After a Bad Doctor Visit, Part 1: Not A Bother

I’ve had a hard time getting past Thursday’s pre-op appointment, which I experienced as intrusive and triggering. Thursday evening and well into Friday my “I’m so disgusting” voices were noisy, even though both I and my husband were trying to tell them they were wrong. I wasn’t even done with the emotions from sharing the Stephen story earlier in the week so Anxiety had a lot to react to. I looked online to see if E. had a last minute cancellation on Friday so I could see her, but no such luck.

And then as I wrote yesterday, I emailed her to see if I could have a longer session on Monday. I feel there’s a lot to talk about, and after Monday, I won’t see her for a month (because of travel and surgery). I’m not a person who calls or email my therapist for anything except possibly a scheduling change. I say it’s because I want to prove I can use my skills to handle things myself, and it’s partly true, but it’s also because I’m frightened to ask for something she might not want to give. But on Tuesday I did email E. to ask for support when I was having trouble managing my anxious feelings after sharing the full Stephen story. She kindly reminded me to listen to what Anxiety was trying to tell me, which led to the exchange of letters with Anxiety that I posted earlier in the week.

Having already violated my own “do not ask for anything” rule, it was hard to write and ask for something else. We’d never had an extended session or even talked about it. So with some trepidation, I sent this email:

Hi E., I’m sorry to keep bothering you!  Any chance of a longer appointment on Monday, like 12-1:30? Do you ever even do that?

The times I have emailed about scheduling, she has tended to answer quickly, but this time she didn’t and I had to pull out my best positive self-talk skills last night and this morning. But late morning I found this message in my inbox:

How about scheduling the 11:15 time ahead of the noon appointment. That would work best for me. Would that work for you? I’m going to go ahead and schedule it so that it isn’t taken by someone else. If it doesn’t work let me know and we’ll find another way to make it work.

You are NOT a bother!

This brought tears to my eyes when I first read it. I have reread it many times today. It’s a powerful message that speaks to one of my biggest fears since I was a kid–that I was demanding too much, that I should be quiet, that I am bothering people. But E. doesn’t think I’m a bother. I can also file away, for future reference, the fact that my positive self-talk was more accurate about the delay in her response than Anxiety was.

oh bother

I have more to write about the aftermath of Thursday’s doctor visit, but that will come later, Part 2.

28 thoughts on “After a Bad Doctor Visit, Part 1: Not A Bother

      • Took me three tries, but I don’t know for sure if it’s the same in the US. Compared to another health care professional, a therapist/shrink has a much deeper bond with a patient and it is difficult for healing to occur in the absence of that bond.

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        • Yes, that trust and rapport are essential. I guess over 20 years, I have interacted at least a bit with 8 psychologists. Three were terrible. All the others were somewhat helpful, though in some cases I only worked with them for a very short time for one reason or another, so I never developed that very deep connection.

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  1. Well done! I am the same, I always believe when i use my voice to ask for what I need, that I am being too demanding or thinking of myself too much to the exclusion of others. thank you for sharing this because it made me realise that yes I feel the same probably because I was abused as a child and made to feel unworthy and undeserving of what I needed and asked for. Yet, in reality, I was not demanding at all, I was quiet and shy and obedient. It’s incredible how powerful the messages are that you get from the way you are treated as a child. I hope you have a great session. thanks again for sharing.

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    • I think even more than the sexual abuse (though that was certainly part of it) was that my mother did communicate to me pretty clearly that I asked for too much. She is not unkind, but she is reserved and private. She also DOES NOT want to know if anything is wrong so she ignores or forgets bad news. I’ve been well prepared to pretend everything is fine. And then of course the abuse made me also think that the adults knew what was okay, and I should override my own reactions and follow theirs. It’s a long process to rediscover your own opinions and reactions, when you have learned to repress or ignore them. And then to learn you have the right to ask for things and might actually get them… it’s thrilling and scary and needs to happen many times to change old patterns.

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      • As children we use our adults to gauge what is safe and what is acceptable so with abuse, and the silence around it in dysfunctional families, it is no wonder you and I would suppress our own feelings and thoughts and so much confusion results from that. It is now time to sort through all the voices and filter what has been internalised from the abuse and what is our own voice.

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  2. I can also file away, for future reference, the fact that my positive self-talk was more accurate about the delay in her response than Anxiety was.”
    YES! This is exactly how I felt yesterday; those anxiety thoughts tried to tell me my therapist was upset I called or wasn’t going to reply, but she did call back. And she was happy to talk to me. Such a powerful realization, isn’t it? Great work, Q. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Man, we have very similar insecurities! I always feel like I can’t ask for help either and that I’m always a bother. My therapist is not as good in responding to emails so I often feel that anxiety of asking for something but not receiving what I need but I tell myself that he is busy and being a therapist in a school counseling center, he has huge loads. But anyway… Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you’re going to get a longer session!

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    • One thing that might help you, I don’t know, but you could think about it. After years of seeing E., one day in session I talked a bit about not being sure what I could ask from her and what would be too much. She helped to clarify that she couldn’t process emotional stuff by email–it was just too hard, not being face-to-face, but she could and was willing to provide reassurance that she was still there for me. Things like that. I still didn’t use that info right away, and I wasn’t sure if I was overstepping this week with multiple emails, but I think knowing she was universally against emails helped strengthen my positive self-talk while waiting for a response.

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      • Ok. That sounds like a good idea for me to bring to S. I often don’t know whether it’s ok for me to email him or not since he didn’t explicitly give me his email. He had a business card in his desk that I just grabbed on the way out so I guess I should’ve asked more explicitly. We kinda just got into an assumption game and I think I need to clarify things. Otherwise, the same thing is going to happen again like the last time when I felt like I went over time and we didn’t explain things to each other. The next week, he apologized and told me that he thought that it would benefit me for me to squeeze in one last thought but he realized that it wasn’t and that it had caused me unnecessary anxiety throughout the week. I don’t think we communicate enough, that’s for sure and it’s more because I’m too afraid to hear the answer.

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        • I can definitely relate to this! I have so often assumed, in so many of my relationships not just in therapy, and then I have felt hurt and rejected when things didn’t match my assumptions. Or I never asked when I could have. So I am trying to learn to make it more explicit. It’s hard but helpful.

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          • Me too! I’m trying to be more explicit and upfront too but often people think I’m weird and act like I speak unnaturally. But I’ve been burned so much that I’m thinking better safe than sorry…

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          • I know! I know! But then I think of my friend and colleague K. She asks more questions at work than anyone (for example: what exactly am I allowed to ask the secretaries to do for me?) This helps her do a great job of not overstepping boundaries but also fully using the resources she does have available to her. I think of her as a role model in this regard.

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          • That’s an awesome example! I’d rather be tedious than misunderstood or misunderstand others. I don’t know boundaries. I am learning. I’ve never been taught boundaries as my family never communicates anything. So it’s hard to know what’s permitted and what’s not.

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  4. I’m so glad you asked for what you need. You are not a bother. I often feel like a bother too, but I’m going to remember this. I, too, am learning that my positive self talk is,way more accurate than Anxiety or the abusers’ voices in my head.

    I’m so sorry you are still struggling with that doctor’s appointment. I would be too. I’m sure my bladder was damaged by my abuse….sometimes, I wet my pants with no warning whatsoever; however, I CANNOT imagine an appointment where I might accidentally pee on somebody or have to pee with somebody nearby. I know it’s all natural, but Holy Fuck, no way! You are in my thoughts and d prayers with this one.

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    • This morning I woke up upset again about the appointment. But now I have resolved to postpone the surgery so I can take each step along the way without a rush and make sure to care for myself physically and psychologically along the way. This has helped calm me down some, but I am still looking forward to having the extended time with E. tomorrow.

      Thank you for always being so understanding! Your comments and support are helpful in so many ways.

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    • Yes! Almost a revelation, to me. I got the sense I was a bother as a child, especially as I got a little older (pre-teen and teen). Then my first husband beat into my head that I was a nuisance, a burden, a weight on him. My current (and final) husband never, ever acts like that to me; on the contrary, he treat me extremely well. But it’s hard to get past the old ideas.

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  5. I remember when Bea told me I wasn’t a bother. It feels so strange to hear those words, doesn’t it? I’m so glad she was able to be there for you and you were really able to take that in. Xx

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