Wednesday I have a terrible morning, full of suicidal ideas. I know I don’t want to die, but the ideas seem to have a life of their own. My brain is foggy, and I’m very tired. No surprise, I guess, as Tabitha and I have just tweaked my meds and supplements again in the hope of allowing me to sleep at night.
Suddenly, around 11:00 in the morning, the fog lifts. It’s as if a breeze blows through my head and carries away the clouds. I get up, shower, make food for myself and work in my garden. I feel focused and more like myself. By the time I head for therapy around 2:00, I feel ready to be honest and brave. I take my most recent blog post with me, in which I describe my need for comfort and soothing, and my fantasy that E will provide this for me.
In the session, we sit on the floor and take out the markers and mandalas we like to color. We chat a little about this and that, until E asks me, “What is it you want us to address today?”
I’m quiet for a minute. Then I say, “I’m working up to it.”
“Okay,” she says, patiently.
I color for a little longer, but the truth is I don’t like the colors I’m using for this mandala, and the markers are too big for the tiny spaces. I put it down. “I brought my most recent blog post to talk about.”
I know E likes to see my posts. She says they help her see a therapy session from my point of view instead of from hers. I don’t share them with her regularly, but only when it feels easier than directly opening up a conversation. And we’ve agreed that she doesn’t read them online, but instead only reads the posts that I have turned into pdf documents and given to her directly.
“What’s this one about?” she asks. She is looking at her own mandala, which has just the right combination of colors and is coming together beautifully.
“Oh,” I say, casually, “you know, just what I’ve been feeling in therapy. And some transference shit.” I look down at my mandala intently, as if there is anything there to see. I’m nervous to look at her, so I just peek a little sideways.
E looks at me, maybe a little surprised, I don’t know. But kindly, of course. She acknowledges that “transference shit” is hard to talk about, not just for clients but also for therapists. It’s okay, though. She reassures me that we have a long-standing, deep relationship, and we can talk through whatever we need to.
I get up from the floor and move to her couch, putting a few more feet between me and her. I grab a pillow and hold it close to me. I take a breath, and then I read portions of the post to her, including the part about how I’d love to rest my head in her lap and have her stroke my hair. I can’t believe I am saying this to her. I might as well take off all my clothes and stand there, naked, in front of her.
She’s kind, of course, though I think a bit disconcerted. She talks a little too much and wanders around, saying we all crave comforting touch, puppies and their mama dog, Harlow’s experiment with wire monkey mothers, a women’s party she was going to, what a sweet image that was, how good she was at boundaries and that would keep me safe. Honestly, I can’t put it all together–I am too busy feeling exposed and knowing no one will ever go back and comfort my little girl self.
Oddly, I don’t feel like grieving. I feel resigned. E is grappling with how we could find some way to address that need, and I don’t quite see where she is going (I think I will need to ask her to talk me through her thinking again next week). I find myself reassuring her, “That’s just the way it is. You know, we all get a life, with some good things and hard things. If I just pay attention to the present moment, I am fine. I am safe, I am cared for, I am lucky to have a husband who is crazy about me. I can use mindfulness to orient me to the many good things in my life. And when I’m triggered or suffering, I can use mindfulness there, too. Pema Chödrön says when we encounter painful emotions, we need to greet them; we need to say, ‘include, include, include.’ Include the pain too. It is all part of being human. This stone in my heart is part of being human.”
I don’t know why I am saying this. Perhaps I feel it’s true. Perhaps I am trying to relieve E of any pressure she feels from my wish for something she won’t give me. But at least I don’t take it back. I don’t deny the longing, and somehow I feel proud of that.
When I leave, we say good-bye at the door of her office. Sometimes after an intense session, she offers a hug, or I ask for one. Today we don’t touch at all. Instead, I head home, where I crawl into my bed and rock myself. How strange it is to come face-to-face with my own naked spirit and its neediness.
And on the topic of standing around naked…