Oh, I Am Truly An Idiot

Today’s story is about thoughtlessness, uncertainty, fear, responsibility, and why I probably shouldn’t text with my therapist, even though I would hate to give it up.

Quick backstory, for anyone who has missed it: In the past month or so, I’ve started feeling quite a bit better after a long and painful depression (and not my first). Reducing the chemical toxicity of my brain, long-term therapy, meditation, and body work all came together to give me some relief.

I went away for a long weekend with women in my family and enjoyed it more than I’d expected. I came home feeling good, really good, for the first time in, hm, years I guess. I had some energy! Then I walked straight into a therapy session in which I ended up feeling hurt because my therapist forgot about my abuse as an eight- or nine-year-old, while also becoming triggered when trying to remind her what it was.

For the next few days, I was a little upset but mostly numb. Then as time passed, my sense of hurt that E could forget what my father did to me grew. How could she forget? What I tell her is not important. I am not important. I don’t matter. You know, the usual spiral. I recognize it as untrue but find it hard to stop. I reach out for reassurance from E, but her words, meant so kindly, just become more ammunition to fuel the fire I use (metaphorically) to burn myself.

At the same time, the impact of the trigger also grows, or my awareness of it does. On Saturday, my old “I am bad” thoughts return. I am bad. I am dirty. Slut. Pig. Disgusting. I see they are terrible thoughts and not true, but that doesn’t stop them. (Note: noticing negative thinking patterns and letting them go does work for some things, but it seems like once I’m triggered, I’m beyond being able to observe and release thoughts.)

In therapy yesterday, I try to explain this to E. I manage, awkwardly, to tell her that I am hurt she didn’t remember. She responds with warmth and no defensiveness (okay, maybe the tiniest bit, or that might be me looking nervously to see if I can find any evidence that I’ve done wrong and accused her unjustly). She assures me that she cares for me and at the same time that I have the right to feel hurt. That helps some. The bruise is less tender.

We talk about being triggered. We discuss all the skills I’ve developed and how hard I work to care for my triggered self. Just in the past few days, I can list things I’ve tried: I look for guided meditations to help me accept what is, to reduce my resistance. I use yoga postures to relax into greater openness. I read. I blog, I talk kindly to myself. I allow myself to ask E for reassurance. Just this wider range of coping strategies says I’ve made progress.

But I’m not settled when I leave the session. In the evening, my bodily sense of having been triggered grows. By morning, it’s exploded into overwhelm. I can’t concentrate. Bit by bit, the self-soothing tools slip away. I feel pressure in my vagina and a constriction in my throat. My pelvis is tight. I think about how I am supposed to allow these feelings. Always allow, over and over. But it feels miserable! How many times do I have to allow? Isn’t that enough by now? I don’t want these feelings anymore! I want my good feelings to come back. I want my energy. Do I only get those five days of feeling healthy? It’s not fair!

I want to rip this fucking skin off my body. Can I please have a different one that doesn’t carry all these memories on it?

This is the way I am feeling, lying in bed with no energy to get up, when I text E:

I am so MAD! I feel like shit, skin crawling, pressure in my throat, pressure in my vagina, heavy weight on my heart, brain stuck so it’s hard to concentrate. And I am supposed to allow this, and allow this again and allow this again. Allow it to take up hours, days, weeks, months, even years of my life. Fuck that! I never “allowed” these men to touch me in the first place. They had no right and yet they did whatever, satisfied their lust or their curiosity and moved on. But it’s like I have to keep fucking allowing the impact of this thing I never allowed in the first place. I am sick of allowing it. I can’t tolerate it. It’s simply intolerable.

I stay in bed a few moments longer. Then I think, Ugh, I can’t just be a lump in bed all day long. I get up, throw on some clothes. I put my phone back on the charger and tell myself, Stop obsessing. Stop obsessing for at least a little while. Besides, I hate to hold the phone and wait impatiently for E to respond. She might be busy with something else.

I go into the kitchen, eat my cottage cheese with flaxseed and raspberries. I skim the news and read a few blogs. I try to allow things other than old body memories to occupy my consciousness. Nearly an hour later, I walk back into the bedroom and pick up my phone. In the back of my magical-thinking mind, I am wishing that E will have thought up a brand-new coping strategy that we have never thought of before, one that will haul away all this garbage from my body and my mind. That’s it, the Garbage Collector Solution.

Oh shit. 

There are nine messages from E. The first several offer empathy and acknowledge how unfair it is. The next one is encouragement to stay in dialogue with the pain. To let myself be angry, as long as I don’t direct the anger at the girl.

A few moments later (as she probably wondered why I didn’t answer), she continued:

Are you in danger of hurting yourself?

And then:

Would you like to talk by phone?

Then she left me a phone message, saying she was concerned. Would I please call her back or text her to say I’m okay? But of course I had silenced my phone. I do that most of the time actually, because I hate being available unless I’ve chosen to be.

A bit later, she texts again:

Please respond to my call. I’m worried for you.

And then:

I need you to call me. My next move is to call the authorities to come check up on you. You have me really worried.

Then another phone message (which I didn’t listen to until quite a bit later), saying she was in her car, driving to the office to get my address to call the police. If I don’t want her to call the police, I should call or text her right away.

Then the last text:

I just called 911. Someone should be there soon. I care that you make it through all this.

It must have been just moments afterward that I walked back in my bedroom and picked up my phone. I read the texts and my jaw dropped. Oh no.

No, no, don’t call 911. I’m not in danger.

I’m sorry. I didn’t have my phone w me.

Ugh.

Sorry I already did. I was VERY worried. Now I’m feeling a bit better except you’ll be pissed I called.

Oh no, I’m an idiot on top of everything.

Not my experience of you.

I want you to be safe.

What do I tell them when they come. Fuck

I’m sorry I worried you. I feel horrible but I’m not in danger, just overwhelmed.

The truth will be fine. Let them know I overreacted based on our texts and your lack of response. 

And then, of course, the knock on the door. I open the front door to a young policewoman, and behind her, a tall, older policeman. My dogs push past me to greet the guests.

“Wait, come back guys!” I say, as the dogs run out, but the policeman laughs and says he loves dogs. He greets them back with the same enthusiasm they display toward him.

“Are you Q?” the policewoman asks.

Yes, that’s me, the mental case, I think. But I say only “yes.”

She looks at me expectantly, without speaking.

I start blathering, “Uh, I just found out my therapist called you. But I’m fine, I’m fine. It was a misunderstanding. I didn’t have my phone with me, and she rushed to conclusions–“

My heart beats fast, and I’m sure I’m blushing. Then my husband, who has zero idea of anything that’s been happening, walks in to the living room, curious.

Meanwhile, my pitbull and the policeman are falling in love with each other on the porch steps, while my rottie-lab mix is cavorting joyfully on the front lawn. We never let them loose in the front yard.

I’m worrying the dogs will run into the street, and my husband will come up and say, “What’s going on?” and the policewoman will say, “Sir, why the hell don’t you know you have a lunatic wife here? And why aren’t you taking care of her before she kills herself?” I’m aware that I haven’t brushed my hair or washed my face. I’m in dirty yoga pants and suppose I look the part of the woman about to be sent to the psych hospital, whatever stereotype that draws on. It’s all quite overwhelming and seems to be happening at accelerated speed.

But it’s okay. I apologize to the policewoman for the bother. She smiles and reassures me that a large part of their job just involves driving around and making sure people are okay. The policeman bids both dogs a reluctant farewell. They both wish me well and take off.

I rush to explain to my husband, the only one not worked up about the situation. He gives me a hug and then leaves to do the grocery shopping, as planned (calm? or oblivious? I’m not sure.)

I text E that they have come by and just left. Then we talk on the phone. I explain how I’d tried to put the phone aside and move into my day. I am sorry I frightened her, I say. She says she is relieved I am okay. She was so worried, she tells me; she got this story going, and once it was off and playing out in her head, she says, she had no choice but to call the police. And then she cries.

Don’t let me ever say she doesn’t care, that I’m a cog in her therapy business wheel. It isn’t true.

We talk a little about times she’d thought her son might be kidnapped when he was playing in the neighbor’s basement or I thought my son might have died in a car accident when in high school he didn’t come home at all one night. How frightened we get, and how, when we see they are safe, there is such a rush of intense and conflicting emotion. She says we can process it more tomorrow afternoon. And we can talk about how to help that girl who is so triggered. Clearly that girl needs something more than what we’ve been doing so far.

I give her my home phone number as a backup, in case, heaven forbid, we ever cross wires like that again. If she had called our home phone, I would have heard the phone ring and would have answered. We say goodbye and hang up.

How did this happen? I re-read my original text to her. It didn’t threaten suicide, but I did say it’s “intolerable.” What does that mean to her? Of course she wonders. And then I don’t respond. And she feels a professional responsibility as well as, I know, a personal concern. I feel I haven’t properly apologized for what I put her through, so I send one more text.

It was thoughtless of me to send that text and then leave it. I’d be distressed to get a text like that too. You’re so good to me, and though I didn’t set out to freak you out, I did end up doing that. Thank you for caring. I love you and am terribly sorry to cause you that kind of worry.

And now I’ll stop texting, and I’ll be fine, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks for your kind words. I care deeply for you.

And there we are. I don’t mind that I said I love her and she said she “cares deeply.” Maybe that’s the same thing, and maybe it isn’t. Therapy is a weirdly unbalanced relationship, so it probably isn’t the same. But it’s true that I love her.

And it’s true that I caused her a lot of pain this morning. At first that feels so bad, especially on top of being triggered and the shock of the police visit (pleasant though they were), that I think I can’t cope, and I burn my arm for the first time in a couple of months. It’s part punishment and part a way to collect the emotional fragments of myself that feel scattered all over the place. It’s not a good thing to do to myself, but I control it, and it’s not a serious burn.

This makes me think that maybe it’s not good for us to text. So much room for misunderstanding. First I experience unintended hurt, and then she experiences unnecessary fear. And we both suffer needlessly. But at the same time, I’d be so sad to give up a support like that. Maybe we need to make some rules about texting, some real rules, like if I text about feeling overwhelmed, I have to say if there is any danger. I don’t know. I’m nervous now about tomorrow’s session. I’m confused by all this drama. I’m remorseful. I’m fine. I’m an idiot. It’s one in the afternoon, and I’m going to bed.

35 thoughts on “Oh, I Am Truly An Idiot

  1. Misunderstandings happen so very easily over text. We can’t gauge the intent, tone and sometimes even the meaning behind the words written. It’s hard enough in person! Glad in your situation it all resolved itself ok. Take care. x

    Like

    • I know, we’ve had misunderstandings over text before. Up til now, I’ve always felt that the value of access and support outweigh the confusion of tone and meaning, but after today, I don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that escalated quickly. I never read any danger from your text at all. But she did and that’s the important thing so some rules might be good. She obviously does care very much for you and that’s lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, did she overreact? It’s so weird, because I *have* felt suicidal other times and felt she didn’t fully realize it. What made her get so nervous about this text? But I guess we’ll talk about that tomorrow. I’m confused, but I do see that she cares.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No I don’t think she over reacted given what she took from your text, it’s just a communication mix up. No one’s wrong. 😊

        Like

      • I think that it was your not responding to her. I think it’s awesome that you tried to put away waiting for her reply, and your feelings, and tried to immerse yourself in present day life. I sm almost laughing, thinking of her desparate the way i get desparate waiting for a reply from my therapist. I start thinking, oh, what if she’s dead? What if she’s run Away ? What if she’s sick of me? What of she never answers? What if she really does not exist? I know it’s not really funny, but the thought of a therapist feeling some of that..well…maybe I’m just mean. Yoyr therapist cares about you so much. You are so lucky, Q, to have found her. I’m glad it all got resolved quickly.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I never thought of this until you pointed it out, Patty. But it is funny (in a sad, sort of unfunny way, if that makes any sense) that I was trying to not hang on my phone and obsessively wait for a response, and that left her hanging on her phone, obsessively waiting for a response and then worrying. I feel so guilty. Though I had no manipulative intentions, somehow if feels like I did something wrong.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. 1) you are not an idiot (I thought about commenting that after reading the title before reading the post, actually)
    2) I wouldn’t have interpreted the text the way E did, although now I can see why she did.
    3) these misunderstandings make me think that there do need to be some rules – not that you have to stop texting, but for example, I’m not allowed to reach out to T if I’m truly going to kill myself; I have to go straight to the authorities / hospital in case she were to not be available. With this agreement in place she knows that when I contact her I am not about to die. So it takes that pressure off.
    4) I want a garbage collector solution!! It makes me think, you know those tests that are for what job best fits you? I’d get garbage collector because I’m already so good at just picking up others’ garbage and stowing it away internally. Ugh.
    5) that’s so intense. I’m glad you got her text before the police showed up! And I’m glad they were friendly.
    6) I understand why you burned. This is all so overwhelming. Please don’t judge yourself, just continue to take care of yourself.
    7) E loves you, Q!!! ❤️ and so do I. That’s what i thought as I read this post. I hope that’s not weird.
    Sending hugs 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1) I felt like an idiot right after this all took place. Now I feel sad and thoughtless.
      2) It probably wasn’t so much the initial text as my failure to respond to her, I think now, but I will check tomorrow on her perspective and what got that story going in her head.
      3) I think that’s a smart rule. It does mean she is not responsible for “rescuing” you from a suicide attempt. I will suggest something like that. I am afraid to bring up rules because I’m worried she’ll want a rule like “no more texting ever” or “only text on Thursday afternoons between 4 and 4:30.” But I think it will be more fair to her.
      4) I want a Garbage Collector Solution too! I think I might write about that more one day.
      5) I’m glad I had the 2-3 minute notice before the police showed up too. I’m also grateful they were low-key and friendly. (And I’m thinking: I’m white and middle-class and not psychotic; would this have felt the same to everyone? I want to think it would. I know police in our city have had a lot of training to handle mental health emergencies, but how does that play out across race and social class differences? I was thinking about that this afternoon.)
      6) I don’t think I’ll do it again regularly. I think it was a fluke, a moment of overwhelm.
      7) I love you, too, Lily. I don’t know if it’s weird or not, but I think the attachments we make through our blogs (you and I and the others who show up and share and comment and commiserate), these are real connections, and they mean something. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. WOW, Q! I spent this afternoon with my 5 year old granddaughter (let’s call her A), and WOW, I just wanna pick you up and hold you and snuggle, the way I would with A . And then make your favorite food – hers are my pancakes! Here goes!! TS

    Liked by 1 person

    • You say such beautiful things, TS, and so on-target. I finally got my shower around 6:30 this evening and stood in the shower, hot water pounding on me, rocking myself, wanting to be held and rocked and soothed. I’m with your granddaughter–pancakes sound like an excellent choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Q, miscommunication does not make you an idiot. It does not. Here is what I know.

    1. You are not an idiot
    2. This was exceptionally stressful and of course it was upsetting
    3. I think you are smart to consider rules around texting and I’m confident you and E will find what works for you
    4. You are truly loved and cared for by E, and that is wonderful and this will not change that love or care
    5. I love you and that will never change (although I love you even more so now that I know you’re a pitbull momma like me. Cypress says hello ❤️)

    Like

    • 1) I messed up. That doesn’t mean I am an idiot. That’s part of what we learn in therapy, right? We do something ill-advised, but we are not useless, worthless losers because of that.
      2) Thank you. It was stressful. I still wonder why it seemed to my husband to be like the mailman showing up with the daily mail. I will need to ask him about this.
      3) Sigh. Yes, I think we need rules. She’s been so patient and generous with me. I can’t do that to her again.
      4) I mostly think we will be fine. We will be fine. I think. I hope. I trust her. It will be okay. Probably.
      5) I love you back, PD, seriously. And you have a pitbull too! Hi Cypress! Is your favorite game tug-of-war? Do you chew through multiple rawhides each day? Do you have adorable round eyes that make everyone think you are the cutest thing ever? Do you love swimming? Are you a big lapdog who gives sloppy wet kisses? Do you howl along to Morning Edition theme music? That’s what our Daisy does, and we love her madly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1) I’m not even sure you really messed up, but I know it feels like it. To me, it sounds like a series of misinterpretations because sometimes text isn’t the most reliable. But you are definitely not useless or worthless

        2) Of course I was. And yes, I can see the confusion with your husband’s reaction. I would ask him too.

        3) I hate A’s boundaries, with a vengeance. But also love them, because it leaves literally no room for any sort of musunderstanding.

        4) I am confident you will be fine. But I understand the nagging doubts.

        5) Ditto on the seriously. Yes, Cypress is a giant suck. He loves to whap his tail against the wall when I come home, or enter a room, or move around at all, he is so happy to see me. And he is basically a giant lapdog, who loves swimming, and puddles, and rain, and he does have these gorgeous eyes that just suck you in. He says hi to Daisy and thanks you for being a good pitbull Mom to her. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Q, I should not laugh at this but I did, several times. At first I read the entry thinking I could have written every word about spiraling into negative self talk…. then how things snowballed is hilarious.

    You know what? I know how you feel about not wanting to be available all the time. I turn my phone off too but since I have chronic health issues I have doctors calling and what not. I have to be available for them. What I ended up doing was going in my phone and creating a list of people who can still get through, even when the phone is on do not disturb. My therapist is on that list…just sayin’ lol. They can text or call so that I can be contacted. However, I don’t have my phone next to me at all times. Some people won’t leave the room without their phone. I’m not glued to my phone and I don’t like to text much.

    Your therapist is hilarious. I love the show of her humanity here, that she’s the panic type. That’s so awesome to know. I guess because it validates her as a person, as a human being, not just a professional dealing with stuff. There is a real live, quarky person sitting in the other chair. It’s nice when they remind us of that.

    I’m so happy my therapist remarried. That man worried me to death. He’s the type that without a woman he will put anything on, leave his hair jacked up and wear socks with holes in them. Girl, that man is so sad when it comes to personal appearance without strict guidance. Some of the stuff he pulled with his ‘wardrobe’ was addressed by me in therapy because he needed help. Don’t do the comb over was carefully worded. I couldn’t sit by and let it happen though.

    Oh to be human and humble.

    Faith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Faith, I love this response because you reminded me to see the humor in it all. I had overlooked that because of my fear she’ll be mad or whatever. But it is sort of a comedy of errors, though poor E, I don’t think it felt funny to her at all.

      It is truly hilarious though to imagine you gently telling your therapist that his comb-over was not becoming.

      I’m so happy you leave me comments on my blog, because you’ve disabled comments on yours (totally reasonable; I’m not protesting). I just often want to tell you something, and I can’t there. But here I can say how much I enjoy you, how much it pains me when you are suffering, and how astonishing it is to watch you turn your suffering into those glorious, explosive, colorful paintings. I hadn’t realized before your recent post that they were watercolors. I had assumed they were acrylics because the colors are deep and vibrant, and oftentimes watercolors are lighter (though not always, I know). I love watercolors, and I love painting, but my outcomes are not worth saving. I think if I tried to fill the canvas the way you do, I would have a muddy mess.

      Okay, end of birdwalk. What I really need to say is: thank you for your warmth, your humor, your brilliant creativity and the way you still love life in spite of everything.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have comments off on some of the entries because it’s best I not get feedback from people cause people can be really cruel and I can be overly sensitive. Some of the entries do have comments disabled but for the most part people should be able to leave a comment on my blog. I heard there was a problem with leaving comments when using the WP phone app. I’m not sure why or how to fix that.

        Anyway, I do some work in watercolor but for the most part I do acrylic and I do it for the reason you pointed out, vibrancy. Watercolor is beautiful but it doesn’t speak the way I want it to. The 15 x 22 painting you’re talking about is in acrylics, most of my work is. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

        Faith

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my gosh lol that escalated! I wouldn’t have panicked from your initial text but I can see how your lack of response then worried her. It is very reassuring to know someone loves you so much that they will panic like that about you!

    I’m glad the police were supportive. With regards to texting rules, we have a rule that if I am suicidal I will spell it out really clearly and then WAIT for a response before I do anything. This stops her worrying about me if I’m vague in texts and is an extra safety barrier for me. X

    Like

  8. I think love and care deeply are the same in this context. Love is such a complicated word and particularly after all the confusion (no ones fault, just a thing that happened as a result of two people doing what they needed to do in the moment) I suspect she wanted to avoid all possibility of her words being her stuff and not yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe–you could be right. Certainly I agree that love is a complicated word laden with all kinds of ideas about the nature of the relationship. Add to that the complexity of a long-term therapeutic relationship and the intensity of yesterday’s experience for both of us… phew! Perhaps better not to try to put any words on it at all.

      Like

  9. It’s probably too long since you posted for me to say anything timely and constructive before you actually have your next session. But you’re not an idiot, these things happen. OK, maybe they don’t happen in the lives of all those imaginary “perfect’ people out there that you’re possibly comparing yourself to, but they sure do happen with the people you’re talking to here. And it’s our therapists’ job to help us out of those awkward holes we’ve just dug ourselves into.

    Like

  10. I just wanna give you big massive hugs. Your not an idiot. But isn’t it wonderful that E cares for you so deeply that she would panic and call the police to make sure your ok? She’s a treasure. And so are you! 🙂 xxx

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s