We All Know How Successful Resolutions Can Be

On Saturday morning, I resolved not to reach out to E., my therapist. I don’t want to need her, I don’t want to wear out her patience, blah, blah, blah. But the yearning only grew–kind of like your yearning for that cupcake your colleague brought to work right after you told yourself you are taking a break from sugar. By mid-afternoon, my head was full of nothing but should I/should I not.

I thought, why should I let Anxiety or Self-Loathing or any of their friends arguing on the I-should-not side override the longing for connection that comes from the my very young wounded self? Why not give her the power for a change?

So I did.

Hi. I’m checking on you on behalf of the littlest girl, who stands at her bedroom door and asks about you.

Tell her hello from me and assure her I’m here. 

There is an artist named Pink. Look up the lyrics to her song, “Conversations with 13 Year Old Me.” You might enjoy it.

Okay, thanks, I will. It’s mostly a much younger part that I’m hyper aware of now. I need to attend to both her and the teen.

Makes sense. You might like “Diamond in the Rough” by Shawn Colvin.

I did look up those lyrics, but that wasn’t what I needed right then. The first line E. had texted, with its reassurance to the littlest girl, was enough. I know this whole crazy week started with a secret about the teen, but the door it really opened up was the painful vulnerability of a much younger girl who was afraid the one she loved and trusted wouldn’t love her anymore.

Two hours later, the little one was asking again.

You are there still.

Most certainly.

I didn’t follow up that time. Restraint, I told myself. And besides, E. had just given me the main thing the little one was asking for. Don’t mess it up. But a few hours later, she messaged me.

Still here. Going out for a walk. Hope you’re enjoying your Saturday night.

Hey, thanks. Your messages help.

Good to know. 

Ugh, yuck, that one message has made me crazy. So many good, reassuring messages all week long, and I became stuck on those three words “good to know.” They felt so casually dismissive, almost as though she had written “yeah, okay, whatever.” (25 Reasons Not to Trust Your Therapist, #16). It became another one of those times when I knew I was being irrational, but was completely aggravated anyway. I took up pages and pages in my journal with variations of “I’m so mad,” and “I feel really hurt,” and “she doesn’t get it at all.”

I knew this was teenage thinking. I knew she didn’t really mean it like that. But the brain and the heart don’t always connect so well for me. In fact, this week, my heart has been a bit of the fish out of water, flopping around randomly, desperately, gasping for breath. Even if I wanted to grab it and throw it back in the water, it’s slippery and slimy and escapes from my hands.

Indignation fueled my resolve, and on Sunday I didn’t reach out to her. I tried to focus on other things. I was surprised when E. texted me, late, after 11pm.

Hope you had a good day. Just wanted you to know I’m still here and still full of respect for you.

Fuck! Just like that, she threw the fish back in the river. Well, for now,at least.

14 thoughts on “We All Know How Successful Resolutions Can Be

  1. Hope that fish is breathing a little easier now. I also got a text response that hurt last night, and “she didn’t mean it like that” is kind of like a sprinkle of truth in an ocean full of pain – even when you KNOW it’s true it doesn’t change things. It’s good to hear that you respected your feelings and journaled some of it out.

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    • I’m wondering how wise it is to be using text as our form of communication. It’s so easy to misinterpret the brief words in a text. We can’t tell if they were written with warmth and caring or mild irritation. Maybe for such a tender need for reassurance, a three-minute phone call would be better. I don’t know for sure, but this week I have been wondering about that and thinking about trying it.

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      • My experience is that nothing works every time – I’ve had 4 minute calls that warmed every part needing connection and 10 minute calls that left me totally desolate. I think perhaps it’s a matter of asking the part needing reassurance what they need to be reassured about. Is it a need for a more visceral connection that reminds them of all the positive connections they’ve had with the therapist in the past (in which case hearing her voice might be the best option?). Is it a need to have proof that the therapist is still there, in which case getting a text they can read back over when they’re scared might be more comforting? If there’s something specific they need to say, can they say it out loud or is it safer to write it down? Brief phone calls can be really helpful and are definitely worth a try, but I think texting can also be a wise option if it’s used mindfully.

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          • I would have been so hurt if I’d got the “more later” text, so I completely get why you’d be wary of it right now. For me, one of the big reasons I like text over phone is because I can pick it up and put it down as I need it, as distinct from a phone call where there’s a clear start and a clear finish, so having that kind of boundary set would be really painful (even though there was no rejection or judgment or intentional dismissiveness involved).

            I think it’s a great idea to talk explicitly with E about it – then maybe you can clarify whether text is okay for back-and-forth conversations or just one-text reassurances and phone for anything else. Maybe there’s a way for you to indicate when you’re needing to be able to continue texting as needed throughout a day, so that if she can’t keep responding she can let you know and offer you a phone call instead. She seems really flexible and open to trying to meet your needs so I think you could work out a good system that mitigates those YOU JUST STABBED ME IN THE HEART text moments.

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  2. The title of your post makes me smile. I’m glad you gave the little one power over anxiety and self loathing. You both deserve a break for a minute. Thanks for being open and writing this out. I have lots of angry pages written in several notebooks. I think its a good way to get things out, even if (especially if) it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I can’t even read some of them because my handwritting gets even worse when I’m in that place! I am glad she is available to let you know she is still there.

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    • I’m glad too that she is willing to give me that reassurance. And in therapy sessions, she tells me again that it’s still okay to text. She’s not tired of it yet. Early this evening though, she responded to a really short text of mine with “Love that! More tomorrow.” That seems to mean she is busy tonight. At one level, fine. At another level, a petulant child self wanted to text back, “oh, so you are not there anymore?”

      A couple of days I have made myself not text at all because I don’t want to get overly used to it. It’s so great… but I keep thinking it’s about to go away, so it’s hard to just lean into it.

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  3. I’m so glad to hear that E is still resolutely there. It makes me wonder if I should reach out to S in an email and assuage my pained little girl too. Your posts give me courage, Q. I’m so so glad you write about them. It makes me think of my own situation. I’m so happy for you that E is there for you!

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    • I’m glad too. And yet anxious at the same time. As I said above to E.Nice, I hesitate to fully trust it because I think, “oh soon she’s going to say that’s enough.” Well, as you know, a mindset you’ve held for a long time doesn’t just change overnight.

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  4. It’s wonderful that E is making such an effort to stay connected to you and comfort you. I think that’s so beautiful. Feeling needy and vulnerable is so scary, and she is really trying to reassure you that having needs and reaching out is a good thing.

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