Can I say I hate this month? I hate everything about it. I feel exhausted and wound up and alone and hopeless and angry and stupid. I hate myself more completely and overwhelmingly than I have in a long time. I can’t think of anything in my life that is going well right now. I am losing my job in 3 months (I have expected this for almost 2 years) because of a lack of funding. I’ve been worried about my eldest daughter and I’ve written about some of the things that have happened over the last few months. I haven’t written about the extreme anxiety my youngest, a boy, has started to experience. He is almost 10 and is having extreme reactions to his fears that start small and end up with him so worked up that he is completely irrational. Eventually he calms down usually with me or my husband holding him but sometimes it takes a long time for that to help. I’m starting to worry he is having problems outside of the range of typical 9-10 year boy ones and am thinking of having him assessed professionally.

I am being triggered and having problems with my relationship with my parents and FOO. Some relate to my daughter and her reaction to them. Last weekend I went on a weekend trip to Las Vegas with my 2 sisters and 6 of my first cousins, all women between 42-56 and related through my mother. The weekend was in parts amazing, fun, wild, and interesting. It was also triggering as we relayed stories of our mothers/father as parents and their shared dysfunction. It was remarkable to see how we reacted and adapted differently to the same events but for the most part none of these people have spent much time reflecting on their childhood, how it shaped them, and how they’ve defended themselves emotionally as a result. Everyone is clear that our parents were abusive in many ways but most people think that how they are dealing with it is the right way to deal with it so everyone else is wrong. This creates a lot of conflict considering some people think avoiding and denial of how they feel is the best solution while secretly hoping their parent dies soon and others want to talk about it with therapists, friends, relatives, and their children. The talkers believe that keeping secrets is what is damaging to us and the avoiders think that what is damaging is acknowledging or recognizing things. It culminated in a screaming and yelling match between five of us (me, my two sisters, and two cousins from the same family who grew up closest to us geographically). The most frustrating part is that I don’t think the fight helped resolve anything. I think everyone finished just as sure they were right about things as before and the other people are wrong. I know that is true for my 2 sisters because they both told me so. I learned some things from how my cousin has been working through her own sexual abuse and talking to her own children about it. But I’m tired.

Then I came back prepared to meet with M and having no shortage of topics to discuss. After a few minutes discussing the trip I told M I wanted to return to what we were discussing before the trip regarding therapy and caring/comforting, how therapy can work better between us, etc. He said okay what do you want to discuss and I couldn’t speak. At first I was trying to put my feelings/ideas into words and they didn’t sound right at all. They were all things I’ve said before and haven’t helped or they didn’t describe exactly what I wanted to say. Then the silence grew longer and M asked if I thought we were interacting during this silence. I said no the silence felt like waiting. He agreed and said that he was waiting for what I told him I wanted to say and he felt like if he said anything he would be interrupting me. I said I understood but still said nothing. As the silence extended I realized that I didn’t feel like I usually do when I can’t speak. I wasn’t upset at M leaving me alone, I wasn’t feeling misunderstood, instead there was an element of “f*** you” to my silence, like I have all this to talk about and I’m not sharing anything with you.

Eventually I told M that I felt like there was no point in discussing my family or my triggers or my children if we didn’t discuss how therapy could work moving forward. I also said that I was keeping quiet because I think the only outcome to discussing how therapy can work will be quitting therapy and so the silence is almost like a holding space cause I’m not sure I’m ready to quit. M said that he didn’t think that quitting was the only outcome of a conversation about how therapy works but he understood I felt that way. He suggested to me in that therapist way, that I was avoiding the end of therapy because I was afraid of it but as a defense I was disconnecting from the process of therapy. I admitted that was true but maybe it was for the best because I’m not sure about quitting and maybe I need to realize that therapy isn’t working and how awful it is before I can quit. He suggested that it wasn’t fair to evaluate if therapy could work by refusing to connect. He said it was a false proof because the conclusion was I couldn’t talk to M and the proof was I was refusing to talk to him. I said maybe I can’t talk to you because I’ve tried and failed so often I’m afraid of the feeling of hopelessness that accompanies those failures. He asked me if I thought the feeling of hopelessness I had during this session was any better.

Mercifully the session finished.

I left knowing that I’m so angry at him but I know my anger is completely irrational and unreasonable and that I can’t be angry at him in person. The only people I can be angry with in person are my husband and kids. Any other confrontation I have is over the phone much like sending M and angry email or leaving him an angry message. Over the last five years I’ve moved from never confronting my parents or siblings about things because I only felt really angry when I wasn’t with them to calling them on the phone to express my anger or disappointment about how they have treated me.

I hate feeling like I have no control over myself. I thought I’d spend the session talking to M about my trip and discussing therapy. I had no idea I would walk into session and just be silent while I had a million thoughts cross my mind and the slightest hints that I felt something other than extremely sad and hopeless. I am supposed to have a session with M tomorrow and I am sick to my stomach at the thought.

Despair and hopelessness

i hate how I feel right now. There is nothing wrong but there is also nothing that feels okay. I went into my session with M today and thought about the last few days and didn’t want to tell M any of it.  I didn’t want to talk about my birthday and how I felt bad all day. I didn’t want to tell him about the huge fight with my eldest daughter where I completely lost my shit and swore at her.  I apologized but I don’t think it matters. I’ve already damaged my children in ways I can’t repair.

M asked me how I was feeling about therapy and I told him I hadn’t been thinking about it. He wondered if I still felt it was hopeless. I said sure but if I don’t think about it then I am not upset.  He asked if I wanted to talk about how to end therapy and I didn’t. I’ve lost any feeling about wanting to end in a good way or looking for a new T to try working with in a different way. I don’t think things can change. I don’t know when I’m going to quit therapy. It still feels terrible to stop seeing M but it also feels pretty bad to see him and actively not want to talk to him anymore. I keep hoping it will become clear to me it is time to quit but so far it just continues to be excruciating and hopeless.

M talked about how I felt he didn’t care because he didn’t act in a way that I expected him to when I was in pain. I said I realized that he cared and that is why I had made the distinction between caring and comforting.   He said we should talk about what I wish he would do to comfort and what he felt able to do. I think we already have talked about it. He said it would be difficult to recognize what else could be comforting if I was only thinking about what I thought would be comforting and couldn’t get. I agreed with him. I don’t know how he thinks I can change and be more open to being comforted in different ways.  I don’t like feeling hopeless. I am not choosing feeling like there is no to talking about anything. I wish I felt like talking to him even if I just wanted to tell him how hurt I am by him constantly suggesting that I’m refusing him comforting me like I’m doing it on purpose.

At the end of the session I was talking about feeling like therapy couldn’t change. M asked me if there wasn’t a part of me that felt like it was possible for things to change. He is always trying to help me see that I have conflicting feelings about things and that my feelings aren’t all or nothing like they feel to me. Usually he just tells me that in a statement like “part of you feels like therapy can’t change and another part of you does think change is possible.”  Today he asked me and I sat for a bit trying to listen to myself and then I told him I didn’t know but it felt like there was no part of me that thought things could change. If that part exists it is hiding pretty deep right now.

April is the cruelest month

I am a voracious reader of  prose but rarely read poetry.  I have never forgotten the opening line of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” even though it has been years since I studied it at school. It speaks to the painfulness of growth as well as the despair of struggling to survive with the full awareness that life is a continuing cycle of growth followed by setbacks and hibernation.  It seems much more meaningful than the mundane “april showers bring may flowers” that is hear several to dozens of times where I live.

I was born in April and will be celebrating, marking, observing my mid-40s birthday in a few days.   Birthdays have always been  a struggle for but not because I didn’t like getting older.  I agonized over the celebration of it all.  As a child, my mother had birthday parties that fit her image of a happy, loving family although she could be quite different when no one was watching.  So I agonized over which school friends to invite to a party which might appear fun on the surface but could turn ugly at any moment and which ones my mother would have the least to criticize about after they left.  Inevitably by the end of the day I would be branded an ungrateful child.  In my 20’s, my birthday always seemed to be accompanied by a bout of angst that left me feeling like a failure because of how little I had accomplished  and my depression seemed the deepest through the spring.  Only after I had my own children did my birthday become easier.

I was married at the end of April nineteen years ago.  That is an anniversary I can celebrate wholeheartedly now.  Over the last five years my relationship with my husband has become a source of strength and comfort for me in a way that was completely unimaginable before that.  I can talk to my husband about any and everything and be confident he is on my side and willing to listen to me and continue to love me.  It is an incredible gift for someone who thought she was completely unlovable.

Somewhere in the middle of those anniversaries is a more recent one.  It is seven years ago that I started therapy with M.  I have definitely struggled with therapy and my relationship with M but it has transformed my life and my relationships for the better.  I spent my session last night in tears of hopelessness and despair, afraid that there is no way to change the way therapy unfolds for me.  That I will not be able to alter the feeling that M doesn’t care and that is because I don’t deserve his care no matter how long I spend talking to him and no matter what he says or does.  At the end of the session, M gave me a  card wishing me a happy birthday and saying among other things that he wanted to tell me in a non-ambiguous way that he cares about my well-being.

Care vs. comfort: How did I miss this difference for so long?

Things are a lot calmer for me internally since I wrote my last post. Reading people’s comments to my last couple of posts helped. Also I had a long conversation with my husband in which he asked me if I really believed that M would consciously lie to me (no) or if M was actually unaware of his feelings about and around me (maybe). It seemed a lot more possible to me after this week when M told me that he realized that he wasn’t actually open to using touch in our sessions even though he had been telling me he was. My husband reminded me that I have had an ongoing fear of M waking up and realizing he didn’t want to work with me or he thought I was hopeless or fundamentally broken.

Also on Thursday I asked M to call me if he had the time. I knew he wasn’t likely to find the time in the afternoon on the day before the long weekend. I was right and he didn’t call me before the end of the day. I was disappointed and tried to remind myself that him not calling didn’t mean anything about his feelings about me or his willingness to continue to work with me but it was a struggle. Later that evening M emailed to to let me know he hadn’t had time to call and respond to what I said on my email. It is clear to me that M cares and is trying to help me. Even though I can read how upset I was when I wrote my post or hear myself in my session (because I record sessions with M’s permission) I feel like I am quite separate from that extreme emotion. I find it disturbing to feel so completely different in the space of a few hours.

Listening to the session when I was calmer allowed me to hear what M said differently. He said that he was willing to sit beside me if I wanted to show his something (like he has done with photos) but not to give me physical comfort and he sounded like there there was something wrong with that comfort. I am continually angry at his silence and reserve when I am talking about painful things. We’ve had endless conversations about why he doesn’t say things like “I wish I could make this easier” or “I’m sorry that this is so painful/difficult” or to notice when I feel hopeless and tell me that he isn’t leaving or we can continue to work through this. I’ve called it looking for reassurance about his feelings about me which he has said is a necessary part of therapy. I think he doesn’t care because he doesn’t respond like that even though we’ve discussed it at length. I can’t believe I’ve spent almost 7 years with M and never asked him if he thinks it is part of good therapy to provide comfort for me. I kept calling what I wanted care but I think I want comfort.

So care vs. comfort. Is it possible to get both in therapy? Is there any place for for comfort in therapy? If not, what can I expect?

That hurts

I went into my session last night ready to explain to M why him finally telling me that he wasn’t willing to touch me was so upsetting. It wasn’t the lack of touch because I understand that was about his feelings and boundaries and truthfully a part of me was relieved. The bigger problem is that we discussed it several times and I told him that his actions showed he wasn’t comfortable with it. He kept telling me how I felt wasn’t true and he was open to it. He apologized and agreed he handled it poorly. He said that wanted to keep it open as a possibility because he wanted to help but he realized during his consultation that he shouldn’t be ignoring his own feelings. I get that. 

I told him the larger problem was that he had the same kind of avoidant, confusing language around the issue of whether he cared about me. I said I was afraid he was going to realize he didn’t care about me. I don’t remember him responding to that. Instead he kept talking about his realization about touch and his own feelings. Then he said that he would shake my hand at the beginning and end of a session but there would be no other touch or sitting closer to each other and I burst into tears. I didn’t realize that wasn’t okay either. I didn’t ask if that meant no more sitting on the floor which we’ve done before easily. He tried to move to my feeling that he is only okay with the rational “adult” me who can speak about things easily and the emotional shut down silent “child” part of me he just tries to ignore and wait until she leaves. I finally told him to stop talking because I wasn’t listening and I was still back at the you won’t sit closer to me thing. 

He asked me if that felt like rejection and I said yes. I just told I was afraid you were going to realize you did not care about and that seems to confirm it. He said he didn’t mean it as rejection. I tried to talk about the fact that I only feel like cares when he responds to my emails or speaks to me on the phone and I didn’t feel it in person and I thought maybe I just wanted to believe he cared because I needed too much. He said something like as if I could only care when you were physically distant from my office and I yelled back maybe it is easier to pretend from a distance which is something he also didn’t respond to initially. Eventually when I pushed him to respond to it after we had run over by 12 minutes he said he didn’t respond because he thought it was fucking absurd and it boggled his mind I could think that. I said at least fucking absurd is a response and left

Now I’m drained and I feel like he tore out my heart, stomped on it and then told me to remember sometimes he didn’t hurt me.