Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with talking about this… mess…
Like really, it’s Wednesday, now, and I am looking back over the last week, or so, and shaking my head in disbelief.
Wtaf is going on? (*let’s be upfront and clear, there’s going to be some swearing in this post!)
What on earth is happening with me and my therapy?
It’s a freaking catastrophe! (Again!)
When we started to discuss the possibility of moving from one session a week to two, my therapist, Em, said that two sessions a week could lead to a greater sense of containment (win!); she also mentioned that there was also possibility of more regression (eek!); BUT. BUT. BUT. She never fucking mentioned that the whole process could go to shit in the blink of an eye and all sense of safety, trust, and containment could evaporate in one fifty minute phonecall. I know that I seem to forget a lot at the moment but I’d have remembered that!
So, brief recap, last Monday’s session (1st Oct) saw the Inner Critic stepping up and shutting things down again. It was awkward, no -more than that- it was massively uncomfortable and really hard. I felt really unsettled after having been so open and vulnerable in the previous few sessions and looking back, I am not surprised that the angry protective part waded in and tried to take over control. She’s not a big fan of the young parts saying how they feel to Em and frankly she was stressing out after the marble thing.
Anyway, after a lot of internal raging basically screaming ‘shut up’ she managed to tell Em ‘To fuck off and leave me alone’ and basically shutdown the session. Wow! Nice one! Thanks so much for that lovely one. Jeez. Apparently I’m meant to befriend this part and find out what’s pissing her off so much but frankly when she behaves like this I want to disown her even more! ha.
The time between Monday’s session and Friday was yuck. I am still super busy in my everyday life and I am finding that I am feeling increasingly exhausted just trying to squeeze everything in that I am meant to in the week. A lot of the time I feel like I am on a mission, spinning plates, trying to be everywhere I am meant to at the right time…it just about hangs together if things are feeling ok in therapy, i.e if the bulk of the stuff that I carry around feels largely contained then I can function pretty well in my day-to-day life. If therapy feels ‘iffy’ and the attachment stuff is massively activated I am fucking useless, though. It’s the difference between a high-functioning adult fronting the majority of the day or letting the distressed kids behind the wheel (they don’t know how to drive btw!).
By Thursday night I was shitting myself. I both desperately wanted to talk with Em and to try and explain why things had been so shit for me on Monday. I wanted to try and allow the little ones a chance to connect but at the same time, there was a part of me that just didn’t want to talk at all. I sensed that Skype would be a disaster and as it turned out I wasn’t able to Skype anyway. I wasn’t at home and where I was had a patchy 3G signal – not adequate for a decent call. To be honest, I really didn’t want to be seen either so I text to ask if we could do the session on the phone and then dialled in at 9:30am.
I suspect it was me wearing my ‘worst case scenario’ hat, but the moment the call connected I felt like something wasn’t right. Immediately, Em asked me if I wanted to talk about the text message I had sent her after the last session:
Let me think….
I said as much, but also said I guess we needed to.
Unbelievably, Em was adamant that I hadn’t told her to go ‘do one’ in the session, and that how she’d understood it was ‘fuck off and leave me alone’ is what I (adult) was wanting to say to the Inner Critic when she piped up and took over. I know I should have put her right on that, but frankly the way things felt I didn’t feel able to say, ‘errr no, you were really pushing me and it was getting on my nerves and the Critic was telling you to back off’.
Anyway, somehow or other it got onto feelings of care and expressions of love. Gulp. It felt difficult but I needed to tell her how difficult it was for me to be vulnerable with her and let her know how I feel about her and explain why the previous session had seen me put the barriers up. I rarely verbally tell Em how I feel about her. I have written plenty (!!) down and made her read it over the years but I have never said ‘I care about you’ or ‘I love you’ in person. After giving her the marble the other week and Eleven briefly coming to the front I really felt like it was important to bit the bullet and tell her how I feel face-to-face.
So I did.
‘I really care about you’.
Cue internal meltdown, nausea, breaking out into a sweat.
(THANK GOD I WAS ON THE PHONE!)
It was a big moment. It was another step towards her after the huge leap backwards in the previous session lumped with a huge dollop of vulnerability on top.
How did she respond?
I can’t remember it verbatim but something along the lines of:
‘You may want me to say something similar back to you but this is a different kind of relationship….blah…blah….therapeutic relationship… blah blah boundaries’
OH MY FUCKING GOD.
YOU CANNOT BE FUCKING SERIOUS.
The first time I express my feelings out loud and this? I am not suggesting for one minute that I was expecting her to come back gushing (she’s not that kind of therapist) but she has, on many occasions told me that she cares about me and wants to work with me etc. Why, on Friday, couldn’t she have rattled that shit back at me? Why couldn’t there have been a moment of connection and mutual expression of care and that, even though it is a therapeutic relationship it is still a genuine relationship? Why when, after all these years I have sat mute and reserved couldn’t she have realised what a big healing opportunity it potentially was. After years of hiding my feelings and feeling shame about my feelings this could have been massive…but it wasn’t. It was horrendous.
I have no idea what happened. BUT guess who did have ideas? Yes, of course, The Critic:
‘How many times do we need to go through this? She does not care about you. You are her job – nothing more. It’s utterly pathetic…and now look what you’ve done!…every single one of those young parts is screaming in pain. Why on earth would you do that to them? It was never going to be any different. This is what therapists do: they draw you in; try and get you to trust them; encourage you to be open and vulnerable; and the moment you do it, the reminder – it’s all just paid for time with a professional in a room. I feel sorry for you. Please, now, will you listen to me? I have never done you harm. I am merely here to protect you from people like her…and yourself!’
So, I really can’t remember very much of the session after that. I felt so unsettled. I kept hearing snippets of what Em was saying – something about ‘intense emotions’ which I heard as ‘too much’, ‘bad’, ‘misplaced’ emotions… something about it feeling ‘similar to April when we spoke about the eating disorder’ (my brain took me straight to ‘we’ll have to work towards and ending if you don’t contact your GP’)…and then right at the end another kicker, ‘I really feel like you need holding and cuddling and picking up BUT we don’t do that here, it’s not that kind of relationship…’ and then I was lost again.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. It’s not new news to me – the touch boundary thing- but basically from the moment Em responded in the way she did when I told her that I cared about her it was all downhill and so everything from that point saw me looking for evidence of her lack of care, rejection, there being something wrong with me. It’s all I could hear…even if that was not at all what was meant. It was the young parts following a script. They know how it goes. It’s horrible.
I couldn’t get off the phone quick enough at the end of the session and then sat in my car, stunned for about five minutes before picking myself up and having to get on with the day. It was an enormous struggle to do anything. My wife kept giving me concerned looks, asking me if I was ok, and then eventually after hours of me sighing and moping about got frustrated and said I had been moody and snappy pretty much all day and she didn’t know why? And if therapy did this to me then why was I bothering?
I was so upset by the phonecall that I wasn’t sure I would go back to Em again. I seriously considered sending a message to tell her that I just couldn’t do this to myself any more because the impact is so severe when things feel bad. However, I have learnt a few things about texting when things feel really bad…and that is I rarely get the response I am looking for. I wasn’t sure she’d even respond if I terminated by text and that would have riled me even more.
Of course, I didn’t want the therapy to end…but I didn’t ever want it to be like it felt again. And maybe walking away would be less painful in the long run. If I had text her I know, in my heart, I would’ve been hoping that she would reply in some way that would make me feel like she cared, and would be prepared to fight for me, asking me to come back and talk it through. Essentially I would have been testing her and I am not sure what would have happened. She may have let me go and that would have crushed me.
So, I decided that the best course of action was to go to session on Monday and try and explain what was going on on my side and then, if no progress was made, leave.
OMG. Driving to therapy was horrendous. I was so scared. I was sad. I was angry, too. It was a right tumultuous mess inside.
I arrived at session. Em was as she always is. We started the session. She had absolutely no idea that there was anything wrong at all. She started to tune in to where I was at and asked me how I had felt after Friday?
She asked me to elaborate.
She talked a bit trying to draw me out.
Painful silence…and The Critic going mental inside, ‘see she doesn’t get it at all. Why are you here wasting your time and money?’
I felt after a while that maybe Em was angry or frustrated with me. So I asked her if that was the case. Shock! ‘No! Why would I be angry with you? I feel like you are maybe angry or frustrated with me? And I guess, if anything, I am feeling frustrated with myself for not making it feel safe enough for you to talk to me when clearly there is something very difficult going on for you today. I guess, I am feeling a bit useless. But no. I am not angry or frustrated with you’.
I told her that I wasn’t angry or frustrated with her. She asked what I was feeling. I told her I was sad.
She asked me some questions about how I was feeling and about when the sadness had started. I told her ‘it was when I was speaking to you’. She seemed concerned and asked when? I said ‘You really upset me on Friday’. She seemed genuinely surprised and immediately apologised saying that she was sorry if she had said something that was insensitive and had upset me but could I tell her more because she had no idea what it might be.
I was cringing inside. Part of me wanted to keep her at arms length and part of me wanted to see what would happen if I told her what the matter was.
I sat in silence a little longer mulling over what to say. Where on earth should I begin?:
‘Do you even care about me at all?’
More genuine surprise on Em’s part and an immediate launch into the how she cares and is interested in me and wants to help all the parts of me and blah blah… basically it was about a minute of her saying all the things she’s said before but that I really needed to hear and she finished up with ‘I’m sorry that I have said something that has made you feel like I don’t care. I’m guessing you feel more than just sad. I’d imagine you might feel really hurt and maybe a bit angry?’
I said I felt crushed.
She said she had genuinely no idea what she might have said that was so blunt as to make me feel this way and could I maybe tell her, although she understood that I mightn’t want to for fear of feeling worse than I already did. I nodded.
She asked what the fear of telling her was. Was it that I was worried she’d get angry or defensive? I said it wasn’t that. She asked what it was. I said I was worried it’d be the same. To which she responded, ‘the same? What? Careless?’ I nodded again.
Em again told me how she cares and how she wouldn’t have offered me two sessions a week if she didn’t and reiterated her commitment to all the parts of me. She said that she understood how the therapeutic relationship can feel not enough and maybe that was making me feel bad and sad.
I said it wasn’t that, but why couldn’t she have said this stuff on Friday?
More blank looks, she said she knows we talked a lot about expression of love and care but couldn’t think what she could have said to hurt me and asked me to elaborate.
I explained that I just ‘didn’t get it. You know how I find it really hard to talk to you, to express anything vulnerable, and lately I have been trying to do that more. On Friday I told you that I cared about you and rather than meet it with something like you’ve just said, that you’ve said lots of times before, it felt like you met me with a ‘fuck you’ forcefield. You basically seemed to shut the door on me and instead told me that you wouldn’t say anything back because ‘this is a different kind of relationship’. It felt to the young parts who had trusted you that they’d said too much, got the wrong end of the stick, and now you were restating the boundaries. It really really hurt. It made me wonder what the hell I’m doing here, trying to work on expressing feelings that are hard for me and then I get met with that…I just don’t understand.’
Em got it immediately and apologised again. She said she was sorry and could understand how what she’d said could feel abrupt and uncaring and that there were a lot of better ways that she could have responded.
This gave me a bit of courage to say more:
‘I just can’t understand how you thought that response would be helpful to me’
She agreed that it wasn’t.
I went on:
‘So you can imagine, then, how after you saying that and me feeling like you don’t like me all session, at the end of the session to be told that you won’t touch me felt like you really were just going all out to remind me of exactly what the relationship isn’t. I know you didn’t mean it like that but that’s how it felt.’
We talked a little bit about that but, as usual, the session was up. Em thanked me for being brave enough to let her know what had upset me so much and that she appreciated how difficult it was to bring this to session when it was so painful, especially for the young parts. We agreed to talk more on Friday and she apologised again for making me feel like this.
I felt awkward. There is still a lot more to say but at least that sick feeling has gone now. Fortunately I can go to session on Friday in person and hopefully we can talk more about what’s been triggered in me. I know this all harps back to what’s happened in relationships in the past and if I can work through these ruptures or my feeling like there is an empathic failure with Em then that’s a huge part of the work. It’s hideous going through it but the repair is where the healing comes, I think.
I am dreading Friday in some ways. I have two more sessions until a three session break. It doesn’t feel like very much time to talk through what I need to. I also really wanted to be able to talk about doing the power stones as a transitional object before the break but I am not sure, even though things have been repaired somewhat, whether the young parts will feel brave enough to come forward and ask for what they need now. They are still reeling from Friday.
I get it was a simple miscommunication but this is what can happen when all the parts are active and listening in. As I have said heaps of times before, the adult part of me gets it….it’s all the others than need work!