So much anger directed at me

M cancelled my session today because of bad weather. I suspected he would but I was still upset when I got his email. I wanted to talk to him about wanting him to respond to something I say and then when he doesn’t respond feeling like I have to stop talking about it. What I didn’t want to talk about was my conversations with my eldest daughter over the last couple of days but we had another painful one tonight.

Four days ago my 16-year-old told me she wanted to talk to me about something. She started by telling me she wasn’t going to university after high school (she just finished a week of exams) and I wasn’t thrilled to hear that especially since she doesn’t seem to have any plan at all. I thought that was what she wanted to discuss but actually that was just her warm up topic.

She tried to stay calm but eventually yelling at me that she was so angry at me that I was overweight and unhealthy (I am morbidly obese and have some physical limitations because of it.) She told me she is afraid I’m going to die young and that isn’t fair to her and it makes her so angry that I won’t even try to lose weight (and I feel like I try to fail at losing weight everyday.) It was painful having her attack me at my weakest point and I struggled to accept her feelings. I told her I knew she loved me and that I accepted and understood that she was angry at me. Then she got more upset because the fact that I accepted her anger made it even worse because I clearly wasn’t going to change how I ate. I told her that It was a complex issue that wasn’t going to be amenable to an easy fix. She says she knew that but she was still angry that I didn’t care about her feelings enough to change. It was a difficult conversation but I thought we weathered it together.

The next night we started discussing my eating and exercise habits and how they developed in my childhood. I hoped sharing with her some of my difficulties would help her understand me and hopefully defuse some of her anger. I talked about my parents incredibly critical attitude where they had me convinced I was fat in the second grade. I stopped taking or eating lunch at school in grade 4 and they didn’t notice. We talked about how my parents but their sons in all kinds of sports but not their daughters. These things weren’t new to her (she has had her own experiences with my parents judgement) but I was trying to describe how events in my life have impacted my view of myself and my eating habits. I was struggling because my daughter knows that my parents were neglectful in many ways but not about any overt abuse.

While I considered what or how much I could say, my daughter surprised me by asking me outright if I had been molested as a child. I didn’t consider lying and just said yes. She was surprised even though she had asked the question. I told her I wouldn’t tell her any details but that the perpetrator was someone who was part of my large family and that I saw throughout my life. I also told her that I had told my parents when I was 14 and they had never mentioned it again and we all continued on like I had never said anything. I don’t think my abuser knows I told my parents and they certainly continued treating him and me the same. I managed not to cry and the conversation moved on to other things that happened in my childhood and early adulthood. After I worried that I might have made a mistake telling my daughter.

Tonight my daughter asked me if she could ask me more questions about the abuse although she knew I might not be willing to answer them. I agreed. She started by asking me if anyone else in my family was molested and I told her I wasn’t comfortable telling her other people’s stories but I told her I thought I was the only person who had been abused that way for years. Then she told me that she didn’t understand why I still talked to my parents. She got really angry asking why I didn’t cut them off when I was an adult, how I could keep seeing them, that what they did (ignoring what I told them) was so wrong she didn’t think there is any grey area. They aren’t good people and why in the world would I continue a relationship with them. I know she was angry at them on my behalf but fairly quickly she also got angry at me for not cutting them off. I tried to explain my attempts to maintain a relationship with all the members of my family but she couldn’t understand. She kept asking me if I knew it was wrong and that came close to asking me what was wrong with me that I could keep seeing them. It was so hard because while I do know my parents were not good parents, I am still not comfortable with so much anger expressed towards them. I feel like no matter what happens my daughter is angry at me. Eventually I told her I was sorry I told her and that made her furious and she called me a bitch because she was glad she knew and it explained so much of her life but she just needed to understand why I didn’t cut them off. Eventually I had to tell her I didn’t have an explanation that would satisfy her because it was such a black and white thing for her that she couldn’t imagine my position.

I’m afraid that I’ve hurt my daughter more than enlightened her and I don’t know what more I can say.

Why doesn’t therapy help when things get difficult?

Why does therapy suck worse the harder my life is going. My session tonight was terrible. I spent almost all of it hiding under a blanket. I was crying so much I was so ugly I pulled the blanket up to cover my face while I dried my eyes and blew my nose. Right away I felt better. I hate M watching me while I cry. So I kept the blanket up. After a few minutes M asked me if I knew why I felt like hiding. I just cry behind the blanket. He asked me if I felt like a did something wrong? I cry behind the blanket. He asked if my daughter thought I did something wrong? I cry behind the blanket (I think I will shorten that to Icbb). He asked me if I was ashamed. Icbb. Time passes. somewhere in the middle of the session M tells me he would like it if I would rejoin him. I realize I can’t. It feels like if I drop the blanket it will prove how stupid I was to hide behind it in the first place. He will see me and be disgusted. So I’m stuck. At first being behind the blanket was a relief. I felt like I could blow my nose and look ugly and cry and he couldn’t see. Now being behind the blanket feels like I’m in jail. I can’t go backwards. I hid and now I can’t stop hiding without M seeing how stupid and childish I am and me seeing him seeing me and being disgusted. Icbb.

After a while I check the clock behind me and realize there is still 15 minutes left in the session. Why do sessions go so slowly when they are agonizing? Icbb. M sighs a lot, pours tea, shifts in his seat (I can tell because I can hear his chair move). Icbb. It is getting ridiculous because I don’t know how I’m going to leave his office with a blanket over my head. I tell him I want to go home. M can’t hear me and asks me to repeat myself. Icbb. Eventually I say it again. He says if you feel like you need to leave then you can. Icbb. I can’t leave without moving the blanket and there is no way I’m coming out from behind the blanket. M tells me he is sorry I’m in so much pain. I say “I need you not to look at me”. He says okay I won’t look. I can’t be sure if he is looking or not without moving the blanket and I can’t risk that so I fumble around with my hands looking for my purse and recorder and can’t find them. M sees this and says I’ll go over to my desk. I should be relieved but I just feel left alone and now I don’t want to leave. I tell him I’m sorry and I don’t know why I do this. I tell him I can’t come back from this and he doesn’t understand. I say I can’t take off the blanket now that I’m hiding behind it. M says I think you can come back from this. I say no. He says maybe you can write down some of what is going on for you tonight (I think he means email it to him but I’m not sure). Then M says we can talk about it on Monday which means time is up. I say “no I can’t come back from this so I can’t come back”. He says there is nothing here we can’t come back from but he’s wrong. I’m trapped behind this blanket and it is suffocating me. I get up and say “no we can’t come back from this. I hide because I am so ashamed and I hate myself and it is okay with you” He says “it isn’t okay with me, I wish you weren’t in so much pain”. I try to explain he left me behind the blanket for most of the session but he doesn’t understand that it proves he hates me or can’t help me or something. I am so sad.

So that is how terrible my session was tonight. What was so difficult in my life before the session and why did I hope the session would help me? I wrote this post about my daughter telling me one of her friends was being molested. My daughter tried to convince her friend that she should tell a teacher about the abuse and offered to go with her. When that didn’t work she told her friend that she had told me and I said we had to report it. I met with the friend last friday night and talked to her about why I couldn’t keep it a secret. I told her it wasn’t her fault and she deserved to feel safe in her home. I told her she didn’t have to protect her parents. I told her I would help her report it or I would report it and later that night I did. The authorities interviewed the girl and contacted her mother. Then they called me and asked to interview my daughter. I agreed as long as I was present. We are going for the interview tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile my daughter’s friend is angry that my daughter “opened her big mouth”. Her mother doesn’t believe her and thinks she is causing trouble. My heart is breaking for the girl and my daughter. My daughter did the right thing but is getting a lot of grief about it by the girl and the one or two other people who know about the situation. Tomorrow my daughter has to have an official interview with the authorities because she is trying to help her friend and she knows it may not matter if the girl is not willing to tell them what she told us. I feel overwhelmed and then I go to my session and I just feel worse.

Therapy review

I find it interesting that in my previous post I said that I had a dream about having sex with M but I didn’t describe the problem in my dream. We tried to have sex and M couldn’t (in that way men can’t have sex). I tried a few different things but they didn’t work. When I had the dream I was upset because I thought it was wrong to dream about having sex with M and it pointed to some desire I wasn’t acknowledging. Now I wonder if the dream isn’t really pointing out the way M and I can’t connect in therapy. Maybe it is just about my feelings that therapy isn’t working anymore. Of course I have that interpretation after my session today which went terribly.

First the computer in his office was making frequent but random beeps and chirps throughout the session. The things I put in brackets are things I thought but didn’t say to M. We started with some brief chit-chat about his vacation and my week. Then he asked me how it was not having any sessions last week and I said it was okay. I felt pretty good (which made me wonder why I am going to therapy anyway if I am pretty good without it). He asked if I thought of things I wanted to talk to him about or if I had just avoided thinking about him and therapy. I said “no I thought of telling you lots of things just like always… I just didn’t have any sessions where I failed at telling you things” He finished the sentence with me and chuckled and I started crying. He asked me why I was crying and I said because it isn’t funny to me that I imagine telling you things and then I come in here a fail over and over at actually telling you things. It is painful to me. (I wonder if I only trust the M in my head because I can tell him anything but when I am with real life M I feel stuck and scared and judged and alone. We’ve also talked in the past about how I can imagine telling him lots of things but I can’t imagine him responding to me so the communication is one way). After a few moments he said he understood that it was painful for me and he hoped I realized he wasn’t making fun of me or laughing at me for my feelings.

Then he asked me questions related to the update email I sent him this morning. He brought up my work because I told him it was going well. Then he asked about my conversation with my eldest daughter about sex and relationships and I said it went pretty well. He asked me how often my husband and I were seeing the marriage therapist. He didn’t mention the dream. In my email I just said I had an upsetting dream about him but I didn’t tell him what it was about. Then I started crying uncontrollably. I buried my face in Kleenex and sobs shook my body. He was quiet for a long time, 5 or 6 minutes, and I wondered why he wasn’t saying anything because usually he doesn’t leave me alone for so long. After I calmed down I looked at him and he was looking at me with interest, kind of how I think a collector looks at a butterfly in a jar. So I started crying again. When I am not looking at him I wonder if he is counting the minutes to the end of the session, frustrated or bored either way I feel terrible. After several more minutes of hiding my face he asked me if I could tell him anything about my internal dialogue. I didn’t because all I was thinking was “leave, just leave, you don’t have to stay until the end of the session” and “therapy is over, you have nothing to say or more accurately nothing that you can trust him enough to talk about anymore”. I did more crying.

Then M asked when I had the nightmare about him. I said Thursday morning but it wasn’t a nightmare just a dream that upset me because usually my dreams are so easy to interpret I joke that my subconscious should try to be less obvious. He asked if the dream was upsetting because I couldn’t interpret it. I said I didn’t like the obvious interpretation and so I wasn’t sure what it meant. He said can you tell me about it. I asked him if he thought people just dreamt random stuff that wasn’t very interpretable or meaningful. He said yes he thought some dreams were just random images or associations but that didn’t mean my dream was random. I started crying and hiding again. After several more minutes he asked me what I was most afraid of besides time passing. So I looked at the clock and realized that I started crying hard about 20 minutes into the session and it was now quarter to the hour so I had spent 25 minutes in a session with neither of us saying anything much.

I said I didn’t know what I was afraid of it just felt like there was nothing to talk about. He looked irritated by that and said “nothing to talk about even though we have started so many conversations lately”. I said it felt like it was impossible for us to talk about things. Then M said that I have so many different ways to make it difficult for me to talk: am I talking about the right things; is what I am saying okay to him or me; I’ve already said something so what more is there to say about it; or what good is it going to do to talk about something because I don’t see how it will help (in all fairness these are all things I have said to explain why I am not talking about something in the past). M said that sometimes I have to give myself permission to talk even though it will unleash all these difficult feelings. So we sat until I finally said “so I just have to talk, ignore how I am feeling and force myself to talk” (while I thought it is my fault again, I’m failing at therapy, why wait 50 minutes to tell me I just have to talk even thought I have lots of stupid reasons to doubt it helping, why not tell me at the beginning of the session, is it more fun this way?). M said I wish it was so simple. Sometimes you have to talk about whatever part of the doubt is the loudest, sometimes you have to talk about what is keeping you from talking, what got in the way, was it a feeling or a reaction to something that I said.

Finally I just said I don’t want to keep failing at talking. It depresses me and I feel more depressed about therapy than about the rest of my life. Of course the session was over so there wasn’t time to discuss it. M said he would think about that for a bit and it would be depressing to feel like you didn’t have permission to discuss what you are feeling or dealing with or have experienced. I said I think it is telling me that it is time to quit therapy as I stood up. M said that he didn’t have quite the same view but he heard how I felt. I left without giving him his stuffed animal back and when I sat in my car I realized I kept it because I thought it would make me go to my session on Wednesday. So after ten minutes I went back and left he stuffed animal in his waiting room. I don’t know if I think it is a good idea to go back. I know I am not done with therapy because everything in my life is better. I am still struggling with a lot of things but some things are better.

For a couple of weeks before M went on his vacation I had two types of therapy sessions. Sessions like today’s where I felt like I couldn’t talk to M about anything that really mattered to me and I felt like he didn’t want to hear it or he was frustrated or angry with my silence and crying and whining. Sessions where we talked about my children were relatively easy with little crying and no silences. Things with my children can be difficult and triggering but I am having more success telling M about them and in talking with my children. For example my eldest daughter recently told me she is dating a girl which was a surprise to me. My daughter and I have talked about her relationship and her sexuality in general. My daughter is amazingly honest and forthright in describing her feelings and talking about sex including asking me questions. These conversations aren’t easy for me and they often illustrate how very different my teenage years were from my daughter’s and how very confused about sex and love I was then and still am. I am still talking to her and I can talk to M about the conversations I have with her.

What I can’t do is talk to M about how I feel about sex and how confused I am about it. I also can’t talk to M about how much I hate how I look or how I can’t control my eating or at least I can’t talk about it anymore than I already have. There are so many things I want to say, so many stories I want to tell. I imagine the conversations but when I sit down I don’t speak. Maybe I am so sad right now because I think I should find a new T. Maybe no T can help me with these feelings and I am blaming M and thinking about changing T’s to avoid the fact that I can’t be helped or I have been helped as much as I can be and this is as good as it gets.

Depression – appearance related

Here is another question from the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) that I hate answering. It confuses me because it suggests that how I feel about my appearance is related to depression but that isn’t how I see it.

14.
0 I don’t feel that I look any worse than I used to.
1 I am worried that I am looking old or unattractive.
2 I feel there are permanent changes in my appearance that make me look
unattractive
3 I believe that I look ugly.

When I look at this question I feel like I could answer 0,1, or 3 and those answers would have been equally true for as long as I could remember no matter my age. Right now I am in my mid-40’s and morbidly obese so I have good reasons for worrying that I look old and unattractive but I have always believed I looked ugly no matter what age or weight I have been. I rarely look in a mirror and when I do so I focus intently on a small part of my appearance, my hair when I am drying or brushing it, my teeth when I am cleaning them. I try to avoid having my picture taken and I avoid looking at myself in pictures. There are a lot of pictures in my house of my children but none of me. When I got married I looked through the photographer’s proofs and printed only two pictures, one of my parents alone (I made copies for all my siblings), and the other a large picture of my entire family, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, that I framed and is currently hanging in my parents living room.

When I was in my late teens and early 20’s I spent a lot of time riding the subway and buses to get to and from school and work which meant I spent a lot of time observing people. I live in large north american city with a wide range of people travelling by public transit and I used to look to see if I could find anyone less attractive than me. I never did. There were times I wondered why everyone I met didn’t recoil in horror at my appearance because that is certainly how I felt, like I was some horrible, disgusting person whose facial features were so hideous. When my friends stood in front of mirrors and complained about the shape of their nose or the size of their thighs I would always reply that there was nothing wrong with their appearance and I meant it sincerely. I didn’t stare into mirrors or comment on my own appearance because when I did it was uncomfortable for everyone because I was so nasty about myself. A friend at that time in life once told me that I gave the best compliments and that I always noticed what was most attractive about people. She said that she thought it must be nice to have such a positive outlook. That was one of those moments where I realized I wasn’t like my friends. I was obsessed with the search for someone who was as unattractive as I was and therefore I always noticed other people’s features and appearance and I wasn’t the least bit positive about myself.

When I got older I realized that I couldn’t possibly be as ugly as I thought I was because no one else saw it. I stopped obsessing about my appearance and avoided mirrors and pictures so I wouldn’t have to see myself. I read about body dysmorphic disorder in a book about anorexia and patients who kept seeing themselves as fat no matter how emaciated they were and decided that I had some variant of that so I always looked hideous to myself and normal to the rest of the world. Even with my children there are parts of them that look like me and still look ugly to me. I hate that I can be so harshly judgemental and critical about my children even though I don’t verbalize my feelings. Of course they probably are aware and effected by the way I don’t comment on their appearance or my own.

Christmas

I am partway through the seemingly endless Christmas festivities of my family.  It is worse this year because both my brother and sister come alternate years and celebrate with  my parents and the other four of us who live here all year.  So this is the big year and since my sister arrived five days ago there has only been one day that I haven’t seen her and my mother and that was because my husband took the kids to see them and left me at home.

Today I had my last session with until Jan.2nd.  It didn’t go very well.  So much has happened since I last saw him that I didn’t want to get into.  I had a terrible time Saturday night, fighting with my eldest daughter and my husband, which led to my youngest crying that he didn’t want to decide who to live with and my oldest telling me that I couldn’t give up and lie in bed and not be functional.  It was one of those events that leaves you wondering if you can ever put things right since there is so much anger and pain being expressed.  I wasted most of my session not talking and then got so angry at myself and at M for letting me.  I think I am angry he is going away and won’t be here if I need him.  It is irrational but I still feel abandoned and ignored.  I managed to admit to some of the anger I felt near the end of the session which is very unusual but I focused on the fact that after every break we have talked about things that we could do differently to make breaks easier in the future.  After our August break I talked about wishing he would give me something from his office to have during the break but today I told him I was angry that he forgot everything we had talked about and that these breaks didn’t get any easier so I wanted to quit therapy.  That is when he asked me to take care of a stuffy that sits in his office.  I said seems silly now that I’m not coming back and he said he would take the chance.  We both know I am not quitting but I can’t stop saying it.  I gave him the present I got for him and he reminded me that I could email him over the break.  Then I had to rush off to another family event.

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas has a happy holiday spent doing the things you want and with the people you love.

I am surprised

I just got home from a difficult session with M. I don’t think I can write about it. Instead I’ll tell you how my brother surprised me tonight. As background information I have three older brothers. The youngest one is closest in age to me and taught me to play games when we were kids. My oldest brother abused me. The middle brother and I have always had a strained relationship. He is a lot like my mother. We often get into discussions about our childhood and our parents. I feel like I am compulsively trying to get him to understand how my mother treats me. I guess it is just like how I try to get my mother and father to see how they treat me and how it is effecting me.

Tonight my brother and I got into it again. I told him our mother didn’t treat him the way she treated me. He told me that I was wrong and she treated us all the same but my response to her is the problem. It is a problem I have with her because I can’t accept her and her major coping strategy which is denial. It was in many ways a typical argument between us but tonight I told him about all the comments she has made in the last six months. I told him I she criticized my weight and appearance at my daughter’s graduation and how she has started making comments about my daughter’s weight. I told him how she responded to my request that she and my dad stop commenting on appearance, weight, eating, etc. I told him how whenever I try to talk to her she claims I misunderstood her, or I’m overreacting because I’m too sensitive, or I am talking about the issue wrong (I’m too mad or too upset or been stewing about it too long). Basically how she will do and say anything except admit that she was wrong or hurtful and apologize.

Shortly after the discussion I went to my session but I didn’t tell M about my talk with my brother. I left my session and thought about how much frustration I felt in trying to get my brother to see me and my experience. I thought about how I doubt my own perceptions and wondered why I argued so much that I was right about my mother and he was wrong. So I called my brother and admitted that I don’t see my mother clearly. I told him it is too hard for me to see her clearly and there was too much pain and hurt in me. I admitted that I noticed I was compulsively trying to convince him that my mother was a bitch to me and I didn’t know why but I would like to stop. I know his relationship with her was different from mine. I asked if we could stop trying to convince each other, stop trying to be right about this, and let the conversation end. This is where my brother surprised me. He said he was sorry that he had never listened to me before and acknowledged how hurt I was by my mother. He said the stories I told were eye-opening because they sounded like my mother but he wouldn’t have thought she would be so cruel. He said he was wrong and he thought I was compulsively trying to convince him of my point of view because he had never acknowledged my feelings and instead spent his energy on trying to show me I was wrong. He told me I could not talk about it or talk about it in the future.

It was a surprise.

My mother, again

My parents have left for their summer vacation which means I have almost three months where I don’t have to visit or see them. I feel relieved. The night before they left my mother called me. She spent a few minutes asking after my kids and making small talk and then got ready to say goodbye. I asked her if she was really not going to mention last week. She said, Do you want me to apologize again. She told me she didn’t think there was anything to talk about. I said I felt like there was lots to talk about and that I was tired of having a fight and then it being ignored while she tried to pretend everything was fine. I also told her that I wasn’t comfortable with her giving me money without understanding why she was giving it so just putting it in an envelope wasn’t enough. She told me the money was to help me pay for my daughter’s activities.

I had the most honest conversation with her that I have ever had. She started by telling me that I am offended by her comments because I was raised in Canada and she and my father came from South America, basically that it was a cultural difference. I told her many of her friends and relatives from the same country never comment on people’s appearance so I didn’t think it was necessary. I asked her why she couldn’t communicate differently with me if she knew I was offended by her comments and talked about the many times we have had the same discussion. She told me she couldn’t remember those discussions. I talked about what it was like for me as a child when my older brothers were allowed to tease and make fun of me at will. She didn’t remember that. Eventually I talked to her about the time I told my parents about the sexual abuse. It was late at night after a wedding reception and she acted like she didn`t know what I was talking about. I asked her if she forgot that too and she said no but she was very drunk that night. I told her that she and my father hadn`t protected me when I was being abused and they did absolutely nothing when I told them. Our family life continued exactly the same, with the same gatherings and family dinners even though my abusers were there. My mother said there was nothing they could do because when I told them it wasn`t happening anymore and if they had known when it happened they would have stopped it. I told her that knowing that now didn`t help me through the years of thinking they didn`t believe me or didn`t care what happened to me. I also told her that every time I told them how I felt about anything and they responded by telling me I was too sensitive, or misunderstood them, or couldn`t take a joke, or that it was my fault because… I felt like they were saying that about my feelings about being abused. So I told her I was sensitive but I had a good reason for it and I wasn`t going to stop feeling the way I felt no matter how much she argued with me. I said I couldn`t just pretend everything was fine between us and I was going to continue talking about how I felt. She continued explaining herself to me during the whole conversation at one point saying that I have always misunderstood what she said and did. There was no resolution or understanding from her but I said some things that I’ve wanted to say for years and I did it without losing my temper which meant she at least heard it and couldn’t respond by losing hers.

I don’t know if my parents are getting anything from our conversations but I definitely did. I stood up for myself and said this is how it feels to me when you do … I didn’t back down from my feelings even when they argued with me about them. I also told them I wasn’t going to back down anymore. I told M that maybe I won’t be the one who stops having a relationship with them because I thought it was possible that they won’t be willing to have one with me if I am going to stand up for myself and tell them the truth about how I feel and what my life was like. I have been wondering if it is fair to confront my parents now when they are in their 70’s about things that happened so long ago. I think it would be very painful to have one of my kids come to me and tell me that I had failed them so completely as a parent. After all I did tell them both that they didn’t protect me when I was a child and they failed to help me even after I told them and so I felt like I was alone and could only depend on myself for most of my life. M told me he didn’t think it was possible to talk about “fair”. That it wasn’t “fair” what happened to me as a child and it wasn’t “fair” that my parents hurt me both by their neglect and their actions.

Now a few days after my parents have left I feel like their has been a seismic shift in my view of myself in relationship with my parents. I’m not sure if they feel it and I don’t know how it will change the relationship I have with them. I am entitled to my feelings and my stories about my childhood even if it doesn’t match theirs. I am entitled to express them. I believe myself.