My Therapist Is Going On Vacation, And I Am Going To… Cope?

My therapy session with E. this week was almost all about her upcoming vacation. She’s going overseas, and I won’t see her for four weeks. (My stomach flips over when I write those words.)

I feel so close to her these days. Since February, we have texted, if not every day,at least every other day. Sometimes it’s just a sentence back and forth, and that’s it for the day. Other times, like this past Saturday, we were probably actively texting for nearly an hour. This regular connection has continued to deepen my trust in her as well as my confidence in myself. So how will I manage without her for a month?

What I’ll Be Doing

Shift the focus of my healing work. I recently started working with C. on mindfulness and incorporating body work and body awareness into my healing. I don’t have a long history with her (only two months). She doesn’t know any of the specifics of my history, except that I’ve harmed myself intentionally before. But even in our short time together, I can see that I’m learning so much; I feel she’s come into my life at just the right time, when I am ready to receive what she has to give. I can think of this next month as my time to shift my focus to this work. I have set up more frequent meetings with C. and when I long for E., I will use the opportunity to practice mindfulness and to be gentle with myself.

Pause and review. I have an enormous binder full of notes from therapy sessions with E. I have this blog. I have my journal. Altogether, I’m not lacking for sources of E’s warmth and wisdom. Perhaps it is a good time to turn back to all this material. I can use it to comfort myself. Maybe I’ll find insights I’d forgotten  or that I hadn’t fully understood at the time, concepts that can apply to where I am now.

Blog. I so value the asynchronous group therapy I participate in through this adhoc WordPress community. I am inspired by your examples. I am comforted by your comments. It’s made such a difference for me that E. told me she recently recommended to another client that she think about starting a blog and reading the blog of others. I know I’ll be turning to the collective wisdom and compassion of fellow bloggers while she’s gone.

Voice recording. I suggested this today, after thinking some more, and E. agreed right away. She called and left a long, reassuring and hopeful voicemail on my phone. I was going to wait until she left to listen to it, but then I decided to listen to it once to see if it touched on things that matter the most to me. I think it does.

Letters for later. I may write her letters that I can choose to share (or not) when she comes home.

And What I Won’t Be Doing

What we decided in session on Monday was that we would not try to set up contact while she’s gone. Earlier she had mentioned using What’sApp or maybe emailing. I was touched that she knew I’d want contact, but I also was worried about it. I told her, “I think about my own vacations. I don’t check my work email. I don’t promise people that I will review just one report or take just one conference call. If I’m working, I lose the vacation feeling for a while. If you are like that too, I don’t think we should email or be in touch. Of course I’ll miss you. I love that you are willing to text with me. But I don’t want our contact to be something that interferes with your vacation. It’s not just about being nice or taking care of you. It’s taking care of our relationship, which is really important to me.”

This seemed to resonate with her. “I value our contact now too. It’s unusual for me–I don’t do it with anyone else. But I enjoy it, and I feel like it provides something useful to you, my ability to respond in the moment. I think it’s good for your healing for you to reach out and be heard and responded to. But on vacation, it’s different. First of all, I don’t know when I’ll have internet access. Part of the time we’ll be visiting a Buddhist community [she’s going to Japan]. I don’t want to worry about whether or not I’m going to have access and be able to respond to you at a certain time. I don’t want to feel I’m leaving you hanging.”

“No, I don’t want that either,” I told her. “And I don’t want to be the burden that keeps you from feeling that refreshing feeling of letting go.”

And so we agreed, no email while she’s gone. I think she was relieved. I get it; I’m not even offended. She’s a human being who works a lot. Longer, international vacations are enormously restorative. She’ll be in a great emotional space to work with me when she comes back.

I won’t pretend I’m not sad or not frightened. I am both. I will try to meet that sadness and fear with gentleness.

In The Wisdom of No Escape Pema Chodron writes:

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable…

A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole things just is.

Maybe I should to the list of What I’ll Be Doing: reading and reflecting on the insights of Pema Chodron and others who know that running away from painful feelings doesn’t make us happy either.

Wish me luck.

therapist going on vacation #depression #therapy laquemada.org

 

 

22 thoughts on “My Therapist Is Going On Vacation, And I Am Going To… Cope?

  1. This is a great list. I know it is going to be hard with E gone, but I am glad you are able to realize you have other supports you can use. The voice recording will be helpful, I’m sure, and I’m glad you had the courage to ask her for that. I think having extra sessions with C while E is gone is a really good idea. Perhaps this will even allow you to find more trust in C, in a way you wouldn’t if E were here. I believe you are going to cope. It’s really amazing to me how much you have coped with lately— and coped well! You can do this. Xx

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    • It’s the best list I can come up with at the moment. But I feel like something is missing. Or more accurately–my very young self is feeling frightened that this won’t be sufficient. Today I am trying to think about how to reassure her…

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  2. I remember when Raymond went away, how hard it was. I felt he was the only human being I had a close connection to at the time, and he was. To have him gone left me bereft. But I managed, much better than I thought I would.
    The voice mail idea is brilliant. When Raymond left permanently to move to Arkansas, I listened to the relaxation tape he made for me every day for months, maybe even years afterwards. It was a visualization/relaxation tape we did one day in his office and taped; his soft voice leading me down a forest path to waterfalls etc. It helped greatly with my high anxiety and was about a half-hour long.

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    • This is a great idea. I don’t do meditation or visualization work with E., but I have with C. (the mind/body therapist I recently started working with). Maybe I could do something like this with her…

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    • Actually this made me remember that I DO have one other recording from E., from about a year and a half ago. It was from a part of a session in which we talked about a very tender topic: whether I could believe the girl. I just played it again. Or rather, I played half of it and then had to stop. Such a hard topic! I don’t think I’ll use that a source of comfort. But at the same time, I won’t erase it.

      What power our therapists’ voices have to connect straight to our vulnerable hearts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is amazing, Q! What’s amazing is not only the maturity you demonstrate but also the strength and resilience that you have. You’ve proving that you’re stronger than you think and that you can get through this. You also show that you’re a great pre-planner, always making sure you get things squared away before it happens – evidence of that being your pre-planning before the surgery and now with this. I think that you will do well, especially if you still have access to care through C. This is also a great list and something I can also use when S leaves for vacation as well (I have a feeling that might be coming up soon as well). I think it’s interesting that you thinking the blogging community as a group therapy of sorts. I’ve never thought about it that way myself. That’s cool!! Anyway, you’re always in my thoughts and you have my email so anytime you feel like you need a void to scream into or a person just to hear you out, I’m here.

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    • I am a planner, that’s for sure! It helps me regain a sense of control (even if it’s an illusion, really). I agree that having C. there will make this a lot easier. I might be drowning in abandonment anxiety otherwise.

      Thanks for the offer of email support. I may take you up on that. 🙂

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      • I’m glad that at least something helps. Even if it is an illusion, I think just having some form of control helps. And of course, I’m always here to talk and ready to help. If nothing else, I can lend an ear!

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  4. You’re approaching this in a great way. Recognising that you’re going to have feelings about it, and letting those feelings be okay. Being curious about your emotions, and so making this break part of the work instead of a cessation of it. And thinking about ways to manage them in a validating way to help prevent them becoming overwhelming. All awesome.

    For my part, the thing I have enjoyed most about my unexpected therapy break is being more aware of the world. Therapy feels so overwhelming and all consuming and just BIG that there’s less room for anything else. And it is nice to sit on the floor with my kitten and just watch her explore, or sit in the park and feel the grass and listen to the trees and people passing by, without my brain being so focused on this one thing. I don’t know what your benefit from a therapy break will be, but I believe there will be one.

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    • Now that you mention it, I realize that “letting those feelings be okay” is a recent change for me. I used to try to beat back the feelings I thought I shouldn’t have, because they hurt or because they seemed childish and embarrassing. But if I can just let myself have them and not try to escape, that will be an accomplishment.

      And perhaps you are right. Perhaps less focus on therapy will wake me up to other parts of my life. I’m glad it’s been that way for you.

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  5. Yes, I think you will cope – brilliantly, too. I agree with all above comments – this is so well-thought out, really smart coping ahead strategy. I like the exchange you and E had, in coming to the decision not to talk while she is away. That seems really wise for the situation, just grounded and being present with what is. And, any feelings you might have about that, about the lack of contact, are so understandable. That even if the adult part of you (and I am projecting here) “gets it,” the younger parts might feel abandoned or rejected or not understand why they can’t talk to her. And that is normal and okay – okay to feel okay with it and not okay with it. That makes sense to me! Well done Q. I am also glad you’ll have C to lean into, and foster connection with in E’s absence.

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    • You aren’t projecting. The littlest one already feels unattended to–everything for the past month has been about my surgery and recovery. Even if there is a good reason for that, she feels abandoned. Layer on top of that E’s upcoming absence, and the little one is certainly upset. I’m trying to attend to that some today. After all, I still have hours to go in my recliner… might as well reassure the little one.

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  6. You are remarkably organised and it sounds like you have strategic coping mechanisms to help get you through E’s vacation. It was brave to talk it all out with her. Others have said this above, but it is so understandable to feel sad and frightened, and it’s impressive that you can meet those feelings with gentleness and compassion. I’m thinking about you and hoping that you are okay. You have said this to me, so perhaps it’s quite unnecessary to say, but please do reach out here and keep us posted about how you are doing and feeling.

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    • Organization is my “shield” against the storm of unpredictable events and dramatic emotions. And this blog is my warm and comfortable cushion to lean on. So yes, thank you, I will reach out here, I am sure. Thanks for your support. I hope you are well and continuing to enjoy Nepal.

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  7. Good luck, though I am sure you are taking the right approach: that quote you shared was a glorious piece of wisdom. If I think of depression and anxiety as prices paid for not living an anodyne life, suddenly things make a lot more sense and seem more worthwhile (not that I have not often been tempted to just numb it all, insofar as one can).

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    • Who hasn’t been tempted to numb it all? I bet even the wise Pema Chodron herself (probably not anymore, but maybe when she was young?). It’s so human. But if we are able to stop numbing for even a while, even in a few parts of our life, I think we stand to learn so much.

      Or so I tell myself. Today. This morning. It’s all a bit fragile and tentative still.

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  8. Probably they are both true: Yes, wow! (wow, oh shit, I wish she wasn’t going away). And yes, I will cope.

    I love the idea that C. came into my life at this time for a reason. And given what I’m learning for her and what a nice fit and supplement it is to my work with E., it’s probably for multiple reasons. xo.

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  9. good luck you can get through this and she will be back, but I know and realise how hard it is when our therapists go on vacation mine will be on vacation in a week and I am dreading it! it sounds like you have a good plan in place though. XX

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