The Strength To Keep Going

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I had my usual therapy session yesterday. I didn’t want to go. I left later than I usually do, battling within myself until then. One of the reasons is because I didn’t want to set foot in that clinic again. I didn’t want to run into the person I mentioned in my previous post, or anyone else there. It doesn’t feel like a safe, healing place anymore. It had its season in my life. It helped me once. But that’s over now. It’s time to move on.

The other reason was that I wanted to disconnect at least a little from my therapist. Not because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because of wanting to let go of my attachments. But I realized again yesterday how important healthy attachment can be. Connection sustains us. It’s part of being human. The minute I sat down in that office with her, I could feel my defenses starting to crumble. I felt drawn towards her again. The one thing I didn’t want to have happen. But I’m really glad it did.

I haven’t been kind to myself for a while now. I’ve been treating myself like my own worst enemy. But I was inspired by my therapist, just by the way she interacted with me yesterday, the kindness and gentleness she showed toward me, to start treating myself like a friend again. I’ve come to realize that treating myself harshly only feeds the cycle of depression. I’m not perfect. I’m never going to be. There are a lot of things I don’t like about myself, but I also have a lot of good qualities. Which is something I tend to forget. My therapist often asks me whether I allow myself to feel my emotions without judgement, and most of the time, I don’t. I can’t stand it when other people judge one another, yet I so easily judge myself. Most of us struggle with this, and simply being aware of it is part of making the change.

Near the end of the session, I asked my therapist about the other office she practices from. It’s further away, but completely do-able. So we’re going to be moving our sessions there. Well, she wants me to first just try it out next week and then decide. The office I currently see her in is shared with another psychologist at the clinic, so it will be nice to see her in her own. The day and time will also change. I don’t like changes to my routine, but this is one I’m happy to take on. She’ll be there after all, one constant.

I’m still a little more wary with regards to connection and attachment than I was before this thing happened on Tuesday. But I choose to trust my therapist as much as I am able to at this point. The connection I felt with her yesterday is holding me. Giving me strength to keep going. It doesn’t solve everything. I’m still feeling depressed. But knowing that at least one person has my best interests at heart, and feeling supported makes a difference.

I want to mention something regarding my previous post. I thought about taking it down because I don’t want to scare people who need it, to not seek help. But that post is the reality of life with mental illness. Even of life in general. It’s part of my story, and that’s what this blog is about. I was in a lot of pain and in a very dark place when I wrote it, and reflects only one part of my experience with mental health professionals. I’ve had some good experiences as well. So I want to encourage anyone reading this, that if you need help, absolutely (and please) ask for it. It’s hard to do, and sometimes you won’t get what you need from certain people, but there will always be someone who will give you their hand and be glad to help.

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Why I Won’t Be Reaching Out Again

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It was my birthday just recently, and I had a bit of a “mid-life crisis” that day. Panicking that I’m in my middle 30’s and still living with parents, and that it seems things will never get better. It doesn’t help that I’ve been in a depressive phase as it is for the past while. I go to bed praying that I don’t wake up, but when I do wake up try to tell myself that today will be a better day. It never is.

I find myself becoming increasingly unstable, and I don’t know what to do about it. I learned a couple of months ago that reaching out for help either gets met with rejection or being completely ignored. Of course, I knew this for most of my life, but I seriously thought and hoped (and was told) that it wouldn’t always be that way.

Tonight I learned the hard way again. It doesn’t matter how much I’m struggling, or even when I desperately beg (something I never thought I’d ever do) for that support- support they absolutely have the power to give- I’m not going to get it. The message I hear loud and clear is “you don’t matter”, “your life means nothing to me”, and “I don’t care”. It especially hurts like hell when it comes from someone you’re so attached to, someone you thought cared. Finding out they actually don’t… Words can’t accurately convey what that feels like.

I genuinely feel unworthy, rejected, abandoned and like I don’t belong anywhere. Just want to mention that I’m not talking about my therapist, but someone else in the mental health profession. Although on that note, the way I feel is that I’m just another client. That’s the truth though… I am just another client. I’m not special. I’m not important. You know, you go into therapy and don’t count on how important that relationship is going to be. But I’m beginning to see that I don’t want that relationship anymore. I don’t want a close relationship anymore, because it just leads to hurt and disappointment. Our therapists are professionals and can’t give us some things we wish they could. They’re not our friends, siblings, parents, etc. It’s just a working relationship. I don’t see the point of attachment anymore. I don’t think there ever was one, other than a baby’s necessary early attachment to their mother or primary caregiver.

Often these days I wonder… do I even want to continue? Because I’m slowly giving up on attachment and support. I’m definitely done with asking for help. From now on I’m a closed book. No one needs to know I’m struggling. After all, it doesn’t help even when they do know.

Comparing Therapists

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I know it’s something I shouldn’t do. It’s something I didn’t want to ever do. Yet, I find myself doing that very thing sometimes.

As my regular readers and those who have followed my blog for some time know, I changed therapists earlier this year. You can read this post if you want to know more. At the time I knew I had made the right decision. And even though there have been moments where I’ve questioned it, I still believe it was the right one.

Even now that I’m not seeing my previous therapist, A, for sessions anymore, it was agreed that I’d still check in with her from time to time and say hi (she has also sent me messages first). I also like sending her a funny video or cute picture. And she still consistently replies to me each and every time. This makes me feel secure in knowing that she’s still around and still cares about me.

From the beginning, C, my current therapist, told me that time management isn’t her strong suit. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have areas we don’t do great in. But this really bothered me in the beginning of my therapy with her. It doesn’t bother me as much anymore, and sometimes I actually even find it enduring. But then there are times like yesterday where it gets to me. I had been upset with her because she hadn’t replied to an email I had sent her earlier the week. I hadn’t asked for a reply, or even posed a question, but still wanted her to reply because I was ultimately reaching out for connection.

When the session started C could tell that I was upset and frustrated. I took out my play-dough and just sat playing with that. She had told me to get some a few months ago, and it’s awesome and so helpful! Anyway, I eventually told her why I was upset, and feeling hurt and wanting to push her away, told her that I want to go back to A, because she always replied between sessions. I also told her that just when I feel I can trust her, this happens and that trust is gone. But after the session yesterday I realized that’s not the truth. I do trust her. My black and white thinking just gets in the way. I get the idea of holding both the positives and “negatives” about others, but the application of it is another matter. I still struggle with either/or. I can do it, but it takes a lot of effort, and when strong emotions are involved it’s even harder. One thing I can say is that when I specifically ask C for a reply, she does, as she reminded me in our session yesterday. So she is consistent in that way.

This whole thing wasn’t actually about the email. There were other factors too, and they were the real issues.

When I went to sleep on Thursday evening, all of my dreams revolved around A, so waking up I missed her like crazy for the rest of the day. C had also told me about two weeks ago that my psychiatrist, who I also have an attachment to, is emigrating in February. Abandonment schema activated.

What I also hadn’t realized until C mentioned it, was that I know it’s almost time for a break in therapy. We have one more session next week, and then only on the 16th January again. That’s the longest I’d have gone without seeing her. And with the news that my psychiatrist is emigrating after having just come back from her honeymoon, I was worried that C will also decide to leave when she gets back in January. She told me that she’ll come back, she’s not planning on leaving. I know it sounds strange to some people that I have to hear those words of reassurance, but it really does help me. I gave her my journal from my Box of Hope yesterday to write something for me for while she’s away, which she agreed to do. I’m really grateful for that.

I know my therapist cares, because she’s done a lot for me, and still does. Things she didn’t and doesn’t have to do, but that mean a lot to me and really helps. It’s not fair to compare my therapists. I know that. They’re two different people, with their own ways of working, strengths and weaknesses, and both of them have helped and continue to help me in so many ways. But I also know that I’m human, have attachment issues, and that it’s part of my process. I don’t want to have moments like this again, but it’s okay if I do. I’ll work through them.

It’s something that we humans do in most other relationships as well. “So and so never did that”, “I never had this problem with so and so”, for example. So I know I’m not alone in making these sorts of judgments and comparisons. And I’m pretty sure that most therapists are guilty of this at least on one occasion with regards to their clients as well.

We’re all human after all.

“Be Kind To Yourself”

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These were the words spoken to me by my therapist yesterday. I’m struggling, a lot, and needed that reminder. It’s times like this that I’m especially grateful for therapy and a great therapist.

My inner critic has been especially boisterous this past while, as have the critical voices from my childhood and beyond. Every attempt at positivity and self-compassion has been met with these negative voices shutting it down. Separating out the voices and recognizing which is my own inner critic, who is ultimately just trying to protect me, and which belong to those people in my life, who due to their own issues and projections have targeted me with their hurtful words, has been helpful.

“You’re useless, a waste of space, and will never amount to anything”, “you don’t deserve love, a hug, attention”. The voice of others. When these kinds of words come from people you love and are supposed to trust, who you are dependent on as a child, they build up and almost become like a part of you. It’s extremely difficult to challenge them.

“You can’t do this”, “it’s not good enough”, “you’re too much or not enough”. My own. To my inner critic I can say “thank you for trying to protect me, but it’s okay if I am unsuccessful at this. I’ll learn from it and do better next time”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s good enough”. This voice is trying to protect me from rejection, shame and pain. See the difference? For me at least, it’s easier to deal with my own inner critic.

When I got home from therapy I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But the critical voices were so loud (“you’re just lazy, you should be working”) and I was struggling to tap into my own self-compassion. I then remembered C’s words “be kind to yourself”. In that moment I decided to pretend that she’s talking to me instead, and to speak to myself the way she speaks to me, with kindness and compassion. And it worked. So I ended up taking a guilt-free 90 minute nap, one I desperately needed. By pretending that C that was talking to me, I slowly started to find my own self-compassionate voice again. So that’s another simple little tool for my coping toolkit.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the voices of negativity. Both those around us and those within us. So if you struggle with this, maybe this concept can help you as well. I hope you have someone whose kind and gentle voice can help guide you in finding your own voice of self-compassion.

Touch (And Hugs) In Therapy

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I find it fascinating that when I’m contemplating or experiencing something, that topic keeps showing up in various ways and settings. It’s like that popular example of wanting to buy a new car, and the model and colour you’re especially interested in, seems to show up everywhere.

This time the topic is that of touch and hugs in therapy. I’m subscribed to a few different YouTube channels, two of those of therapists, and found one of the videos particularly intriguing.

There are so many people, therapists included, that believe that touch either shouldn’t have a place in sessions, or that it might even be harmful to clients. I’ve also read a lot of research and opinion pieces on the role of touch in the mental health field. It’s a very grey area. Through this, and through my own feelings and experiences of the matter, I’ve firmly believed (and still do) that touch can be important in a therapeutic setting. And that’s why I found this particular video really great. I’ll link to it at the end of this post.

I can remember a very good example of the power of touch during one of my therapy sessions. I was in a very chaotic state, disoriented and dissociated at the same time. It was a culmination of certain things that happened that day, and something that happened while waiting for my session to start. When we got to my therapists office (she had to take my hand to lead me there, that’s how disorientated I was), she sat down right next to me on the couch and held both my hands in hers as I slowly started feeling better. By her doing what she did, I didn’t feel like I was free-falling and alone in a place I didn’t quite understand anymore. I can’t remember a lot of what was said, but I can clearly remember the warmth of her actions, and how powerful it was for me at the time. I believe it’s what helped stabilize and regulate me much quicker than if she had just sat across from me as usual.

Have you had any similar experiences in your own therapy? What are your thoughts on the role of touch in the mental health field?

You can watch the video here:

 

Building The Therapeutic Relationship

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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 my arm band 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.

A Good Therapy Session

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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. 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.