I Do, I Do Need To Quit Therapy

I had two therapy session this week because I was so distressed after the first one that I couldn’t imagine carrying that with me for a whole week. At the second one, on Wednesday, E and I explicitly talked about the need for my very young, babyish self to feel safe and cared for, to have the sense someone would care for her, wouldn’t let her fall. It seems like she gets how alone and abandoned I’ve felt.

Late Wednesday evening, I think about how shaky I feel about managing the strongest emotions on my own. I text her, hoping she will provide some caring words for that baby girl.

If you can offer some reassurance over the next couple of days, I think that would be very helpful, especially while I am working to build up my ability to reassure myself.

(Is that okay to ask??!?)  

Then I go to bed. And Thursday morning she responds

It is okay to ask. And okay to receive. I’m here, deeply invested in helping you experience a deep sense of belonging, care, and assurance that you matter. Have a lovely day.

Hm. That’s good, right? Except the “Have a lovely day,” which not only sounds like something someone might say to you at Starbucks, but also makes me feel feel like she hasn’t been paying attention to how I’ve been feeling.

She’s there, she says, deeply invested in my sense of belong, care and assurance that I matter. But then I don’t hear anything all that day. And that “lovely day” nags at me. At lunchtime on Friday, I text her again.

I don’t have lovely days (yet). I get through difficult days, trying to make changes that will lead to lovely days. I’m tired and overly sensitive and my back hurts and I can’t sleep well. I cam trying through the best I can, which isn’t always very well.

 I know, I’m being pathetic, but I am frustrated and feel crummy.

Ouch. Easy it isn’t, rewarding it may be, deserving of your efforts, absolutely. I’m sorry for your struggle (sorry as in compassion, not pity). I wish you several moments of awareness of lovely in the midst of your struggle.

I agree, she is right. I can be aware of the good moments in the middle of all the challenges. I tell her that. Then I add.

… when you think of it from time to time, please send reassurance. I hate asking but the youngest parts need it for sure.

Do you see that as a request? I mean it as a request. I meant the earlier one as a request too. But just but in case she didn’t get it the first time, I am trying to make it very clear. Do you think that’s not clear? And didn’t she tell me it was okay to ask?

I make my request at lunchtime Thursday. On Friday, I receive a text about how hot it is. On Saturday, nothing.

Maybe she’s sick. Maybe her husband is sick. Maybe there is a problem with her son. Do you think? No, me neither.

Okay fine, she doesn’t want to provide reassurance. But she used to. And she said she wanted to. So why no response now? What are the rules? Did they change?

I do not understand what is happening, not at all. But I can’t keep doing this. It is not helping me. It does not help me concentrate on my own life and my own healing. Instead I am checking my phone too often. I am obsessing our relationship, a relationship is not supporting me anymore. It  used to, but something changed. I don’t know what. I don’t know why. But it has changed.

The thing is, I want to get better, and all this feels like such a distraction. I do not want to keep begging for something that isn’t coming. I hate that. It is just a repeat of what I’ve done a thousand times with my mother, chasing after something that isn’t coming. I need this to stop.

walk away

24 thoughts on “I Do, I Do Need To Quit Therapy

  1. Yes!! It is repeating what your Mother did to you. What you are your therapist are doing is called a parallel process. She is re-enacting your Mother. Bring this to her attention and see what she thinks. It could be a really good breakthrough for both of you.

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  2. I’m so sorry that things feel so unsettled and different with E. I sometimes try to quit, and T says quitting would be a process. I wonder what quitting looks like to you and E. Would you gradually cut back on sessions or would you quit abruptly? Can you talk to E about quitting? I understand feeling obsessed with the relationship and that messaging brings up a lot of emotion. I’m sorry that you are going through this and I’m sending warm thoughts.

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    • Last night when I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning, I imagined myself saying to her, why are you doing this? Is this supposed to be therapeutic? Are you trying to teach me to mother myself? If so, just tell me that. Because this feels like shit, me thinking I can reach for you but then you aren’t there.
      But then this morning I feel like I’m being absurdly unrealistic in what I’m asking if her. She’s not my mother or friend or sister. She’s my therapist. I get to see her for 45 minutes or so per week, and she provides me some guidance as I fumble my way around towards a bit more stability in my life. End of story. It’s my own expectations and longing that are hurting me.

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      • Hey Sophia, that response was to Sirena’s comment above–although really, it’s all intertwined.
        What I meant to say was I don’t know what quitting would look like, probably graually cutting back. And in many ways, I don’t want to. But I don’t want the therapy relationship to be such a source of pain and frustration. I want it to be a place where I gain insight and comfort about the rest of my life.

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  3. Oh how much I feel your hurt, Q! And how much I feel your yearning for support, care, and love. I wish E could understand it the way you need her to understand. It seems like she’s missing the point. I do hope things get better and that you won’t have to quit therapy. It’s such an awfully frightening notion and you need all the support you can get! You are in my thoughts always!

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    • I think my mistake is to look to E for love, caring and support. That’s not her job. I get that from my husband, even though he doesn’t know how to help in the moment of internal emotional meltdown. I get a lot of caring and support from blog readers. I need to look for the appropriate things on the appropriate places… And not look for so much affection and emotion from my therapist.

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      • I know what you mean. I think I fall into the same trap too. I think our therapists give us support and care but not necessarily the kind of love we want or need. I think it’s great that you can see that and point it out because if I were in the same position, I don’t think I’d be able to distinguish it as well. Do you think you’ll bring this up with her and talk to her about it? That you’re looking for love, care, and support from her?

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  4. Ouch. It is so painful to finally express needs and then not have them met. I’ve definitely been there, not in this precise way, but in pain from electronic communication failures.

    That said, I have some comments. I’m not clear actually on what you’re asking you T to do for you. Do you want her to send you generic type comforting messages on her own steam, not replying to a message you sent? And she has done this in the past, but this time she is not doing this? I guess that’s what I’m getting from what you write.

    It is a bit unusual for a T to initiate contact with a client without a prompt. However, if she’s done this in the past, then I’d say OK, why can’t she do it this time?

    I think you have established that you are very attached to your T, and that she does have your best interests at heart, and is a caring person who cares about you. She is also willing to go the extra mile when called on, usually. So….that’s pretty great. That ‘have a lovely day’ is very bizarre, to me, I have to admit. My own T would never say such a thing. However – they all have their crazy spots, my T included. They’re not perfect in every way all of the time. Not at all. But, you have so much good happening with this T, maybe it’s worth it to let this play out for a few weeks. Something is happening, and you are definitely being triggered into past feelings of abandonment. This would be something to focus on in your session, rather than going deeper into your memories. Something important is playing out between the two of you, and you need courage and conviction to address it and keep addressing it. It might get messy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    Don’t quit now! Also, I am having the similar experience of wanting to quit a job and quit therapy both at the same time. A lot of running – it makes me a bit suspicious of what’s driving all this for me.

    Wishing you well Q.

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    • Thanks Ellen, I appreciate this perspective.
      E has sometimes sends me short messages (“thinking of you”) which mean a lot. And in fact she sent one today (Sunday).
      This is really about me being vulnerable and triggered. To the degree it’s about her at all, it’s only that I’m not sure she know how obsessed and distressed I am. Or maybe she does.
      I know, it would be a lot to quit therapy and my job at the same time. I just want some peace of mind.

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  5. My heart literally, physically hurts for you reading this – I experienced something similar with my ex-therapist, and it is so painful. I wish I could tell you that there was a good reason for the “have a lovely day,” but I can’t think of one. What I will say is that you ARE deserving of reassurance, and not having clear terms for that between you and your therapist is extremely difficult. Maybe this is something you could explicitly bring up with her, even if you do decide to move on?

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    • We should talk about it. It’s very hard though. I have thought of sending her copies of these several blogs… But I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Because really I feel connected to her. I care so much about our relationship, even as I’m raging inside.

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      • I understand where you’re coming from… for me personally, not telling my last therapist what was bothering me about our relationship only ended in, eventually, destroying the relationship. Which still eats me up every day. I mean, it was also a lot of other things, and I’m not saying that will happen to you, but I’ve been honest with my new therapist, hurt her feelings a few times (which I did feel terrible about) but found that now we can talk openly and it feels so much better (side note: still not perfect of course…). What do you think about having her read the posts in session with you there so you can clarify any misunderstandings? You’ve expressed your feelings beautifully here. I know that would be really difficult, but it might feel better than sending them to her via email and not knowing how she reacted? Of course, you don’t have to decide anything right away.
        Hugs to you xx

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  6. I really do understand the anguish and resentment you’re feeling regarding your T’s failure to “know’ what you want and need right now. I’ve often had the urge to just throw up my hands and quit, but what I’ve learned is that when I’m feeling like that, quitting isn’t really that helpful. What has worked for me is to “try out quitting” for a period of time. I’ve gone in and told my T that I need a therapy break. Initially, she wasn’t too keen on the idea, but she realized that I was struggling and she agreed to give it a try.

    Over time, I’ve taken as little as a few weeks to up to four months. The only stipulation or rule I made for myself is that I had to take that time without having any contact with my T. She insisted on putting in a clause that I could contact her at any point and tell her that I wanted to come back in. It was important for me to have the no contact rule because I really needed to test or measure my ability to make it on my own, to test how I did without her intervention or support. Why? Because I was usually feeling the urge to quit due to feeling that therapy wasn’t helpful and I really needed to test out that premise. If I didn’t think she was being helpful, than I needed to find out how I did without her. I’ve found that my resentment and anger at my T was usually about me not being able to control her or to get the response I expected or wanted. For me, I was frustrated that she couldn’t fix me and I felt that I was working so hard for so little progress (and I was working hard, but so was she). I took the time during my break to do other things–yoga, spin class, binge watching some show I’ve been missing, reading voraciously, going on a short road trip to visit friends, taking long walks with the dogs, taking a class on something I’m interested in (things that I can’t afford when I’m paying for weekly therapy) etc.

    Each break I took was difficult but enlightening. I learned that I could survive and grow without therapy. I was stronger than I thought. I learned that I missed my T and when I returned, I let her know. But most of all, I learned that we really are alone in this battle. People who love or care for us can be supportive and they can provide education, love and deep empathy, but at the end of the day, I’m the one who has to walk the walk and work at finding ways to comfort myself and appreciate my life. Ouch! That was a hard one to learn. I always thought there was someone out there who could reach down into the pit and pull me out. Instead, I had to climb out all by myself. But once I got out of the pit, all the people I allowed into my life were at the top to cheer me on and shout with joy when I climbed over the lip of that pit. I’m sorry the journey is so hard right now. Hang on and reach a little higher for the next rung out of that dang pit of despair! And really consider taking a break. It isn’t a bad thing. It can be a real learning experience.

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    • Hi Sue, thanks for sharing your experience. I might indeed take a break. Or I might wait a little bit to take it. I’m at a big crossroads in my life right now, about to give notice (next week) and leave the job I’ve had for going on 17 years. It’s a good job in some ways, and leaving upends my life and my sense of myself as a professional. After that, a drop in income and loss/change of insurance might push me to take a break anyway. It’s helpful to know that you found benefits and learned things from your breaks.

      I do know that I ultimately need to save myself. But I periodically slide back into denial and look for someone else to rescue me. It’s immature but then, some very young and immature parts of myself were traumatized, and when they are triggered, it can take me a while to stabilize and have the mature and wiser self take over again.

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  7. Hey Q, just want to say that this sucks. I am sorry. I don’t understand why she would change. Its okay to be hurt and sad and all that comes up for you. Can you ask your husband for some extra support while you are hurting? I wish I could help you, but know that I’m thinking of you and hoping for the best for you.

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    • I am embarrassed to tell him that I’m experiencing so much angst about E. Because at one level, I know I am making something huge out of nothing. But he is sweet to me, always, and I’m leaning on him a lot. I’m so lucky to have this loving man in my life.

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      • Embarrassment and shame kind of have free run of my “house.” They sure get noisy! I don’t know that lucky is the right word exactly, I think he is in your life because you are also sweet and loving, at least thats what I pick up from the way you are learning to treat the not so lovable parts of yourself. I think you and E will be able to work through this in time. Its okay for it to take as much time as it takes though. For all of you to calm down, to rebuild trust, to go as fast and as slow as needed.

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  8. Q, I don’t know what type of support would feel validating and nurturing to you right now. I relate so much to what you wrote, it is something I could have written myself easily, many times over. That pain, of feeling so not attended to, the fear that she is suddenly gone or different or really not capable of “getting it.” It is very scary to suddenly think of your stable person not being there. Hence the wanting to leave to protect.
    I don’t know that advice would be helpful, so I will just say I am so sorry you are hurting so much, and that you aren’t feeling the type of support from E you are needing. It is truly a crazy-making and heart-breaking place to be feeling into.

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  9. Ironically, E gave it to me this evening. She reached out to ask me how the residents of my emotional “house” were doing. I said mixed–that I’d set up a practice to accept all my different feelings and that felt good. But then I said I was also tied up in knots about my relationship with her. She was very sweet about that and said she really does want to be with me through everything. She asked if we could start by trusting that she does really want to help. I couldn’t really say yes to that. So she switched tones to ask me about the place I’m staying (I’m away from home, renting a cottage for a long weekend with my son), just simple things. And that calmed me down a lot.

    There are more lessons to learn from this, and I’m sure we will talk about it, but at the moment I am much too exhausted to figure out what they are.

    I re-read what I wrote and realized you are right: it does sound similar to some of the posts you have written before. I think in a way reading your blog may have helped my subconscious feel the permission to talk about both the attachment and the alienation and hurt that can been tied up in my relationship with E.

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