When Your Therapist Is Completely There For You

It’s been a week. I wanted to say “a difficult week” or “an extraordinary week” or “an emotionally devastating week” but in the end none of the adjectives worked. So it’s been a week.

Feeling quite distraught over the weekend, I reached out to E. last Saturday, something I had never done before. She talked to me gently and warmly and invited me to come and see her Sunday afternoon. So the following day, I took a leap of faith and share with E. the secret in the envelope, a dark story in which I don’t come off particularly well. More accurately, I am quite horrible. It’s from a long time ago but that doesn’t erase how bad it is. When I told E., she was clearly shocked, and I read into her words and body language that she strongly disapproved. But maybe it was projection, I don’t know. I texted her that evening (something we also had literally never done before).

Hi. We can keep working together, right?!?!

Absolutely!

How are you, oh brave one? Thinking a lot about tonight.

I’m not brave at all. I’m very twisted and sick and ashamed.

Ha, I beg to differ! You are also courageous and hopeful and loving…

All I could really take from that, at the time, was that she wasn’t expelling me from her practice. The rest I think I read as “she’s just trying to calm me down.”

I had my regular weekly session with her on Monday midday, and it was hard. I could scarcely look at her for the shame of it all. She spoke to me in a calm and kind voice, but she continued to have very closed body language and talked about how bad the behavior was but that wasn’t the same as being bad. That’s what she said, but it’s not what I felt from her (intended or not). When I left, she invited me to call or text her if I needed to.

I left feeling deeply shaken. And my guard went up. My resentful teenage self said she couldn’t handle it, it was too much, she was too judgmental. That night, as I already wrote about, I told her I didn’t feel entirely confident that she could handle it, that I had registered her body language and saw how she needed to protect herself from my horribleness.

Oh, dear Q, I’m not going anywhere. I don’t need protection from your horribleness. I adore and respect you. I am not offended, disgusted, or turned off by who you are–truly. I am in awe of your honesty, integrity and drive toward wholeness. If anything, I am more drawn to you, as a result of your vulnerability, than away from you. You can believe it or not, your choice.

This is just fucking scary.

I see that… They don’t call it the dark night of the soul for nothing!

I guess not. I feel lost in this darkness. I can’t tell if there will be anything else to grab onto, or just an eternal void.

Right. Pretty scary. You aren’t alone though, and it won’t be pitch black forever. Talk to the 15-year-old. Tell her you want her to know love. Loving that teenager may be even harder than “believing the girl.” I know, when does it get easy, right??!

I have to say, not feeling too solid on the believing the girl part either. It’s all pretty shake. But yeah, loving that teenager, I don’t know. I can’t think of anyone who loved her.

No, wait, to be fair, my grandparents did, as much as they could, without knowing everything.

Well, no wonder she feels so terrible. t’s hard enough to be a teen, but a teen thin on love can lead to all sorts of bad decisions!

I might need you to tell me repeatedly that you aren’t too disgusted to work with me. It’s a very big fear. I’m sorry, don’t want to be a bother…

I’ll tell you as often as you ask. I DO NOT FIND YOU DISGUSTING. I like you very much. (I’m not yelling, just being playfully emphatic).

And you wouldn’t lie–would you? Do therapists lie for therapeutic reasons? They must.

Is distorting reality ever therapeutic. I think not. I’m sure it’s done by therapists, but I wouldn’t call it good practice. As for me with you, absolutely no lie!

I had two really crummy therapists. One of them blew me off/stood me up when I was very desperate. I’ll never forget that. Anyway, that’s another story. You, on the other hand are a very skilled therapist , truly very helpful, please don’t take my skepticism personally. Thank you, I’ll let you go now. Good night.

You’re kind. Your skepticism is earned (though not by me). It’s sad you were treated badly by others. I’ll keep working on being skilled and helpful. Good night!

It was a strange thing, to have that exchange with her, but it felt good. It calmed me down. I read it several times the next day (Tuesday). All day I told myself I wouldn’t bother her again, but late in the evening I texted her again.

Hi. I’m just checking that you’re still there.

Right here. Still liking you!

Okay, good, phew!

šŸ™‚

Thank you for being there.

You’re completely welcome.

That was thin, though compared to Monday, and by early Wednesday afternoon, while still at work, I needed to check in again.

I know you are probably with a client now, so I’m not holding my breath for a response. But I like knowing you will still be there. So maybe later you can tell me again.

I swear I won’t keep doing this for very long.

I’m here, not bothered. I care deeply for your recovery of trust. I’ll keep being here.

Then that evening, she initiated the conversation, instead of me.

Still here, in case you’re wondering šŸ™‚

Ha, funny you say that just now. In my head, I had been composing a blog post: 25 reasons not to trust your therapist. Of course all 25 reasons really in one way or another all boil down to the pain and fear of vulnerability.

Those are impediments to trust, not reasons not to. Maybe I should work on my post: 25 ways to convince your client they are lovable!

Sure, you can be a guest on my blog; I’m sure those reading my blog would love that.

Ha. Hope you had a good day.

Thanks for your message, so thoughtful of you. Good night!

Good night!

I think this one was my favorite though. It popped up from her on Thursday afternoon.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Poor?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh. This made me think of you. Hope you are having a good day.

I love this, thank you!

As sweet as that was, five hours later I was texting her from a completely different emotional place.

My mom and stepdad do not care about me at all. The wise woman can reason it’s about them, but the triggered child and teen feel so rejected.

You know what, I’m not sure you can deal with this, with me. It’s just too ugly and sick. Who could deal with it?!? It’s not your fault. Anyone would be repulsed. I am, too. I’m sorry.

Ugh, sorry ignore. I’m just tired and confused.

No matter what you say or do, I believe you are a wonderful, deeply caring, compassionate woman. Period!

I see those kind words, but I’m on the other side of a wall, and they don’t reach me. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do this.

Just make yourself comfortable on that side of the wall. Be kind and gentle with yourself. That’s all that’s needed now.

I’m going to try to sleep now. Thanks for texting and for the lovely Piglet quotation. I”m sad but… Anyway, thanks. Good night.

You’re fully welcome. Good night.

How many times can I reread a text conversation? And why am I suddenly so needy in a way I can’t remember feeling for many, many years. I don’t even know myself this week. I’m like a child again, checking on my beloved mother who is working in the next room. This morning, it wasn’t 8am before I started up again.

Hi, good morning.

Hello!

Good, you are still there!

Yup, right here.

Three hours later, at work, I checked in again.

Now? Still?

Now. Still.

God, how can she stay patient through this? Maybe she’s not. Maybe she is rolling her eyes but texting back reassurance anyway? But she said she wouldn’t lie. A few hours later, still at work, I was at it again.

You don’t want to go away?

Nope. Not in the least.

Even if I’m a horrible monster? God, I am totally regressing.

Still liking you a lot. Regression may be another way of talking about finding new ground.

I am not sure I know what she meant with that last comment. I would ask, but for heaven’s sake, it’s Friday night. I should leave her some time with her family. But some very young, uncertain self still wants to call to her. It’s the strangest thing, and I’m embarrassed by it. But I’ll share it anyway, because I think it’s good for us to share our vulnerabilities and learn from each other that maybe we’re not as crazy as we think we are. Or what do I know? Perhaps you will all think: Thank god I’m not as crazy as Q! But then I suppose I will at least have made you feel better, so it’s worth something.

Wishing you a kind and patient therapist, and a Pooh for your Piglet.

piglet,jpg

 

 

19 thoughts on “When Your Therapist Is Completely There For You

  1. I definitely also struggle with the “pain and fear of vulnerability.” I don’t know exactly why, but it’s the most terrifying thing in the world. I am so glad that you reached out to E and she responded in a warm and gentle way – that’s a huge deal.

    Reaching out to my therapist is hard, because it opens the window to vulnerability (what if he doesn’t answer? what if he thinks I’m annoying? what if I’m an imposition? what if I shouldn’t be messaging? when is he going to tell me to stop?) but it also opens the window to someone responding in a caring and thoughtful way. T always responds when I message and always seems to care how I feel, which is such a big deal for me (and sounds like it might be a big deal for you, too.)

    I love the “I just wanted to be sure of you.” I have definitely messaged T asking if he’s still here. I imagine scenarios where he’s dead, or he quit, or fired me as client, or … I don’t even know. And I feel so stupid about it, but I get rattled by it. And he patiently writes back “I’m still here, I’m here to continue our important work” or something like that. He’s never made me feel stupid for checking that he’s still there.

    It’s so hard to reveal information that paints us in a ‘bad’ light – I admire that you shared your secret with E and it sounds like she’s responding in a very caring way.

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  2. “Thank god Iā€™m not as crazy as Q!”
    Rather, thank god(dess) I am as human as Q. Because in being human, with vulnerability instead of locked in a closet, one finds a full and rich life, with depth, making living satisfying and whole. Because vulnerability means taking risks, and to keep taking them which spells C-O-U-R-A-G-E…
    You are building a path which will help lay the foundation of trust so that the work can continue. Well done brave one… : )

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  3. I have so much to say because I see myself in this post. Really, you are not alone in this neediness. Relational trauma sucks. Attachment issues suck. Being needy hurts at times…it hurts terribly. What I have found is that nothing totally fills the inner void…it’s incredibly vast and deep. It feels scary yet beautiful. I can’t imagine it heals quickly but I am confident that it will. (This post also reminded me of my predator van story and I still don’t know why I did that…only that it doesn’t define who I am and I never did it again).

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  4. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing about this whole experience. I’ve read a lot about people discussing trauma in therapy, which is so hard and so important, but I think this is the first time I’ve come across somebody telling their therapist about their own behaviour that could be seen as bad – that takes so much bravery. I’ve done things I’m very ashamed of too, and maybe one day I’ll be able to share mine.

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    • It takes you straight to another whole level of skinless exposure and brutal vulnerability. I think I will be glad in the long run, but in the short run, it pretty much sucks.

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback though. It helps.

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      • I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about telling Anna things I’ve done, so can’t imagine how much this must be sucking for you. I’m sure E recognises that and respects your courage as much (or more) than we all do, and completely understands your need to check she’s still there.

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  5. I love this! I’m so glad you wrote this and so glad you shared your interactions with E! šŸ˜€ I love (and have to admit am slightly envious) that you are able to contact her through text. S hardly even responds to my emails. It sucks to feel so dependent on someone though, no? Every time I email S, I feel like I’m burdening him with things he can’t discuss over email. I love the little Piglet/Pooh paragraph. Very fitting. I’m going to steal that and send it to my friend to let her know that I’m not trying to be a bother but like Piglet, I just need reassurance that she’s still my friend. Thank you, Q. I hope you have a better week ahead!

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    • I’m glad you have a friend that you can talk to like this. I don’t have that right now (or am not allowing myself to have that).

      I have been seeing E. for the past six (I think?) years straight, as well as for maybe two years some time before that, until my insurance at the time ran out. I have known her for a long time. And we have almost never emailed, except occasionally about scheduling, never called until last Saturday, never texted until this week. It is completely new. I hope it’s a good thing. I wonder sometimes. But the Piglet quote was a highlight of the week for me, that’s for sure.

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      • I sometimes wonder if we don’t have friends because we withdraw voluntarily and then see it as no one cares. At least in my case, I think that’s what’s happening. I withdraw and distance myself from my husband and then rationalize in my mind that he just doesn’t care. Which is probably quite wrong… I hate that I can’t trust my own mind.

        I’m glad I have a friend like that too. I sent her the Piglet piece and told her she’s my Pooh. She loved it and told me she’s keeping my email. So that made me feel glad because I’ve been so needy lately. The incessant texts from me and all must be aggravating… I think the reason she is able to give me this kind of support is because she has bipolar and BDD herself so she gets what it’s like. Whereas, my husband is autistic and has expressed many times that he doesn’t understand what I’m going through. Perhaps that’s why I withdraw more from him than I do with my friend.

        I’m glad that you and E are able to do that now though. Whatever you need to get through this. S told me once that he will give me whatever I need – that if I need to come in and express my anger and yell at him for a little bit, I could do so. He also said that he is truly concerned and that it isn’t just a job for him. So in the same way, I think E is doing that for you. I’m happy for you that things turned around and that you can trust E again.

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  6. These exchanges are very sweet, and I am glad you have opened yourself to allowing E in a bit more. I remember not that long ago, you saying you didn’t think you could do this kind of relational work with her. And here you are…

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    • Ha, yes, but today I am envisioning myself arriving at therapy tomorrow, very adult, telling her I don’t want any more of that type of communication. Part of me is raging mad about a short text she sent yesterday. Too much emotional drama. Better, I think, to stay as grounded as possible in my present-day life.

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