Time To Break Up?

 

Mondays I have had my weekly therapy sessions with E. This week, I am determined to go into it and be honest and talk not only about my 14-year-old self’s struggle to admit the degree to which she felt abandoned and betrayed by her mom, but also about my adult self’s inability to fully get over the rupture E and I experienced in July this year.

The session is nothing dramatic. E doesn’t do anything wrong; she is fine. But I don’t leave with the sense of deep emotional security that I’m wishing to get back. Monday night and during Tuesday, I find myself worrying about the relationship again. I am not in desperate, urgent pain the way I was maybe six weeks ago. But there is a voice in me saying that I’m done. I’m done receiving therapy from E, after many years of working together. Just like I am done with my job that worked for me for a long time, I am finished with the therapist who helped me through some extremely painful days.

Is this just my discouragement about how hard it is to trust her all the way? I’m tired, and I don’t want to keep working so hard on something that is supposed to be a support for me? Or maybe the distrust is because I have genuinely recognized that we’ve gone as far as we can go. As far as I can go.

Sometimes E asks me, what do I need in order to feel better, to be able to settle into trust again? I’ve said, I don’t know. I have felt there is something wrong with me, that I can’t do it. I am embarrassed because I am being unfair and unreasonable. She has been patient. What’s wrong with me?

There’s a younger side speaking up tonight, a teenage part of myself. She tells me, “No matter what E says about everything being fine in the relationship, it isn’t true. She is not as warm to you as she used to be. She is trying to be patient, but she is getting exasperated. Yes, in early August she sent me very tender texts and a caring card that we loved. But after that, did you see how much she backed off? She is much more distant now. She doesn’t really care.”

“There is something different about her now. Be honest. You know you feel the absence of her usual warmth. You know you do, and it frightens you. It frightens me, anyway. You know we lost her when we showed her the insecurity and anger that was stirred up when she wanted to reschedule a session. We know it was silly to protest. But we did it anyway, showing her the vulnerability we really felt. This was a mistake.”

I know that the teen is looking for the most negative possible interpretation of everything. I know that she felt her mom abandoned her at a time when she needed a lot of support, and that colors her vision. But maybe she’s not all paranoia and resentment; maybe she’s partly right. And maybe the Self-Loathing was so busy in August because she’s mad we have damaged a relationship that meant so much to us.

“It’s all ruined now,” the teen says, in typical hyperbolic fashion.

E doesn’t think it’s ruined, I tell her.

“Sure, from her side it’s not ruined. If she feels more distant from us, that doesn’t mean it’s ruined for her; that is just her working with a little more distance. She does that with a lot of people anyway, depending on who they are and what they are working on right then. Nothing feels ruined to her because, after all, she doesn’t need anything from you. She has plenty of other clients (many of them are making progress, unlike us, and they are probably not nearly as aggravating). But from our side, it is ruined. I am not talking to her about stuff if I don’t feel attached to her.”

What would make the teen feel attached again? She doesn’t even want to say, but I suspect she wants warm attention and care and comfort, all at a level that E can’t really provide. And because she’s suspicious, it has to last over time. She wants to hear from E that she’s had some terrible experiences but she’s still very lovable and worthwhile. But she doesn’t believe that E thinks she is lovable. I can tell her she’s lovable and valuable myself–but I don’t think the teen is impressed by my opinion.

“Seriously, we should stop going to therapy,” the teen says to me again. “She can’t give us what we need. She can’t or she won’t, whatever. So what is the point? Going to therapy is just painful and humiliating. It doesn’t help anymore. Sometimes we just have to let go. Didn’t you say that yourself?”

(Written Tuesday, 9/13)

16 thoughts on “Time To Break Up?

  1. I’m so sorry. This sounds so hard. I wonder if the thoughts of being done with E that are bubbling up are there because the Wise Woman knows something. I’m only putting that out there because I think that one therapust can only guide me so far on my journey and then it might be time for another guide. I hope MT is my last ever therapist, but I know that could change. I’m sending you hugs.

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  2. There’s something inherently wrong in knowing that you’re paying someone to listen to you. That always comes up for me; the knowledge that the person is there because they’re getting paid in one fashion or another. Points to the basic problem: they don’t care. Maybe professionally, I’ll give them that. But that kind of care can be very cold. I’ve heard many scientists that perform experiments on rats go on about how much they care about the rats. Then they hook them up and see what hurts. Sounds a lot like the kind of ‘love’ my family gave to me: in the end, empty.

    I’m completely ignorant about the therapy route. But Q, if you don’t have that trust, that connection, you can’t force it. I know that much. You’ll end up frustrating yourself even more.

    Take your time. Talk to the different parts of yourself. There’s no rush on leaving this relationship, no reason to make snap decisions. You know what’s best for you. ❤

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    • Thanks, especially for the reminder that I don’t need to solve this right away. If at the moment I don’t know what to do, that’s okay, right? I just live with the not knowing. And at some point, I will know.

      I don’t feel that therapists experiment on us like scientists with rats. But there is something very complicated about an intimate relationship that only goes one way.

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  3. Oh Q. This sounds really hard for all the parts of you. I really feel for teen Q. It hurts so much to feel someone you counted on back off and not have that warmth towards you that they once had. I don’t have any wise words, but take your time with this. Breathe. Maybe take a break for a week or two, see how that feels. Talk to E. Tell her how the teen feels.

    You will know what to do to care for yourself. I believe that. Sending hugs to the teen if she wants them (and maybe some cool nail polish and a fun journal with one of those awesome gel pens with colored ink……) 💟xx

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    • It’s funny. I read your suggestion of a break for a week or two and think, “oh no, I can’t go that long.” Then I have to laugh at myself. I’m going to quit therapy, but I can’t stand the idea of missing therapy for a couple of weeks?!? Obviously I don’t know what I really want (or different parts want different things).

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  4. This post makes me sad. Possibly it’s a combination of your needs not being met, feeling frustrated, wanting things to be better, for E to care more and do more, realizing that you do much of the work all by yourself. Possibly you are avoiding the hard stuff but not every session will be great. I had a lousy session this week and did absolutely nothing and felt disconnected or whatever. But last week was really cathartic, so I don’t know. You have been through so much this year. Lots and lots of changes. I was thinking that I’ve moved into a different place of present day issues vs my childhood trauma. I still want to visit it in therapy but for now I just need a safe place to breathe. I believe we will know when we are ready to terminate. I broke up with my T last year around this time and tried at least 2 or 3 other T’s. I’m so glad I did because at first they seemed great. I thought I’d get so much more from them but they turned out to be terrible. I’m still glad I tried bc now I know I’m not missing anything and I’m pretty certain my T actually cares. She may not always know how to be be most helpful but I’m getting better at telling her what is and what isn’t.

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    • Thanks AG. You wrote “I’m getting better at telling her what is and what isn’t” helpful. And I realize I am, too. It’s not easy, and it sometimes takes me weeks to know what is helpful, but I do sometimes figure it out, at least in part. And I have told her, more clearly some times than others, and not always successfully. But I’m inching in that direction, which much be progress, right?

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  5. Q, I have seen you grow so much, in your capacity to feel and see your needs, particularly emotional needs (all your work with communicating with your husband). So it makes total sense to me, that this long-standing relationship with E, is also starting to feel like it needs adjustment. You need something different than you’ve been getting. Whether or not E can provide that, based on her capacities, is to be determined (I think). Your needs are valid, and you aren’t wrong, and aren’t too much, and what you need is real and deserves to be met. And maybe she has the ability, and maybe she doesn’t. I think you will know, or maybe you already do. And your knowing about this will solidify as you continue to express to her what you need and aren’t getting – and what a powerful process that will be for you. To speak up and validate the Teen. I’m getting rambly here, but I think my take-home is that I hear a lot of clarity, I don’t just hear a bratty teenager, and expressing your needs will serve you regardless of who your therapist is.

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    • I really appreciate this response and like the idea that I know, or will know, what I need and whether I can get it from E. It makes me feel less hopeless. In time, I will be able to use the sum of my experience with E and my intuition of what I need now, and I will figure it out. The important thing will be to honor the needs of the teen, not try to repress them because I am embarrassed that they are not “mature.” Thank you, Rachel.

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      • You are welcome – the needs are definitely valid and I get not feeling “mature” (I am often embarrassed when I get angry at my therapist for things like her phone not working or her not being available 24/7 to me), but there is something so important underneath. So important. xx

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  6. It’s so hard to have had that tenderness and then feel we’ve lost it. Of course we feel like it’s our fault, that we screwed up or we’re too needy or she doesn’t care that much about us because we’re not worth it, we’re too bad. I hate this disconnection from E, and I wish you had that safe secure space and bond that you need right now.

    I think my question to myself if I was deciding whether to stay with a particular therapist would be, what am I wanting to do in therapy? Process trauma? Practice new ways of relating to myself? Learn distress tolerance skills? Have a sympathetic ear to air my thoughts to? And is this the right person to do that with? I know that is simplistic, and a lot of what we can do in therapy is dependent on the relational stuff, but it helps me to take a step back and think about what I am trying to achieve through the relationship, rather than zeroing in just on whether the relationship is working well, if that makes any sense.

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