Dreaming of ex-therapist … is a nightmare!

I can’t bear the fact that even now, six months after Em terminated my therapy, I am so massively impacted by our ending. I mean, I am not surprised, what happened is a huge deal…but I am just so sick and tired of the pain and grief of it. I tie myself in knots trying to make sense of what’s happened and yet I can’t seem to.

I can’t let it go.

I can’t let her go.

I miss her so much.

I am angry, too. Angry that she did what she did. But not angry enough that if she gave me the chance to see her for a session that I would turn it down. My young parts are so attached, still, that I would walk through a fiery hell to see her. I feel depressed and embarrassed writing that. Like surely I have more self-respect than that? Surely I would tell her to go fuck herself… but I know I wouldn’t. The child parts of me who are in so much pain would do almost anything to see her…even though it would undoubtedly be horrific.

I suppose the good news is that I will never be afforded the opportunity to talk the ending through, to put it to rest, get any kind of reasonable closure because she’s slammed the door shut on me.

In her mind I no longer exist. I have been erased. But she is branded in mine.

And so, because I have no chance to repair this, or at least better understand it, I am left with it swirling in my head. Sometimes I can talk about it with Anita. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I feel so ashamed by how I feel that I avoid talking about it. And recently, when I had a really triggering dream the night before my session involving Em, I got online and despite wanting to talk to Anita about it I dissociated almost instantly because the pain is so massive. K says she can feel a lot of grief in my body.

It’s at times like these where online therapy really falls flat on its face. In the room I would have been able to tune into A, her breathing, make eye contact, and in the usual run of things (pre-COVID) have her sit close to me to help me come back into my window of tolerance and regulate. But no matter how hard I try, I find it impossible to feel safely held when I am in one room and she is in another 35 miles away. And it’s not her fault. It’s not mine, either. It’s just the nature of the beast. There are some parts of me and some wounds that really need contact…real contact.

Anyway, I was quiet, subdued, anxious when I got on the call with A but aside from telling her I felt like I was drowning in shame, there wasn’t much I could do. I couldn’t go there. Anita was good, she told me that she wished she could take my hand and pull me out of the shame and tried hard to make me feel safe but in my head I just had the dream on loop and I just couldn’t do it. I talked about stuff about my mum and delved into the mother wound stuff (which is the work), she was kind and reassuring and repeatedly told me that I had been let down by my caregivers and none of what has happened is my fault but, still, I couldn’t get close to the dream.

At the end of the session it was clear that I was not in a brilliant place, despite having pulled myself back from the brink, and A said that she wished she could stay with me longer. I wished that too. Ugh for the therapy hour!

The one huge bonus about therapy with A compared to Em (and to be fair there are many!) is the fact that I am allowed to contact her between sessions. She understands my need for connection and how I build trust and so I always feel safe knowing she’s there and I can reach out without repercussions or a telling off and a dreaded ‘boundary talk’. With Em it just felt like a perpetual rejection, ‘Don’t contact me. If you do I won’t read what you send…’ Thankfully it’s not like that with A.

After the session I decided to send Anita my dream in an email so she could at least see why I was so bothered and having difficulty and then maybe we could talk in our session on Wednesday. We had scheduled in mid-week sessions to see if that helps with ‘woeful Wednesday’ so it wasn’t all that long to wait.

This is the email:

Drowning In The Pit Of Shame – The Dream That’s Sent Things Into Freefall

It was snowing, dark, and I was driving in the car with my childhood best friend. She needed to get to her parents’ home for Christmas and I was getting a lift with her back to the same place but it was pointless really because I had nowhere to go but I would sooner have spent time with her on the journey than be outside in the snow alone.

Every time we tried to leave the city we hit with massive snowdrifts, feet deep blocking the road, and there was no way out. I could see that if we could just get about five metres of snow cleared we could get onto the A road out the city and would be on the road that was gritted…but we couldn’t. It was too deep.

We ended up turning back and painstakingingly following another treacherous, windy, back road – a single track lane – and the car was sliding all over the road. My friend is not a very competent driver and I spent a lot of the time coaching her through how to drive in snow conditions. In the end I took over and drove the car because she was so stressed and didn’t know where she was going.

It was pitch black and no one was around. We talked a lot about the shit show we experienced as teenagers and the horrors we were subjected to by our mums. It was cathartic but also tragic. It was hard to tell in the dream whether I was an adult or 17…

We finally reached the village that we needed to be in and when we got there, there was a power cut. Just fabulous! Everything was cold and dark. It felt like the place was deserted.

Then suddenly my friend was gone and I was alone. The snow was falling heavily and I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the conditions.

There was nowhere for me to go so I started walking aimlessly.

I found a caravan in a field, broke into it, tried to get warm but couldn’t. It was freezing, cold and damp. I was hungry but there was nothing to eat. I was tired but I couldn’t sleep. I was alone with my thoughts and as usual they strayed back to what has happened between Em and I. The loss. The devastation. The abandonment and rejection. The young parts of me were beside themselves with grief. The same questions on loop: ‘What is so wrong with me that made her cut me dead like that? I was so hidden and yet still that was too much. Why do I still care about this so much? Why am I so affected by it? Why can’t I let it go? Why didn’t she care?’

I have been so upset by the fact that she has specifically advertised herself as working with ‘attachment disorders’, ‘trauma’, ‘dissociation’ ‘eating disorders’, ‘self-harm’ ‘PTSD, ‘abuse’ etc etc etc but rather than feeling angry about it, it’s led me to think that the problem must lie with me. There’s something fundamentally wrong with me. Something unlikeable. Something disgusting. Something that makes me untouchable. Because if it’s not me then how can she say she can competently work with these issues – the issues that I have? She told me she wasn’t competent enough and didn’t have the training to deal with me and yet here she is suggesting the complete opposite on her page.

I feel betrayed but also completely worthless.

In the cold of the caravan I decided to set up a fake email account pretending to be a potential client and contact Em basically outlining all the issues I have, asking questions about her how she practises and seeing what she would come back with as potential therapist. In theory the response should have been ‘I am sorry, but I don’t have the competency to work with this level of complex trauma’ but of course, this is not what happened in the dream (and no doubt it wouldn’t happen in real life either). Instead she suggested an initial face to face meeting the next day.

I was nervous going to the appointment but the young parts of me were so happy to get to see her. The room was in a new building back in the city and I arrived wearing a disguise. She was friendly enough but detached – she had started peddling the Cambridge Weight Plan and I mentioned that it felt a bit off having weight loss merchandise in a room where you would be talking to people with eating disorders. She brushed the concern aside and said that lots of people need help losing weight and she clearly wouldn’t be pushing it on anorexic clients.

Then I asked her questions about how she sees the therapeutic relationship. How she works with trauma. What she does with between session contact. EVERY ANSWER was the complete opposite of my experience of her. At that point I removed my disguise and burst into convulsive tears. ‘Why couldn’t you do that for me?’ When she saw it was me, she was furious, telling me that she had made it clear she never wanted to see me again and how dare I trick her into seeing me?

I was beside myself sobbing on the floor. Rather than be angry and self-righteous about the situation I just fell further into despair. ‘I knew it was me. I knew you couldn’t stand me. And still I miss you. I really love you.’ It was painful.

She ignored me for several minutes and I pleaded with her to talk with me and try and understand what’s happened and where it’s all gone wrong. Eventually she invited me to sit on the sofa with her and I lay down on the sofa with my head on her lap and she held my hand. I cried and cried – it was absolute agony– it was like being two years old. Not an adult at all.

I basically begged her to see me again and she begrudgingly agreed – ‘I can see you sometimes on these days but only for this long etc…oh and my fee has trebled…take it or leave it’. It was horrific.

It was clear as day that absolutely nothing had changed, but the young parts who need so much holding were willing to accept anything just to be with her.

________

So that’s what has sent me over the edge… it’s grief but also so much shame. I feel embarrassed even thinking about talking to you about how I feel. It makes me feel sick. I don’t want you to think I am some kind of obsessive freak who can’t accept that a therapeutic relationship has ended. I don’t think you understand how big a deal this is, though…because most of us don’t really say how big our feelings are and how attached we get… because it’s horrendous to experience. It has absolutely rammed a poker into the mother wound and it feels unsurvivable. I don’t want to scare you away either – because I know it’s intense. I would be running for the hills.

Anyway, I understand the different layers in the dream and I am not at all surprised that my brain served up this big shit pile to me in my sleep! But ugh.

Anita quickly responded to my email in the afternoon:

RB,

I hope you believe me when I say I’m not going to run to the hills and I do get it.

I know it’s going to be difficult for your vulnerable parts to trust and understandably so, as I said you have been so badly let down.

I was only talking in peer supervision to a colleague today about the deep attachment that happens in therapy and how powerful it can be to meet in that psychological depth of trauma but also how dangerous it can be if not handled with the love and care individuals deserve. 

That’s why I believe therapist like Em are so so dangerous. 

I really hope this helps.

Thinking of you,

A

Yes! It helped – a lot. Like honestly, it always staggers me how nice and warm her emails are after the crap that Em sent!…Kind Regards…code for ‘FUCK YOU AND FUCK OFF’.

I have to laugh or I cry…!

On the Wednesday session we talked a lot about it, not just the dream, but all the feelings I have around Em. There was one point close to the beginning where A asked me what it is about Em that makes it feel so hard to let go when she’s clearly treated me so appallingly. I felt a lump in my throat and my solar plexus go tight. Part of me wanted to run away, dissociate.

I never once in eight years managed to tell Em this in words, aloud in our sessions…I looked down into the camera and simply said, ‘I love her’.

‘You love her’, A reflected back. And I simply nodded. Yes…that’s how it is. Simple, really. I love her.

To acknowledge that properly was really freeing. I know I say it here a lot and to my close friends…but telling A felt important. I looked to see if there was any shock or disgust or anything negative, but of course there wasn’t. I was just met with an enormous amount of care and compassion as we talked about the young parts and how desperately sad it feels for them. Anita reiterated how normal it is to have these feelings in therapy. How the relationship is real and that it’s natural for love to develop in such a close and intimate relationship – on both sides.

I admitted that I wonder if I am just so love-starved that I will attach to anyone and inflate the situation in my head. The thing is, I knew that Em never really cared about me. She did her job, just about, but even at the end she couldn’t manage to exercise even professional care by ensuring a referral on and a safe handover to another professional. She left me high and dry. I so badly wanted for her to be warmer. I sat all those years ‘behaving myself’- hardly asking for anything, hoping that eventually I’d earn the care and love I so badly need. Only that’s a re-enactment of my childhood. It didn’t work with my mum who was biologically mine, so why on earth would I think it would work with Em?

This session was a few weeks ago so I don’t remember lots of the detail now, but I do remember the feelings. To be seen and accepted when I express these deeply painful- but also what so often feel like shameful- feelings was amazing…and connecting.

It is such a pity that expressing love in the therapeutic relationship has been such a taboo. Like we are somehow broken, or weird, or pathetic for having loving feelings. Every time Em said, ‘I’m just your therapist’ when I told her how I felt really missed the point. Clients are not stupid. We know the limitations of the relationship. I, for one, never wanted Em to be my friend or my mother, I just wanted a close, genuine relationship with her as my therapist, as someone who could help me with my mother wound. I’m not deluded. She was my therapist –  I was never going to turn up on her doorstep outside session or be anything other than her client. But clearly I scared the life out of her.

What I have learnt in the last six months with Anita is that I can bring all of myself – all my parts to therapy. I can lose my shit, overreact, be needy and she is steady and there. Always. It’s bizarre. I’m not used to it. I don’t feel like I need to earn her care…she just cares. I really feel it….when I am not losing my shit over finding out that she’s seen another client for a walk!! But I’ll come to that next post!

Cliff-hanger much?!

 

 

 

 

 

21 thoughts on “Dreaming of ex-therapist … is a nightmare!

  1. Kerry August 11, 2020 / 7:34 pm

    if I’m being honest a little tear rolled down my face when you said that you loved Em. I so get that feeling when it comes to my T and like you I am completely ashamed of it. Anita sounds so much like my T and I feel like she is going to help you do marvelous things! Take good care of yourself xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum August 11, 2020 / 9:58 pm

      Ah thanks Kerry. It’s still bubbling away inside me and has no place to go – the love. I hate that I when I told her, in writing, she basically ignored it…and it’s huge. It’s tragic really that such a massive emotion has become so problematic – like how on earth is it harder to tell someone you love them then express dissatisfaction or anger. It’s insane. And I hate that they freely spout ‘it’s fine to express your anger’ but rarely/never say ‘it’s fine and normal to express love here’… when I am guessing more of us are panicking about loving feelings! A is good. I like her. I am just bloody sick to death of online therapy! Big hugs to you and hope you are hanging on in there x

      Liked by 2 people

  2. easetheride August 11, 2020 / 8:17 pm

    Love…the biggest pain in the butt, isn’t it? I loved J too and never managed to tell her except for in a letter before she went on her leave. But anyway, this isn’t about me. I really get what you’re saying about it being so much more difficult to do this screen-to-screen instead of in-person. Has A given any indication of when she thought she might be back in the office? I’m glad that A has given you the outside contact you need too, because it really does make such a difference in preserving the attachment and you’ll come to find yourself relying on it less as time goes on. Your connection sounds so solid the more and more you post; I’m not even worried for the cliffhanger, because I know whatever happened you will/did get through it. Hugs!

    Liked by 3 people

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum August 11, 2020 / 10:02 pm

      LOVE LOVE LOVE – ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE….the Beatles had it nailed down! ha. But yes, what a palaver it all is. No idea when A might be back face to face – it feels like never… and I genuinely cannot bear the idea that she might say next year…but given she’s not made any noises about a return I am sure it’s not going to be soon. Yes, the outside contact thing is a gamechanger – really – especially given we can do in person sessions. And, yes, no need to be worried about the cliffhanger because we sorted it more or less in a couple of texts! But will talk about it on Friday. Such a change from Em who would never admit fault and left ruptures largely unresolved. I honestly do not know how I did it for so many years! x Big Hug x

      Liked by 3 people

  3. CB August 11, 2020 / 10:19 pm

    That dream is horrendous. Like it’s a textbook house of horrors for attachment trauma survivors – you couldn’t have made up a more accurate depiction of what is going on in your subconscious if you’d tried. It was painful to read and I totally get why it sent you spiralling into the pit of shame. Luckily you have A who is everything a human and therapist should be. Love to you ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum August 12, 2020 / 7:38 am

      Ugh I know. I much prefer the nights where I don’t have any memorable dreams… because my usual nightly brain fodder is fucking hideous! But totally can see how it encapsulates most of my key concerns! Big hug x

      Liked by 3 people

  4. LovingSummer August 11, 2020 / 11:27 pm

    What an awful nightmare of a dream. I’m so glad you have Anita to take it to, and her response is so typical Anita! She’s great isn’t she. And so are you; I hate that you were treated so badly by Em, you didn’t deserve that one little bit.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Q August 12, 2020 / 10:48 am

    I suspect one big reason it’s so hard for your little ones to let go of the longing for Em is that she often made them feel like you felt when you were little like them. Here was this semi-parental figure, charged with helping you, occasionally supportive but in a thousand ways withholding of the live and connection you needed. So effing familiar! Those are exactly the types of relationships that get their hooks into us, the ones that seem to reproduce the wishing, hoping, yearning of our childhoods.

    It’s super hard. I know it feels like you can’t let go. But you will, in time. There will be a day when you’ll think, oh my god, why did I ever care so much?

    Until then, please give yourself as much compassion as you can. It’s natural and okay that you loved her; it speaks to the capacity of your young ones to love and of their healthy human need for love and care. It’s also okay that it takes as long as it takes for them to stop wanting her. It’s painful, so I know you want it to stop. I wish I could make it stop hurting today. In time the hard, honest, challenging work you are doing with Anita will bring you relief. I really believe that.

    Liked by 4 people

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum August 14, 2020 / 8:15 pm

      Yes! I think you are right. It was such an epic re-enactment with Em. Familiar…but ugh! God! So withholding. And the more time I spend in therapy with A the more glaringly obvious it becomes to me. I really hope I get over her sooner rather than later. Problem is, when I am tired or overwrought it’s the young parts that go live and then and then whoosh I am back to square one. I am trying to be compassionate towards those parts that are hurting so much but it’s not always easy, especially when their fears are now slamming into the relationship between A and I! Oh it’s a journey! x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. skinnyhobbit August 12, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    What an awful nightmare. Also this reminds me a bit of my T, not that sure was witholding like Em but initially she thought my ashamed”I love you” was mostly romantic and she said she was “uncomfortable”. Eventually she grew to accept it and even returned “I do love you in a parental way”.

    And I relate to feeling, trusting my T’s deep care…until I found out she offered my acquiatance a heavily discounted rate that she didn’t offer me! She eventually did when I moved out of my abusive home and my financial status changed drastically, but oh man that incident hurt like hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum August 14, 2020 / 8:17 pm

      I think Em just was completely unwilling to go there with me. Terrified of my need. It’s just a bloody shame. I am glad your T has met you where you are at and has been able to offer you a reduced fee. I totally understand the thing about finding out your acquaintance got a discount. I completely lost my shit on Monday when I found out A had been for a walk with a client. Ugh! Take care xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. lavenderandlevity August 15, 2020 / 7:12 pm

    I find it interesting that in your dream Em was peddling weight loss products in her room, but just shrugged it off as “but I wouldn’t push it on anorexic clients.” It’s almost like your subconscious telling you even as it admitted how it felt about her that it also knew on some fundamental level that she was not what she promised. That there was something dangerously unaware of the impact she could have on others by her casual assumptions. Obviously your child parts are the ones that needed you to know what they really felt in that dream, but I think one of your other parts might also have been doing their best to hold themselves, in their own way, in the knowledge that Em made some serious mistakes, too. Maybe that is at least a little progress? That even in the depths of a dream about feeling shame over what Em means to you, at least some of you also thought *you* worth fighting for enough to dress Em in just a bit of that same double standard in your dream as she oft applies in life?

    Liked by 1 person

    • rubberbandsandchewinggum August 15, 2020 / 8:16 pm

      Yeah. I agree. It really was a complex dream and highlighted so much to me. She used to want to do EMDR all the time and I was massively resistant to why I didn’t want to do it….but she kept bringing it up. I think she had run out of ideas and was hoping that would sort things out. I wanted relational healing and she wanted me to tap my knees and thought she knew what was best for me. I wish things had have been different. I wish she could have been less set in her ways and tried to meet me in the middle somewhere. I really hope I get over this soon because I am so fed up of missing her….or at least the idea of her! Thanks for your insight xx

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s