C about five times while I was there. From the get go I told her I have a therapist who I’m happy with, so this would just be for while I was in the clinic. She assured me that she’s not there to replace my current therapist. Once that was out of the way, I felt better about the situation.

But during these sessions I realized something. There’s something different about face-to-face sessions. When I went to visit my mom last year, and got to see my therapist in person again, I had felt that difference. I know a lot of body language gets lost over Skype video calls, which is one of the disadvantages of this form of communication. I find it difficult to read people’s facial expressions, so I think I rely more on the body language apart from the face. There’s a certain sense of “safety” being able to see all of a person, I guess.

Doing therapy over Skype, I’m still in my home environment. A place I don’t particularly feel safe in. Where I’m always aware that someone could come into my room at any moment. Where there are interruptions from a family member from time to time. Sitting in that room in the clinic where I had my sessions with C, I felt safe and contained.

For some reason, when I’m in a face to face session, I feel more emotionally expressive and open than I do over Skype. It’s as if the computer screen/web cam dulls or even cuts off my emotions somehow. It’s weird. I don’t understand it. Maybe it’s not about the “mode” of therapy, but the environment I’m engaging in therapy in? Anyway, whatever it is, the experience is very different.

With C, I didn’t feel that instant connection like I did with my usual therapist. But I still felt quite safe in her presence, which is saying a lot. Over the next few sessions though, I felt more of a connection, but I have a special bond with Therapist that I don’t have with C, and don’t think I ever will have.

At some point during my stay in the clinic I found myself wondering whether it wouldn’t be better for me to continue to see C as an outpatient, and stop therapy with A (my usual therapist). For some reason that thought didn’t send me into a blind panic the way it would have just a few months ago. A few months ago I wouldn’t have even considered this. But somehow, now, it just made more sense. Of course, I felt a great sadness as well during this decision-making progress. But I also felt a peace about it.

I had my last session with A last Tuesday. Near the end I started questioning myself, and when the session was over, I went into panic mode. What the hell had I just done? What if I just made the biggest mistake of my life? But the rational side had a voice as well, albeit a quieter one. I had thought this through for a while, and I did make the best decision for myself at this point in time.

A was amazing as always. She told me that her door will always be open to me. In my second session with her more than two years ago, she told me she wouldn’t abandon me. And she’s holding true to that. I have the option to come back to her any time. I’m also allowed to continue sending her messages. To stay in contact. My safe person is still there. She’s not abandoning me. If it had been any other way, I wouldn’t have been able to let go. I would have rather stayed with her.

This was a hard decision, and I think I’m still processing it. Or at least navigating my way through it. My mind has been occupied this weekend with work and making myself feel good. I haven’t really gone “there” completely.

I had a session with C today. I told her that I’m not sure how I’m feeling about all of this (other than knowing I did the right thing). For a week I’ve shut myself away and had no desire for human companionship. I just wanted to be alone. I still feel that way. I had put my phone on silent and away from me for 4 days. It was pure bliss.

Anyway, in today’s session, C said something that made complete sense to me. I may have been shutting myself away a bit, but I was also taking care of myself. I’ve gone through two major relationship changes recently (including Elizabeth) so it’s normal to want to be alone and not have to deal with my other relationships just now. She was glad that I went out with a friend for a couple of hours yesterday though. So I’m not pushing people away, I’m just taking much more time for myself.

I saw my psychiatrist when I left C’s office, and she gave me a big hug, which made me feel good and happy. So that was really nice.

I’m feeling a little empty tonight and life feels a bit strange right now.

Impermanence

Last night I was deeply aware of the impermanence of life, and everything it represents.

I was sitting with a sadness that can be described as bittersweet, instead of dark and heavy.

The event that precipitated that mood and experience was what took place during group on Tuesday evening. It was the last meeting for the year, and one I had been looking forward to from the beginning of the week. Little did I know it would be the worst one I’ve attended.

The psychologist who was leading the group opened up with an announcement that they’re changing the way the program runs. It will now only be a 12 week program. Those of us who have been attending for longer than 12 weeks, would be having our last session at the beginning of February. So much for “you can attend for as long as you want.” Such a let down. There are about five of us regulars who are immediately affected by this decision. And needless to say, none of us were happy about it.

This announcement was poorly executed in my opinion. I feel it would have been better had he told us this closer to the end of group, and allowed us to discuss it then. Going into skills training after that announcement wasn’t the wisest decision. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Another thing. Telling us this at the end of the year? During a month that a lot of people struggle with as it is? Perhaps waiting for the new year would have been the safest option.

Two of us left about halfway through. Staying just felt pointless. I had a lot of confusing emotions bubbling under the surface, and I just wanted to get out of there. That safe space suddenly felt unstable. For most of that evening, I was cycling so fast between different emotions, I couldn’t pinpoint just one to deal with.

It was only late that night, while talking to Elizabeth about all of this, that I realized the subconscious driver of these emotions. That of abandonment. I have felt rejected by the OT I had been seeing for a while for individual sessions, and now by the entire team. But this time, I’m not the only one who was being abandoned. There are others involved as well. Some of them more in need of these regular group sessions than others.

Before talking to Elizabeth there were a lot emotions and underlying thoughts that I wasn’t fully conscious of. So when I was speaking with her, and these things were just flowing out of me, I was surprised by some of them. I found I was having a lot of paranoid thoughts. She validated them, and told me that she can see how I made those connections, but that it doesn’t mean they’re true. I was surprised when she told me that in a situation and time like this, we need to look at what we know. Look at the facts. So she helped me with that exercise. I didn’t even know she knew about this. And it’s one my therapist used a lot with me. So it was actually very helpful and soothing having Elizabeth do this with me as well. She also helped me put things in perspective.

One of the fears I discussed with her, was that of losing my therapist. After all, I had just experienced how something that can feel so stable and predictable can so suddenly end. What if my therapist decides our time is up… that I’m ready to end therapy? I told Elizabeth some of the things my therapist had told me over the course of working with her. She told me that she doesn’t think my therapist would go back on her word. That from everything I’ve told her about Therapist, she sounds ethical and professional, and that her care for me is genuine. These days, deep down inside, even when these fears of my therapist abandoning me come to mind, I can still (if only minimally sometimes) feel the secure, stable base we’ve built, and trust in that. Trust in her, and our relationship.

All of this made me sit up and take note of the impermanence of things. I thought of some of the people I’ve lost. I missed some of them so much. But I also felt a great sense of gratitude for these people. Even for those who had hurt me, and abandoned me in horrible ways. The truth is, not everything was bad. There were good moments too. And those are the moments I focused on and felt grateful for.

Nothing in life ever hurt me so badly that I could not survive. I made it through. I’m alive. The good might not have lasted. But the bad also came to an end. None of it was permanent. This is why it’s so important to appreciate those souls we have in our lives, and let them know from time to time how much you value and love them. You never know when you won’t get that chance again. There’s so much I wish I could have said to my grandmother, things I wish I had done differently during her final days, for example. I didn’t get a second chance. But I have the chance now, with those still in my life.

I sent Elizabeth a voice note (I wanted her to be able to listen to it whenever she needs it), telling her how much she means to me and how deeply I love her. I did the same with a few other people I value. By doing this, you’re giving these people a beautiful gift. One that money just can’t buy. So I encourage you, go ahead and tell someone how precious they are to you. How their very existence brings light into your life. Don’t wait. Things can change and end in an instant. Tomorrow may not come.

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Left Out

I miss my therapist.

I feel this insane need for her right now. I’m not a part of her personal life, and while I’m usually fairly okay with that (well, at least resigned to the boundaries that exist in this relationship), today I’m not. Today it hurts like hell. I want to be where she is right now, or for her to be here. I just want to hold onto her and cry. I want to joke around with her. I want to see her smile. I want to hear her voice. I want to laugh with her. I just want her.

The most confusing thing is that I’m not even sure where this is coming from. There are so many other people it would be seen as “normal” for me to miss right now, yet for some reason, it’s her that my mind is focused on.

The worst part is that most people would think I’m fucked up for missing a therapist. They just can’t understand. The only person who ever really understood this, and gets it, was Jasmine. But she’s not around to talk to anymore. At least I can still share it here and not look like an idiot.

 

Connection When Needed Most

Tuesday was group night again.

I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want anyone to see me. To even look in my direction. I’ve been feeling horribly depressed. I barely ate, barely slept. I was tired of people. Isolating, because I’ve been in that “don’t trust anyone” place.

There were reasons for not wanting anyone near me. For wanting to disconnect from everyone. I’m not going to go into detail, as I already spoke to my therapist about it in yesterday’s session, and don’t want to get into it again. In short, I’ve been feeling abandoned and rejected by my uncle (the one who used to live with us- a significant attachment for me) for a while now already. I also lost two friends over the course of the month, all because I practiced my “no” and they didn’t like it.

Therapist told me that it’s a pattern with me. I tend to surround myself with the wrong people. The problem is, I attach too quickly. I’m so hungry for connection and intimacy that I jump in prematurely, and end up getting hurt. She said that I take on the helper role, which is true… I like the protector role too. I’ll do anything to make someone happy, to help them however I can. But the minute I’m unable to deliver what they ask for, or I need them (it’s hard enough for me to ask as it is), they disappear out of my life. I don’t know how else to do it though. I want to help others. I want to be there for them. I want to be reliable. I want to protect and save everybody (as if I’m a superhero and can actually do that). But it often comes at the expense of myself. I haven’t quite figured out how to balance it. It’s easy for me to give. But not easy to receive. It’s easy to give someone a hug. It’s hard to accept one. The list goes on.

I told Therapist that I genuinely feel like there’s something wrong with me. That people leave because I’m doing something wrong. She asked whether I’ve ever thought that maybe it’s not me, but rather something to do with them? Sometimes I do, but it doesn’t last long and I revert back to blaming myself. I’ve been slacking in the self-compassion department lately as well. But I guess it’s bound to happen from time to time.

Back to Tuesday evening. I ended up dragging myself to group. I knew it would be good for me. But I determined to keep my walls up. Sure, greet everyone and throw in a few smiles here and there, but not allow any deeper interactions. Well, that was the plan anyway. I can’t remember anything from arriving at the clinic and leading up to the start of group. Next thing I know I’m sitting in the chair next to D’s (the OT leading the group that night). As I’ve mentioned before, sitting next to her gives me a sense of comfort. She’s my “safe person”. But that night I didn’t want to feel the attachment and connection. So why was I sitting there? Maybe subconsciously I really actually wanted to feel it.

From the beginning, D seemed tuned into me. While I was trying to withdraw, it was like she was having none of that. Instead, she drew me closer. And little by little, my defenses came down. I felt a very strong connection with her that evening. She broke through. She connected. And I couldn’t help getting drawn in. She made me feel comfortable and secure letting her into my personal space. That’s extremely rare for me. I don’t want to write the details here, it’s stored safely inside. In case you didn’t know, in my previous post where I said that there was only one other person I’d allow close to me in the state I had been in, I was talking about D. It seems she really can reach me where others may not be able to. That night, she picked me up off the cold concrete floor and wrapped me in a warm blanket. And I knew. She cares.

Yesterday’s therapy session was an emotional one, but I’m so glad that I had that session. It was very good timing. Therapist is amazing, and she was so good with me. Thankfully, during this bad time, I had been able to keep our connection open. When I didn’t want to let anyone in, she was the only one that I still held onto and didn’t want to close myself off to. Being allowed to send her texts and emails between sessions really helps. It’s basically just “checking in” sometime during the week, or when I see an image that I think she’d like. I don’t tell her about anything that’s going on, or my emotional state (most of the time at least). I keep that for our sessions. Now it’s 11 days (excluding weekends) until I get to see her again. Why do I still count down the days?

Therapist is the healthiest attachment I’ve ever had. She doesn’t give up on me. She has my best interests at heart. She helps me fight when I feel I just can’t fight anymore. But most of all… She believes in me, even when I don’t.

Connection. Terrifying. But worth it.